Dear Pope Francis… (or as they say in Ireland, A Phápa Proinsias, a chara…)

Did you know that when Pope Francis was a little boy, he wanted to be a butcher when he grew up?Or that, as a young man, his favorite dance was the tango?These are just two of many delightful surprises found in Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World, newly published by Loyola Press. Children from Jesuit schools around the world were invited to write a brief letter to the pope, asking him one question, and drawing a picture to accompany their … [Read more...]

In Pursuit of Silence: A Quiet Movie with Much to Say

"Silence is where we speak something deeper than our words...""Silence returns us to what is real."These are two of many jewels of insight spoken over the course of In Pursuit of Silence, a luminous and vitally important movie, which, as far as I am concerned, everyone needs to see.In 2014 I interviewed the film's director Patrick Shen (read the interview here), and now I have had the privilege to screen the film ahead of its North American debut later this month at the SXSW Festival … [Read more...]

A Memoir with a Message

As part of the Patheos Book Club, I've recently read Operating on Faith: A Painfully True Love Story by Matt Weber. Weber is the author of Fearing the Stigmata, about his search as a young Catholic for a "culturally relevant faith;" he also hosts a CatholicTV show and plenty of his videos can be found on Youtube. Like other young Catholic authors, Weber is known for using humor and whimsy to illustrate how the timeless truths of Catholicism still matter in our postmodern … [Read more...]

John Cassian: The Leap Year Contemplative

February 29 is the feast day of St. John Cassian — who, in addition to being a "leap year saint" is also one of the most important early contemplatives in the Christian tradition.Cassian (ca. 360-435) brought monasticism — and, therefore, contemplative spirituality — from the deserts of the Middle East to Western Europe. His birthplace is uncertain, but by the 380s he was living in a monastery in Bethlehem; subsequently he left that location to travel the deserts of Egypt, where he and his sp … [Read more...]

Is America No Longer a “Christian Nation”?

Norman Wirzba, who teaches Christian theology at Duke Divinity School, has written a sobering article in which, based on the kind of rhetoric that we see during our presidential campaign this year, he declares that "Christian America" has come to an end.What makes a nation, or a people, or a land, "Christian" is not the number of churches we have or the popularity of Christian culture. A "Christian nation" is marked by its commitment to Godly values such as love, mercy, forgiveness, c … [Read more...]

Faith, Doubt and Perseverance

A couple of years ago, Bart Ehrman's book How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee caused a bit of a ruckus among conservative Christians. Ehrman, a New Testament scholar who admits to being a post-Christian agnostic, has been controversial in many corners of the church for some time now; indeed, five evangelical scholars published a book critiquing How Jesus Became God with the appropriate if unimaginative title How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Je … [Read more...]

The 2016 Presidential Candidate Prayer Challenge: Are You In?

As a blogger, I tend to avoid politics like it's radioactive. Not because I don't have political views (I do, and they're rather strong), but because of my conviction that contemplative prayer is for everyone — not just people who hold the same political views as I do. Unfortunately, the way the Internet echo-chamber works, far too many readers tend only to read writers with whom we agree (and ignore, or argue with, those with whom we don't). Since my goal is to promote silent prayer, if I star … [Read more...]