After recording The Journey Home there was a kind of a lightning round where I was asked quick questions by John Matthew Swaim and Seth Paine.
This is a short video of my answer when asked about G.K. Chesterton.
About a month ago I was interviewed by Eddie Trask of the “Catholic RE.CON.” YouTube channel.
The interesting thing about being interviewed by him was how often I forgot that this was even being recorded. I was at ease as if we were just talking among friends.
In other news, The Journey Home episode I was on is being broadcast on August 9th.
Ed Condon at The Pillar asks Do the bishops need a document on the sacrament of penance, too?
Had the bishops of previous decades offered an unapologetic presentation of the moral consequences of cooperating in abortion then, when the appearance of partisanship was less acute, the matter would be nowhere near as politically contentious as it is today.
When you kick the can down the road, the can is still there. In this case, the can is now considered weaponized.
The appearance of some bishops to emphasize that we are all sinners almost to the point of inferring that, since all of us are, none of us need to worry about it, can be seen as a real contributor to the current pastoral crisis. This too, has been a generational problem for the U.S. bishops, born out of an ecclesial culture of the 1970s, which bought into a wider popular cultural ridicule of so-called “Catholic guilt.”
The deemphasis of the Sacrament of Penance over at least the last fifty years has its foreseen results. This, combined with cultural Pelagianism and the loss of the sense of sin, is a toxic cocktail within the Church. The loss of the understanding of sin means that there is no need of a savior. We don’t need to be saved from our sins if we are “only human” and thus imperfect. We acknowledge our failings and want to do better but have lost the connection in how we have offended God. We are trying to put band-aids on problems instead of addressing that our wounds are healed by the wounds of Christ in this sacrament. We were created to give glory to God and our very telos (perfection) is to do so. The grace given us in confession when our sins our forgiven help us to realize our utter dependence on God for everything. We can develop gratitude and thankfulness, which enables us to enter into worshipping God more fully. In turn we can also enter more deeply into the great mystery of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The USSCB has been planning over the last year for a multi-year National Eucharistic Revival (details). This is partly in response to polls taken on belief in the Eucharist among even Mass-going Catholics. I am not aware of polls regarding belief in the Sacrament of Penance and its necessity, likely they would be even more dismal. Possibly, we also need a National Confession Revival. The Pillar article asks if the conference should write document on the Sacrament of Penance? Consider me skeptical regarding USSCB efforts in the first place. I can’t think of any of their documents or efforts that can be categorized as brilliant successes. The more visible Fortnight for Freedom program had no apparent effect during the President Obama years to curtail the assault on religious freedom. Maybe this would have been worse without it?
Most Catholic here are unaware, for the most part, of these conference efforts. Usually, it is only Catholic policy wonks, such as myself, who even read their documents. Bishop conferences are historically a relatively new thing and so far we have no examples of them sparking a revival. It has always been saints that have done so. Individuals or small groups have called others to personal revival through their example and holiness. Still, I wish them luck as possibly it can inspire individual bishops and individuals to focus on the reality of the Eucharist. We should be praying that God raises up saints for us for such a revival.
“Now in history there is no Revolution that is not a Restoration. Among the many things that leave me doubtful about the modern habit of fixing eyes on the future, none is stronger than this: that all the men in history who have really done anything with the future have had their eyes fixed upon the past.” – G.K. Chesterton
So a new document on confession should at least be seen as part of the same effort for Eucharistic revival. My opinion is that primarily confession needs once again to be more visible. “If you have it, they will come” is my “Field of Dreams” theology here. In most parishes, as far as I can tell, confession is available publicly sometime before the Saturday Vigil Mass. So for many Catholic it is hidden and out of the way. Many will not see people in line to confession as a regular occurrence. In the parish I came into the Church in, they have confession before every single Mass. My current parish has it available every day. It gives me a feeling of joy to see people in line for confession. It is both a reminder of my own need for the sacrament and a feeling of joy knowing others are having their sins forgiven and given grace. The Church builds on the constant conversion of each of us.
In the middle of May this year, I traveled to Ohio to appear on The Journey Home program.
This was rather exciting for me since I have watched this show on EWTN for the last 24 years and before I officially became Catholic. I had even seen the show live where Mother Angelica rather sandbagged Marcus Grodi about doing a show such as this. It was not a request he was expecting. In this show, men and women from varied Christian (and even non-Christian) backgrounds are interviewed about their journey into the Church. I have always loved this show learning about the people interviewed and their various stories: the commonalities and the differences of each unique conversion story.
I have also seen many friends and acquaintances of mine interviewed on the show and daydreamed about being on the show myself.
So when Matt Swaim contacted me about being on the show, there was no hesitation to my affirmation. Matt is a cohost on the Son Rise Morning Show and Outreach Manager for the Coming Home Network. I knew a bit about Matt since for quite a while as we had traded bad puns on Twitter. I had also heard him regularly on Gary Michuta’s Hands on Apologetics Podcast. I also had read his conversion story in My Name Is Lazarus: 34 Stories of Converts Whose Path to Rome Was Paved by G. K. Chesterton.
It was an absolute pleasure that on the day I flew in to have dinner with him and the extended talks we had as we drove back and forth from the location of the Coming Home Network where their studio is. It was rather cool to find out he had been reading my blog when he was still a Protestant. There was a period on my way into the Church where I had restricted myself to Christian music only – but not really the top-of-the-charts CCM stuff. I knew from our Twitter conversations we had some of the same tastes in these lesser-known bands. To discover that as a bassist in his Christian Punk Rock Group that he had opened up for some of my favorite obscure bands was delightful. Or that we had scoured the same [webzine][jm] looking for such bands. This would have been a great trip just for the conversations we had.
They go a long way to not inconvenience their guests. You are flown in the day before and tape the program the following day. After lunch, it was back to the airport to go home. So the experience goes by all too quickly. I would have loved to be able to have spent more time hanging out with the staff. The staff lunch only whetted my appetite for intelligent and fun conversation. Before the taping, at least I had an excellent talk with Bill Bateson, their Studio Manager. I would have loved to have done the same with everyone there. That conversation also turned to music and the similar tastes we have. I got to hear a little of his story into the Church.
The actual taping of the show is recorded without edits. Marcus Grodi interviewed me knowing little about me other than that I was a former atheist. Since the show is taped ahead of time it will be a couple of months before it airs on EWTN. The interview itself is kind of a blur to me now. Especially leading up to this, I had been accessing my own story and the fact that we hardly know ourselves. That often we learn about ourselves and our motivations later on. So this had given me some opportunity to think through some of this with now two decades past since entering the Church. Very bittersweet thinking about my late wife’s role in my conversion and just how much of an arrogant jerk I was (well still working on this). How my worldview and actions had poisoned so much. It is painful looking at the reality of this.
Right now, I am not all that confident in how the actual interview went. Having introvert tendencies, I can at times switch into performance mode. It is certainly not unknown for introverts to also be class clowns, as I was. So I hope it comes across more like a conversation as we talked. I also have a pretty good vocabulary. It is just that apparently I don’t have access to it when writing or talking. It just returns in hindsight. I hope it comes across how much I love the faith and that this is a well of mystery that will never dry up for me.
Before and after the recording, I had been praying that God could use this even if what I said was only helpful for one person. I learned while there that the impact of the program could also be years later in reruns. I have to constantly fight the temptation to making everything “all about me” as my various insecurities come forth and seek to rule me. So, of course, I write a post all about me and my appearance.
St. John the Baptist pray for me that I might decrease and that Jesus increase in me.
Tomorrow I will be going through the Rite of Admission for the Secular Discalced Carmelites. Also known as the clothing ceremony, where you receive a larger brown scapular.
Admission should have happened in 2019. Delayed since I was at a conference during the time the community was to interview me, and later COVID–19 stepped in to prevent any retreats.
Perhaps all to the good to spend more time preparing myself in developing a life of prayer. I am not doing this because I am so inclined towards mental prayer and working towards contemplation. Seriously, I was once offered a book contract to write on “Praying badly.” They must have thought I was a Subject Matter Expert on this. I am doing this for what Carmel can teach me in being prayer at the heart of the Church. Maybe I could write a book on “Persevering in prayer despite praying badly.”
I had to choose a religious name before this admission rite. There is something so cool about choosing a religious name and something daunting about it. First, I was thinking of something super-pious. Something impressive sounding. At least I recognized quickly how ridiculous this thought process was.
I ended up picking “Thomas of the Sacred Heart” for several reasons. In part because of the Apostle Thomas. He went from demanding empirical knowledge that Jesus had risen to say “My Lord and my God.” Thomas feels close to my track from my atheist days, wanting all truth to be empirical and provable to the senses, to acknowledging and worshiping Jesus. So the name is aspirational to me that you can finally get things right.
I double the Thomas with St. Thomas Aquinas since this saint I identify with the first crack I saw in my atheist beliefs. His life is also aspirational to me since the saint replies towards the end of his life Domine, non nisi Te—that is, “Lord, nothing except you.”
The Sacred Heart reminds that God is Love, Deus caritas est. In the last year, I started to notice how tied this devotion was in Carmel.
St. Saint Therese of Lisieux wrote this poem for her sister, Marie of the Sacred Heart.
To be able to gaze on your glory,
I know we have to pass through fire.
So I, for my purgatory,
Choose your burning love, O heart of my God!
On leaving this life, my exiled soul
Would like to make an act of pure love,
And then, flying away to Heaven, its Homeland,
Enter straightaway into your Heart.
This year I also had read the biographies of St. Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart and St. Teresa of the Andes; she also had this devotion.
I am thinking and praying for those who will be received into the Church tonight at the Easter Vigil. So welcome home! God is great!
It also marks my own anniversary as a Catholic as I also came into the Church on April 3rd, 1999 at the Easter Vigil.
I count myself lucky that by the time I was received into the Church I had read enough Church history to not have been expecting an idealized Church. That the Church was made up by fellow sinners like me. I expected to be frustrated by the hierarchy, fellow Catholics, and my own sinfulness. That we are all on a journey and that we must constantly fix our focus on Christ and our final end. That our consciences can be like a GPS to always say “redirecting” as we once again go off track.
If you don’t have the time to go in-depth into Church history, it is contained in this summary.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” – Dickens’ ”A Tale of Two Cities”
Despite this truth—in all conditions, God has raised up saints. That it is in the here and now that we are called to holiness.
I am so grateful to God for how far he has brought me and also thankful that he will not just leave me in my current miserable state, but desires to bring me closer to him.
In Saint John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter “Salvifici Doloris” he writes:
“Christ did not conceal from his listeners the need for suffering. He said very clearly: ”If any man would come after me… let him take up his cross daily ’’, and before his disciples he placed demands of a moral nature that can only be fulfilled on condition that they should “deny themselves”. The way that leads to the Kingdom of heaven is “hard and narrow”, and Christ contrasts it to the “wide and easy” way that “leads to destruction”. On various occasions Christ also said that his disciples and confessors would meet with much persecution, something which—as we know—happened not only in the first centuries of the Church’s life under the Roman Empire, but also came true in various historical periods and in other parts of the world, and still does even in our own time.”
It might seem like a bit of a buzzkill to talk about welcoming people to the Church and saying that her disciples will suffer. This quote is from his chapter on the “The Gospel of Suffering”, literally the “Good News of Suffering.” It is indeed good news that our sufferings have meaning and can be salvific in cooperation with Christ.
If Lent was 2-3 weeks long I would make a much better Lent.
That is about the time span I feel I am making a good Lent. Although if Lent was 2-3 weeks long I would probably feel that I make a good Lent for 1 and a half weeks.
This is probably because I am making Pelagian Lents. White-knuckling through on my own efforts. Not giving this time of preparation to Jesus to transform me. I hate annoying insights about myself.
OMAHA, Nebraska – It’s brought order out of chaos, meaning to a life that had become dry and mechanical, and a closeness to Christ that Chelsie Promes could not have imagined.
It’s the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults – entry into full communion with the Catholic Church through months of classes and prayer that culminates with baptisms, confirmations and first Communions at Easter Vigils in parishes across the archdiocese.
“It has opened my eyes to seeing that God is always present,” Promes said of her growth in faith as she prepares to join the church. “He loves me. He is my first love. He’s given me a way of life. I can tell that by living through him, knowing he is at my side.”
Father James Keiter, pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Menominee, where Promes and her husband are members, said Promes is one of three people he is helping prepare for full communion with the Church. Her husband, Jeremy, also is attending the classes.
“She’s on fire! Such a genuine joy as she learns about the faith,” said Keiter, who also is pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Fordyce and St. Joseph Parish in Constance. “Her husband is Catholic born and raised, and he has questions, too.”
Nicely written story original from CNS by Joe Ruff. I would like to see more such stories regarding members of RCIA and what brought them to the Church.
There are not many instances where my headbangin’ tendencies and my Catholic faith cross.
Iron Maiden paid tribute to Blessed Oscar Romero during the British heavy metal band’s stop in El Salvador on their current world tour.
During a concert at the Estadio Jorge Magico Gonzalez in San Salvador, El Savador’s capital, a crowd of 9,000 people cheered when the band’s drummer Nicko McBrain put on a t-shirt featuring an image of the murdered priest and the slogan, “Saint Romero of the Americas”.
Before the concert, McBrain and his bandmate, guitarist Janick Gers, visited Blessed Romero’s tomb in the Crypt of San Salvador Metropolitan Cathedral, Associated Press reports.
Now I knew Nicko McBrain joined a Presbyterian church in Florida around 1999, so this is rather interesting.