Blog of the Year

When I told my fellow pilgrims that we'd received an award for faith-based blog of the year, our associate editor Matt Lafleur responded, "Does this mean we'" Good question.Jonathan Ryan and I created this blog for the margins, the narrow audience not being served (or published) by Christian presses and magazines -- those of us who've never felt at home anywhere but are tired of traveling alone. That audience has turned out to be a lot bigger than we anticipated.The Wilbur … [Read more...]

And The Title For The Sick Pilgrim Book Is….

  Jess: What do you think we should name our book? Jonathan: I dunno, what do you think we can get away with? Jess: Hmm, how about, Strange Journey: How Two Homesick Pilgrims Stumbled Back Into the Catholic Church? Jonathan: Jess, they'll never go for it. Jess: ... Loyola Press: Hey, we actually came up with the subtitle, so we love it! All: (Much Rejoicing) Fin Coming Fall 2017  in book outlets everywhere from Loyola Press  … [Read more...]

Fantastic Magic and Where to Find It

(Spoilers ahead, so don't whine.)Full disclosure: I'm a huge fan of the Harry Potter books, but I didn't really like any of the movies. I thought Daniel Radcliffe's acting got worse as the series went along. Every time I hear that someone saw the movies but has not read the books, I cringe.So, it's with a deep skepticism that I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. But, I'm glad to say that I absolutely loved it because it gave us something entirely new in the Harry Potter … [Read more...]

Five Sacramentally Scary Books You Should Read for Halloween

 (Possible Spoilers Ahead) As a supernatural thriller writer, I'm asked all the time about my favorite scary books. My answers always surprise them, because most of my favorites are not recent. In fact, the only modern horror writers I read are Stephen King, Dean Koontz or Peter Straub. And, maybe more shocking, I'm not a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft at all. All of the things he supposedly does well can be found in the works of earlier and much better writers.Further, my favorite … [Read more...]

Being a Dad is Hard….even for Harry Potter (a review)

(Ridiculous Spoilers Ahead)It took until the fourth Harry Potter book released for me to become a big fan. Everyone loved it so much that I avoided it. The supposed witchcraft controversy didn't bother me, as I was, at the time, a Presbyterian steeped in the cultural discussion of Protestant theologian Francis Schaffer. He and his disciples taught us stodgy Presbyterians that you must engage and create culture rather than automatically hating it. No,  I avoided Harry on the rather absurd g … [Read more...]

Destroy the Walls: Modest Proposals for a Renewed Catholic (and Christian) Literary Imagination

 A few weeks ago, a friend called me a "blue collar writer" and then backtracked a bit, thinking he'd offended me. I smiled and said I took it as a compliment. I do.I didn't major in English, nor did I get my MFA. The model for my writing career is my grandfather, who told the craziest stories. He was a working class Catholic who probably hadn't read any Flannery O'Connor. All he cared about was entertaining his grandchildren and maybe teaching them something along the way. Like … [Read more...]

Light One Candle

Every week after Mass I light a candle. I love the smell of hot wax and matches, the action of my own hand kindling one small flame that will burn for hours, a visible sign of my unseen petition flickering beside the anonymous hopes and burdens of others. I’ve always clung to this little ritual.In those moments of life when I’ve felt most powerless, when I’ve felt there’s no comfort at all for myself or a suffering friend beyond a cry for divine help, lighting a candle has made me feel like I … [Read more...]

Entering the Story: The Imaginative Power of Traditional Worship

When my friend Amy converted to Catholicism ten years ago, she wrote me a letter confessing that she wasn't yet sure of her belief, but that she wanted to "enter the story." She recognized in the mass and the rhythm of the liturgical year that the Catholic church had established an imaginative framework big enough to hold the entire Christian story, which she encapsulated as "the story of how something unimaginably large and all encompassing is contained and revealed by a single life."We tell … [Read more...]

Dear Pope Francis: A Theology Book for Adults

 My three hooligans love Pope Francis. They begged me to take them to Philadelphia for the papal visit last September (I couldn't, as it was a work trip).  While I was there, they kept asking for pictures and videos. And, of course, they insisted that I bring them back something.While looking around, I discovered the Pope Francis plush doll.  I revolted against the idea, at first,  thinking that it wasn't very spiritual. Then,  I realized I had lapsed back into a Gnostic Pre … [Read more...]

Catholic Books Even a Protestant Could Love

I'm not Catholic, but some of my favorite books are.I came of age during the 80s, the heyday of evangelical youth group culture. By the time I was 17, I'd descended into a Christian subculture of punks, skaters, metal heads, and goths. That felt more like home to me. We had an understanding and appreciation of the darker side of life and asked more questions than we answered. My peers understood what real temptation and real falling looked like, because they were experiencing it themselves an … [Read more...]