My wife and I began the first six years of the 21st century in England. As Americans, we’d fallen in love with another country, with the customs and habits of people quite different from us, with the architectural layers of medieval towns like Cambridge where I had done my PhD, and where I was working as a Research Fellow. After our eldest son was born at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, I had to go to the embassy in London to get a “Consular Report of Birth Abroad”. Having grown so comfortable in Cambridge, I recall a certain inexplicable shock in holding that document. It was a powerful reminder that for all the things I loved about England, for all my newfound “transatlantic” savvy, I was inescapably American.
But the experience of being caught “between two worlds” is not easily shaken. Soon I would return home, not only to America, but to the home of my father’s faith. I returned to the Catholic Church. And I returned to Augustine’s City of God as a 1,600-year-old text which has greatly illuminated many different worlds by referring us to the permanent things, the eternal truths, and the city which abides.
Augustine was able to see the daily habits and long history of the Roman pagan world clearly, just as it was, its truths and errors, because he had seen a still more glorious city, a comprehensive and tranquil order, the City of God towering far above the ephemeral cities of man which will either be elevated by grace or will pass away like so many Twitter feeds.
The Catholic Herald, founded in 1888, a year after The Catholic University of America where I’m a professor, has been a similar “city on a hill,” illuminating Catholic readers on the events of the day. When they launched an American edition, I was proud to join the editorial board as a contributing editor. Caught between several worlds as a busy college professor, as a writer, as a father and husband, I decided that the only contribution I could make might also be something needful: namely, brief daily reflections which connect the world that’s passing before our eyes to that more permanent world, whose happiness cannot be lost. Here in these pages, five days a week, you will find in “the Daily Herald” a theological perspective on the news that I hope will become habit-forming. The Daily Herald begins this Monday, and every weekday morning for the foreseeable future. So follow me, dear friends of the City of God, and subscribe today to the Catholic Herald.
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