“She hears, upon that water without a sound, a voice that cries, ‘The tomb in Palestine is not the porch of spirits lingering. It is the grave of Jesus where he lay…’” Somber words. One should say, inappropriate words for Easter Sunday. They come from the American poet Wallace Stevens, and they are an excerpt from his poem “Sunday Morning.” The poem is about a loss and lack of faith in the meaning of not only Easter but every Sunday since then, for Sunday is enshrined with significance—not because it is a casual day of leisure but because it is the day when Christ rose from the dead. In Wallace Stevens’ poem, faith in what the event of Christ’s resurrection accomplished in history has been lost. The modern mind is content with the distractions of the news of the day, willing to accept that the frame of reference for life’s…
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A short fiction inspired by Luke 22:10. She guided the tiny mouse out of its corner with a gentle nudge of her broom, laughing as she teased it this way and that, helping the frightened creature find its way out the door, down the steps and into a street teeming with merchants hawking apples and herbs, with shoppers, and those hurrying to the temple. She didn’t mind mice very much, but not in this room, and not today. No space being made ready for Passover and the seder meal could be permitted faithless intruders, even helpless little grey ones with adorable pink noses. Moving on to gather dust and cobwebs from the corners, she began, all unconsciously, to hum under her breath—a joyful little melody learned from her mother, who would quietly sing it over and over in rhythm with her movements as she would grind flour: “O praise him,…
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The conversations happening today in the field of artificial intelligence, known as AI, are completely mind-blowing. Aside from AI robots using 3D printing to build bridges in the Netherlands or cars in Los Angeles with digital nervous systems, the crucial topic of discussion is the unknown potentialities which AI technology could precipitate. The central question which belabors not only scientists and engineers but also economists, politicians, and Christians is ultimately: “What will happen once AI is let out of the box?” Despite the wide variety of speculation within AI scholarship and social media, everyone agrees that the future of AI is a frightening yet seductive mystery from which no one can look away. “AI could be terrible, and it could be great,” remarked Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors. “Only one thing is for sure,” he says. “We will not control it.” The big idea within AI circles is the…
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After the devastating fires at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, we thought we would share a few of Bishop Barron’s personal and spiritual insights on this incredible masterpiece of architecture, beauty, and culture. May Our Lady intercede for the church of Paris, and for the universal Church, as we lament this loss. Bishop Barron on Cathedral of Notre Dame Rose Window Friends, as we grieve the fire still engulfing the Cathedral of Notre Dame, here's a short clip from a talk I recently gave on "Catholicism and Beauty" in which I reflect on my first visit to the Cathedral, gazing on its majestic rose window. Notre Dame, Our Lady, pray for us! Posted by Bishop Robert Barron on Monday, April 15, 2019  …
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In a lot of ways the modern world, to me, is a Christian heresy because many of these extraordinary ideas—the rights of man, the idea that everybody should be free—[these ideas from] Locke and Hume and all these people were informed by Christianity so their ideas didn’t simply come out of some kind of philosophical vacuum. —Sheikh Hamza Yusuf One of the lasting images I have from my repeated readings of C.S. Lewis is the metaphor he offers about the relationship between Christianity and the modern Western world: inoculation. According to Lewis, we can distance ourselves from Christianity because we constantly receive small doses of it. Enough Christian-ness makes us immune to Christianity. Take, for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted by the UN in the wake of World War II, the Declaration was a landmark international statement on the dignity of human life and…
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The texts that Christians typically read on Palm Sunday have become so familiar to them that they probably don’t sense their properly revolutionary power. But no first-century Jew would have missed the excitement and danger implicit in the coded language of the accounts describing Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem just a few days before his death. In Mark’s Gospel we hear that Jesus and his disciples “drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives.” A bit of trivial geographical detail, we might be tempted to conclude. But we have to remember that pious Jews of Jesus’ time were immersed in the infinitely complex world of the Hebrew Scriptures and stubbornly read everything through the lens provided by those writings. About five hundred years before Jesus’ time, the prophet Ezekiel had relayed a vision of the “Shekinah” (the glory) of Yahweh leaving the temple, due to its…
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Many people are familiar with G.K. Chesterton’s observation that “angels can fly because they take themselves lightly.” We like the quote because it confirms our suspicions that a faith grounded in gratitude and a wider perspective can create a solid tarmac from which we may soar. That’s easier than it sounds, of course, and Chesterton knew it—the fully delicious and playful quote comes from his profound masterwork Orthodoxy, and reads, “Solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity.” And gravity, as we know, is the law. Lately, I’ve seen in some of my acquaintances the development of a very grave and solemn habit, indeed—a tendency to expect niceness in everyone they meet, particularly in professed Christians. When exposed to someone’s overwhelming urge to snark at politicians, headlines, celebrity-sham-marriages, and overplayed cards…
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If I may lift a lyric from Les Misérables (the musical), “The colors of the world / Are changing day by day.” Red and black. Those colors characterized Rome during the Nazi occupation. As The Scarlet and the Black opens, a red Nazi flag flies with a black swastika emblazoned in the center. Black-clad Gestapo officers with red swastika armbands march into the Vatican. But then we see that not only rage and hatred can co-opt red and black. For there, the Nazis find cardinals, bishops, and monsignori vested in their black cassocks and the scarlet colors of their offices. This visual contrast sets up the conflict that dominates the film. As the Nazi occupiers attempt to capture Allied refugee soldiers and round up Rome’s Jewish population, they frequently find themselves foiled. An increasingly frantic SS commander, Herbert Kappler, played by Christopher Plummer of The Sound of Music fame, fails…
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Recently, I spent a few days in hospital with a serious illness. Thank God I have recovered fully, but it could have been worse—even fatal. Such a brush with death makes you think deeper and changes your perspective. You move into a different space that is already occupied by millions of sick people whose plight you were aware of but did not consider as much as you should. Here I share a few thoughts from this experience of illness and how it impacts on our call to evangelize. We hear much about the institutions of society that are the shapers of culture—the media, universities, politics, TV, the internet, movies, art, music, literature, etc. It may seem odd to describe hospitals as shapers of culture, but the truth is that they not only care for people who are sick but remind society that we human beings are weak, limited, and vulnerable.
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He had an overmastering regard for efficiency. —Charles Ryder about platoon commander Hooper in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder. —G.K. Chesterton Life can’t be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years. —William F. Buckley, Jr.   Years ago, when I was in college, I cheated.  Now, let me explain. When I decided to become a doctor, I had no idea what I was doing. My two older sisters, both bright and engaging, had dabbled with the idea of practicing medicine. However, after considering the lives they wanted to lead (and, for one, enduring the harrowing experience of poorly taught Microbiology), they thought better of it and found their calling as schoolteachers. My father was a school superintendent and my mother, a homemaker.
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The Book of Genesis is a book of beginnings, a book of origins. From it we learn the beginning of creation, of humanity, and of the Israelites. The Israelites originate as a people from the great Old Testament patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah. Abraham is called forth by God from the life he knew and sets out on a journey that God promises will take him to lands that will become the homeland for his descendants who, God promises, will be a great nation “as numerous as a stars in the heavens.” In today’s Scripture this promise is literally cut in a sacrifice and becomes a covenant between God and Abraham. A covenant is best understood for our purposes as a relationship, a relationship that goes much deeper than merely a legal contract. The sacrifice indicates the depth of the relationship between God and Abraham; it is a matter…
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Lent is not about evening things out with God. As Br. Joachim Kenney, O.P., explains, since our prayers and sacrifices add nothing to God’s greatness or happiness, they are not primarily for his benefit, but rather for our own.
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“Not only does the devil have the best music,” a former pastor used to tease, “he also has the best lines in movies and the most interesting of the Commandments—the ones we want to break.” It was a smart, funny observation, and Father employed it with some regularity because it guaranteed a laugh. Anyone who had ever thrilled to Smeagol’s dementia over his “Precious” or repeated Darth Vader’s “Come to the dark side”—or had ever entertained angry or lustful fantasies (in other words most of us)—could appreciate the truth of it. After all, when we think of the Ten Commandments, those injunctions against stealing, killing, fornication, and covetousness come immediately to mind; they interest us because we know the struggles we wage against our worst instincts and fallen natures. In preparation for confession, we quickly find ourselves dwelling within that prompt-list of easy sins: yes, I took the Lord’s name…
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You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth. (Ps. 52:3) Evidently, lies spread more than truth on the internet. A group of scientists published a research report, “The spread of true and false news online,” in Science magazine in March of last year. The study spanned ten years of Twitter, analyzing over 100,000 contentious stories, most of which also spread to other social media platforms like Facebook. According to Jill Lepore in The New Yorker, Facebook’s “trending news” feature helped aid the notorious “fake news” of the 2016 election cycle; the feature has since been terminated. The online catalyst for false news is not just found on social media. The larger media circuit has also flubbed. Without accusing anyone of malice, we may say that erroneous news, although retracted, has had tremendous consequences. One example comes from the 2019 March for Life. An altercation…
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Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested. (Sirach 27:7) Every Lent calls for a fasting from words. Not simply to make them fewer, but to make them worthier of our dignity and his Majesty. This Lent, more silence for the mouth, the ears, the phone, the keyboard. Fewer words, spoken with more consideration and care, more thought and deliberation, more reflection and repentance. Words that emerge from a place of depth, and not from the swampy shallows of superficiality. Words that tremble in the presence of their Creator, the Word through whom all things were made, he who once said to us, “On the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter” (Matt. 12:36). Be silent, or say something better than silence. This Lent, choose to “let no evil talk come out of your…
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In our efforts to evangelize and proclaim the Gospel, it is good to keep our focus and prayer on the goal of our work—that others will come to faith in Christ and enjoy a personal relationship with him. This intrinsic connection between faith born from evangelization begins with Jesus himself in Mark’s Gospel where his first words are: “The time has come and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Good News!” (1:15). For St. John in his Gospel, his entire life of preaching and writing about Christ has been at the service of faith in him: “These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that through your faith in him you may have life” (20:30). So what then does this faith look like? What kind of faith do we hope to be born…
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I was very grateful to have Rémi Brague’s help teaching my catechism class this year. The French historian of philosophy wasn’t sitting in on my fourth grade religious education class, but his 2018 Erasmus lecture “God as a Gentleman” was what I wanted to draw from when it came time to teach my students the Ten Commandments. When I walk my students through the list of thou shalts and thou shalt nots, I’m always trying to make it clear that these laws are given by God to us for our good, not a set of arbitrary rules that God is waiting to get us in trouble for. (Elementary-school-aged children are, often, already subject to a number of finicky rules, changing from teacher to teacher, that lead them to be a little skeptical of which rules really matter). I tend to reach for the metaphor of guardrails: God’s rules for us are…
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Nearly a century has passed since Sigrid Undset wrote the biographical essays about holy men and women, and the letters, which eventually would be collected and published under the heading Stages on the Road. It is a title evocative of the life of faith, wholly explored and lived-out—unpacked depot by depot, as it were—from the spiritual nursery, to precarious venturing forth, to stepping back in wonder or doubt, to the nearly inevitable and deepening darkness that, for all its pain, accesses an interior cave of Oneness, solitary yet completed in the companionship of the Christ. This last is something akin to what Saint Catherine of Siena referred to as the inner cell or the “cell of true self-knowledge.” Undset, like Catherine a Third Order Dominican, shared with that clear-eyed Doctor an impatience with the sort of illusions bred by social conventions and encouraged by trends. Raised by progressively-minded atheists,…
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Bishop Barron Presents: Conversations at the Crossroads will be streaming LIVE tonight at 7:00pm PT (10:00pm ET)! The event will feature Leah Libresco Sargeant, a Fellow of the Word on Fire Institute and a convert from atheism to Catholicism. Raised in an atheist home, Leah Libresco Sargeant wasn’t seeking the answers of religious truth; rather, she sought the nature and form of truth itself. Through a debate club at Yale University, her ideas of faith, God, and Christianity were challenged, and eventually she came to realize that truth is much larger than her atheism allowed. Leah tells the story of how her friends gave her room to reconsider. Although arguments may feel like an invitation to aggression, we are called to love the truth and our friends fiercely. With the right preparation, we can do right by them both. Watch LIVE on Bishop Barron’s Facebook page or right here:…
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Be Made Whole

Right after our last child, I was recovering from the cesarean surgery and started to notice that my foot was sore. My husband is in orthopedics, so one morning over breakfast, I told him that it was hurting a bit. He promised to keep an eye on it, and we went about the day. Two days later the pain had grown worse, and by the end of the day it was swollen. We tried to treat it medicinally until I couldn’t walk on it at all. It was a Friday, and he told me to come in for an x-ray. I didn’t go. It was tough to get all the kids taken care of and make time for all of that. So the weekend came and it got progressively worse. I finally went in that Monday and got the x-ray. The x-ray tech set me up and went over to…
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