Welcome to the newest Catholic blog on Patheos.  It’s called “Thin Places“.  My name is Monsignor Eric R. Barr, STL, and I’m the author of what I hope you will find to be an exciting, challenging, enjoyable and spiritual blog experience.  Sure, it’s a little bit Celtic, a little bit theological, and rather wide in the net it casts. Primarily, though,  this blog is about the struggle of folks in this world who are trying to find hints of the divine.  In short, we are going to try to find God in the ordinary.

The Problem

One of the most haunting thoughts I’ve ever heard expressed was uttered by both Pope St. John Paul the Great and his successor Pope Benedict XVI.  They lamented the loss of God in Europe–that devastating nihilism that’s worse even than atheism.  What possesses many of the people of the West is a lethargic acceptance that there is nothing beyond this world.  For them, it isn’t even worth considering the possibility of another option.  Both popes saw this reality as the most pernicious evil afflicting modern humanity.  Now, it has even infected the United States with its contagion.

The Difficulty of Experiencing God

This blog isn’t a fanciful exercise of finding little Irish bits of wisdom or Celtic mystic teachings that often serve as a corollary to a whimsical nostalgia for an ethnic group primarily remembered for its ability to party, fight and demonstrate cultural Catholicism.  Instead, it’s a real search for the divine in the ordinary, or as the British and Celtic poet Kathleen Raine so archly called, “The Bright Mountain behind  the mountain.”  Somewhere amidst the nihilism–the feeling that ultimately there is nothing–, somewhere hidden in the technological wonders of our age, somewhere in the fleeting moments of intimacy that pass for friendship and love, there is the whisper and touch of God.

But guess what most people say who are asked if they have ever experienced God?  Most people,  including most Catholics, deny that they have had such an experience.  We’ve lost the ability to recognize God’s presence.  Some cancer has eaten away our sacramental awareness that the things of the world can be windows to God.  People are having more and more difficulty appreciating beauty and wonder. Rediscovering thin places just may be the way to combat the nihilism that poisons our lives.   Thin places can be real physical places, or experiences, or found in books, art, music and the relationships we share with one another.  They are God’s way of giving us a chance to encounter him, find our purpose, and discover meaning and love.

A Possible Solution

Lest you think that what I’ve just written means nothing, look at the results of the wasteland I’ve painted.  Despair, loneliness, drug and alcohol addiction, violence and suicide, purposelessness, a willingness to shunt aside long held values, a disrespect for human dignity, terror in all its forms–all these things have seen a huge uptick in the past fifty years.  Perhaps you don’t agree with me.  Fine.  That’s why this blog exists, as a conversation between you and me about how God functions in the world and whether we can see his footprints.  I’m betting I can dialogue with you long enough to make my case.

Here’s what to expect.  Snowflakes, those easily offended by anything hinting of political incorrectness, people unable to see a side different from their own opinions, and folks who think truth is relative and facts are simply whatever an individual wants to hold in his or her mind, are going to hate this blog.  I would still love to have you read and interact, but, remember, you have been warned.  Readers have to be open to possibilities.

I operate on the principle that Gerard Manly Hopkins held, namely, the “the world is charged with the grandeur of God”.  I believe with C. S. Lewis that Joy remains the profound emotional and philosophical principle underlying reality.  And of course, I take the estimable J. R. R. Tolkien’s view that “there is some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for.”

Why We Should Dialogue

So why should you even pay attention to me?  Well, first of all, I’m going to keep you interested and challenge the hell out of both you and me.  I am a retired pastor but an active Roman Catholic priest in the diocese of Rockford, Illinois.  For 35 years, I’ve celebrated the sacraments, preached the gospel, taught the young, been a pastor of both large and small parishes, been a principal and a professor in high school and college, helped administrate a diocese as Vicar for Clergy and Vicar General, and am a speaker of all things Catholic and Celtic, and I am a novelist.  It’s been an exciting and wonderful life and I hope I have many more years of experience ahead.

This is a new venture for me.  I am honored to be a part of Patheos and able to communicate and dialogue with you.  Maybe, just maybe, in our conversations to come, you and I will hear the whisper of God in the thin places of our lives and walk a little more surely and joyfully to the new heavens and new earth, where every tear will be wiped away, and Christ will bring us home.




About Monsignor Eric R. Barr, STL
Monsignor Barr is a Roman Catholic priest of the Diocese of Rockford, Illinois. In his 35 years of priesthood, he has been pastor, principal, teacher, Vicar for Clergy and Vicar General. He is a former associate editor of a newspaper and a novelist. He speaks on Celtic Theology and Current Catholic Issues. You can read more about the author here.

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  • Maggie Sullivan

    Looking forward to reading this blog. A some point I hope you can touch on how we can reach our relatives and friends who don’t have a relationship with Jesus.

    May Saint Francis de Sales pray for you.

  • Eric Barr

    I get asked about this a lot. I will try to do something in the near future.

  • Jennifer McInnis

    Msgr. Barr,
    This sounds amazing. I’m looking forward to it too. I’m spiritually hungry and I love to learn, especially from a trusted source. LaSallette, Our Lady of Good Success, Fr. Maxiliun Kolbe and other Marian apparitions are so fascinating to me and relatively modern. Can’t wait!

  • Fred Vanderbom

    Thank you for this post, which really spoke to me about God and my walk with our Lord. I very much look forward to your contributions to this site.

  • Stephen Jon Wolden

    Thin walls, crumbling mortar, getting to peak in on the other side, you have got to love this stuff.

  • Voidhawk

    Not a good start to an open dialogue when you decry those of us who don’t share your faith as a ‘pernicious evil’

    “They lamented the loss of God in Europe–that devastating nihilism that’s worse even than atheism.”

    Apart from the dig at atheism, I am one of those ‘afflicted’ by the ‘devastating nihilism’ that there is nothing beyond this world, and I find it a source of joy and strength. Rather than leading me to despair, it makes me appreciate how precious this world and those who dwell in it are; when I feel down about injustices in the world, it gives me the much-needed kick up the bum to pick up the slack, because there’s nothing out there coming to fight for us, we have to muck in together to make the world a better place.

    Hopefully this is just a new writer’s stumble and you’re willing to engage honestly and openly with people who don’t share your worldview.

  • Lark62

    Start by respecting the fact that anyone who wants a relationship with Jesus has one.

  • Lark62

    Yes. This is hardly a great place to begin respectful dialog: “What possesses many of the people of the West is a lethargic acceptance that there is nothing beyond this world.”

    Lethargic acceptance? Beyond our planet is the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Beyond that are hundreds of billions of other galaxies each with hundreds of billions of stars. On our planet, there infinite opportunity for kindness, beauty and exploration.

    As far as I am concerned, life is precious because this life is the only one we have.

    This blog sounds like it could be an excellent place for discussion, but only if those with different beliefs are actually heard and accepted.

  • Maggie Sullivan

    Seeing as though Jesus created all people we all have a type of relationship with Him – but unless we repent, obey His commands, eat His Body and drink His blood, and are Baptized that relationship will die.

  • Lark62

    You are free to believe that. But have equal respect for those who have concluded that it is not true. And those who have determined that it is not true do not appreciate the lack of respect involved in ceaseless proselytization.

    In fact, some unethical religious leaders who are approaching cult-like behavior promote ceaseless proselytizing with the goal of destroying relationships and making the marks even more dependent on the cult leader.

  • Laurel Linc Dunstan

    Actually, Eternity began for me when I realised that there was something better than the grave to look forward to and that despite the evil in the world I have love and assurance and that what is promised for the future does actually exist here and now…just a little (at times) difficult to perceive it, sadly.
    Voidhawk…just remember, when God speaks to your heart, you just, maybe just be unable to resist his “Sweet Calling!!”.

  • Laurel Linc Dunstan

    NAILED IT IN ONE!!!!!!!!!!!….that’s MY God!!

  • Maggie Sullivan

    Name me one religious leader who is “ceaseless proselytizing”……..

  • Lark62

    You said “I hope you can touch on how we can reach our relatives and friends who don’t have a relationship with Jesus.”

    I’m saying have enough respect to leave them alone when it comes to religion.

  • Voidhawk

    And that’s fine. I’m not condemning anybody for their beliefs or trying to argue that they’re necessarily wrong. I just find it stupendously arrogant to declare that you want your blog to be a dialogue and then casually announce that everyone who doesn’t believe as the author believes must be an evil depressed nihilist.

    If God or gods want to ‘speak to my heart’, then there’s not a great deal I can do to stop them. Until then, I’m happy with my hopeful, optimistic view of this world without anything beyond.

  • Maggie Sullivan

    Leaving them alone would be an act of hate….when someone is about to unknowingly eat poison and you know it to remain silent is an act of hatred for that person. Jesus is the ONLY way to happiness, joy, and heaven…….to remain silent about that truth, the only real truth is to show contempt for the people on your life.

    Always, everywhere proclaim Jesus as Lord!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Our only Way, Truth, and Life………..


  • Lark62

    First prove the poison you perceive is real. Until then, mind your own business.

    What you are doing is interrupting a person eating a balanced meal to push imaginary marshmallow fluff. And those people have already considered and rejected imaginary marshmallow fluff.

  • Maggie Sullivan

    So your asking me to prove the creator of reality is real……….Jesus is the greatest fact in all of our lives.

    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause for its coming into being.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause for its coming into being, outside of itself.
    4. God is the only possible answer……..Jesus is our great reality, love, and life.