The Best Thing We’ve Read Since A While: Gospel in Iraq Edition

Tip of the hat to Catholic How contributor Mary Kate Holman for finding this gem on the Gospel Worldview Blog.

It’s worth reading in its entirety here.

And if you do, you’ll find passages like this:

In Iraq, I consider this unlikely message: Jesus did not end suffering and injustice, but He will end them. He did not fight the way the world fights, with swords and guns and drones and jingoistic anthems. He did not win an ethno-nationalist victory for the Jews. He did not stop Lazarus from dying, nor did he heal every person or raise every Beloved from the dead.

Christ rejected Pharisees and went to the sinners, even to the Gentiles. He was like a Palestinian going to the Israelis, a Sunni going to the Shia, a Kurd going to an Arab, a Yazidi going to an ISIS fighter. He crossed all the lines. He didn’t form a new club to supersede all the others. He said, being in a club won’t save you. Nothing you do will ever save you. Stop trying to be good. Seek God, repent and ask to be saved.

Like I said, read it all.


Advent Deserves Its Own Spotify Playlist

With Christmas music creeping into early November and in full swing by now, I’ve managed to short-circuit some of the “When is the earliest appropriate day to listen to Christmas music” debates by breaking out my Advent playlist.

Advent is a treasured and ancient liturgical season (some Advent lyrics go back to the 9th century!). And it has some beautiful hymns to show for it.

So the next time you’re working on cookies, gifts, or decorations, give this little playlist a try (be sure to hit ‘shuffle’ as there are multiple versions of some songs).

Happy almost Advent!

Of Self-Worth and Teaching


By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

“This is only a test.  It’s not a measure of your value as a human being, or for that matter, of a student.”

I repeat this before every test.  I repeat this when I return tests.

And, as I was grading yesterday, I found myself repeating a modified version over and over again.

It is only a test.  It does not reflect on your value as a human being or a teacher.

Being a teacher and not taking it personally: that’s a test in and of itself.


Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: Letter to the Editor Edition


Writing in response to an op-ed carried in the New York Times, Brother Erik Lenhart, OFM Cap. on Boston College fame opines:

James Carroll asks for a recovery of Jesus’ Judaism. This has been a fundamental point for New Testament scholarship for the last several decades. Because all of our scriptural texts have contexts, the historical settings need to be part of textual interpretation.

It would be a mistake to read the message of Jesus separated from his time and culture. But does Mr. Carroll make the same mistake in setting Pope Francis so far apart from his contemporary Catholic officials?

Read it all here.

And Then, the Communion of Saints


By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

Last evening, I had the occasion to begin preparing for next week’s homily (Christ the King).  This is unusual, of course, because I was able to (a) keep my eyes open on a Sunday evening, and (b) I wasn’t in the midst of running to finish what I needed to finish before Monday morning.

The Gospel selected for Year A on Christ the King is the famous “sheep and goats” scene from the Gospel of Matthew.  I opened both William Barclay’s Study Bible for Matthew as well as Dan Harrington’s volume from the Sacra Pagina series.  This my normal procedure: read the Gospel several times (along with the other readings) and make a prayerful decision upon a theme that will be central to the homily.  From there, it’s a matter of looking through a couple scholarly commentaries to make sure I’m not making things up.

Continue reading And Then, the Communion of Saints

The Best Thing We’ve Read All Day: Jesuit Edition



Father Michael McCarthy reflects upon the nature of Catholic education while remembering the death of Ignatio Ellacuria in the New York Times.

The lede:

At the age of 19 I left college at Stanford to become a Jesuit. It’s not that I didn’t love being a student there; I did. But somehow it wasn’t enough. By contrast, the Jesuit high school I attended in San Francisco stressed a very clear educational objective: to form men and women for others. We learned, among other things, that an education not oriented toward justice for others was a farce. Despite Stanford’s extraordinary resources and possibilities, I missed the clarity of purpose. I left to enter the Jesuit order. Never have I regretted the decision.

That was in 1983. Since then I have spent most of my life in higher education. But as much as I love teaching and scholarship, my relationship with academia has been an awkward one. In many respects I find academic culture to have the same flaw that Catholic clerical culture does: the tendency to turn in on itself and guard its privileges rather than spend its energies in humbly serving the world.

Read it all here.

The Hardest Penance


By Javier Soegaard

I went to Reconciliation the other day. I went where I like to go. I went where a lot of Bostonians like to go. In line with me were folks who looked abandoned, folks who looked down on their luck, folks who looked like CEOs—nobody seemed to look the same.

This odd and oddly Catholic collection of folks was not surprising. This church is a place where the priests have really taken on a mission to be confessors and reconcilers. They find that perfect balance of silence and conversation—of listening and interpreting—that illuminates the sacramental nature of Reconciliation.

As the priest was sending me forth to pray this week; however, he did something I didn’t like. He gave me the hardest penance I’ve ever received.

He asked me to pray one Hail Mary.  JUST ONE.

One chance to begin rehabilitating my life and relationship with the Church. One instance of each word, and each phrase, and each movement in what is already a very short prayer. One chance to speak with Gabriel and with Elizabeth, one chance to pray for all those nearing their earthly end, one chance to contemplate my own coming-to-terms with mortality.

It was a task that truly brought me to my knees. Once I overcame the somewhat laughable (but somewhat sincere) superstition that permitted my heart to get all in a tiff, I nevertheless paused for a bit, hesitant to jump to right into this single instance of the Hail Mary.

So I knelt and asked why this might have been my lot, why one simple prayer might be a spiritually healthy exercise for me. After several moments of thinking too hard, wisdom prevailed. This priest wasn’t trying to turn me scrupulous or fearful, he was trying to unclutter my life and send me out into the world to live the Gospel.

Instead of encouraging me further into a life of clutter and confusion, he offered me the balm of simplicity. Pray this simple prayer, pray it once, pray it like you always pray it, then go and live.

This was truly the hardest penance I’ve ever received—not because my relationship to the Church hinged upon the saying of one Hail Mary, but because I was challenged to live a life simple prayer and constant reconciliation with all my brothers and sisters of good will.

It All Matters (Finding God in All Things)

Via Flickr User Arianne
Via Flickr User Arianne

By Sara Knutson

When I was a kid, being Christian meant doing right in your personal sphere.

  • Listen to mom and dad.
  • Be honest.
  • Share.
  • Go to church.

As a teenager, more guidelines emerged, but they remained firmly in the personal sphere.

  • Don’t gossip.
  • Dress modestly.
  • Don’t cheat on tests or boyfriends.
  • Get confirmed.

Something happened in college, though: that personal sphere was eclipsed by a global one. Being Christian also meant engaging the world.

  • Do service.
  • Give generously to church and charity.
  • Vote conscientiously.
  • Spend time with the poor.

I didn’t actually do much of this; I mostly stood on the sidelines and watched my more visionary friends take action instead. But as I progressed through my twenties, I gradually got there too.

Continue reading It All Matters (Finding God in All Things)