Brian Doyle's "Flagrant Foul" (December 7) was most touching. I finished it with eyes a bit wet and a prayer in my heart for Tom Crotty. It is a pleasure to come across something so well written.
(MOST REV.) PATRICK V. AHERN New York, N.Y.
Part of us died
I just read Brian Doyle's "Flagrant Foul," in the December 7 issue of Commonweal.
It touched me very deeply. I identified quite personally with it. One Sunday morning several years ago, I sat with my freshly poured cup of coffee (happy that I had attended Saturday evening Mass) and read through our town's newpaper. As I reached the obituary section, I scanned the names (my habit since I work for my church) and the name of my inseparable and best friend from high school screamed out at me. I felt as if someone had punched me in the chest. We had become separated by time and family commitments for many years, but at that moment I was once again an innocent fifteen-year-old who looked forward to nothing more than the next school dance and which boy had recently caught my eye, and sharing all of that with my friend.
Whether it is a sorrow for the loss of our friend or the sudden impact of our own mortality, or just the shock that someone once so vital and funny and full of life is no longer with us, it is a part of ourselves that has died along with them.
Thank you, Brian Doyle, for so eloquently sharing a story that to me certainly seemed gleaned from my own memories and feelings.
MARGIE GUADAGNO Lansing, Ill.
The insouciance with which John Garvey comments on an Islam which he confesses not to understand offers a telling commentary on our presumed superiority ("Making Nice with Muslims," December 7). From someone whom I have known and respected, and read with profit over the years, this column testifies to the way "even the mighty can fall" in attempting an assessment of Islam while failing to grasp the moment of self-reflection--a fair description of much American media coverage but hardly expected from John Garvey.
To take as exemplary of Islam the kind of tract he does is tantamount to presuming that anti-Catholic diatribes reveal typical Protestant attitudes. Or to present verses plucked from the Holy Qur'an as justifying hating Jews or Christians is to overlook canonical Muslim ways of subordinating certain verses to others. Yet most telling of all is his innocent observation that "the Bible contains bloody passages and justifications for murderous acts, but I know that this is not Judaism or Christianity."
Why not presume the same for the rich tradition of Islam? Or why not ask how many Jews or Christians know what to do with these passages? "A word for the Amalecites, please!" How many yeshiva students of a certain stripe are treated to a steady diet of Joshua and Judges, with scant attention to the prophets? How many evangelical Christians fail to distinguish God's unequivocal promises to the people Israel as God's own from the heavily conditioned ones regarding the land--so freighted with stipulations that it becomes problematic for any believer to rest easily in eretz Israel? And how many Christians have read these narratives to countenance holy wars, like the Crusaders' systematic extermination of Jews, Muslims, and Orthodox Christians when they took …