Category Archives: Catholicism

Can We Be Catholic and American? (A Response to Archbishop Chaput’s Bishop’s Symposium Talk)

__Author’s note:_ Over at the full post, faithful reader DanC pointed out that I had my Chaput speeches mixed up! I have edited the text here and there to correct my error.

I spent a while learning how to teach adolescents in addition to my time being one, so I have thought a lot about identity formation. Facing a future with President Donald Trump is forcing many Americans to reconsider what the country really thinks, believes, and wants. If the election results demonstrate anything about our national culture, it is that we are divided, and the division is sharper than many of us realized. It even extends into our religious identities. I have seen more than one report that Catholics voted almost 50/50 for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The Catholic vote is not as easy to pin down as it once was.

So who are we as a church and as a country? Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia offered some thoughts several weeks before the election at the USCCB’s Bishop’s Symposium. He was speaking to Catholics who are involved in the political sphere, but I think his message is helpful for all of us who seek to be both Catholic and American. I offer some of his remarks here with some commentary of my own.

America’s cultural and political elites talk a lot about equality, opportunity and justice. But they behave like a privileged class with an authority based on their connections and skills.

One of the things I’ve learned from living in so many cities, states, and countries is the true meaning of culture and the power of experience. The best definition of culture I know is “how we do things around here.” In Austin, we don’t honk our car horns out of anger in stop-and-go traffic (and boy, do we have that traffic). In other cities, people honk. It’s not a matter of rudeness or nonchalance; it’s just how we do it. Before the election, many in the media wondered who would ever vote for Donald Trump. Now we know: quite a lot of people would, and did, and most of them are residents of areas far from major media’s usual concern. A Trump presidency was a possibility from the moment he received the nomination. The many who expressed disbelief may have forgotten about all the rest, and it was those voters who secured Trump’s win.

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Consider the elitist attitudes we find…. Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Your Weapons Are Scripture and Tradition (Review: “Dual Wielding”)

I’ve discovered a new kind of Catholic nerdery! I like books and learning and grammar and trivia, so I’ve long considered myself a nerd with personality. When I came back to the Church just over a decade ago, I found it only natural to become a Catholic nerd, too.

There are, however, limits to my nerdery. I don’t play Settlers of Catan, I don’t dress up in character costumes, and I don’t play video games. Nevertheless, when I heard Mike “Gomer” Gormley and Luke Who-Shall-Not-Be-Last-Named on the Catching Foxes podcast mention a book by a college friend of theirs, it piqued my interest. I watch enough fantasy movie battles to know that using two weapons at once is super cool and also super difficult. It turns out there’s a word for that: dual wielding. So when Luke and Gomer talked about “dual wielding” the Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I knew I had to investigate. Edmund Mitchell explains the steps and importance of this style of prayer in his e-book Dual Wielding: A Guide to Praying with the Catechism and Scripture.

A review of "Dual Wielding," at ATX Catholic.com

As a book, Dual Wielding does more than simply teach the method. It begins with a compelling explanation of how dual wielding can be useful for evangelization. Mitchell has the experience that so many evangelization trainers preach about—a chance encounter that leads to a discussion of life’s deeper questions, when he can share the story of Jesus—and he has it twice. That’s rare.

At the same time, you might be wondering what the Catechism is really good for….

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

The Bible Is a Story About Jesus (Review: “Walking with God”)

I love to read. I also love Jesus. I must confess, however, that I do not always love to read about Jesus. I would wager that most Christians (and many non-Christians) know that the Bible is a book about Jesus. I would also wager that many of those same people might struggle to explain how a long list of “begats,” hundreds of detailed Levitical laws, and Joshua fighting the Battle of Jericho are about Jesus. It’s not their fault, though; they have never been taught that the Bible has a story. Just one. It is a story about Jesus. But it’s not easy to read.

Thank God for Jeff Cavins and Tim Gray. Along with several other gifted writers, they have developed The Great Adventure: a series of books and Bible studies that reveal the narrative story of Scripture. I had the opportunity to participate in a summertime study of the short version of the Bible Timeline at Emmaus Catholic Parish a number of years ago. Those eight weeks changed the way I read the Bible. It makes sense now! If you’re thinking, “But I don’t have time for eight straight weeks of homework and driving to meetings,” then I know Walking with God: A Journey Through the Bible is for you. It’s a book. You can read it at your own pace. You don’t even need to read the referenced verses in order to understand (although that will help). No more excuses.

The Bible is a story about Jesus! A review of "Walking with God," by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins, at ATX Catholic

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Peter Kreeft’s “Nineteen Types of Judgment”: An Outline

It’s back-to-school time in the Year of Mercy, so I bring you a learning opportunity. I am a teacher by training (although not currently by profession), so I love learning, and I love helping other people learn. It’s a reflex, an instinct, and the method by which I hope to make a difference in the world. If you thought learning stopped at your graduation (or even at the end of your last job-related training course), you were wrong.

I’ve got a whopper for you: a speech given by Catholic philosopher and professor Peter Kreeft. It’s about justice, and philosophy, and a little bit about mercy. According to Kreeft, there are nineteen different types of judgment. And you thought you were off the hook once you learned a charitable, apologetics-fueled response to “judge not, lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1)!

This isn’t school, though, so there’s no test at the end. The only test is your life. As I read Kreeft’s talk, I found myself recognizing principles I knew, learning unfamiliar concepts, and drawing conclusions about both. I hope that you will take the opportunity to do the same.

Peter Kreeft's "Nineteen Types of Judgment," at ATX Catholic.com

Here’s my outline of all nineteen types of judgment. Some words and phrases are the author’s, but many are mine.

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Finding God, Funny Times, and Failing Health (Review: “Operating on Faith”)

I tend not to like vignette-style books. I never did like The House on Mango Street, critical acclaim and racially diverse protagonist notwithstanding. I do, however, enjoy stories of young adults living the Catholic life with joy, not bitterness. It’s refreshing, and it’s my reality. With a lighthearted approach in mind, I read Operating on Faith: A Painfully True Love Story, by Matt Weber, and found much mirth infused by reverence.

A review of "Operating on Faith" at ATX Catholic.com

As I said, this book is a memoir told by way of vignettes through Weber’s first few years of marriage. I knew that the “for better or for worse” of Matt and Nell’s early marriage would come into play, but I still wanted a cohesive character journey to follow. Even with scattered scenes, I like to have the feeling that there is a running theme to a story, a particular meaning. In the author’s own words, the major takeaway is that we should “find the meaning.” I struggled with that. Weber definitely encourages his readers to find meaning in their suffering (physical and spiritual), but he has one critical factor that not everyone does….

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Faith in Action (Review: 7 Habits That Define Our Catholic Identity)

7 Habits That Define Our Catholic Identity, from a webinar by Bert Ghezzi, at ATXCatholic.com

I wasn’t raised Catholic, but I’m not a convert, either. My mom’s side of the family is Catholic, so I was baptized as a baby and received my other sacraments of initiation on the usual timeline. I never say that I was raised Catholic, though. We didn’t go to church, not even for Christmas or Easter. That just wasn’t what we did. Now that I live as a Catholic (with God’s help), and I see my friends raising their young children, I’m starting to understand what it might have been like to be raised Catholic. I hope to raise my own Catholic family with my future husband someday, but in the meantime, I just work on me.

Now, how to live as a Catholic: that is something I can do. I have managed a delightful relationship with Ave Maria Press (AMP) as a book reviewer for several years, but I also enjoy their Professional Development Webinar series. The name is a little misleading; you don’t have to be working (or even volunteering) in ministry to participate in the webinars. AMP even records each webinar and posts them on YouTube for later viewing! Out of my desire for a little spiritual growth (and the desire to clear out my backlog of videos to watch), I recently viewed “7 Habits That Define Our Catholic Identity,” given by Bert Ghezzi. If you don’t even have the hour to watch, here’s my summary and a few analytical thoughts.

Read them at ATX Catholic.

Carmelite Spirituality for the Analytical Mind (Review: “The Dark Night of the Soul” by Gerald May)

I have a relatively new interest in the intersection of psychology and spirituality. I have some good friends who are Catholics and counselors, and while I treasure the opportunities I’ve had to walk alongside people on their spiritual journeys, I’ve never wanted to pursue that path myself. I don’t even have much interest in spiritual direction. But I’m always up for a new book.

One of my roommates is aware of this interest of mine and has been recommending books that might help my casual research. Although I’ve never been much into Carmelites, I decided to give her latest recommendation a try. The Dark Night of the Soul: A Psychiatrist Explores the Connection Between Darkness and Spiritual Growth, by Gerald G. May, M.D., is perhaps the best resource I’ve encountered for beginning to understand contemplative prayer and its role in the spiritual life.

"Faith darkens and empties the intellect, hope frees the memory, and love liberates the will." Gerald G. May, M.D.

The tricky thing about contemplation is that, if you think you’ve mastered it, you probably haven’t. In that way, it’s like trying to explain the Holy Trinity: the closest analogy you can muster up is probably a heresy. I have always struggled with contemplation and contemplative prayer for that very reason. I’m a very action-oriented person, although I am also quite reflective. This is probably why I can never wrap my head around Carmelite spirituality, but Augustinian principles speak straight to my heart. So I went into this book hoping that I might understand contemplative prayer a little more.

I’ve also struggled with the concept of the “dark night of the soul.” Have I been through it? Am I going through it right now? Is it something I should fear, like a punishment? Is it something I should want, like painful physical therapy that is needed to restore health? Should I fear it despite wanting it? Can I even figure out if I’m in it, or if I have been in it, or if it’s coming?

It’s all very confusing. This book, however, is not.

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

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