Pope Francis: A School of Love On Legs

My column at First Things this week was written on the energy of annoyance:Currently the Internet is abuzz with the news that Pope Francis, upon hearing that Catholic Traditionalist Mario Palmaro was ill, picked up the phone and called this vociferous critic of his papacy, assuring him that there were no grudges being held, only prayers being offered.I was astonished, amazed, above all moved [by] one of the most beautiful experiences in my life. But I felt the duty to remind the Pope … [Read more...]

One Catholic’s Brief and Incomplete Appreciation of Billy Graham

Over at Patheo's new Public Square feature, they're talking about the legacy of Billy Graham in the 21st Century.I'm interested in getting some Catholic input on Reverend Graham, whom I've always respected, particularly input from Catholics who had entered the church through a more Evangelical background. My own appreciation of him came late. I remember, as a kid, seeing ads in TV Guide for one of his "Crusades" and wondering what the Protestants were crusading about. My formerly-Lutheran … [Read more...]

Pope Francis’ Marginalized Ones: You and Everyone You Dismiss, Too

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Back on Wednesday, Pope Francis gave a particularly passionate and energetic sermon that got a lot of notice:Turning to the Letter to the Romans, the Pope then affirmed that this feast is a “feast of unity.” He underlined the fact that all are invited, “the good and the bad.” And the first to be invited are the marginalized:The Church is not the Church only for good people. Do we want to describe who belongs to the Church, to this feast? The sinners. All of us sinners are invited. At this … [Read more...]

Two Extraordinary Moments Where a Single Hand Gesture Tells the Whole Story

Twice today I have been very moved to come across gloriously beautiful -- dare I say transcendent -- images, where the poignancy of the moment was movingly emphasized by the small unconscious movement of a single hand.First, thanks to Deacon Greg, I saw the La Stampa photo of Pope Francis kissing a man so seriously disfigured that most of us would likely find him difficult to look at, and would turn away.Everyone is looking at this picture, and it is, indeed, breath-taking.But … [Read more...]

Pope Francis Turns the World’s Words Back at It

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One chapter of Strange Gods is entitled, "Through the Looking Glass: Super Idols and Language", and part of it entails looking at how we use, over-use and misuse certain words -- or, sometimes, completely co-opt language -- in order to facilitate the creation of idols.. . . when we render words meaningless -- especially powerful words like peace and love -- our understanding of them becomes warped. Then, as when a teenager flings his stuff thoughtlessly and lazily about the house -- … [Read more...]

A Female Cardinal? Not a New Idea, Really

It's always struck me as interesting that when Tiepolo painted Saint Thecla, here portrayed at prayer for plague victims, he imagined her in what appears to be an old-fashioned Cardinal's robe.Our Orthodox and Byzantine brothers and sisters call Thecla "the Protomartyr, Equal-to-the-Apostles". I've always thought of her as first in a long line of women -- from the earliest days of the church until today -- who were headstrong in their obedience.One of my favorite writers, David Gibson … [Read more...]

Pope Francis and Strange Gods: “A Meme on the Rise”? – UPDATED

I'd generate a meme, if I knew how...

Yes, we've been joking for some time about how Pope Francis and I appear to be in some kind of mind-meld on the subject of idols -- he talks about them almost every single week, and brought them up in his encyclical, Lumen Fidei*. In today's homily, Pope Francis really hit hard on the theme:Once again, the liturgy of the Mass elicits from Pope Francis a reflection on the traps that punctuate the life of faith: To become an apostle of one’s own ideas, or a devotee of one’s own well-being, rat … [Read more...]

Lino Rulli: “Perfect people don’t inspire me…”

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Okay, I've been very upfront about it, so we already know that I am an idolator!But perhaps you didn't know how bad it has become.Take a look:Aye, that's not just a copy of Lino Rulli's new book, Saint: Why I Should be Canonized Right Away, but a medal, and a prayer card and, yes, an I-mean-business 7-day candle.Let's call it what it is: The Shrine of Saint Lino de Sirius-ly Imperfect, patron of "Catholic Guys" and Gals, Bookies, and People Who Expect Every Flight to End … [Read more...]

Christianists, Proselytizing and the Encounter with Christ

Recently there was a dust-up among some Catholics who wondered what exactly Pope Francis meant when he, during an interview with La Repubblica editor Eugenio Scalfari said that proselytizing was a "solemn nonsense".Clearly, what he meant was that preaching at people doesn't work; while being a reflection of Christ among us is powerful evangelization.If anyone needed the proof of it, recall the ill-reception proselytizing Christians received in 2008, when -- instead of living and working … [Read more...]

“We are Church.” As self-referential as the Curia.

You might think it takes a peculiar sort of mind to find common themes uniting an interview with Antonin Scalia and an exhortation from Pope Francis, and you'd be right. My piece at First Things this week brings these two divertingly counter-cultural men together on the subject of narcissism and idols:After his election to the papacy, notes were released outlining the pre-conclave intervention delivered by Jorge Mario Bergoglio, which many of the Cardinal-electors said impressed them … [Read more...]


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