We Are an Advent People

“They have landed. It’s official. The Germans have confirmed it.” Twenty-one-year-old Jacques Moalic stared blankly at the grinning prisoner who met him at the iron gate of Buchenwald concentration camp. Exhausted from another day of slave labor, Moalic had to process this news and follow up with other prisoners. “Keep calm, cool, careful,” they whispered, “The S.S. will become nervous.” The day? June 6, 1944—a date better known as D-Day. With the Allied forces landing on the beaches of France and forming yet another front in the grueling war against the Nazis, a glimmer of hope pierced the blackest hell of the camp. “We’ll be home by Christmas,” many exulted.  Five weeks later, writing in her diary from the secret annex in Amsterdam, fifteen-year-old Anne Frank confessed,  It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because…
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Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all. ―Emily Dickinson Today, in the first reading from Mass, the verb “will” is repeated seventeen times. I recommend you take a few moments now and read it with new awareness. In this sacred Advent season, God continues to invite us to cast ourselves into his absolute future and set anchor there. In God’s future, nothing handed over by us to him is ever wasted. I find that thought profoundly hopeful. When I lived in Maryland in the late 1980s, I went with some friends to Baltimore to sightsee. While we were walking in what I think was the central business district, I…
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In the middle of the twentieth century, there was a thing called shared popular culture. If it was on TV or the radio, everybody knew about it. And among all the figures who defined popular culture, none were ever better known in the English-speaking world than John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr—the Beatles. In under a decade, the Beatles produced twenty-seven #1 hits on the UK and US charts, and their influence impacted not only pop music but the whole idea of celebrity, resonating to the present day. In a March 1966 interview with Maureen Cleave, just before the overworked Beatles stopped touring to work exclusively in the recording studio, John Lennon uttered the shocking but entirely true statement that the group had become “more popular than Jesus.” By the start of 1969, despite being rich…
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There are some passages from Scripture and the writings of the saints that are wonderfully arresting, even scary. They hit us hard, shock us out of distractions, and leave us, in the words of Pope Francis, “unsettled by the living and effective word of the risen Lord.” One such text is a letter from St. Francis Xavier, whose feast day we celebrate today. Writing to his friend St. Ignatius of Loyola from the mission fields of India, Francis reports on his exhaustive efforts to evangelize the people and of his diligent teaching of the basics of the faith. He also admits, in sadness, that many are not becoming Christians, and he is unambiguously clear about the reason why: “There is nobody to make them Christians.” For St. Francis Xavier, this problem was not just about a lack of Church personnel but…
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The mother of the sons of Zebedee approached Jesus with her sons and did him homage, wishing to ask him for something. He said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom.” Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. – (Matt 20: 20-22) You want to know why I did that? Why I went up to Jesus and dared to ask him to take care of my boys and keep them close to him, close to his authority, so they could share it? Because they were good boys, my John and my James—cheerful, obedient—they’d do anything for Jesus and I figured he needed to see that, and to honor it with some justice. And, if…
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Editor’s Note: The piece below is adapted from Wisdom and Wonder: How Peter Kreeft Shaped the Next Generation of Catholics, a new book published by Ignatius Press. The book was conceived and edited by Brandon Vogt, Word on Fire’s Senior Publishing Director, and features chapters by several Word on Fire Institute Fellows and writers, including Matt Nelson, Matt Becklo, Bobby and Jackie Angel, Fr. Blake Britton, Rachel Bulman, Pat Flynn, and Fredric Heidemann. Peter Kreeft’s witty and whimsical prose has led many people to describe him as the “next Chesterton.” I agree with them. There’s no living writer whose…
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The first foundational principle of the Word on Fire movement is “unwavering Christocentrism”: that is, to have our Lord Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, of everything that we do. As St. Paul said to the Colossians, “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him” (Col. 2:7). Jesus Christ is Lord, which means he’s Lord of every aspect of our lives. That includes every part of our selves: body, mind, and soul. Every relationship: marriages, family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers, people we interact with online. Every activity: finances, entertainment, leisure activities. Our whole life: from beginning to end. And the more completely and wholeheartedly we acknowledge Christ as Lord in each and every part of our lives, the more fully we will be conformed to his image—which means…
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From the team here at Word on Fire, we would like to wish you and yours a very blessed Thanksgiving holiday! Read today's post for a short reflection on the biblical representation of the "sacred banquet," as well as what thanksgiving really means in the life of the Church.
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Half a century since its original film adaptation, Fiddler on the Roof came to our local stage last week. I was seeing it for the first time but was familiar enough with it to anticipate at least the most celebrated of its catchphrases, “Tradition!” What I did not anticipate was how the play’s handling of that topic within an early-twentieth-century Ukrainian-Jewish context would cast such a revealing light upon the Christian meaning of the term. Without tradition, Fiddler’s protagonist Tevye tells us right at the start, the lives of his fellow Ashkenazi Jews would be as precarious as someone playing violin on a housetop. Making ends meet in the humble fictional village of Anatevka, he relates, is not easy, so “how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one…
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The value of experience is not in seeing much, but in seeing wisely.—William Osler One thorn of experience is worth a whole wilderness of warning.—James Russell Lowell Adventure is worthwhile.—Aesop Years ago, as a newly minted third-year medical student turned loose (from two years of mind-numbing classroom lectures) to roam the medical wards of a bustling Minneapolis hospital, I felt someone warmly put their hand upon my shoulder. Turning, I beheld the unfamiliar face of a wizened senior physician. Grey, stooped, and bespectacled, he smiled at me and pointed to the numerous books and cheat sheets awkwardly stuffed into the groaning pockets of my white coat. “Someday,” he winked, “you won’t need to carry any of those around.” As he walked away, I muttered, “When?” What on earth was he talking about, and how would I ever arrive at such…
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Fifty-eight years later, the images are still so very vivid. The funeral cortege; the deeply somber and silent crowds lining the streets; the riderless horse, named “Black Jack,” carrying a pair of highly polished, be-spurred boots in his stirrups to represent the fallen leader. The quietly respectful narration of the media, so unimaginable today, as a young matron, surrounded by the enormous Kennedy clan and appropriate members of the government leadership, walked behind her husband’s flag-draped casket. Most do not recall that Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy had only months earlier lost her infant son, Patrick, born five weeks prematurely. Most do not consider that her post-natal chemistry and the terrible grief of losing a “preemie” (a subject less readily discussed or even acknowledged back in the day), had likely combined to lay its own silent burden on her, one to be carried in the face of public…
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In my discernment that ultimately led to coming into full communion with the Catholic Church, one of my biggest challenges was figuring out just what the Church is. For years as a Protestant, every Sunday I rattled off the same formula that Catholics do: “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.” I ultimately found some clarity in Lumen Gentium about what these four marks of the Church mean. And I heartily commend paragraphs 811-870 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, along with Bishop Barron’s chapter “The Church” in his recent book Light from Light. But you may find you need to approach the issue a little differently.   Ecclesiology—that is, the study of the Church—is a particularly slippery…
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“You have nothing to fear. You have the heart of our dragon…take everything we’ve given you and make it your own.”  —Ying Li, mother of Shang-Chi Parenthood is one of the most humiliating and awe-inspiring, painful and joyful, thrilling and debilitating experiences this world has to offer. Children, adopted or biological, bear the marks of their parents, the ones that raised them and/or the ones that bore them. Each one of us as imago dei are living icons of this reality. Our image is given to us through God the Father and our likeness—though also given—is enhanced or marred by our relationship with him or lack thereof.  Within any relationship, two persons pass on to one another their own healing or their pain. This is an all-too-common…
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A couple of years ago, singer-songwriter Harrison Lemke was playing a small house show in my living room. My husband and I had rearranged the furniture so that our little house could accommodate two dozen people. Our four kids were sitting on pillows and local friends as well as a few folks we knew through “Catholic Twitter” (including Lemke and his wife Magdalene) occupied our chairs and couch.  I prayed for all the wrong reasons and you heard me. I prayed and you showed me some weird kind of mercy. Lemke introduced one haunting song with the story behind it. As an elementary student, Lemke had procrastinated on a school project and prayed earnestly that he wouldn’t have to turn it in the next morning in class. The work was still undone. An unexpected windstorm…
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Tyler McNabb, PhD, is an associate professor of philosophy currently teaching at the University of St. Joseph in Macau on the south coast of China. Previously, he was an assistant professor at Houston Baptist University. He is the author of several well-regarded books, including Religious Epistemology (Elements in the Philosophy of Religion) and the co-author of Plantingian Religious Epistemology and World Religions. He spoke with the Word on Fire Institute’s Matt Nelson about reformed epistemology and how his teenage crisis of faith brought him to where he is today. This is the first in Word on Fire’s periodic series “The Evangelizer’s Path.” Matt Nelson: First of all, can you say something about how you came to pursue philosophy as a professional vocation? Dr. McNabb:…
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We are the Church of the saints. That's the message of a fine collection of stories titled, "The Heroic Face of Innocence," by George Bernanos, author of "The Diary of a Country Priest." Ellyn von Huben reviews the volume today.
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In David Fincher’s brilliant 2010 film The Social Network, Sean Parker, played by Justin Timberlake, sums up the goal of Mark Zuckerberg’s burgeoning Facebook company, telling him: “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet.” Parker’s words, written by Aaron Sorkin, have proved to be eerily accurate. We all have our own platform and audience. We all create our own reality with our smartphones. In a manner of speaking, we are all our own pope of our own religion. It’s all diabolical. And behind it all (according to the film) is a young man who wanted to get back at an ex-girlfriend by equipping Harvard men—the elite of the elite—with a simple tool to rate the attractiveness of co-eds. The Social…
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Today, on the feast of St. Martin of Tours, Father Steve Grunow offers a reflection on the legendary encounter that converted Martin from a celebrated soldier to a priest, bishop, and saint.
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The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have someone write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. —Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past. —George Orwell, 1984 Does history matter?  It would seem so. Just consider . . .  The beaming, boyish face of the diminutive NKVD head Nikolai Yezhov was unforgettable. Photographed standing pleasantly by the Moscow canal and next to his master Joseph Stalin, you couldn’t tell that they were living in the darkest days of the Soviet Union’s Great Purge. Entrusted…
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