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5 Ways Saint John Henry Newman Can Help You Through This Year

One year ago today, Pope Francis canonized John Henry Newman. What a year it has been since then. Bishop Robert Barron was present for the canonization Mass last October in St. Peter’s Square, where in Pope Francis’ own homily, the pontiff quoted one of Newman’s: “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not.” Newman spent twenty years as an Anglican priest before being received into the Catholic Church, a journey he describes as “like coming into port after a rough sea.” As a former Anglican priest myself, Newman’s witness is powerful to me; but at this moment in the life of the Church and the world, St. John Henry Newman has much to say to all of us. We all seek peace, and we all need a vision of home amid the rough seas of 2020. Here are five ideas from Newman that…

On Going through Hell

Recently, during the summer of rage, my eighth-grade daughter stood gazing at the television news with furrowed brow and a shaking head. When she realized that I had been looking at her, she blushed and confessed, “With everything going wrong in the world, it’s hard not to get down.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. There is a clever (but depressing) cartoon showing the spines of books neatly ordered on a shelf. Each volume had a date (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)  indicating that between each book’s covers is the story of that year. When one arrives at 2020, however, there are well over a dozen books grappling with all that 2020 has been. Just think about it: a paralyzing pandemic; a tumultuous economy; riotous racial strife; vulgar, sophomoric behavior from our elected leaders (from both parties); dislocation from family and friends. It is a time of fear and anxiety,…

“We Lepers”: The Mimetic Saint

Born on January 3, 1840, in Tremeloo, near Louvain, Joseph De Veuster (Damien is his religious name) was the youngest surviving and seventh of the eight children of Frans and Anne-Catherine, Flemish-speaking farmers. Forty-nine years later, he died from leprosy, now known as Hansen’s disease, during Holy Week on Monday, April 15, 1889 in Kalawao of Molokai, literally on the other side of the world, having ministered to those living and dying in exile in the settlement for sixteen years. Pope Benedict XVI canonized St. Damien of Molokai on October 11, 2009 at St. Peter’s Basilica. It may seem odd that it should have taken over a century to canonize a man who devoted himself ardently to the care of the poorest of the poor, and literally spent his life in the imitation of Christ. A reading of Gavan Daws’ biography Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai in light of…

In a World of Miracles, We Can’t Look Away from Ourselves

Maybe “don’t cry, baby, don’t cry” is just another way of saying, “do not be afraid.”

On Education: 3 Counsels from My Little Plato

On my desk, I have a little bust of Plato. And every now and then I found it staring right at me as if it had something to say. My attempts to get it to finally speak always went unanswered; in fact, the silence was deafening. I almost gave up but recently something changed. Since I was introduced to The Republic in high school, the question “What would Plato think?” has always lingered in the background for me on any given topic, whether that be the cultural/political landscape of America in 2020 or the role contemporary education has to play in creating such a landscape. I’ve always sensed that behind those questions, Plato would ask me about education and its implicit view of human nature and reality. This doesn’t surprise me given that education is at the heart of his tome, The Republic. Knowing this, I opened my copy of…

“The Social Dilemma” and the Silent Carthusians

The new Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma—a film about the dark side of social media explained by the Silicon Valley innovators behind it—is a kind of public service for the digital age. Most of us talk about how addictive our smartphones are. We are concerned about the role social media is playing in the rise of outrage and polarization in adults, and isolation and depression in kids. Some might even already be aware of the mechanics behind all of this. But this documentary offers a full look behind the curtain to anyone who wants to see it—and it’s not pretty. One particularly impressive figure is Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist and the co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology. Harris has coined the phrase “human downgrading.” Technology, he argues, is “downgrading our attention span, our relationships, civility, community, habits”—and all very much by design. The result…

How Strong is the “STRONGEST Argument Against Catholicism”?

Capturing Christianity, Cameron Bertuzzi’s YouTube platform, recently released a 90-minute video called “The STRONGEST Argument Against Catholicism w/ Dr. Jerry Walls.” In it, Bertuzzi sits down with Dr. Jerry Walls, a philosopher at Houston Baptist University, who presents what he views as the best argument against the Catholic claim. There’s actually a lot to like about the video. First, both men seem to be genuinely interested in the truth. Walls calls the question a “family dispute” between Catholics and Protestants, and he’s not afraid to acknowledge those things that he thinks Catholicism gets right. Indeed, Walls (a graduate of Notre Dame) has written a book defending the idea of Purgatory from a Protestant perspective. For his part, Bertuzzi appears to be on his way towards the Catholic Church, and seems to be genuinely trying to sort out the competing claims of Protestantism and Catholicism. The crux…

“Pray”: The Story of Father Patrick Peyton

Great evangelists are “fools for the sake of Christ” (1 Cor. 4:10). To win souls for the kingdom of God, many heralds of the Gospel demonstrate a total commitment to Christ that may look a bit reckless in the eyes of the world. Fr. Patrick Peyton was just such an evangelist, and the new film Pray: The Story of Patrick Peyton, directed by Jonathan Cipiti, tells his tale. Fr. Peyton left humble circumstances in his native Ireland as a nineteen-year-old in 1928 for a new life in the United States. He desired a fortune in material wealth, but he soon found his reward in a life of total devotion to Christ, to Mary, and to the families of his adopted country. Cipiti’s film shows how Peyton miraculously survived tuberculosis by committing himself entirely to the power of prayer, eventually graduating from Notre Dame and becoming a larger-than-life priest who…

The Word on Fire Institute: Two Years and Counting!

Two years ago, on the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Bishop Barron and the Word on Fire team launched a new initiative. At the encouragement of Cardinal Francis George, Bishop Barron had a desire to see the ministry of Word on Fire take a bold, new step in forming an army of evangelists. Evangelists whose sole focus is inviting a secular world to know Jesus Christ through the beauty, the intellectual life, and the tradition of Catholicism. This new initiative is the Word on Fire Institute. In the span of two years, the Institute has grown to represent 27 countries around the world, have over 15,000 members, and receive several grants for projects spanning the next several years—and believe me, we are just getting started. The Word on Fire Institute exists as the educational arm of Bishop Robert Barron’s ministry. Our spirit can best be understood as…

Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” and the Return to Eden

Yes, I get it. Tenet was confusing as heck . . . and I loved it! Christopher Nolan’s latest cinematic exploration involves David Washington, “The Protagonist”, in a sci-fi spy thriller with a highly complex and inverted timeline. While confusing at times, I love that Nolan’s storytelling usually contains a deeper concept the audience is invited to ponder. His cinematography is certainly visually imaginative and immersive, but it is not intended merely for entertainment. Further, while Nolan’s movies would not be considered obviously connected to Christianity, the themes and ideas that are explored consistently resonate with a Christian, if not Catholic, worldview. In this way, Nolan’s movies can often work as a springboard into Christian truths. An authentic Christianity exercises imagination in mining truth from the world around it. While Tenet is not saying anything necessarily religious or spiritual, the movie places before its audience an idea to ponder…