A Tribute to Mark Shea

A Tribute to Mark Shea May 30, 2020


Patheos Catholic is as synonymous with Mark Shea as Peanut Butter is with Jelly. He has been on Patheos Catholic and Enjoying it since 1/26/09. He has left his Mark on the site with his incredible insights into church teaching and practice. But alas the time has come for him to move on from here into another grand adventure in writing. Just like Scott Eric Alt, Sherry Wendell, Dawn Eden, Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble and many others before him, he is ending his tenure at Patheos to work for the Lord in another part of the vineyard.

As I said in another post, Mark is one of the top Catholic writers I admire. His very simple and creative way to explain the truths of holy mother church are rich with spiritual depth. Like Jesus he uses the culture of the day to catechize people in the faith.

Curiously, revelation proceeds in a way similar to the game of Myst. We do not start out as adults with Bibles giving us a full set of instructions for the rules of the game, but as children with eyes, ears, noses, tongues, fingers, heads, and especially, hearts. And through these portals come the first streams of light by which the “the day shall dawn upon us from on high” (Luke 1:78). It was the same in the childhood of the world. The earliest civilizations did not have the benefit of a written revelation. God permitted most of humanity to muddle along for quite a while simply “feeling after him” as Paul said (Acts 17:27) on much the same basis as a non-Christian or a child today might do. He is not afraid to allow himself to be revealed in the childhood of the world (and to the childlike heart today) through what he has made. And so, we come to know about God first of all by looking around at stuff.
Mark Shea Making Senses Out of Scripture: Reading the Bible as the First Christians Did (2016) Basilica Press

He also uses his past to illustrate points about his present theology.

Indeed, the Tradition I have come to regard as revelatory positively insists that God’s grace builds on, rather than repudiates, the good things in God’s good world—including the great good thing called Evangelicalism. Thus, just as the New Testament praises the Old, just as Saint Paul praises his native Judaism (Rom 3:1-2), just as Christ fulfills rather than annihilates his Jewish roots (Mt 5: 17), so I believe that Catholic Tradition builds on all I received from Evangelicalism.
Mark Shea, What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition (2013) Ignatius Press

Plus, he has some rather grand philosophical ideas of wonder.

In the long span of time we Homo sapiens have been around (roughly 200,000 years by best guesstimates), fully one third of that time has been spent with our entire race asleep eight hours out of each day. For every Caesar, Cleopatra, Napole-on, Thomas Edison, or Attila the Hun who blazes a fiery comet of fame and storied greatness across the firmament of history, there are millions and millions of anonymous people (chances are you and I are among them) who live and die and only God remembers them. A whole forest of leaves falls, and only one or two get saved in the scrapbook? What’s up with that?
Mark Shea: Empty Space (October 19, 2010) Catholic and Enjoying It! @ Patheos Catholic

And interesting theological musings.

God, being God, could have done the efficient thing and sent His only Son at that moment to clear up this nasty little glitch in the program of Creation and Salvation. He did not. Instead, He allows creation to unfold naturally according to the laws of nature, human freedom, and dignity that He Himself created — resulting in vast periods of waiting, which explain why the Old Testament is so very much longer than the New. These periods of waiting exist in union with His creative governance and power over creation, so that He begins the long process of actually including us and our free choices in the work of redeeming the world. One need only read the Old Testament to see that mysterious process unfold, with its strange interplay of divine providence and knowledge, coupled with human freedom, dignity, and sin.
Mark Shea The Theology of Waiting Around (June 7, 2011) Catholic and Enjoying It! @ Patheos Catholic

Mark helps people who are confused and scrupulous with wise and sound advise.

If you went to your local Cinemaplex 2000 to watch Star Wars and it was also showing something blasphemous on one of the other 19 screens, why should you feel guilty?  You aren’t watching that thing.  And would you have to pledge to never go to that theater ever again?  How many theaters would you have to boycott over time?  If you go to buy a can of beans at the store and they are selling The Da Vinci Code on the cheesy book rack, does make you guilty of shopping at your grocery store? What grocery or bookstore would ever be pure enough to meet such rigorous standards?

Stick with the Church’s teaching on remote material cooperation and don’t let the bullies ride you down.  Indeed, feel free to tell some other scrupulous person, “We don’t have to take this anymore!  The Church herself says so!” and explain to the remote material cooperation with evil.  Or if you want, just quietly go about your business.  But don’t let the bullies beat you up.  The gospel is about liberty from puny human rules and silly shibboleths.
Mark Shea Prayer Wednesday : A reader struggles with scruples about Netflix (March 11, 2020) Catholic and Enjoying It! @ Patheos Catholic

He really emphasizes the social teaching of the church and how loving our neighbor we are loving God.

Christ also comes to us through innumerable creatures, since all creation is sacramental. One of the sacramentals bringing us Christ is our neighbor—especially the least of our neighbors. For the stunning truth is that Christ is present in all those you meet. How you treat them is how you treat him. And how you treat them is not merely “spiritual” (that is, with attention to their souls but none to their stomachs, wardrobe, or housing situation). A plumber who fixes a single mom’s sink at no charge does as much a work of Christ (and for Christ) as the priest who hears her confession or gives her the Eucharist. If you cooperate with grace, you are Christ’s hands and heart in the world and a gift of grace to your neighbor. Likewise, your neighbor—especially your poor neighbor—is God’s gift to you, a sacramental through whom Christ works in your soul.
Mark Shea, The Work of Mercy: Being the Hands and Heart of Christ (2012) Servant Books

I have seen him ask his readers to help those in need.

Please help if you can! Thanks!

Our 15yo son, adopted 3 years ago, has developed disabling PTSD and depression. After a suicide attempt and 9 weeks inpatient, we have made the difficult decision to place him in residential treatment. The cost is $14,500 a month and he will be there around 14 months. We need the help of others to keep him there getting the healing treatment he deserves.

Here is a link for donations through the Adoptive Families Coalition, which is tax-deductible for you, has no fees (100% goes to Charlie), and all donations are paid directly to the treatment center.

(Select CHARLIE in the “I want to support” drop-down menu)

PLEASE SHARE! The only way we will be able to keep our son there getting the treatment he needs is for people to keep sharing it. THANK YOU!

Heather Knepper BressMay 15 at 8:34 AM

Also, you get things like this.

Q: How do you make holy water?

A: Boil the hell out of it!

Ah me. I am so funny!

The great thing about having children is that you can dazzle a whole new generation with your utterly original wit! Currently, I am wowing Lucy with “peekaboo” and “Look! I made the penny disappear behind my back!”

I am a GENIUS!
Mark Shea, From our Humor for Young Adolescents Dept. (April 19, 2011) Catholic and Enjoying It! @ Patheos Catholic

See the source image

I told that same joke to some of the residents at the nursing home where I worked and they loved it. One nun started to tell it to other people. Mark loves humor and as you can see he is a devout family man. What other person would read George McDonald to his grandkids.

That’s a great accent by the way.

Plus, Mark knows how to laugh at himself.

The reaction to my “coming out” as Jolly last week has been huge. It turns out that we are larger than we realized! (That’s Jolly in-joke humor. We can say things like that. If you say it, it’s oppressive obesophobic hate speech and I will have your butt in court faster than you can say “Big Mac”. Comprende? Building a truly Jolly-Affirming Society is going to require a lot of sacrifice—for you. Sacrificing a sense of humor is a small price for you to pay so that Jollies always feel affirmed in our okayness. Or are you one of those Khristianist hypocrites who doesn’t really believe in love?)
Mark Shea, We’re Out and We’re Stout! www.mark-shea.com

Now I know that some people will get mad at all this praise I’m heaping on Mark.

Well, just get over it, offer it up and bug off.

I say that lovingly of course.

Mark made #6 on René Albert’s 10 Things That Cause Catholic Social Media To Erupt (January 29, 2020). Right below Harry Potter and right above Gun Control.  People have such strong opinions about him that some disgruntled people formed a ‘Banned by Mark Shea’ group on FB. Notice you don’t see a Banned by Deacon Greg Kandra or Banned by Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC page.  This is because Mark has some rather strong opinions about politics especially Trump.  He has helped me to expand my views on politics and conservative Catholic culture. I don’t always agree with his conclusions and interactions with how he talks to others, but then again neither does he.

Well, reviewing this week and my extreme frustration with Trump’s response to pandemic, I think my main Lenten takeaway is “The anger of man does not bring about the righteousness of God”. I tend to find myself repeatedly saying, “But I’m *right*, dammit!” to God and him saying,”If you have all knowledge and do not have love, you are a banging gong.”

He’s right, dammit.

I would appreciate your prayers, particularly that I could speak with love of the people who drive me nuts with frustration. And my apologies for the contemptuous and angry verbiage this week. Without love, I am nothing.
Mark Shea, (March 1, 2020)  The Book of Face.

Just an observation. I haven’t seen Lifesite News, Steve Skojec, or Church Militant offer any apologies for any of the anger they spew out on a regular basis. I haven’t seen them ask for prayers to curve their angry tone.  I am open to being wrong on that because I haven’t researched it enough. It’s just my personal observation and not a fact. Mark may have an angry streak, but he also has a humble and repentive streak.

He often gets lumped alongside some of my other favorite writers.

“Jimmy Akin, along with Dave Armstrong and Mark Shea, have overdosed on cognitive dissonance big time. All three of them rationalize any ridiculous, wrong thing Francis does. They’re fast becoming irrelevant to many Catholics who used to respect them for information on the Catholic faith. Like, how can you trust anyone who has a blind devotion to a man who’s acting contrary to the Catholic faith?”
Donald R. McClarey, PopeWatch: Not Surprised (December 7, 2019) American Catholic

 It used to be that Catholics defended the pope against anti-Catholics, now they defend them against other Catholics. Who knew?

I remember much the same thing a few years back when Elton John remarked that he respected Francis and would like to talk with him.  For Reactionaries, this was a damning indictment of his pontificate.  For people who take the mission of evangelism seriously, it was an immense achievement that a man who had just a few years prior been calling for the worldwide destruction of the Catholic Church now wanted to meet the Heir of Peter.
 Mark Shea, A reader writes to ponder the work of Pope Francis (December 11, 2019) Catholic and Enjoying It! @ Patheos Catholic

Now Dave and Mark don’t always see eye to eye on things but overall, Dave still thinks Mark’s spiritual stuff is top notch.

I have glowingly recommended his books all this time, too. As I have repeatedly stated, I consider Mark Shea’s apologetics among the very best of our time, and his writing, exceptionally stylish and eloquent. I have said that, as an apologetics writer, he is almost as good as Thomas Howard (probably the gold standard).
Dave Armstrong, I Highly Recommend Mark Shea’s Apologetics Books (September 3, 2017) Biblical Evidence for Catholicism @ Patheos Catholic

There are a lot of people who dislike Mark. But for someone with 4,999 FB friends there are good number that like him.

Check this out for a list of 20 Times Mark Blew Us Away at the National Register.

When I have asked Mark for prayers, he has graciously prayed for me. And others who have asked for prayers also. He really believes in the power of prayer because..

Prayer is not addressed to a God who has faded into a faceless, inscrutable Power. It is addressed to a thunderbolt who has revealed to us a Father’s face. That is why the prayer begins “Our Father” and not “Master of the Universe.” When he gives his disciples the model prayer, this is where he begins — with the fundamental fact of God as Father.
Mark Shea, The Heart of Catholic Prayer: Rediscovering the Our Father and the Hail Mary (2012) Our Sunday Visitor

 So, One Mark departs Patheos and another one begins.

Mark Wilson: If you didn’t know I’m a new Patheos writer. Not sure if you remember meeting me in Boston area some time ago. I also listed you in one of my articles of 12 Catholics I admire. You join the ranks of Jimmy Akin and SDG in my list.

Mark Shea: Mark Wilson I am honored indeed to be in such company! I’m sorry to be leaving just as you arrive at Patheos! Enjoy your stay, my friend!

Mark Wilson: I will enjoy my stay. Along with my co-author, my wife Kristin. Thanks for paving the way.  I look forward to your next book and your novel as well. Any advise for a new Catholic Patheos Writer?

Mark Shea: Write about what interests you and nothing else. That is C.S. Lewis’ advice and I believe it. If you are interested, you will be interesting. �

Mark Wilson: I wish you success in your Stumbling Toward Heaven.

And one Last Cool Thing

“Dinosaurs” were just large antedeluvian chickens who perished along with their wicked nephilim masters in the Great Flood. Science is amazing!
Mark Shea, Evolution Disproved! (December 9, 2016)

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