The Church And New Media by Brandon Vogt (A Book Review)

About ten years ago, (Hmm…let me check my archives), no scratch that, about a year and a half ago (sheesh, it seems like ten years!) I was hosting the YIMCatholic Bookclub selection The Great Heresies by Hilaire Belloc. Looking for ways to get readers involved (a “new media” hallmark, no?) I asked for volunteers to cover several of “Old Thunders” chapters for me.

You know, like my wife does with her bookclub in our neighborhood. For the most part, folks were lined up none deep. But in the case of chapter 5, an earnest volunteer surfaced by the name of Brandon Vogt. He was a great helper, once I let him get a word in edgewise.

You know? This guy
needs to grow a beard!

Who knew what he was up too then? I reckon Our Sunday Visitor and God knew, but not me. Maybe it was 4 or 6 weeks later when I saw on Brandon’s blog that he had signed a book contract with OSV. I thought to myself “Huh? Wow…this guy is on a mission!” And he surely was, and still is. A mission to spread the Word by any means possible. And to not be shy about using new forms of information technology to get that done.

Before going any further I’m going to say that this book belongs in every parish as a reference book. Period! If your parish office doesn’t have this book sitting right next to the computer, they are (as aviators would say) flying upside down without instruments and don’t even know it. That’s serious!

Brandon has teased awesome essays from all sorts of knowledgeable folks while putting together this gem. A veritable Who’s Who of Catholic bloggers (Jennifer Fulwiler, Mark Shea, Marcel LeJuene, Taylor Marshall, I think I got all the Aggies in there, etc.) and other creators of new media (Fr. Robert Barron, Matthew Warner, Tom Peters) share their insights on new media channels while also offering best practices in how to use these technologies to not only evangelize better, but to help people experience our Church better. And Brandon ties the whole thing together with interesting tidbits as diverse as relevant Conciliar documents to reviews of Catholic websites that are on the web currently.

But lest you get the idea that this is some dry, boring, reference book destined to only gather dust in the parish offices of the world, let me assure you that it is not. You need to read the book too, see, whether you are a creator of new media for the Church, or just Joe and Jane Six-Pack, “average pewsitter.” Why? Because Catholics are called to do more than just show up at Mass on Sundays and this book will give you ideas on how to more effectively engage in the calling you are destined for: to spread the Good News to the world by any means necessary. This book is chock full of actionable ideas for accomplishing the mission of the Church. This may even be your ticket to figuring out your own calling too.

But don’t just take my word on how solid a resource this book is. I’m a lilliputian compared to the folks weighing in on the value of this book. And I reckon I’m the last guy to review the book too. Just have a gander at the number of reviews over at The Church and New Media’s Facebook page. Or check out it’s Twitter feed. Did I mention the book’s website? Oh, you want to see the trailer?

Survey says: It’s a Go!

Seriously, Brandon has practiced what he is preaching by getting the word out about this book via every known channel of the “new media” that is available. Heck, he’s an engineer too so he’s probably developing some new channel in his off time as we speak. Did I mention all of the royalties from the sale of this book go towards establishing computer labs for the Archdiocese of Mombasa, Kenya?

Bravo Zulu Brandon! Thanks for writing and editing this helpful, important, nay, necessary book and for convincing all these great folks on the importance of sharing their ideas with the rest of us on how to bring the Good News to the many.

When New Media Users Meet the Christ…

They will actually have to do more than just “friend” Him. The poster above says that in a nutshell, doesn’t it? An encounter with Christ doesn’t demand that you do more…you just want to do more. H/T Brandon Vogt (whose book review will be posted this evening…promise!).

Update: Remember this? Seems like 10 years ago!

Thoughts (A Few Words for Wednesday)

I love this photograph of Fr. Abram J. Ryan. Maybe it’s his hair, or perhaps it’s his stare. He has that look about him that says “I don’t care who you are, here comes the goods.” Last summer I shared his Song of the Mystic, and his background information, in this space. There’s a connection between him and me because (for a time) he was the pastor of the parish where I attend daily Mass. I bet he was a great preacher too.

I can imagine hearing him raise his voice at times, opening his eyes wide to make a point, sweeping his mane aside and raising his hands to heaven. And within a moment, dropping his voice fall into a whisper that leaves you on the edge of your seat hungering for the nectar he has teased from the readings. A priest who had seen war in both the heights of it’s glory and the depths of it’s desolation, and then applied what he saw to the Word. I bet it was something to behold.

But he was a poet, see, not just some hell fire and brimstone preacher. He was a mystic, a man of prayer. As well as a thinker and a doer. He was no poseur, as a poet either, as a reading of the following verses will make clear.

Thoughts, by Fr. Abram J. Ryan

By sound of name, and touch of hand,
Thro’ ears that hear, and eyes that see,
We know each other in this land,
How little must that knowledge be?


How souls are all the time alone,
No spirit can another reach;
They hide away in realms unknown,
Like waves that never touch a beach.


We never know each other here,
No soul can here another see –
To know, we need a light as clear
As that which fills eternity.


For here we walk by human light,
But there the light of God is ours,
Each day, on earth, is but a night;
Heaven alone hath clear-faced hours.


I call you thus — you call me thus –
Our mortal is the very bar
That parts forever each of us,
As skies, on high, part star from star.


A name is nothing but a name
For that which, else, would nameless be;
Until our souls, in rapture, claim
Full knowledge in eternity.

See what I mean? Maybe you have to be Irish, but…this guy is good!

Because Vincent de Paul Was Once A Muslim’s Slave

Life got you down? Things perhaps haven’t turned out as you planned? Do you think everyone else has got it so easy? Your neighbors, for example, or those fortunate people who come into a considerable sum of money?

And how about those saintly types? They are simply walking on air, those guys, living lives of complete and blessed beatitude, right? Hold up!

While in Heaven the saints enjoy the beatific vision, but while they were here on earth? They were slogging it out with the rest of us. And that even includes those who were fortunate enough to be blessed with an earthly inheritance.

Take St. Vincent de Paul for instance (today is his feast day). Following his being ordained a priest, in the year of Our Lord 1605, he received news that someone had left him an inheritance. Saints be praised! Come and see where this development led him.

Once Upon a Time, over four hundred years ago…

The young priest’s life flowed on peacefully for the next five years, and then a startling adventure befell him. An old friend of his died at Marseilles, and Vincent received news that he had been left in the will a sum of fifteen hundred livres, which in those days was a considerable deal of money. Vincent’s heart was full of gratitude. What could he not do now to help his poor people. And he began to plan all the things the legacy would buy till it struck him with a laugh that ten times the amount could hardly get him all he wanted. Besides, it was not yet in his possession, and with that reflection he set about his preparations for his journey to Marseilles.

He probably went the greater part of the way on foot, and it must have taken him about as long as it would take us to go to India. But he was a man who had his eyes about him, and the country which he passed through was alive with the history he had read. Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, and the scandal, now two hundred years old, of the two popes, would be brought to his mind by the very names of the towns where he rested and the rivers which he crossed, but at length they were all left behind, and Marseilles was reached.

His business was soon done, and with the money in his pocket he was ready to begin his long walk back to Toulouse, when he received an invitation from a friend of the lawyer’s to go in his vessel by sea to Narbonne, which would cut off a large corner(of his journey). He gladly accepted and went on board at once. But the ship was hardly out of sight of Marseilles when three African vessels, such as then haunted the Mediterranean, bore down upon them and opened fire.

The French were powerless to resist, and one and all refused to surrender, which so increased the fury of the Mohammedans that they killed three of the crew and wounded the rest. Vincent himself had an arm pierced by an arrow, and though it was not poisoned, it was many years before the pain it caused ceased to trouble him. The ‘Infidels’ boarded the ship, and, chaining their prisoners together, coasted about for another week, attacking wherever they thought they had a chance of success, and it was not until they had collected as much booty as the vessel could carry that they returned to Africa.

Vincent and his fellow-captives had all this while been cherishing the hope that, once landed on the coast of Tunis, the French authorities would hear of their misfortunes and come to their aid. But the Mohammedan captain had foreseen the possibility of this and took measures to prevent it by declaring that the prisoners had been taken on a Spanish ship. Heavy were their hearts when they learned what had befallen them, and Vincent needed all his faith and patience to keep the rest from despair.

The following day they were dressed as slaves and marched through the principal streets of Tunis five or six times in case anyone should wish to purchase them. Suffering from wounds though they were, they all felt that it was worth any pain to get out of the hold of the ship and to see life moving around them once more. But after awhile it became clear that the strength of many was failing, and the captain not wishing to damage his goods, ordered them back to the ship where they were given food and wine, so that any possible buyers who might appear next day should not expect them to die on their hands.

Early next morning several small boats could be seen putting out from the shore, and one by one the intending purchasers scrambled up the side of the vessel. They passed down the row of captives drawn up to receive them; pinched their sides to find if they had any flesh on their bones, felt their muscles, looked at their teeth, and finally made them run up and down to see if they were strong enough to work. If the blood of the poor wretches stirred under this treatment they dared not show it, and Vincent had so trained his thoughts that he hardly knew the humiliation to which he was subjected.

A master was soon found for him in a fisherman, who wanted a man to help him with his boat. The fisherman, as far as we know, treated his slave quite kindly; but when he discovered that directly the wind rose the young man became hopelessly ill, he repented of his bargain, and sold him as soon as he could to an old chemist, one of the many who had wasted his life in seeking the Philosopher’s Stone.

The chemist took a great fancy to the French priest and offered to leave him all his money and teach him the secrets of his science if he would abandon Christianity and become a follower of Mohammed, terms which, needless to say, Vincent refused with horror. Most people would speedily have seen the hopelessness of this undertaking, but the old chemist was very obstinate, and died at the end of a year without being able to flatter himself that he had made a convert of his Christian slave.

The chemist’s possessions passed to his nephew, and with them, of course, Father Vincent. The priest bore his captivity cheerfully, and did not vex his soul as to his future lot. The life of a slave had been sent him to bear, and he must bear it contentedly whatever happened; and so he did, and his patience and ready obedience gained him the favour of his masters.

Very soon he had a new one to serve, for not long after the chemist’s death he was sold to a man who had been born a Christian and a native of Savoy, but had adopted the religion of Mohammed for worldly advantages. There were many of these renegades in the Turkish service during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and nearly all of them were men of talent and rose high.

Vincent de Paul’s master had, after the Turkish manner, married three wives, and one of them, a Turk by birth and religion, hated the life of the town where she was shut up most of the day in the women’s apartments, and went, whenever she could, to her husband’s farm in the country, where Vincent was working. It was a barren place on a mountain side, where the sun beat even more fiercely than in Tunis; but at least she was able to wander in the early mornings and cool evenings about the garden, which had been made with much care and toil.

Here she met the slave, always busy—watering plants, trimming shrubs, sowing seeds, and generally singing to himself in an unknown tongue. He looked so different from the sad or sullen men she was used to see that she began to wonder who he was and where he came from, and one day she stopped to ask him how he happened to be there. By this time Vincent had learned enough Arabic to be able to talk, and in answer to her questions, told her of his boyhood in Gascony, and how he had come to be a priest.

“A priest! What is that?” she said.

And he explained, and little by little he taught her the doctrines and the customs of the Christian faith.

“Is that what you sing about?” she asked again. “I should like to hear some of your songs,” and Vincent chanted to her,

“By the waters of Babylon,” feeling, indeed, that he was “singing the Lord’s songs in a strange land.”

And day by day the Turkish woman went away, and thought over all she had heard, till one evening her husband rode over to see her, and she made up her mind to speak to him about something that puzzled her greatly.

“I have been talking to your white slave that works in the garden about his religion—the religion which was once yours. It seems full of good things and so is he. You need never watch him as you do the other men, and the overseer has not had to beat him once. Why, then, did you give up that religion for another? In that, my lord, you did not do well.”

The renegade was silent, but in his heart he wondered if, indeed, he had “done well” to sell his soul for that which had given him no peace. He, too, would talk to that Christian slave, and hear if he still might retrace his steps, though he knew that if he was discovered death awaited the Mohammedan who changed his faith.

But his eyes having been opened he could rest no more,and arranged that he and Vincent should disguise themselves and make for the coast, and sail in a small boat to France. As the boat was so tiny that the slightest gale of wind would capsize it, it seems strange that they did not steer to Sicily, and thence journey to Rome; but instead they directed their course towards France, and on June 28, 1607, they stepped on shore on one of those long, narrow spits of land which run out into the sea from the little walled town of Aigues-Mortes.

Vincent drew a long breath, as after two years captivity he trod on French soil again. But he knew how eager his companion was to feel himself once more a Christian, so they only waited one day to rest, and started early the next morning through the flowery fields to the old city of Avignon. Here he made confession of his faults to the Pope’s legate himself, and was admitted back into the Christian religion. The following year he went with Father Vincent to Rome, and entered a monastery of nursing brothers, who went about to the different hospitals attending the sick and poor.

It is very likely that it was Father Vincent’s influence that led him to take up this special work, to which we must now leave him, for on the priest’s return to Paris, he found a lodging in the Faubourg SaintGermain, close to the Hopital de la Charity—the constant object of his care for some months.

And did I mention that St. Vincent is an Incorruptible?

You can read the rest of St. Vincent de Paul’s story in The Book of Saints and Heroes by Leonora Lang on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.

This was originally posted on November 12, 2010. Happy Feast of St. Vincent de Paul!

Hey Gen-X: Be Rebels…Slow Down…Have Kids…Stick it to the Man

It’s the Catholic thing to do. Or you can keep doing what you’ve been doing, as the survey below reports, and continue on the treadmill to oblivion.

Study Finds Gen-X Overlooked in the Workplace

A new study by the Center for Work-Life Policy finds that despite being the smallest generation (46 million), Generation X might be “the most critical generation of all” for employers.

Gen Xers are of an age (33 to 46 years old) that should put them at the prime of their lives and careers, stepping into leadership roles and starting families. However, a recent study, titled “The X Factor: Tapping into the Strengths of the 33- to 46-Year-Old Generation,” reveals that due to challenges and circumstances out of their control, Gen Xers are taking a different life path.

That’s it…we’ll get them to plead “it’s out of my control” and before they realize it, their “prime years” will be gone ( and be all ours). Bawahahahahahahahahahahaha!

The study found a large number of Gen Xers are choosing not to have children. Their extreme work schedules (nearly a third of high earning Gen Xers work 60+ hours a week), strong career ambition, the current economic challenges, as well as changing mores, and life choices are all factors that contribute to their high level of childlessness compared to other generations.

Looks like we got ‘em right where we want ‘em. Keep working harder kids…that’s the answer! Besides, no babies and no diapers equals no little league games, no soccer, no ballet recitals to attend. This way, you can just keep grinding away for Mammon and the man. 60 hour work weeks can become 70 hour work weeks.

Gen X, born between 1965 and 1978, might be called the “wrong place, wrong time” generation, says the Center for Work-Life Policy. They were hit by an economic triple whammy: college-related debt, multiple boom and bust cycles (including the 1987 stock market crash, occurring just as Gen X entered the work force), and the housing slump. As a result, Gen X is the first generation not to match their parents’ living standards.

And they just might not ever…if they stick to our evil plan. Snicker, snicker.

While these economic woes have impacted most generations, they have hit Gen X the hardest in their work lives, the study found. Due to their own financial concerns, Boomers (grrrrrrr) are not retiring and are choosing instead to work an average of nine years longer than anticipated. This delays Gen X’s career progression, resulting in their feeling stalled in their careers and dissatisfied with their rate of advancement.

Heh. And perhaps we can convince them that it is more important to save for retirement, and worship at the altar of the almighty $$$ than it is to tend to their souls. Cackle, cackle.

Go read the rest here. Like I say in the title, continue to play the game to the world’s music and Gen-X will go down in flames (and so will the “Millenials” and all of us). Go the other way, dare I say it, the Catholic way, and you won’t. And even if you still crash, you’ll have at least lived your life to the fullest.

For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?

Exactly! The girls can tell you,

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And the boys too,

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All together now,

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Catholic Blogger Goes Missing In Action…

And there are several reasons why:

Reason #10. It’s September 24th, which means it’s only 5 weeks until Halloween! Time for my youngest to get outfitted for the event. Let me present Jango Fett, the father of Boba Fett. Bounty hunting: it’s the growth family business of the future. Henchmen lackies of the world…UNITE!

Reason #12. My daughter is a homeless person this weekend, living in a cardboard box behind the parish hall (since last night) with other members of the parish youth group. Today they are helping out the homeless along with the good folks at Catholic Charities of East Tennessee. I built her the best box I could find, because I want the best even for my homeless daughter. We’ll pick her up tomorrow after the 8 o’clock Mass.

Reason #15. My son is studying for a massive Chemistry test that is due to hit on Tuesday. All weekend long we’ve been building the storm shelter of knowledge by studying and quizzing, and my horror days of high school chemistry class are being revisited. Truthfully, I’ve learned more about chemistry this weekend then I ever did in high school (yep, I never studied then). Orbital notationare you kidding me?

Warning: stormy Weathers’ in the forecast

Reason # 73. My dad, who lives about 2 hours from me, stopped through town for a visit while attending his 55th year high school reunion(?!). We visited, ate barbecue, and paid our respects to my grandparents at the cemetery. Sort of a reconnaissance mission for the All Souls Day vigil I’ve got planned.

Life is short, Fall is here, and it’s a beautiful day. Blogging can wait. If I tried to write anything today, it would probably be like this, but not sound nearly as good.

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A Message on Mortgage Debt from the World

Just a quick note to parish finance committees from Joe Six-Pack, Catholic layman (in the world, but not of the world). The chart above shows the interest rate on the 10-Year U.S. Treasury Note from 1962 until the present. See the dot on the chart in July 2001? That is just for your reference.  The 10 Year Treasury is a bench mark for mortgage rates. If at all possible, it’s probably a great time to refinance parish debt. Or your own mortgage if you can (and haven’t already).

That is all.

It’s Like Elizabeth Says…

I hope it comes on in my neck of the woods. New idea—I’m going to ask my public library to purchase it!

I got an email tonight from a woman who read this post and realized that the reality of the world “as it is” makes her unhappy.

Well, combating the world “as it is” requires us to teach and admonish, not with the tactics of the world, but “in wisdom made holy” through the love of Christ. If we do that correctly we will — like the early Christians — attract others, and thus assist the Holy Spirit in the turning of the world toward the light.

If we do it incorrectly, we will only repel those who are perhaps in the greatest need to come to know the love of Christ and his salvation. And then we will have to deal with a turned-off, tuned-out world whose heels are stubbornly dug-in to the darkness.

Worse, we will have to answer to Christ as to why we trusted the worldly way of confrontation — the way of anger and distrust and scored points and power — over His way, and the way of His saints, the way of patience, humility and love.

Bl. Pope John Paul II famously said that we Catholics must look at the world clearly and see it “as it is” before we can help to form it into something more perfect-in-Christ.

To do that, we to pray, certainly, and we need more than prayer, but we are not sure what that might be.

I believe this effort by Father Robert Barron’s Word on Fire — its instruction, it’s beauty, it’s passion and it’s profound humanity in exploring the Incarnational Christ and His church — may well be the precise and timely tool we need to learn how to respond to the world “as it is,” because it tells us things about ourselves, our church and our Savior that many of us do not even know, or have perhaps forgotten.

Go read the rest. We’re on a mission from God!

For Evelyn Waugh’s Prayer of a Convert

Psst…I finished reading Evelyn Waugh’s novel Helena. I think it is fantastic and I enjoyed it immensely. Reading it makes we want to head with my family to the Holy Land on pilgrimage, bankrupting us in the process. St. Helena, as the empress dowager, never faced that particular financial aspect of her own journey to Palestine.

Careful, because if you read this book you too may feel compelled to do the same. As I was racing through the pages, I came upon a section that I call “the Prayer of the Convert.” It applies to those who were born into the Church as well, the cradle Catholics who wandered away from their faith and have been called back to it. Waugh was a convert like me, see, and so was St. Helena, who begs the intercession of the magi when she attends Mass on the eve of the Epiphany in the cave where Our Lady gave birth to Our Lord,

“This is my day,” she thought, “and these are my kind.”

Perhaps she apprehended that her fame, like theirs, would live in one historic act of devotion; that she too had emerged from a kind of ουτοπια or nameless realm and would vanish like them in the sinking nursery fire-light among the picture-books and the day’s toys.

“Like me,” she said to them, “you were late in coming. The shepherds were here long before; even the cattle. They had joined the chorus of angels before you were on your way. For you the primordial discipline of the heavens was relaxed and a new defiant light blazed among the disconcerted stars.

“How laboriously you came, taking sights and calculations, where the shepherds had run barefoot! How odd you looked on the road, attended by what outlandish liveries, laden with such preposterous gifts!

“You came at length to the final stage of your pilgrimage and the great star stood still above you. What did you do? You stopped to call on King Herod. Deadly exchange of compliments in which there began that unended war of mobs and magistrates against the innocent!

“Yet you came, and were not turned away. You too found room at the manger. Your gifts were not needed, but they were accepted and put carefully by, for they were brought with love. In that new order of charity that had just come to life there was room for you too. You were not lower in the eyes of the holy family than the ox or the ass.

“You are my especial patrons,” said Helena, “and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have had a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents.

“Dear cousins, pray for me,” said Helena, “and for my poor overloaded son. May he, too, before the end find kneeling-space in the straw. Pray for the great, lest they perish utterly. And pray for Lactantius and Marcias and the young poets of Trèves and for the souls of my wild, blind ancestors; for their sly foe Odysseus and for the great Longinus.

“For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”

Amen, brother Evelyn—Amen.

Sassetta’s Journey of the Magi

Gone Readin’ Helena by Evelyn Waugh

Why haven’t I been posting much lately? You can blame Fr. Steve Grunow, who suggested the book you see above to me a few days ago. I’ve never read anything by Evelyn Waugh, and I’m not ashamed to say that for most of my life I figured Evelyn was a lady, and I wasn’t much interested in what she had to say.

Yeah, yeah, I’ve got me a college degree and all, and after I became a Catholic and snooped around a bit I learned that Evelyn was a man, a Catholic, and he wrote some great novels that were turned into classics for Masterpiece Theater. Still, I was about as excited to read anything written by him as I was interested in say…watching paint dry, or grass grow. Yawn.

But then I found that neat book about the True Cross by Louis de Combes, and Fr. Steve suggested Waugh’s book. I checked the catalog at the library, noted a copy was on the shelf, and I strolled over there and picked it up pronto. I haven’t been able to put it down since. Here’s a taste:

“Chlorus, is it true what they are saying in Ratisbon: that you are going to be Caesar?”

“Who say that?”

“The governor’s wife, the widow of the banker, all the ladies.”

“It may be true. Aurelian and I have spoken of it before. After the battle, he spoke of it again. He has to go to Syria now, to tidy up trouble there. After that he will return to Rome for his triumph. Then we shall see.”

“Do you want it?”

“It’s not what I want, ostler; it’s what Aurelian wants that counts, he and the army and the empire. It is nothing to be shy of, just another, larger command—Gaul, the Rhine, Britain, possibly Spain. The empire’s too big for one man; that’s been proved. And we need a secure succession, a second-in-command who’s been trained to the job, knows the ropes, can step in straight away when the command falls vacant; not leave each army to declare for its own general and fight it out as they’ve done lately. Aurelian is going to talk to the senators about it when we go to Rome.”

See? Clear thinking like that is what I was just talking about a few days back. And does everything go according to plan? As if!

I’m not going to tell you anything more about the book but this: Helena has just embarked on her quest to find the True Cross and you can forget about me posting anything remotely intelligible until I finish this book. Color me gone!


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