St. Joseph’s Altar: The Lenten Feast?

Every year in my school, the classes would take a bus to a nearby banquet hall in our town of Opelousas, where we’d be able to eat some of the great food prepared for the St. Joseph’s Altar, a practice especially popular in Catholic southern Louisiana. That “altar” was really just a few tables adorned with flowers, breads, desserts, and meatless meals to commemorate the Solemnity of St. Joseph.Since the Solemnity falls during Lent most years and is not technically a Feast Day, the rules of th … [Read more...]

Dark Devotional: How Do I Get to the Desert?

I learned I had no discipline or willpower at age nine when my fourth grade religion teacher had us write down in our composition notebooks what we would be giving up for Lent. That was a real head-scratcher; any child would’ve had a hard time having a “vice” in my household. My brother and I had everything we needed, and most of what we wanted, but unlike many of my friends, we didn’t have video-game systems that we played into the wee hours. My mother didn’t keep candy in the house (well, I lea … [Read more...]

Why Are We So Afraid of Mercy and Our Own Heretical Little Hearts?

As I sort through the events of the past few months, I've tried to figure out what bothers me the most about the Trump presidency and what it's revealed about Catholics and Christians in America. Every time I think I've pinpointed the problem, it vanishes into the air. Sure, I'm bothered by the misogyny, the myopic views of pro-birthers, and the barely disguised hatred of Muslims. But, every time I pick up my computer to write about these things, something stops me, prompting me to go … [Read more...]

Dark Devotional- The Stepford Jesus?

The word “perfect” makes me cringe. It conjures images of syrupy-sweet holy card saints, and thin, smiling women with nary a stray (or gray) hair in sight. Perfect is a seed that carries with it the fruits of foreboding and failure, shame and lack. Can anyone ever be perfect enough? Thin enough? Rich enough? Holy enough? Perfect takes my small, sick attempts at finding God and grinds them in the dirt.Perfect is my enemy. At least, it was – until I stumbled onto the truth that is setting m … [Read more...]

To Bill Nye, Fellow Ataxian

...while Nye dreams of outer space, it's his own DNA that worries him."My family has an affliction called ataxia," he said. "My sister has it real bad. You walk like you're drunk. And my sister has a walker. That's how she goes everywhere. And apparently it's not a strength thing. It has to do with your balance, which comes from your cerebellum.""But you don't have symptoms of this?""Yeah, I do. Two years ago I noticed it.""For someone who sees this from a scientific viewpoint is … [Read more...]

Screwtape Does America

 (At four o'clock this morning, I (Jonathan) woke up and thought about the events about the past few days. They've been weighing heavily on my head and my heart. For some reason, I thought about my favorite book of spirituality, The Screwtape Letters by. C.S. Lewis.For those not familiar with the book, Lewis uses the character of a senior devil writing advice to his "nephew." So, I tried to process everything I've been thinking the past few days by writing my own "Screwtape … [Read more...]

Praying with Depression (and Children)

"I want us to recite the Lord’s Prayer together in the mornings as a family before we leave for school or work,” Sergei tells me.I roll my eyes. Our mornings are hurried. There is barely time for breakfast, clothes, teeth and hair. Do we need to add another thing? And mornings are still hard for me. Some days, although I try to be more present in my life and work the program, I don’t come downstairs to help at all. But we start learning the Lord’s Prayer anyway. Sergei prints it out from his … [Read more...]

Dark Devotional: Baptism in the Crapper

My parish has persevered for over a century, resisting many of the trends that reduced the religious experience from the quest for transcendence to something a little more relevant, a little bit folksy, perhaps even tacky, and tackiness only ceases to be a sin when certain aesthetes critique the religious practices of apparently lesser souls. Both the interior and exterior of our parish are monuments to Tridentine beauty, and the choir doesn't sing "Mary, Did You Know?" at Christmas time anymore … [Read more...]

A Letter to the Devout Mother’s Son Who Skipped Christmas Mass

This week, I read an article on a Catholic blog about a son’s absence from Christmas Mass and the grief this caused his mother. Even though the article was written for those lamenting family members who have left the practice of religion, I wanted to write a letter to the son and make him not just an object of a blog post, but an active and considered person.January 2, 2017Dear Homie,I get it.For years, you’ve been participating in this religion, this faith idea. And it was your f … [Read more...]

A Christmas Card to Those Who Go to Church Once A Year, Love Sick Pilgrim

Every year, my local church divides each Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day into two separate services, going on at the same time. One is held in the lavishly decorated church building, celebrated by the normal parish priest - like any other Mass. The other is held in the reception hall next to the church building, in a large conference room that normally houses banquets and parish picnics, complete with a retired priest celebrant and a temporary altar on wheels.Guess which one I go to … [Read more...]