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I was a high-school kid when I first "met" Father Richard John Neuhaus. I can never remember how I came across the website of First Things, but when I did, it was like a light switch had been turned on in my head. Here was an entire cosmos of Christian thought and tradition, with worlds upon worlds contained in the hallways it pointed me down. I spent countless nights poring over issues, drinking it all in like water in a desert. At the time, I probably didn't understand half of it, but that didn't matter — the depth and breadth of the Christian tradition in those pages, the sheer excitement of thinking through the adventure of the gospel — I knew I had found something that was worth a lifetime. And I very well remember thinking: Wouldn't it be something to write this stuff myself someday?

Three years later, that is exactly where I ended up: working and writing at First Things as a junior fellow. I was in charge of compiling Father Neuhaus's monthly column, "The Public Square," and pretty soon was drafted into covering the Anglican beat for the website as well. Every evening, the editors gathered for prayer at 338 E 19th St., and each Friday night was dinner at Father Neuhaus's apartment. His apartment was something of a revolving door of old friends: Avery Cardinal Dulles, George Weigel, Robert Louis Wilken, Michael Novak — the list goes on.

Board meetings and gatherings of Evangelicals and Catholics Together brought even more friends and comrades-in-arms, such as Chuck Colson, Robert George, Mary Ann Glendon, David Novak, David Bentley Hart, and Robert Jenson. Every so often, I had to pinch myself: I'm a farm kid from North Dakota. What the heck am I doing here?

But Father Neuhaus was unfailingly generous, ...

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January 2009

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