I love putting together stuff that nobody thought of putting together before, so here’s the link between Indy and the Magi: You know the backdrop for the final scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the famous “Treasury” at the historic site of the ancient city of Petra. It’s pictured here. Well, the Treasury is not a treasury of any kind. Instead it is the tomb of the Nabatean king Aretas IV.

These tombs carved in rock faces were common throughout the realm of the Babylonians, and although Aretas IV dates from a time much later, the prevalence…

This is an excerpt from my book The Mystery of the Magi.

The wonderful Star of Bethlehem is one of the most enduring and endearing parts of the Christmas magi story. Carols and cards and Christmas storybooks all promote the magical mystery star that moved through the night sky, leading the wise men on an arduous journey across the desert to the humble birthplace of Jesus Christ. The enchantment of the story remains, but astronomers are quick to point out that stars don’t do that. Stars are fixed points. They don’t move across the sky from one place to another.

In just twelve short verses the gospel of Matthew records the visit of mysterious magi to pay homage to the child Jesus. The allure of mystical wizards from exotic lands captured the imagination of early Christians. Matthew’s short narrative was expanded and elaborated to the Christmas tale we hear today.

But did any such wise men exist, and if so who were they and where did they come from? …

Readers of a certain age might remember the silly TV show The Flying Nunreligious brothers and sisters who take flight are nothing new.

When we lived in Wiltshire in England we learned the delightful story from the Middle Ages about Eilmer a Benedictine monk of Malmesbury Abbey who, in the eleventh century, jumped off the tower of the abbey church with some home made wings. Like Icarus he plummeted. The story is related by a monastic historian, William of Malmesbury:

He was a man learned for those times, of ripe old age, and in his early youth had hazarded a…

Two quirks haunt human nature. They are connected in a sick symbiosis, feeding off each other like the proverbial snakes gorging in mutual cannibalism. One quirk is the desire for paradise. The second is the demands of paranoia. One is a sweet sickness and the other sour.

The desire for paradise seems to be humanity’s default setting. We want to be happy. Indeed, in the land of the free and the home of the brave we are guaranteed “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The problem is in our definition of happiness. True happiness is the result of self…

Uncle Albert from Mary Poppins

I’ve got this theory that one of the great signs of authentic Christianity is comedy. I’m reading the letters of Flannery O’Connor at the moment and one of her great gifts is a razor sharp wit. She’s funny, and one of the reasons she’s funny is that she makes fun of herself. She takes herself lightly…even when she knows she dying of lupus.

On the other hand, it is also a sign of the ideologue and heretic that they take themselves extremely seriously, and not only that, they insist that everybody else take them seriously. Think about it for a…

Let’s face it squarely. The Catholic Church is in crisis. The largest denomination in America is former Catholics. Numbers of priests, nuns and brothers have plummeted drastically. The priests we do have are old and ready to retire and to replace them we are importing priests from the developing world — from countries that have their own desperate need for priests. Laypeople have abandoned the church in droves. Moral scandal besets us. Financial scandal burdens us. The hierarchy are weighed down by secularism and hamstrung by bureaucrats, money men, insurance bullies and government legislation. Most of all there has been…

Zombie from “I Am Legend”

When faced with the new horrors confronting our world today one comes back time and again to ask “Why”?

First of all we consider the enemy. Within the world there is an irrational rage that surges out into violence. One cannot enter into any kind of discussion with such violent and irrational rage.

When faced with it I am reminded of the sub human beasts in the film I Am Legend. There was no reasoning with them. They were demon possessed, and demons, by definition, are unable to reason. …

Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons in Granada TV’s Brideshead Re-Visited

If there is any literary film adaptation worth adding to one’s library it is the Granada TV version of Brideshead Revisited. It really is the most perfect screen adaptation of any novel ever. The scenes in Venice, Oxford and Brideshead capture the book sublimely, and each character is played to perfection.

Evelyn Waugh referred to Brideshead Revisited as his G.E.M (Great English Masterpiece) One of the best things about the work is that it portrays very flawed Catholics with total realism, and communicates the providence of God working its way through a family like yeast through the dough. …

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Thirty years ago I made a hitch hiking pilgrimage to Jerusalem from England, staying in Benedictine monasteries along the route. As I travelled East I experienced the deep rootedness of the monastic life. The monks were rooted in history, rooted in truth, rooted in beauty, rooted in goodness and rooted in daily life.

The analogy holds. For a tree to be healthy and strong it needs strong, healthy, deep roots. Roots, of course, are invisible, but if they are weak the whole tree is weak. If the roots develop a disease the whole tree dies. The sickness of our present…

Dwight Longenecker

Catholic priest, author and speaker. Author of Immortal Combat-Confronting the Heart of Darkness. Blogs at dwightlongenecker.com

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