Category Archives: Catholicism

The New Age of Martyrdom (Review: “To the Martyrs”)

Daily Mass once moved me to tears.

I used to work in campus ministry, so I went to Mass every day. It was not unusual to have the diocesan vocations director visit us. While I was working at the University Catholic Center, the vocations director was Fr. Brian McMaster, so we had him for Mass often. On one unremarkable weekday, he announced that he’d be offering one of the Masses for Various Needs and Occasions (of which there are many), and that he’d chosen the Mass for Persecuted Christians.

It cut me to the core. This was years before the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS) was making daily headlines, putting the persecution of Christians into full focus. Fr. Brian’s reverence and heartfelt preaching created such an intense experience of the Mass that when I knelt to pray in thanksgiving after the dismissal, I just cried.

These days, of course, the persecution of Christians is at the forefront of our minds. It doesn’t stop on days when the news doesn’t report it. More Christians died for their faith in the 20th century than in every other century in history combined. When you hear “martyr,” you probably think of first-century Christians who were thrown before wild beasts. But do you also think of the Christians who are dying right now fleeing Syria and Iraq?

The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.

I jumped at the opportunity to read about the historical and contemporary reality of Christian martyrdom in a new book by my former bishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. In To The Martyrs: A Reflection on the Supreme Christian Witness, the faith and courage of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the Truth is honored, retold, and illuminated. They died for what they believed in. Could you?

Read the rest at AustinCNM.

You, Too, Can Discern the Will of God (Review of Fr. Mike Schmitz and Peter Kreeft)

A little over a year ago, I reviewed a book about discernment, decision-making, and the will of God by a non-Catholic Bible scholar and teacher, Gary Friesen. I haven’t run out of things to discern in the meantime, though, so this year, I decided to share some Catholic advice. In the spirit of teaching to all levels and encouraging the wise stewardship of one’s time, I offer you a video by Fr. Mike Schmitz and an article by Peter Kreeft. Your first point of discernment is whether to learn from both or just one!

"If your heart loves God, it is worth following. If it doesn't, then you're not interested in the problem of discernment of his will anyway." —Peter Kreeft

Since this is the 21st century and Internet attention spans are short, Fr. Mike Schmitz recorded a brief video to answer a question on many young minds (and some not-so-young ones). He is one of my favorite preachers, hands-down. Not all priests are good at giving homilies, and still fewer can also preach outside of Mass. He nails it. His main focus is campus ministry, but I never feel like he’s talking down to me. Yes, it is a vertical video, but in under 8 minutes, Fr. Mike manages to give 3 excellent guiding questions for discernment.

Watch the video and read the rest at Austin CNM.

Taking Steps Toward the Savior (Review: “Forming Intentional Disciples”)

Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Do you believe God has a mission for your life? Do you tell other people, honestly and openly, about the ways the Holy Spirit works in your day-to-day? Or does all of that sound “too Protestant”? Are those things normal for you? Do you feel like a little bit of a freak because that’s your version of normal?

There is a growing movement in Catholicism to turn “pew potatoes” into true disciples of Jesus Christ. With the new Diocese of Austin Pastoral Plan, the movement is in our midst. As I first realized when I read Rebuilt, the mission of the Church was determined by Jesus himself. It’s to make disciples. We should all be running toward God and pulling as many people into our holy tailwind as possible.

A Review of "Forming Intentional Disciples" at

I’m on board with all of that, and I’ve even seen and taken practical steps toward that in my spiritual and church-social life. I can’t say, though, that I ever gave much consideration to what it takes to convince people that discipleship is the way to grow and sustain the Church. I was all about the practice without digging into the theory. That seems to me to be the key value in Forming Intentional Disciples, by Sherry A. Weddell. What happened, what do we want to happen, and what principles will guide us as we make it happen?

Read the rest at AustinCNM.

A Clarion Call to Catholic Men (Review: “Into the Breach”)

Although I am not a man, nor am I married to one, I greatly enjoy reading about Catholic men’s spirituality. I’m blessed to have so many examples of strong, outwardly faithful men in my life. Honestly, one of my favorite things is hearing my male friends talk about their personal religious lives as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. It gives me hope that the Church is not yet so happy-clappy that men will steer clear forever.

"I am hereby exhorting you to step into the breach to do the work of Christ's soldiers in the world today." —Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted

I also found great joy in knowing so many men who shared the recent apostolic exhortation by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, Into the Breach. It is timely, direct, and thoughtful, and I hope it will inspire many more men to take up arms against the sea of trouble raging upon our world, our families, and our hearts.

Read the rest at Austin CNM.

Catholic Calendar 2016

It’s that time again, dear readers! This is my annual Catholic calendar update post.


Photo by Joe Lanman at Flickr.

If you’ve already subscribed in years past, you have the 2016 dates ready to go. I’ve been doing this since 2011! I recommend subscribing because you only have to do it once.

If you want to subscribe and you use Google Calendar, here’s how:

  1. Copy this link:
  2. Log in to Google Calendar.
  3. On the left-hand side of the screen, click the small arrow to the right of “Other calendars” and choose “Add by URL.” Paste in the URL you copied above.
  4. All the U.S. Catholic holidays since 2011 should be visible now as all-day events. If you open the event, you can see the liturgical color and the rank (from the Table of Liturgical Days) in the description.

If you want to subscribe and you use another calendar app that accepts iCal subscriptions (such as Outlook), your steps will be similar. You’ll need that same link from #1. Check your app’s support or help feature for specific instructions. (Google Calendar’s help page for subscribing to a calendar will give you the same steps I posted above.)

You can also import the calendar with the same link from #1 (if you click it instead of copying, you’ll get the download), but I don’t recommend that anymore. It’s much easier to mess up.

If you want a printable version, you have two options here:

  1. Print the Google Calendar (or use the Print button to save it in your preferred format). The single-page, fullscreen online version is best for that purpose. Month View will give you something that looks like a regular wall calendar. Agenda View is a simple list. You can select your desired date range, but even the smallest font size won’t show the whole title for some days in Month View. There are a lot of letters in “Saturday of the Thirty-Third Week of Ordinary Time”!
  2. Print the USCCB’s 2016 calendar PDF. It is only available in list format, but it has all the dates and information printed clearly. They used to hold out on making this PDF available until the relevant year was basically over, so it is quite progressive to have it available right now.

Some notes on how my Catholic Calendar differs from the basic data (kindly provided by Romcal):

  • I added my favorite novenas, as usual.
  • I included feast days for St. John Paul II, St. John XXIII, St. Junipero Serra, St. Marianne Cope, and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.
  • The Ascension is on a Sunday for most of the U.S., so I listed it there. (If you are in an Ascension Thursday diocese, you probably know that already.)

This year’s liturgical oddities:

  • Easter is pretty early, so the Annunciation gets knocked clear into April.
  • The Assumption is on a Monday, so it is not a Holy Day of Obligation.
  • The Feast of the Holy Family is December 30 since there is no Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

If you have trouble, please comment or use my contact form. I will do my best to help. I also appreciate comments letting me know that it worked. It brings me great joy to help others live liturgically!

The Most Powerful Woman in the World (A Response to the “National Geographic” Feature)


Photo by dogmadic at Stock Xchng.

Everybody loves Mary. If you’re a Catholic reading this on its original publication date, you have recently gone or will be going to Mass to honor her as the Immaculate Conception. (Otherwise, the next page you visit might be the closest parish’s confession times.) You probably heard the same homily reminder you get every year that the Immaculate Conception is Mary, not Jesus. Or maybe you heard something different. And if you’re not a Catholic, Mary is probably not particularly important to you on this specific day.

But she may well be important to you anyway. Even non-Catholics have a great affinity for the woman whom Maureen Orth, writing for National Geographic Magazine, recently declared “the world’s most powerful woman.” I know I wasn’t the only person pleasantly startled by that headline, so I dug in to the article to see how, from a journalistic perspective, the Blessed Mother has enraptured so many.

Read the rest at Austin CNM.

The Story of the King and His Kingdom (Review: “New Testament Basics for Catholics”)

Thanks to a few years of Bible studies, I could easily tell you that the “plot” of the Bible is the fulfillment of the covenant between God and his people. Now I can tell you that the New Testament has its own “subplot,” so to speak.

A few summers ago, I made the trek from central Austin out to Emmaus Catholic Parish every week to participate in a Great Adventure Bible Timeline study. It permanently changed the way I see the Bible—for the better. Finally, I understood why the prophets kept talking about Israel and Judah as if they were separate places (they were.) Finally, I understood why, exactly, the story of Hanukkah is in Catholic Bibles (and I wonder why it’s not in Protestant ones). Finally, I understood why the books of the Bible are in that order!

But if you’d asked me what the story of the New Testament was, I would have only described it as one giant story of the fulfillment of the covenant. Thanks to John Bergsma’s amazing new book, New Testament Basics for Catholics, I have a much clearer picture. The New Testament is the story of the coming of the kingdom: in the person of Jesus Christ, in the Church on Earth, and in the heavenly Jerusalem.

A review of "New Testament Basics for Catholics" at

Read the rest at Austin CNM.

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