That Old Catholic Magic: Jacob Popcak Explains St. Patrick’s Day to Sick Pilgrim

We invited some Sick Pilgrims over to talk about one of our favorite saints, St Patrick, in honor of his feast day this Friday, March 17. And then Jacob Popcak took us all to school.First things first. St. Patrick wasn't Irish.Jacob Popcak: Patrick was a slave of the Irish, who escaped, became a priest, and came back to convert his captors. He loved them. Which is ... insane, from a modern perspective.David Russell Mosley: He wasn't "Celtic," or at least not Irish.Jonathan Ryan: H … [Read more...]

Mary Karr: Trying to Say God

This post begins our series of features on the writers, musicians and artists who will be speaking and performing at the Trying to Say God Conference, June 22-24 at the University of Notre Dame."Talking about spiritual activity to a secular audience is like doing card tricks on the radio," Mary Karr, bestselling author of and "unlikely" Catholic convert, told Terry Gross. I remember hearing Karr on Fresh Air as I pulled into the parking lot of my desk job after a miserably cold and g … [Read more...]

Dark Devotional: It’s Christmas, Let’s Get Drunk!

One of my earliest childhood memories is my dad getting tipsy from the communion wine on Christmas Eve. Being a Eucharist minister, he was required to help the priest drink the rest of the wine because none of it can go to waste. On one particular Christmas Eve, he had to serve at a few different Masses. That night, he walked home with us after the children's Mass, elevated and in good spirits.When I told him about this a few weeks ago, he denied it with passion. He said it never happened, … [Read more...]

Adventures of an Agnostic in the Weird World of Catholicism

 When my roommates first told me that they were going to get time off their Purgatory sentence by going to confession, praying for the Pope’s intentions, and walking through a holy door in a church downtown, I didn’t know what to do with my face. I asked a lot of questions that night.I’m a volunteer in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and I often feel like a fraud because I don’t believe in God. I want to, but I don’t. With my Gideon bible and plastic rosary hanging as decoration on my mir … [Read more...]

The Broken Body of Christ at the Border

Last month, I attended Mass at the border; I was part of a community of believers uniting around bread and wine miraculously made into flesh and blood.I was on the Mexican side, sitting on a concrete street curb next to another Catholic sister. Together we were a color pop in the assembly: we stuck out in our bright turquoise T-shirts declaring “Catholic Sisters for Compassionate Immigration Reform.” Nearby sat our friend, Br. David, a Franciscan Capuchin, bearing witness in his dusty brown h … [Read more...]

We are Blood Thirsty: Twilight, Fifty Shades, and Leviticus

 Editor's Note:This post discusses ritualistic cutting and self-injury in the context of a theology of blood. If you or someone you love practices non-suicidal self-injury to relieve emotional pain, more information and resources are available here. More than half of girls aged 10-14 and one in five aged 10-18 ritualistically bleed themselves through cutting practices they say “make them feel alive” as they silently “cry tears of blood” that “relieve the pain.”I called a friend w … [Read more...]

Blessed, Bewildered: A Former Altar Boy Remembers Benediction

Of all the mysterious rites of Catholicism, perhaps the most mysterious is the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, known to the laity as ‘Benediction’. As an altar boy for six years, I served at countless masses, funerals and weddings almost every week, but only a handful of Benedictions, and only one or two of them were of the Solemn variety. They were that rare and that special. And what made them even more special is that we never really understood what was going on.But it all starts wit … [Read more...]

Try and Make it to the River: A Conversation with Michael Delp about Fulton Sheen and the Eucharist

When men see Han-shan They all say he's crazy And not much to look at Dressed in rags and hides. They don't get what I say & I don't talk their language. All I can say to those I meet: "Try and make it to Cold Mountain." Nobody really knows who Han-shan was or exactly when he lived or died, but some time in the 9th century, he wrote several hundred poems that survived him, somehow, though he sometimes wrote them on rocks.  He was poor, crazy, he walked around talking to himself, c … [Read more...]

I went to Communion and You’ll Never Believe What Happened Next!

 I saw that it is the will of Christ’s love to be put into the hands of sinners, to trust Himself to men, that He may be their gift to one another, that they may comfort Him in each other, give Him to each other. In this sense the ordinary life itself becomes sacramental, and every action of anyone at all has an eternal meaning.I knew too that since Christ is One in all men, as He is One in countless Hosts, everyone is included in Him; there can be no outcasts, no excommunicates, exc … [Read more...]

Dark Devotional: Broken and Multiplied

My husband and I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for three years in graduate school. We felt at home amongst dead theologians, drizzly sideways rain, and a dram of whisky that would warm you up when it got dark at 3:30. We ate cheaply, walked miles a day, and spent too-many hours in small, chilly offices and libraries, pouring over old words. Weekends we’d invite friends over to drink cocktails and, after hours of political and religious debate, they’d leave their cheap beer and stumble home in the … [Read more...]