When my family and I came into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2019, we were no strangers to the overall contours of the Catholic thing. We had been High Church Anglicans, and our main obstacle was papal authority. By God’s grace, we were finally set free to live in obedience to Christ by acknowledging “the sacred primacy of the Pope and his infallible Magisterium” (Lumen Gentium, 18). But the big doctrinal issues are one thing, and everyday living as Catholics is sometimes quite another. There are so many gifts in the Catholic Church that my family and I did not fully appreciate before we climbed aboard the barque of St. Peter. As we enjoy them now, our lives are so much richer than we could have ever imagined when we stood on the edge of the Tiber, contemplating…
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In Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, we read, “Beloved, let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. . . Do not neglect the gift you have” (1 Tim. 4:12, 14). It’s good advice for all of us, no matter what our age—most particularly, the adjuration not to neglect the gifts we have been given, however it may manifest: to preach, heal, cook, train, write, etc. Our gifts were never meant for ourselves alone, but for service to the Body of Christ, no matter what our ages. What has been gifted to us in youth may need to be seasoned, yes, but never ignored or put aside or outright stalled, because—as in the lives of Blessed Carlo Acutis and Blessed…
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Some find it strange, even slightly naughty, that I shut off the news after the elections of November 2020. My experience has taught me otherwise. Having no longer handed my mind over to the distant, impersonal forces that seek to occupy it, I have abandoned my anger and discovered the world anew in front of my eyes, thanks to prayer.  I started praying all fifteen decades of the Rosary (you’ll pardon me if I am old-fashioned) back when Pope Francis made this request in October 2018. Things already seemed bleak enough back then to merit it. Now, the Rosary is my constant companion throughout the day.  Very recently it struck me: Why aren’t there wrathful mysteries to ponder? Anger, we are told, is the appropriate response to evil and injustice. Yet the hell of condemnation that characterizes…
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Imagine if a logo designer was commissioned to come up with a new symbol for Christianity other than the cross. It’s highly likely that in order to make our religion attractive and appealing, the new logo would be smart, unique, and would speak to the benefits of our faith for those who would consider it. From a worldly perspective, Christianity’s symbol of the cross is too brutal, too dated. If the primary logo of our religion is an instrument of torture, few will be attracted to it—or so it seems. Today, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, previously known as the “Triumph of the Cross.” The purpose of this feast suggests that rather than being embarrassed by the cross or daring to suggest an alternative logo, we should do the exact opposite. It encourages us to celebrate the sign of the…
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In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised up above the hills. Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Micah 4:1-2)   Over the summer, I hiked the Polish Tatra Mountains, the same mountains John Paul II used to trod, and while doing so, it occurred to me that in a secular age that…
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On August 16, 2001, I stood with my stepbrother and tens of thousands of people in Liberty State Park on Upper New York Bay in Jersey City with a beautiful view of Lower Manhattan. I was twenty-one years old, had recently graduated from college, and would be on my way in a couple of weeks to start graduate school in England. I was on a last hoorah vacation—more of a pilgrimage, really—and we had reached our goal: seeing our favorite band, Radiohead, on one of the last dates of their American tour in support of their turn-of-the-millennium experimental masterpieces Kid A and Amnesiac. The band played a marathon set, including two encores, with songs full of paranoia about modern life—songs which, even then, gave me the…
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The boats would pull into the dock like any other day in Cartagena. As the vessels would unload, onlookers would have seen the living cargo present in the deepest levels of the ship. Many of these people were sold into the slave trade, and it’s estimated that often a third of them died in transit. But I’d imagine that there were no onlookers there, no one reaching out to greet those aboard the ship. Ships full of people seen as objects and not persons was a normal occurrence, so normal that the use of the person—the person made slave—was unseen, because it had been reconciled thusly in the hearts and minds of men.  But not St. Peter Claver.  Peter Claver had come to these docks shortly after his ordination to the priesthood and after working with…
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“All of God’s purposes are to the good, although we may not always understand this we can trust in it.” — St. Philip Neri Philip Neri was neither the first nor the last saint to remind us that God’s purposes, though far beyond our comprehension, are “always to the good” and trustworthy, but he said it perfectly and succinctly. If we have faith, Neri’s words apply a mysterious balm of consolation during challenging times, times when we don’t understand why sad, harrowing, senseless, tragic, or just plain weird things are happening to us or to others. It is a balm of reassurance—one that reminds us that we are given opportunities to cooperate with a divine plan that is yet unfolding, and thus to co-create within that plan as best we…
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The following is the second half of a discussion with Dr. Timothy O’Malley, the Director of Education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life and Academic Director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, on his latest book Real Presence: What Does It Mean and Why Does It Matter? A helpful guide for catechists and theology teachers, the book is also an accessible read for anyone seeking to understand the Church’s doctrines on the Eucharist and the role devotional life plays in forming a Eucharistic worldview. (You can read the first part of the discussion here.) Robert Mixa: In the Scripture section of your book, you focus on the importance of divine dwelling. And I really liked how you show that to be a central theme from Genesis to the book of Revelation: God desires to dwell with…
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The following is the first half of a very pleasant discussion with Dr. Timothy O’Malley, the Director of Education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life and Academic Director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, on his latest book Real Presence: What Does It Mean and Why Does It Matter? The book is a helpful guide for catechists and theology teachers, but it is also an accessible read for anyone seeking to understand the Church’s Eucharistic doctrines and the role devotional life plays in forming a Eucharistic worldview.  Robert Mixa: Tim, let’s begin with the findings of a 2019 Pew Research report which said that only 31 percent of Catholics believe that the Eucharist is the actual Body and Blood of Christ. I remember there was concern about the way the survey questions were phrased and whether…
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Joy is a common word in the Bible and in Christian tradition, but—like many biblical and theological words—joy does not always mean what most people might assume. It’s not a synonym for happiness, nor is joy the same thing as optimism. In Matthew 28:8, we are told that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary “left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy.” Joy does not replace negative feelings, but rather accompanies them into the heart of God. Joy is fleeting on our side of eternity. Jesus tells the disciples in John 16:22, “you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” St. James tells us, “Whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy” (James 1:2). St. Paul talks…
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This piece is an excerpt adapted from Holly Ordway’s Tolkien’s Modern Reading: Middle-earth Beyond the Middle Ages, Chapter 6. In one of the rare instances when Tolkien said what The Lord of the Rings was “about,” he explained that “it is about Death and the desire for deathlessness.” Tolkien’s approach to this topic provides the fitting groundwork for reflection on this anniversary of his death on September 2, 1973. We can gain some insight into Tolkien’s views by means of another literary creation: the deathless boy called Peter Pan, the creation of J.M. Barrie. Although we might now be more familiar with the Disney version, Peter first appeared in the 1902 novel The Little White Bird, followed by a stage play in 1904, and then subsequently by two…
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If you’re familiar with the American band The Killers, it could be due to their popular ballad “Mr. Brightside,” which just might be the “Sweet Caroline” of the millennial generation. Their debut album, Hot Fuss, was the anthem of my college days, and Sam’s Town from 2006 was another musical triumph. Their new release, Pressure Machine, ends a recent cycle of hit-or-miss albums. Musically, it’s the strongest and most cohesive album since Sam’s Town, and lyrically, it has a poetic maturity that moves well beyond its predecessors. Pressure Machine is a heartbreaking album with moving themes woven throughout to highlight the struggles of small-town life in America and disenchantment with faith. The Killers frontman, Brandon Flowers, was raised…
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When I was hired to work at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, Bishop Barron (then the rector of the seminary) was renovating the St. John Paul II Chapel for the seminarians. He had new stained glass windows of several saints installed in the chapel, one of which was dedicated to St. Maximilian Kolbe. The window depicts Kolbe with a long beard, which he grew while he was a missionary to Japan, as the Japanese identified beards with wisdom. In his hand is a copy of the Rycerz Niepokalanej (Knight of the Immaculate), a monthly magazine that, despite opposition from Nazis and Communists, continues to this day. Above the Polish title is the Japanese title. Kolbe published the magazine in Japanese as part of his missionary efforts in that country. All around Kolbe are images from his life: the…
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Let us take a moment here to pause from our usual commentary on films and music and all things pop culture, to sing of the grape—of wine, specifically.  I love wine. I always have, and I expect I always will. And for wine’s obvious therapeutic benefits (when not taken in superabundance), I have been more interested in it than ever before during these many pandemic-addled months in the life of the world. I look forward to each trip to the wine shop on Friday after work, followed by cracking open a bottle that I have not tried before and sitting for an hour or so in peaceful, pleasant conversation with my wife—all the cares of the world be damned. Apparently, I am not alone! During the peak of global lockdowns in 2020, and despite widespread restaurant closures, wine sales were up…
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Lately, I have been struck by how hard, and yet how necessary, it is simply to be patient in the day-to-day life of being a Catholic. The media is full of goads to be impatient with oneself, with others, and with the world in general: Why are things not the way they should be, right now? Surely there is something that I (or everybody else) ought to be doing! Given that “doing something” very often translates into “being angry on social media about it,” this impulse to do something ought to be interrogated quite intensely.  I’ve been doing a fair bit of research lately into nineteenth-century English Catholicism. It turns out that times were tumultuous for Catholics then too (a particularly divisive point was the Vatican I definition of papal infallibility), and while there wasn’t electronic social media,…
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St. John tells us that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and this is also where C.S. Lewis begins his book The Four Loves. Very quickly, he is not satisfied with one word for love and so gives names to different types of loves, similar to Adam naming the animals. While in English, the single word “love” is used to describe feelings toward bagels, dogs, people, and Fridays alike, other languages offer multiple words for love. The Greeks have four words for love, which Lewis uses in his book: eros, agape, philia, and storgé. American Sign Language has two signs for love: one for the love of actions or objects and one for the love of living beings. Tamil, the language of Sri Lanka, two states in India, and one of the official languages of Singapore, has dozens of words for love. Arabic has at least eleven.
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The summer before beginning eighth grade, I landed my first job. For three months, I would serve as junior custodian at Fairview Community Center in the West Minneapolis suburbs. Day in and day out, for $3.85 an hour, I was charged with setting up tables and chairs for senior citizen lunches, sweeping floors, emptying trash, and scrubbing surfaces (including endless, forever skin-shredding,, room-length Venetian blinds). I worked for two veteran custodians who had been with the school district for decades. Tony, my direct supervisor, was a soft-spoken and kind man. He always offered a wry comment with a subtle, but infectious smile. And Tony was unflappable. Whatever was asked of him and in whatever time frame it was asked, Tony would get it done and done well. Three times per week over the lunch hour, he would slip away to swim laps in the center’s twenty-five meter pool.
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Every thinking teacher will tell you this: the first class encapsulates the whole course. Hans Urs von Balthasar expresses the same thing at the beginning of The Glory of the Lord:  “Beginning . . . determines all subsequent steps . . . [and] is the primal decision which includes all later ones.” Just as at the moment of its conception, the organism’s biological trajectory is already set, ready to become manifest with effort and time, so at the beginning of each class, the outlines of the class’s end or purpose is already packed within the first class. But the question of where a theology teacher should begin the semester is packed within the nature of theology itself, which Dei Verbum defines as “scrutinizing in the light of faith all truth stored up in the mystery of Christ” (DV…
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