Happy Birthday to the Cohos Trail!

I’m on a business trip in a faraway city right now, when I’d rather be in Stewartstown, New Hampshire. There’s a celebration going on there in honor of a place and people who have come to mean a lot to me. The Cohos Trail is turning 20, and the coming-of-age party is happening today.

In twenty years, I’ve spent maybe eight hours on trail maintenance up there in northern New Hampshire. That’s not even a blip in the tally of volunteer hours and days and weeks given by countless people over the past two decades to build and maintain the CT. If I were at today’s party, I’d be able to meet some of them and offer face-to-face thanks. As it is, this meager post will have to do.

Read the rest of the post at Granite State Walker.

Choice in Connecticut

On the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook School shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, here is an essay I wrote in the immediate aftermath of the event. This piece was originally published at Leaven for the Loaf.

It’s hard for me to take in the full horror of the massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut. The culture of life can seem like a lost cause in the face of this atrocity. That’s “atrocity,” not “tragedy.” A tragedy is something that happens due to an element of mischance or mistake, devoid of intention.

Choice matters. The fact that we are able to make choices cannot be where the lesson ends. What Adam Lanza chose to do made a horrible and bloody difference. He wasn’t striking a blow for some philosophical “right to choose.” His “choice” was to kill people. I may never know his reasons, though I am sure some enterprising journalists are even now digging for clues.

I can barely fathom the grief and anger of the parents who survive their children. There’s more than enough suffering to go around: the first responders who found the children and their teachers dead and dying; the family of Adam Lanza; the surviving children who had to learn much too soon that evil is real. I pray for the consolation of every one of them. And I wonder how many parents of troubled children are thinking to themselves “there but for the grace of God …”

I have no lessons to share. I am simply venting some of my own shock. I don’t blame God. The news out of Sandy Hook School came from human free will at its worst.

And about that free will: one of the most challenging prayers in my faith tradition was written by Ignatius Loyola, a 16th-century man of tremendously constructive energy and faith. I find myself praying it now. It’s called the Suscipe, and it’s sometimes known as “The Radical Prayer,” in the sense of getting to the root (radix) of a matter.

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

“Advancing the Freedom to Serve”: Archbishop Lori has ideas for the next President

The Obamacare HHS contraceptive mandate prompted the American Catholic bishops a few years ago to speak unanimously in strong terms about the policy’s undermining of religious liberty. Since then, the bishops’ conference has made a point of trying to keep the Catholic faithful apprised of our religious freedoms and some threats those freedoms are facing.

If you tweet, follow @usccbfreedom. If you prefer email, sign up at usccb.org/freedom. Read what Archbishop Lori of Baltimore published today via Catholic News Service about steps the incoming federal Administration can do to respect the rights of all Americans to practice their faith at all times, not just an hour a week inside a designated building.

President-elect Trump has the opportunity to ensure that people of all faiths can continue to do their good work in serving their communities without having to violate their consciences or face crippling fines or onerous lawsuits. Our hope is that the next administration will ensure that Americans remain free to serve.

Read the full post for the steps Archbishop Lori recommends. Repeal of the contraceptive mandate is just one of them.