— 1 —

Greetings. Not a lot of text today, mostly photos.

We did the Empire State Building – which I’d never done. It’s very much worth it, although I do wonder what it would be like with more crowds. It was a bit crowded yesterday, but I could tell from the holding area that much larger numbers are probably the norm during high tourist season.  It was difficult enough getting a minute at the railing for a good view or photo in these circumstances, I wonder what it would be like with even more people.

(On the advice of someone else, we only went to the 86th floor and not the 102nd – he said it wasn’t worth the extra time or money.)



— 2 —

Travel with others involves the art of compromise, so yes, there were stops to check out a mother lode of fidget spinners, spied from the street, and the Nintendo Store:

A woman on the subway asked my younger son, “What is the purpose of that toy?” He tried to explain. She remained skeptical.

— 3 —

We stopped in St. Patrick’s for a quick look around, and saw the lobby of the Chrysler Building, which is all tourists are allowed.

— 4 —

Yesterday’s museum time was at the Pierpoint Morgan Library. I had been there before with Ann a few years ago, but the exhibits always change, so it would be worth it, even for just me. The exhibits were small, but really excellent – a few pieces on the theme of “Noah’s Beasts: Sculpted Animals from Mesoptamia,” “Henry James and American Painting” and one on the journals of Thoreau. All quite excellent and honestly, a more fruitful and thought-provoking experience than attempting to “do” the Met or any other larger museum at this point.  The Mesopotamian pieces were exquisite and astonishing when you realize they are 5000 years old. The James exhibit was illuminating and made me want to read him again (and move to Europe and Be An Artist, but that’s a constant, so nothing new there). The Thoreau softened my image of the man – I have not been a devotee, characterizing him, perhaps unfairly, as too self-absorbed and blaming him for his role in inspiring modern self-help and affirmation movements. In context, his work comes off as very much less-self-absorbed and more outward-looking and an understandable creative reaction to

Plus, the exhibits from Morgan’s collection of manuscripts and artifacts – autograph copies of Mozart, Debussy and Rachmaninoff, the only complete hand-written manuscript of an Austen novel, a life mask of Washington, gorgeous illuminated Bibles and Books of Hours, a fascinating fold-out page from a medieval pilgrimage guide, plus the large collection of Mesopotamian cylindrical seals, intricately and cunningly carved – made for a very lovely 90 minutes or so.

— 5 —

During the last part of the day, we went up to Central Park West, saw Lincoln Center – there had been a graduation of some sort going on, so the plaza was filled with well-dressed and happy families – walked through a bit of Central Park, then down to see Carnegie Hall, then on the subway for a quick ride to the Roosevelt Island Tramway – I had never heard of it, but it’s part of the MTA involving a cable car that takes riders to Roosevelt Island. On another trip we’ll explore Roosevelt Island, the site of, among other things in the past, a smallpox hospital and an insane asylum (and now many residents). It took fifteen minutes back and forth and was an interesting ride with good views.

Then the bus back to our part of Long Island City – it was more direct than the subway and this time, was actually fast.

— 6 —

Food yesterday was Shake Shack for the guys – we tried the one in Grand Central Station (which we’d stopped to see) first, but it was super crowded, so we just went a couple of blocks down to another, which was also crowded, but not insanely so. It took about ten minutes to get food, which was absolutely fine.

For dinner, they started off with a couple of slices from Sunnyside Pizza, eaten, crammed into a corner, and then we walked around the corner to Boon – a Romanian restaurant, I guess? I hadn’t planned this, but there are lots of restaurants around there, and while they ate their pizza, I checked them out on my phone and decided to do something really new for me – never had Moldavian food!

I am not a big meal-eater – more of an appetizer/small plates/salad person – so I just went with appetizers and a glass of wine. The boys helped a bit with the appetizers a bit, of course, although they were pretty full from even just once slice. It was wonderful – a very charming, refined atmosphere, some fascinating Eastern European concert playing on the television, and the sweetest, most helpful waitress.  Very nice way to end the day.

After the meal, waiting for the hotel shuttle bus, looking towards the city:


Staying here has its disadvantages, but really the view of the city that you have in the morning and night is worth something, and is certainly different than what you would experience if you were actually staying in Manhattan.


— 7 —

The reason for the trip – coming this Sunday:

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Look for more tonight/tomorrow morning with 7 Quick Takes.

But for now:



(Note: When I say “Gate Agent” in the following post, I mean – the check-in agent at departures. It’s just “Gate Agent” is shorter.)

Well, that was an ordeal.

I don’t fly much – two or three times a year – and other than delays of one kind or another, I’ve never experienced the high-tension moment of Hey.. this thing might not happen….

Well…we just did, and while it all worked out, it was an interesting experience of customer service – good and bad.


The exact shape of this trip was uncertain really up until last week. The excuse for the trip was my speaking engagement on Sunday. There were two complications, though: First, my older son finally – after having his application in since August – got a job at Publix, bagging. He didn’t start really working until mid-May, and had a couple of big chunks of the summer he was going to have to ask off for already, and so would we really want him to have to ask for another chunk so soon after getting going in the job? Probably not.

The other constraint is my younger son’s piano camp, which begins Monday…and when I’d accepted the invitation to speak, for some reason, I thought the talk was on Saturday…but then realized it’s actually on Sunday afternoon, which meant a Sunday night return was absolutely necessary…and of course Sunday night can be just about one of the most expensive times to try to fly…..What to do?

True to my nature, I dithered about, griped that we didn’t live in Atlanta where you can get day-of flights to NYC for under $200, and tried to figure out how to get up there with the most people, but spending the least amount of money. And should I use miles or pay? I did consider just shooting up there myself from Saturday to Sunday – that was a possibility, as well.

I finally decided – and my older son agreed – that we would just cut him out of the trip. He has a bigger trip with a friend coming up later in the summer, so I hoped that would be some consolation, along with the paycheck he’d be earning in our absence.

So I finally booked a flight for my younger son and me,  and I also gritted my teeth and used miles. For the first time in my life, I actually had some miles, thanks to an airline credit card and a couple of European flights. I really didn’t want to spend them on flights to New York City, but the cost of flying back Sunday night was so ridiculous, I finally decided to go ahead and let them go – and do you know what? It’s very good I did.

I booked M and me for a Wednesday to Sunday flight.  J would be here with the car, but not completely alone because his law-student sister is doing internships in Birmingham this summer and staying much of the week at our place.

But then…..last week, J got his schedule for this week. He wasn’t assigned to work during the weekcays– only the weekends. Maybe he could come after all?

And since it wouldn’t make sense to have him fly up with us on Wednesday if he would just have to leave Friday, I thought…wait….I booked our flights on miles…I can probably just change them….

And I could. Of course, I could have changed paid fares as well, but it would have cost hundreds of dollars, and…I wouldn’t have done that.

So I spent a long time on the phone one day last week with a very nice customer service agent who helped me get all of these changes and new tickets straightened out, for a very minimal fee. I ended up booking J’s flight with his miles on the way up, and paying for a one-way ticket for his return. Still….a lot cheaper than it would have been otherwise. All good, right?

You know it. Not.

I went online to check us in 24 hours before the flight. M and I checked in fine, but J’s came back saying that he’d have to check in at the airport.

At that point…I should have called to see what was up.

But honestly? I read the email and the itinerary on his account very carefully. It had the flights from Birmingham listed, and it said, Status: Ticketed.  What was I supposed to think except that because it was an award ticket from a minor’s reward account booked separately from the parent, they needed an extra step at the airport to confirm? Seemed reasonable.

We got  to the airport about 90 minutes before the flight. Got to the desk. Presented ID’s. The gate agent started typing. Everything seemed fine, then after a couple of minutes, she squinted at the screen and said, “I have him ticketed on the return flights, but there’s no ticket for this one.”

Wait, what? Look at this email. There’s that word: ticketed.

Condensed version: There was, indeed, a reservation for the flight up, but no ticket. I have no idea how that happened, but apparently the agent last week had not charged me those fees for the award ticket, and so there was no actual ticket (although she had told me what they were and I assumed they were charged – I’m typing this on the plane, so I can’t check my credit card account, but I will later). And no, Gate Agent couldn’t issue the ticket. I’d have to get on the phone with the awards desk.

Okay.  We stepped aside, and I called. There’s bad weather today, so they’re busy. It took about ten minutes to reach a person, and when I did, she was very nice. She studied things on her end and agreed…yes there was a reservation, but no ticket. Somehow, that final step hadn’t happened. She told me to go back up to the gate and she’d talk to the gate agent.

I had to wait behind one other person. I got up to the same gate agent. I said, “You need to talk to this person at the Awards Desk – she’ll tell you what to do.”

Gate Agent said, “Can’t she just issue you the ticket?”

I asked. Awards Desk said no she couldn’t, because you can’t buy tickets over the phone less than two hours before a flight departs. And yah, we’re under that line now.

Again, Awards Desk said, “Let me talk her through it.”  I handed my phone  in the direction of Gate Agent.

Gate Agent shook her head and waved it away. “I can’t talk on the cell phone.”

Okay, then.  I conveyed this message.

Awards Desk said, “Um, what? Okay, well tell her…”

And I spent several minutes relaying instructions and responses between the two of them back and forth until finally in frustration, Gate Agent agreed to Break a Rule and talk on my cell phone. After a few minutes of that she handed it back, shaking her head, and the minute I took it, Awards Desk practically exploded:

She’s not even listening to me. She’s interrupting me and not listening to what I’m telling her to do. She doesn’t know what she’s doing – she needs to get a supervisor. It’s not hard. Your son’s ticket is in the system. She just doesn’t know where to look.

Meanwhile…the clock ticks on. Thank goodness there was just enough of a delay so that I wasn’t super uptight about missing the flight…if the ticket could be issued. If it couldn’t, that was another story.

Finally, Gate Agent agreed to call her own Help Desk. That took many, many, many minutes in which Gate Agent was trying to figure out how she could see what people on the phone were seeing in their systems – that there was a ticket, and all I had to do was pay the fee to get it – and she couldn’t.

All this time, Awards Desk was still on the phone with me, and finally she broke our Silence of Anticipation and said, “Okay, I’m going to see if I can get that two hour restriction waived….”

So at this point, I’m on hold with Awards Desk, Gate Agent is on hold with her Help Desk, and we’ve been at this for about forty-five minutes now. I really have no idea what’s going to happen when finally – finally  – Awards Desk comes back on the line with the glorious good news that she’s done it – and once again, communicating through me, she instructs Gate Agent how to find this ticket in the ether.

All right, so it worked out, and here we are, in the air, experiencing the miracle of flight. I’m grateful. But it was a very interesting experience of customer service – all from the same airline.

(And I’ll say, that once we got on the plane, the flight attendant, although clearly ready for a break, offered us different seats so we could A) be not so spread out yet B) still each have our own row. So that was nice, too.)

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how that first leg actually didn’t get ticketed after all. I should have called when we couldn’t check in. All that’s fine. I’m not going to rail against that mess -up because I don’t know what the problem was and who was at fault.

But what I will rail about is Gate Agent’s Attitude.

She couldn’t care less. Her indifference was palpable and astonishing.

Here she is, presented with a family group in which one of the kids might not be able to fly with the rest of the family. What? Isn’t that kind of a bad situation? No, they’re not little kids, but still. It’s kind of a big deal when your minor kid can’t fly with the rest of the family. That’s a problem.

But not to her. She never said anything like, Oh, that’s a problem – we need to fix this. Or: We can’t have that happen – let me try to help you figure this out.  Her face was like a stone – except when she spied a co-worker across the way, broke into a big smile which disappeared as soon as she returned to our situation. She was short, uninterested in finding a solution and did not say or do anything which indicated she was even faking sympathy.


Hey, I get it. It’s a stressful job. She deals with a ton of almost-disasters every day, and the space in front of her desk is taken up with aggravated and angry customers. Everyone eventually goes away, the problems get solved and if they don’t, life goes on.  So why invest anything but the minimum in any one of these situations?

Kind of a Life Question, too, I guess.

So there you go.  2/3 of the people from this airline I’ve dealt with on this trip have been great, and kudos to them (and they’ll get them – I’ve gotten into the habit of getting the names of particularly helpful customer service employees and trying, in some way to commend them.  They are all under such pressure to perform – it matters, I think) – but Gate Agent?

You know that when people from your own airline are angry and frustrated with your demeanor and willing to let a customer hear that….you might have a problem.

Anyway – here we are. Manhattan hotels were crazy expensive, I had no points to soften the blow, so no way was I going to pay 300-400/night for rooms. So we took the super-glam route to Long Island City, and it’s just fine. Got here about 9, then got on the train over to Manhattan, walked around Fifth Avenue and environs a bit – wow, the security around Trump Tower is unsurprising, but still amazing. Is that possible? I suppose so, because that’s the way I experienced it.

Then everyone got tired, so it was time to go back. To keep up with the week, check out Instagram, especially Instagram Stories.



Today is the feastday of St. Boniface, Apostle to the Germans.  Let’s take a look at what our German Pope Emeritus had to say about him:

Today, we shall reflect on a great eighth-century missionary who spread Christianity in Central Europe, indeed also in my own country: St Boniface, who has gone down in history as “the Apostle of the Germans”. We have a fair amount of information on his life, thanks to the diligence of his biographers


In 716, Winfrid went to Frisia (today Holland) with a few companions, but he encountered the opposition of the local chieftain and his attempt at evangelization failed. Having returned home, he did not lose heart and two years later travelled to Rome to speak to Pope Gregory ii and receive his instructions. One biographer recounts that the Pope welcomed him “with a smile and a look full of kindliness”, and had “important conversations” with him in the following days (Willibaldo, [Willibald of Mainz], Vita S. Bonifatii, ed. Levison, pp. 13-14), and lastly, after conferring upon him the new name of Boniface, assigned to him, in official letters, the mission of preaching the Gospel among the German peoples.

Comforted and sustained by the Pope’s support, Boniface embarked on the preaching of the Gospel in those regions, fighting against pagan worship and reinforcing the foundations of human and Christian morality. With a deep sense of duty he wrote in one of his letters: “We are united in the fight on the Lord’s Day, because days of affliction and wretchedness have come…. We are not mute dogs or taciturn observers or mercenaries fleeing from wolves! On the contrary, we are diligent Pastors who watch over Christ’s flock, who proclaim God’s will to the leaders and ordinary folk, to the rich and the poor… in season and out of season...” (cf. Epistulae, 3,352.354: mgh).

….In addition to this work of evangelization and organization of the Church through the founding of dioceses and the celebration of Synods, this great Bishop did not omit to encourage the foundation of various male and female monasteries so that they would become like beacons, so as to radiate human and Christian culture and the faith in the territory. He summoned monks and nuns from the Benedictine monastic communities in his homeland who gave him a most effective and invaluable help in proclaiming the Gospel and in disseminating the humanities and the arts among the population. Indeed, he rightly considered that work for the Gospel must also be work for a true human culture. Above all the Monastery of Fulda founded in about 743 was the heart and centre of outreach of religious spirituality and culture: there the monks, in prayer, work and penance, strove to achieve holiness; there they trained in the study of the sacred and profane disciplines and prepared themselves for the proclamation of the Gospel in order to be missionaries. Thus it was to the credit of Boniface, of his monks and nuns for women too had a very important role in this work of evangelization that human culture, which is inseparable from faith and reveals its beauty, flourished. Boniface himself has left us an important intellectual corpus. First of all is his copious correspondence, in which pastoral letters alternate with official letters and others private in nature, which record social events but above all reveal his richly human temperament and profound faith.


SAINT-BONIFACE-antique-holy-cardCenturies later, what message can we gather today from the teaching and marvellous activity of this great missionary and martyr? For those who approach Boniface, an initial fact stands out: the centrality of the word of God, lived and interpreted in the faith of the Church, a word that he lived, preached and witnessed to until he gave the supreme gift of himself in martyrdom. He was so passionate about the word of God that he felt the urgent need and duty to communicate it to others, even at his own personal risk. This word was the pillar of the faith which he had committed himself to spreading at the moment of his episcopal ordination: “I profess integrally the purity of the holy Catholic faith and with the help of God I desire to remain in the unity of this faith, in which there is no doubt that the salvation of Christians lies” (Epist. 12, in S. Bonifatii Epistolae, ed. cit., p. 29). The second most important proof that emerges from the life of Boniface is his faithful communion with the Apostolic See, which was a firm and central reference point of his missionary work; he always preserved this communion as a rule of his mission and left it, as it were, as his will. In a letter to Pope Zachary, he said: “I never cease to invite and to submit to obedience to the Apostolic See those who desire to remain in the Catholic faith and in the unity of the Roman Church and all those whom God grants to me as listeners and disciples in my mission” (Epist. 50: in ibid., p. 81). One result of this commitment was the steadfast spirit of cohesion around the Successor of Peter which Boniface transmitted to the Church in his mission territory, uniting England, Germany and France with Rome and thereby effectively contributing to planting those Christian roots of Europe which were to produce abundant fruit in the centuries to come. Boniface also deserves our attention for a third characteristic: he encouraged the encounter between the Christian-Roman culture and the Germanic culture. Indeed, he knew that humanizing and evangelizing culture was an integral part of his mission as Bishop. In passing on the ancient patrimony of Christian values, he grafted on to the Germanic populations a new, more human lifestyle, thanks to which the inalienable rights of the person were more widely respected. As a true son of St Benedict, he was able to combine prayer and labour (manual and intellectual), pen and plough.

Boniface’s courageous witness is an invitation to us all to welcome God’s word into our lives as an essential reference point, to love the Church passionately, to feel co-responsible for her future, to seek her unity around the Successor of Peter. At the same time, he reminds us that Christianity, by encouraging the dissemination of culture, furthers human progress. It is now up to us to be equal to such a prestigious patrimony and to make it fructify for the benefit of the generations to come.

His ardent zeal for the Gospel never fails to impress me. At the age of 41 he left a beautiful and fruitful monastic life, the life of a monk and teacher, in order to proclaim the Gospel to the simple, to barbarians; once again, at the age of 80, he went to a region in which he foresaw his martyrdom.

By comparing his ardent faith, this zeal for the Gospel, with our own often lukewarm and bureaucratized faith, we see what we must do and how to renew our faith, in order to give the precious pearl of the Gospel as a gift to our time.

He’s in the Loyola Kids Book of Saints:


Here we are –  For help in preparing the kids, let’s go to one of my favorite sources – this wonderful  old Catholic religion textbook.

The short chapter on Pentecost is lovely and helpful.


This volume is for 7th graders.

What I’m struck by here is the assumption that the young people being addressed are responsible and capable in their spiritual journey. They are not clients or customers who need to be anxiously served or catered to lest they run away and shop somewhere else.

What is said to these 12 and 13-year olds is not much different from what would have been said to their parents or grandparents. God created you for life with him. During your life on earth there are strong, attractive temptations to shut him out and find lasting joy in temporal things. It’s your responsibility to do your best to stay close to Christ and let that grace live within you, the grace that will strengthen you to love and serve more, the grace that will lead you to rest peacefully and joyfully in Christ.

Pentecost is one of the events in The Loyola Kids Book of Heroes. 

(The book is structured around the virtues. Each section begins with an event from Scripture that illustrates one of those virtues, followed by stories of people and events from church history that do so as well)


This hasn’t been published in a book – yet – but it’s a painting by Ann Engelhart, illustrator of several books, including four with my writing attached – all listed here. It’s a painting of the tradition of dropping rose petals through the oculus in the Pantheon in Rome.




Finally, hopefully today you’ll be hearing/singing/praying Veni Creator Spiritus today.  I have a chapter on it in The Words We Pray. A sample:






7 Quick Takes

— 1 —

I’m pretty tired tonight, which is good, considering I have to be on the road tomorrow at 5am…the curse of traveling from Central to Eastern time….



Yah….we’ll see….not my cup of tea normally, but it should be interesting to watch, anyway.

So these will be very short, and very lame takes. Sorry.



— 2 —

I’m in Living Faith today – here you go!



— 3 —

Getting ready for this:

Ann Engelhart and I will be giving a talk at the library of the Theological Library of the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington.   PDF flyer is here. 

Come see us!


— 4 —

So this means some travel writing coming at you next week from the NYC area…as per usual, check out Instagram, particularly Instagram Stories to keep up. 


— 5 —

This past week has seen a bit of local travel – blogged on here – and appointments and work for the older son. Kid #5 had his orthodontics evaluation which took perhaps 2.7 seconds: Yup, he needs braces.  We go to the Orthodontics Clinic at the local university dental school, which is great. Very efficient, high-level care and (I understand) about 2/3-1/2 the cost of getting treatment via private practice now (I haven’t had to deal with that for probably 12 years…). The downside, I suppose, is that the fee must be paid all up front – no monthly payments – but you know that going in, so there is actually something pretty great about having it all paid for before you even begin and knowing…that’s it. That’s done. 

— 6 —

No listening this week – I’ve been a slacker, exercise-wise, except for the traipsing through Nature.

Reading? Doctor Thorne by Trollope, which I started before I even knew there was a BBC television version that has just been released. I do love Trollope, but this one is going slowly for me. I hope to finish it this weekend…


— 7 —

Coming in a few months.



For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain’t the Lyceum!

Today’s his feast. I always remember Justin Martyr because he was the first of the Fathers of the Church that I really read, back at the University of Tennessee in a class on the history of Christianity. It was in reading Justin I first grasped the continuity of the St. Justin Martyrapostolic Church with Christ and then forward to the present.

You can access his writings here.

Pope Emeritus B16, from 2007:

In these Catecheses, we are reflecting on the great figures of the early Church. Today, we will talk about St Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, the most important of the second-century apologist Fathers.

The word “apologist” designates those ancient Christian writers who set out to defend the new religion from the weighty accusations of both pagans and Jews, and to spread the Christian doctrine in terms suited to the culture of their time.

Thus, the apologists had a twofold concern: that most properly called “apologetic”, to defend the newborn Christianity (apologhíain Greek means, precisely, “defence”), and the pro-positive, “missionary” concern, to explain the content of the faith in a language and on a wavelength comprehensible to their contemporaries.

Justin was born in about the year 100 near ancient Shechem, Samaria, in the Holy Land; he spent a long time seeking the truth, moving through the various schools of the Greek philosophical tradition.

Finally, as he himself recounts in the first chapters of his Dialogue with Tryphon, a mysterious figure, an old man he met on the seashore, initially leads him into a crisis by showing him that it is impossible for the human being to satisfy his aspiration to the divine solely with his own forces. He then pointed out to him the ancient prophets as the people to turn to in order to find the way to God and “true philosophy”.

In taking his leave, the old man urged him to pray that the gates of light would be opened to him.
The story foretells the crucial episode in Justin’s life: at the end of a long philosophical journey, a quest for the truth, he arrived at the Christian faith. He founded a school in Rome where, free of charge, he initiated students into the new religion, considered as the true philosophy. Indeed, in it he had found the truth, hence, the art of living virtuously.

For this reason he was reported and beheaded in about 165 during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher-emperor to whom Justin had actually addressed one of his Apologia.

These – the two Apologies and the Dialogue with the Hebrew, Tryphon – are his only surviving works. In them, Justin intends above all to illustrate the divine project of creation and salvation, which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Logos, that is, the eternal Word, eternal Reason, creative Reason.

Every person as a rational being shares in the Logos, carrying within himself a “seed”, and can perceive glimmers of the truth. Thus, the same Logos who revealed himself as a prophetic figure to the Hebrews of the ancient Law also manifested himself partially, in “seeds of truth”, in Greek philosophy.

Now, Justin concludes, since Christianity is the historical and personal manifestation of the Logos in his totality, it follows that “whatever things were rightly said among all men are the property of us Christians” (Second Apology of St Justin Martyr, 13: 4).

In this way, although Justin disputed Greek philosophy and its contradictions, he decisively oriented any philosophical truth to theLogos, giving reasons for the unusual “claim” to truth and universality of the Christian religion. If the Old Testament leaned towards Christ, just as the symbol is a guide to the reality represented, then Greek philosophy also aspired to Christ and the Gospel, just as the part strives to be united with the whole.

And he said that these two realities, the Old Testament and Greek philosophy, are like two paths that lead to Christ, to the Logos.This is why Greek philosophy cannot be opposed to Gospel truth, and Christians can draw from it confidently as from a good of their own.

Therefore, my venerable Predecessor, Pope John Paul II, described St Justin as a “pioneer of positive engagement with philosophical thinking – albeit with cautious discernment…. Although he continued to hold Greek philosophy in high esteem after his conversion, Justin claimed with power and clarity that he had found in Christianity ‘the only sure and profitable philosophy’ (Dial. 8: 1)” (Fides et Ratio, n. 38).

Overall, the figure and work of Justin mark the ancient Church’s forceful option for philosophy, for reason, rather than for the religion of the pagans. With the pagan religion, in fact, the early Christians strenuously rejected every compromise. They held it to be idolatry, at the cost of being accused for this reason of “impiety” and “atheism”.

Justin in particular, especially in his first Apology, mercilessly criticized the pagan religion and its myths, which he considered to be diabolically misleading on the path of truth.

Philosophy, on the other hand, represented the privileged area of the encounter between paganism, Judaism and Christianity, precisely at the level of the criticism of pagan religion and its false myths. “Our philosophy…”: this is how another apologist, Bishop Melito of Sardis, a contemporary of Justin, came to define the new religion in a more explicit way (Ap. Hist. Eccl. 4, 26, 7).

In fact, the pagan religion did not follow the ways of the Logos, but clung to myth, even if Greek philosophy recognized that mythology was devoid of consistency with the truth.

Therefore, the decline of the pagan religion was inevitable: it was a logical consequence of the detachment of religion – reduced to an artificial collection of ceremonies, conventions and customs – from the truth of being.

Justin, and with him other apologists, adopted the clear stance taken by the Christian faith for the God of the philosophers against the false gods of the pagan religion.

It was the choice of the truth of being against the myth of custom. Several decades after Justin, Tertullian defined the same option of Christians with a lapidary sentence that still applies: “Dominus noster Christus veritatem se, non consuetudinem, cognominavit – Christ has said that he is truth not fashion” (De Virgin. Vel. 1, 1).

It should be noted in this regard that the term consuetudo, used here by Tertullian in reference to the pagan religion, can be translated into modern languages with the expressions: “cultural fashion”, “current fads”.

In a time like ours, marked by relativism in the discussion on values and on religion – as well as in interreligious dialogue – this is a lesson that should not be forgotten.

To this end, I suggest to you once again – and thus I conclude – the last words of the mysterious old man whom Justin the Philosopher met on the seashore: “Pray that, above all things, the gates of light may be opened to you; for these things cannot be perceived or understood by all, but only by the man to whom God and his Christ have imparted wisdom” (Dial. 7: 3).

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