Category Archives: Catholicism

Mercy, Justice, and the Truth (Review: “To Render the Deeds of Mercy”)

I don’t understand the Jubilee Year of Mercy, but I’m trying to. I love learning, so, as I said on my panel during the ATX Catholic Retreat, I’m taking this year as an opportunity to learn what mercy means. I encounter tons of media already, so my learning mostly consists of keeping my eyes and ears open for any discussion of what mercy means. I’m especially curious about how it relates to forgiveness and justice. We’ve got three words, so there must be some room within there for shades of meaning and nuances of the Faith.

My latest foray into understanding mercy comes from one of my favorite magazines, First Things, and one of my favorite authors, Mr. William Shakespeare. Maybe my buddy the Holy Spirit tossed this one into my path, since this is the only Jubilee Year of Mercy I’m aware of, it was just Pentecost, and it was just the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. Then again, maybe I just read widely and Bishop James Conley, of the Diocese of Lincoln, is just a timely writer, offering us “To Render the Deeds of Mercy.”

Cristo Redentor statue

The title, as well as the essay’s opening, comes from The Merchant of Venice. Portia’s monologue that begins “The quality of mercy is not strain’d” is often considered poetic in and of itself. As Bishop Conley notes, it is also theological. By pointing out that experiencing the fullness of God’s justice would leave us all goners, so it’s a good thing we have God’s mercy, Shakespeare connects us to similar thoughts by St. Anselm:

Anselm concluded that both punishment and mercy are a part of God’s justice. We are justly punished because we are sinners. And God is just in mercy because mercy reflects the goodness of God’s nature. Anselm wrote: “When you [God] punish the wicked, it is just, since punishment agrees with their circumstance; and when you spare the wicked, it is also just; since mercy befits your goodness.”

I have to say, that’s the first time I’ve ever heard mercy connected with justice in a way that makes sense to me. Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Pentecost, Inspiration, and Hope

It’s almost Pentecost! I developed a great relationship with the Holy Spirit when I was in undergrad, so Pentecost is one of my favorite feasts. For some reason, it pulls other people who like to dress liturgically out of the woodwork: we all wear red. Join me on all the other Sundays! It’s awesome!

In all seriousness, Pentecost gives me an opportunity to pray for discernment and to reflect on virtue and the gifts of the Spirit as I pray the Original Novena between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday.


A few notes:

  • A novena is nine consecutive days of prayer for a particular intention. Some novenas require the same prayer for all nine days; some add a reflection that changes day by day.
  • The origin of the novena is the nine days that the apostles and Mary spent in prayer between Jesus’ ascension into heaven (which we just celebrated) and the descent of the Holy Spirit.
  • We call the celebration of the descent of the Holy Spirit “Pentecost” after the Jewish feast of the same name, which was occurring at the same time. The people from various regions and countries listed in Acts 2:5–11 were in Jerusalem for that feast.
  • In most of the U.S., the celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension was moved to Sunday. The timeline of the Pentecost novena does not change.
  • I like to pray the Novena of the Seven Gifts. There are plenty of other options. It’s the timeline, not the prayers, that makes this novena the novena.

Therefore, I am steeped in contemplation on and with the Holy Spirit right now. It is in this spirit (pun intended) that I offer my reflections on the Holy Spirit, hope, and encouragement.

[Read the rest at ATX Catholic].(

Redemption Through Reflection (Review: “Remembering God’s Mercy”)

We all have memories of things we’d rather forget. Some things are embarrassing. Some are painful. Some are traumatic. Dawn Eden is no stranger to the latter, as she revealed in her previous books about chaste love (The Thrill of the Chaste and its recent Catholic edition) and about healing sexual wounds with the help of the saints. Many times, we are tempted to avoid even thinking about terrible things we have experienced. For those who experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), just not thinking about it is not an option. Rather than try to avoid these memories, Eden encourages readers to redeem their pain. The One who redeemed our fallen human race can take our painful memories and turn them into opportunities for purification. With some help from St. Ignatius of Loyola, Pope Francis, and a few other heavenly witnesses, Eden offers Remembering God’s Mercy, a rich guide to healing memories and opening ourselves up to the grace of God.


Public domain image from Pixabay.

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

How Bad Catechesis Happened and How to Fix It (Review of Msgr. Charles Pope)

You can take the teacher of out of the classroom, but you can’t take the teacher out of the heart. It has been many years since I taught full-time. I still have the heart of a teacher. My work with RCIA while I was in campus ministry was one of the best ways I’ve discovered to combine my background in education, my love for Jesus Christ, and my call to serve the Church and the world. Classroom teaching and campus ministry aren’t things I’m interested in doing full-time right now. Someday, though, God willing, I hope to get married and raise up some little souls of my own. I might not be the one who teaches my children how to write a five-paragraph essay (although I absolutely still could), but I hope to be one of the ones who teaches them about Jesus.


CC0 from Unsplash.

When I was in grad school, it was impressed upon us that parents are the primary educators of their children. As Catholic school teachers, we were outsourced labor. Valuable, enthusiastic, subject-matter expert labor, but outsourced nonetheless. Ideally, parents would educate their own children in all things, and especially in the things of the Lord. It is this point that Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington stresses in his recent essays about the four big mistakes we’ve made with catechesis and how to fix them. Although, there is no cure-all solution to generations of catechetical weakness, his idea is a step in the right direction.

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

We Are All Teachers of Virtue (A Response to Archbishop Cordileone’s “Knowledge, Virtue, and Holiness”)

You may remember the news headlines about Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. They focused on the bristling of some archdiocesan school teachers at the prospect of having to sign a statement affirming their support of the Catholic faith. As a former Catholic high school teacher myself, I thought it was much ado about nothing. I signed a similar statement when I was teaching. It was made clear to all us faculty that, as part of the mission of our Catholic school, we were expected not to do anything to publicly contradict Church teaching. Furthermore, the Catholics among us were expected to be examples of adult faith, and all of us were there to educate the whole person.

That was true when I was a teacher by profession, and it remains true now that I am only a teacher at heart.

books on stairs

The bottom line is that Catholic education ought to be about more than just testing, numbers, and classrooms. As I learned in ed school, we teach students subjects, so we teach students first. Do you realize that, as an adult (or even a member of your parish’s youth group mentoring younger kids), you are a teacher, too?

I recently read the full text of an address that Archbishop Cordileone gave at a convocation of Catholic high school teachers, titled “Knowledge, Virtue, and Holiness”, just over a year ago. I found it inspiring. It spoke to my heart as a lifelong educator and as a Christian. I hope to share some of the archbishop’s inspiration with you.

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

Holy Saturday: The Day of Redemption

I don’t have many traditions. I have habits and routines for almost everything, but my life tends to change so much from year to year that I don’t always do the same thing each time special days come around. One tradition I’ve managed to maintain is mine for Holy Saturday. I can’t (or don’t) always keep things quiet around the house, and I still have to do laundry or house cleaning and grocery shopping, but I always make time for a particular period of prayer.

I’ve been praying the Liturgy of the Hours in some fashion for years and years. Every Holy Saturday, I find some time before the Easter Vigil to pray the Office of Readings. It’s handy because you can pray that “hour” any time during the day you want to (or even the evening before—on any day, not just Saturday evening before Sunday), and it’s special because there is a particular reading for this day that doesn’t appear any other day. The original preacher’s name has been lost to history, so it’s titled “An ancient homily on Holy Saturday.”

It moved me in a very different way this year than it has any other year. This year, I was struck not only by the overwhelming character of hope it brings to what is otherwise a blank day in the season, but also by the detail of Christ’s work of redemption. It might not be a busy day for the Church’s liturgies, but it was a very busy day for Jesus.

Even if you read this after the Easter Vigil or after you have celebrated the Resurrection, I hope that you will use it for meditation on the specific depths to which Christ went to save you and to save us all.

a stone angel with a garland of flowers in front of a cross

Something strange is happening. There is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: ‘My Lord be with you all.’ Christ answered him: ‘And with your spirit.’ He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell. The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise. Let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise. I will not restore you to that paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

May God bless you.

Your Battle Plan Against Porn (Review: “Cleansed”)

I hate pornography, so I am a fan of resources for people who also hate pornography but have a better sense of how to fight the good fight than I do. I’m not foolish enough to think that the problem of porn addiction is going to quietly disappear from our society, so I keep my eyes peeled for good weapons to wield. I was, therefore, very excited to hear about Marcel LeJeune’s new book, Cleansed: A Catholic Guide to Freedom from Porn. I happen to be acquainted with the author through my work in campus ministry. For that reason, I’m just going to call him Marcel. “LeJeune” just seems too stuffy. This is not a book for stuffy people, and I hope this does not turn out to be a stuffy review. It’s a book packed with stuff, but it’s good stuff.

"Porn kills love. But it can't kill hope." —Marcel LeJeune, "Cleansed" at

Read the rest at ATX Catholic.

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