A Patron Saint for Rabble Rousers and their Bishops

When I answered Tom McDonald's How I Pray series, one of the pile of question marks in the black hole that is my prayer life concerned spiritual reading.  Two answers of late:1. The book I'm carrying around town and reading in snatches is Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper, by Brant Pitre.  So far, it's excellent. Recommended if you have a general understanding of the significance of the Mass and the Last Supper, and are looking for so … [Read more...]

Civil Liberties and the Obama Indifference

Found myself in an awkward spot today, needing to be in the state capital at about the same time as President Obama.  He's out speaking at a historically-Black college and church about the civil rights movement.  I've just got ordinary places to be.  The difficulty is the traffic.  Small city, not a lot of roads to choose from, and he gets priority.  The rest of us get to be late.I care tremendously about the civil rights movement.  I don't care a bit about our president (beyond a generic con … [Read more...]

Understanding the Catholic Blogosphere 101

In response to a private conversation lamenting some of the unrelenting negativity that can infect the Catholic internet, my response: Everything is so, so local. If you live in one of the black holes of the Church, you think everything is a black hole. If you live in one of the hopeful areas, you think things are hopeful.So what happens is that everyone living in the holes finds each other on the internet, and says, "Yes! That's what I'm seeing too!"Add into that the variations of … [Read more...]

The Antidote to both Clericalism and Nostalgia . . .

. . . is a thorough reading of the lives of the saints.  Don't pick up one of those sweet-tart packets of platitudes people try to pass off as hagiography.  What you want, if you wish to understand the Church and understand the nature of the Faith, is Butler's Lives, the big version.  Here are excerpts from the life St. Beatus of Liebana, who died circa 798, and whose feast came around just recently: . . . there was at Toledo an aged archbishop called Elipandus, who had been infected by that su … [Read more...]

Christian Community and the Loss of Penance

In a private forum, someone asked why Catholics don't talk about acts of penance so much anymore.  Why so little discussion of fasting, self-denial, self-mortification, and the like?  It's out of vogue.I floated a thought or two (summary: I'm Exhibit A for Poor Penitential Performance), and someone came back with the observation that penance is something we're expected to do all on our own. It's not communal.I replied: I think that's true. We have all kinds of self-chosen suffering tha … [Read more...]

Understanding Low-Literacy Cultures: My Living History Tea Experiment

I'm home sick today with something normal for a change, sore throat, which means I have to get into the box of Korean teas a friend of mine keeps me supplied in, because I have awesome friends this way.So here's something: I never really understoood low-literacy cultures.  I'd read about kings who could barely read, or not at all, and I'd scratch my head and think, "Um, how does that work?  I mean, what did he do with his library card?"  When I'd think about people going through life not read … [Read more...]

What Makes a Good Penance? 3 Tips for Mid-Lent Adjustments

Good news: If your Lent needs some improvement, there's no law that you can't adjust your personal penance mid-stream. Here are a few things I've found helpful for ordinary Catholics to consider when figuring out whether a chosen penance is realistic or not: 1.  Is it consistent with my state in life? A lot of spiritual writing is done by people who aren't, say, on call 24/7 caring for young children.  While it is good to examine your responsibilities and ask whether you need to adjust your pr … [Read more...]