We’re excited to announce the brand new quarterly Journal of the Word on Fire Institute, Evangelization & Culture! It seeks to be the most beautiful, most substantive Catholic journal ever created. We wanted to establish a smart, sublime, and practical journal that was reflective of the Word on Fire ethos. However, Evangelization & Culture is not designed to be primarily academic, artistic, or pastoral. Instead, the purpose of our journal is, as Cardinal George said, to evangelize the culture—and to train individuals to become evangelizers themselves. Issues will be sent to members of the Word on Fire Institute four times throughout the year. If you haven’t already, we invite you to join the Word on Fire Institute to be formed as an evangelist and to lead the culture to Christ with beauty, goodness, and truth. When you become a…
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Toward the end of the 1989 film Parenthood, a cheerful grandmother, dismissed throughout the movie as being a bit ditzy, tells her harried children: “You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster. Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride! I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn’t like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.” In the practice of my faith, pondering that scene has sometimes brought me a measure of reassurance, and some spiritual relief, too, because even with all the devotions and feast days I love—all the ways the Church infuses my day-to-day with instruction…
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A young white teenager from Michigan, using his initials as a stage name, emerges on the hip-hop scene; his rapid-fire lyrics reflect the wounds of a broken home; and his music quickly becomes a cultural phenomenon, earning a Billboard-topping album, triple-platinum single, and millions of fans around the world. If you grew up in the nineties, you know this story well. It’s the story of Marshall Mathers, or Eminem (originally “M&M”), who captured the world’s attention with his Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers LPs. But it’s also the story of Nathan Feuerstein, or NF, a 28-year-old rapper who just released his fourth studio album, The Search—which, like his last album Perception, has quickly topped the Billboard charts. Like Eminem’s, NF’s story is far from idyllic. After his parents divorced, he was physically abused by his mother’s boyfriend. In 2009, his mother, who was…
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I have spoken with several scientifically minded people recently who’ve reported a conflict between the religious and scientific worldview. Most of these people are not actual scientists (a few of them are), but nevertheless, they seem to appreciate what science has done for the world, and generally enjoy the musings of those engaged in it. Fair enough: science has done a great deal to improve the priorly squalid conditions of our human experience, and conjectures among scientists are of often enormous intrigue, especially those which can make for a good sci-fi. But is there really a conflict between the scientific and religious worldview? Is it irrational to be a person of faith and lover of science? Here is what I would maintain. There are, admittedly, among certain, specific religious affiliations, real and obvious conflicts between what some particular religions say, and what some particular scientific endeavors…
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Why is community so important to the Christian life and evangelization? What are some practical ways we can increase fellowship among our own neighborhoods and parishes? The Word on Fire Institute continues to grow and provide new and engaging content for our members, and we’re excited to announce that today we’ve begun an all-new course by Mrs. Leah Libresco Sargeant entitled Christian Community as Leaven for the World! About the Fellow: Leah Libresco has worked as a statistics professor, a data journalist, and a Bayesian probability instructor. She grew up as an atheist and converted to Catholicism while studying at Yale. Through various relationships and reading the likes of Lewis and Chesterton, Leah began to learn more and more about the Catholic faith and was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012. Her conversion unfolded through her popular blog, Unequally Yoked, and was also…
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Gilbert Highet’s book The Art of Teaching has proven to be an excellent guide for me as a teacher. It’s practical and simple, drawing on the best teachers in history. It’s not marked by that soulless, “scientific” educational philosophy that devalues classical learning, but is rooted in a robust vision that educates the whole human person. Theology teachers need a book like Dr. Highet’s but particularly about the art of catechesis.  While many academic theologians will not admit this, theology is, in part, catechesis. Like an art, it requires vision and skill. Unfortunately, many theology programs do not educate students in a clear and consistent vision, leaving students confused about the nature of theology and its basics. This is representative of the fragmented state of much academic theology. Additionally, there is no apprenticeship a student can undergo to learn from the…
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It’s been nearly a decade since poet and USC Professor Dana Gioia wrote an essay urging Catholic writers to “renovate and reoccupy” their own tradition within the literary culture, and it is a discussion that has been ongoing among Catholics since then—part of a broad pondering of what the “Christian imagination” means in the twenty-first century, and what it has to offer a society that is ever-more pop-focused, less literary in consumption and increasingly secular and polarized in tastes, to boot. Certainly, in literature, we have felt the dearth of the sort of Catholic writing that was so prominent in the last century, when authors like Flannery O’ Connor, Walker Percy, Evelyn Waugh, Rumer Godden, and others produced fiction that could hook into the souls of readers, whether faithful or not, and lead them into deep contemplation of our fallen natures, the complexities of the…
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If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, “Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” —Martin Luther King Jr. Last weekend, on a cabin vacation outside of Tower, Minnesota, my daughters and I, along with my good friend and his kids, woke up, brushed our teeth, and threw on sweatshirts, rugged shorts, and closed-toe shoes. We packed pants and an extra sweatshirt because, in spite of the perfect seventy-two degree day on the lake, our destination (the Soudan Underground Mine State Park) promised a steady fifty-eight degrees in its subterranean parts. So, with bellies full of scrambled eggs, hash browns,…
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When I first began considering the claims of Christianity, I encountered a lot of Christians—all of them Protestant—who admitted to having a personal and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ, professing this inner, subjective fellowship to be part and parcel of the Christian faith, with no particular religion or creed required apart from that. At first blush, this appealed even to me, a grinch. No tiresome, stuck-in-the-mud, medieval theology to study, no (allegedly) outdated social teachings on contraception or abortion to uphold, and no institutional hierarchy under some dogmatically infallible bishop with a froofy hat. Just a sort of “Let’s hang out, me and you” thing, only with God. Now, who wouldn’t want that? Well, there is at least one person who wouldn’t want that, and that person was (and is) God. For all the conversations I had with Protestants explaining their personal relationship with Jesus (crudely, I often wondered if…
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Spiritual Deafness

We all have our sufferings and problems, but sometimes other people can see better than we what’s wrong with us. For example, the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus is about a music teacher and composer who finds out that his baby boy is deaf. He is stunned at the news, because he will never be able to open the world of sound to his son. The baby does not know what is wrong with him, while the loss is perceived acutely by the father. The film goes on to show that the son can still have a fulfilling life, but he is never able to make music with his father. In some ways, our own spiritual condition is like deafness. In the original creation, Adam and Eve were made to hear God’s voice and to rejoice in his spiritual beauty. But by original sin we damaged this capacity, and the powers of…
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Benedicta a Cruce

Maia Morgenstern, some five years before starring as the Mother of God in Mel Gibson’s The Passion, played the role of another virgin Jew who found Israel’s salvation in the Cross of Christ. In Márta Mészáros’ 1995 Hungarian film, The Seventh Chamber, Morgenstern plays Saint Teresa Benedicta a Cruce. The film, like Gibson’s, depicts a movie-length Via Crucis. It is not the kind of film you watch with a bowl of popcorn, but with a prayerful heart. Edith Stein, the youngest of eleven, was born into a Jewish family on the day of Yom Kippur in 1891. This providential birthday, as with other things in her life, would later be seen as a meaningful foreshadowing. The Seventh Chamber, however, does not depict the early life of this German philosopher-turned-Christian. It does not show the young and precocious Edith enchanted with the world of literature, and disenchanted with the world…
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In the weeks surrounding the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, the discussion always arises: Since the first person to preach the resurrection of Christ was a female, shouldn’t women be permitted to preach from the pulpit during Mass? There have been interesting arguments advanced, both pro and con, and they’re worth reading. But upon consideration, I think the discussion fails from the start due to improper framing and a presumed value that might be false on the face of it. It’s worth pondering at a very fundamental level: Are we attaching too much importance to the “power” of preaching from a pulpit? Are we assigning it a measure of value beyond what is there, simply because the pulpit is closed off to female voices? For that matter, are we indulging in a bit of unintended clericalism when we see pulpit-preaching as something inherently more powerful than anything…
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Growing up in a small town in Texas as the grandchild of farmers, the cowboy was often idolized as the picture of virtue and hard work. Though historically speaking my ancestors had their own struggles with Native American Indians, our home had a very appreciative view of the history of native peoples. The first Halloween costume I remember donning was that of “The Lone Ranger,” and many of my first memories of watching television with my family consisted of John Wayne, Ben Cartwright and his sons on Bonanza, and Lucas McCain in The Rifleman. Needless to say, I was beyond excited at the announcement of Kevin Costner’s Yellowstone, which seems to be a mixture of The Godfather and Bonanza. At first glance, Yellowstone is an action-packed drama about a patriarch protecting what has been his family’s for generations; however, at a deeper level, the show has much to critique about our modern notions…
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The surprising revelation of the Lord Jesus is that he is God. Jesus Christ is a living, divine person who has accepted a human nature and lived a real human life, and this revelation is not just a matter of an idea or a feeling, but is a densely textured fact of history. In Jesus Christ, God enters the events and circumstances of our lives by becoming a man, and he does so that humanity might share in the life of God. Today is the solemnity of the Transfiguration. This great day celebrates the privileged moment when three of Christ’s disciples glimpsed Christ’s divine glory. Peter, James, and John saw Christ for who he really and truly is—not just a prophet, or a philosopher, or a social activist, or one of many important historical figures, but God! The reality of all this is overwhelming, and as such we might be…
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About six weeks ago, we found out we were expecting baby number five. We were a little shocked. Okay, we were a lot shocked. We practice the Marquette Method, abstaining on high and peak days, and we had talked about being open to the next one if God were to bring one into being. But, alas, still shocked. I’m in my mid-30s, and my body has brought four little humans into the world, though not without complications. A fifth birth posed serious risk. Last weekend, at about 10 weeks pregnant, I started having stomach cramps. I was in bed by 8 p.m. that night and woke up bleeding around 3 a.m. I didn’t go back to sleep. I tossed and turned all night, crying, holding my womb. I was already convinced the baby had died. We texted our doctor and he responded the next morning. We went in for the…
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I recently encountered a letter on social media from a woman who offered the rather innovative proposal of trying parents as criminals for bringing children involuntarily into the world—that is, into such a hellish and awful place, especially now that (as she would maintain) Donald Trump is president. Politics aside, this woman is clearly not an optimist and does not believe in God or anything of the sort. That, I would contend, is unfortunate. However, and coming from her perspective, she may have a point. Imagine being thrust into existence. (This includes all of us, by the way. Yes, hi. Hello!) This is either the worst hell and torment any person could imagine, if God does not exist, or the greatest gift if he does. For what is life, generally observed, if not an unduly obnoxious parade of problems, one where whatever progress we encounter appears, upon sufficient reflection, to be…
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I have often been struck by the fact that parents know their children so little. —The prince, in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot “Where are we off to next?” With bellies full of mostaccioli drenched in tomato sauce and cartoonishly large pizza slices, we left Cossetta’s (an institution among St. Paul’s Italian restaurants) and headed toward the Minnesota State Capitol. “Ah,” my twelve year-old grinned, “we haven’t been there in a while.” I smiled and nodded. Ever since my two daughters could walk, I have taken them on Weekday Adventures. Stepping away, one day a week, from the weighty demands of a busy internal medicine practice, I see the world through the eyes of two squirrelly, witty, delightfully inquisitive little girls—little girls, I might add, who are growing too fast. These outings have been pure magic for me. Week after week, one Thursday succeeding the next, we’ve…
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“What does Christ want from us?”  According to Martin Scorsese, Terrence Malick posed this question to his fellow director in a letter after seeing Silence, the former’s long-awaited film about Jesuit missionaries in Japan. Malick’s cinematic corpus has been marked by Christian themes, music, and imagery from the beginning. For example, those watching the fire scene from Badlands (1973) with the English captions on will see the following lyrics from German composer Carl Orff’s choral piece “Passion”: When Jesus walked into the garden And his suffering began Everything mourned that was there Even the foliage and the green grass: Mary held a small bell, ringing “Oh my, oh my darling child Oh how, oh how my heart is breaking My son, my son, I am losing you”…
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Comic book heroes have taken the cultural imagination by storm over the past century. The genre is not often seen as a source of truth and beauty. However, Douglas Ernst, the author of a new sort of comic book, sees the power of comics and hopes to provide a piece of culture that speaks to beauty, goodness, and truth. Tell us a little about the kind of guy who writes graphic novels about combat veterans turned exorcists. What is your background and the inspiration for Soulfinder: Demon’s Match? Douglas Ernst: The short answer is that I’m a Catholic man who grew up loving superhero tales before enlisting in the US Army when I was eighteen years old. The more detailed response is that I’m a writer by vocation, I care about our culture, and I want to tell tales that inspire the next generation’s G.K. Chesterton or J.R.R. Tolkien. I…
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To say Bishop Barron's interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson was highly anticipated might still be an understatement. For years, people have clamored for the two to engage each other, especially given their similar interests in religion, psychology, literature, and the Bible.Dr. Peterson, the New York Times bestselling author of 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, is arguably the most prominent intellectual figure on the scene today, and Bishop Barron is one of the leading intellects and evangelists in the Catholic Church.They finally joined for a nearly two-hour discussion in March 2019, but the interview wasn't posted on Dr. Peterson's podcast and YouTube channel until June 2019. However, in less than a month the combined postings had over a million downloads.You can listen or watch below: Insert Video BONUS DISCUSSIONSClick below for two bonus…
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