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‘8beats’: 8 Blessings for the Spiritually Hungry of Any Background

The 8beats Anthology is a series of short films by different Christian writers and directors brought together by Executive Producer Sam Sorich and Dallas-based Catholic Creatives. Following the example of the late Krzysztof Kieslowski’s acclaimed Decalogue films, which explore the Ten Commandments in contemporary society, the 8beats films are about the Beatitudes, which are the recapitulation and fulfillment of the commandments. In his Jesus of Nazareth book, Pope Benedict XVI calls the Beatitudes “the fruit of looking upon the disciples . . . those who have set out to follow Jesus and have become his family.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Beatitudes “sustain hope in the midst of tribulations” and “proclaim the blessings and rewards already secured, however dimly, for Christ’s disciples” (CCC 1717). But the Beatitudes do more besides. They “respond to the natural desire for happiness” (CCC 1718) and “reveal the…

Faith, Reason, and Conspiracy Theories

Credo ut intelligam—I believe in order that I may know. While St. Anselm, following St. Augustine, said this in speaking of Christian faith, what is articulated in this tight Latin turn of phrase does not apply only to the truths of the Christian faith. Rather, it highlights that no knowledge is ever fully available to the one who does not trust. This is why we can speak not simply of faith as a theological virtue but also of natural faith. As John Henry Newman pointed out, if we do not trust our senses or our intellects, we cannot even begin the process of knowing. Everything we know—or even think we know—we know by some combination of faith and reason. It is not that, as is perhaps easier to imagine, we know certain truths by faith (for example, that…

A Faith That Grows Through “PANE”

I have just finished reading the new Directory for Catechesis (DFC) published by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization and approved by Pope Francis in March of last year. For all of us committed to the work of evangelization, it is essential reading. What impressed me the most about the document was the close connection held throughout between evangelization being at the service of faith and how faith leads to loving communion with God: “At the center of every process of catechesis is the living encounter with Christ. . . . Communion with Jesus Christ, who died and rose again, who is living and always present, is the ultimate end of all ecclesial action and therefore of catechesis as well” (DFC, 75, 426). Here is the goal of it all, the result we evangelizers want to see, the prize on which our hearts are set: that everyone…

God’s Existence and the Beginning of the Universe: Part I

An argument for God’s existence that has recently captured the attention of lay apologists and professional philosophers alike is the kalām cosmological argument. “Kalām” is the Arabic word for “speech,” and refers here to God, who “speaks” the world into existence. Though this argument is deceptively simple in its formulation, it has established itself as a formidable challenge even for sophisticated atheist thinkers. In two parts, I’d like to introduce (or re-introduce) you to this important proof of God’s existence. Here in part I, we’ll consider the merits of the kalām argument. We’ll also consider a potential weakness. Finally, we’ll zero in on the first premise of the argument and reflect on its plausibility. Part II will focus on the second premise and conclusion of the kalām argument. We’ll also consider some objections. Here now are the premises and conclusion of the argument: Premise 1.

“René Girard, Unlikely Apologist”

René Girard was one of the most important religious theorists of the last fifty years, offering insights that resonate with both believers and unbelievers. His ideas continue to be discussed in academic circles, but I believe he needs to be better known by the wider public. Bishop Barron has made efforts in this regard, upholding Girard as a modern Church Father, particularly praising his theory of the “scapegoating” mechanism as a way of helping people see the violence at the heart of society and in themselves. Basically, Girard helps us realize we are sinners in need of God’s grace. When I read Girard, I am always reminded of Flannery O’Connor’s short story “Revelation.” There’s always something in his writing that hits me like Mary Grace’s book, thrown at the self-righteous Mrs. Turpin, reminding me of what a warthog I am. But such violence is received as…

Longing As Reality: Lana Del Rey’s “Chemtrails Over the Country Club”

Lana Del Rey was born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant and raised Catholic in upstate New York. She learned to sing in her parish choir and later studied philosophy briefly at Fordham University. She then invented the name and persona of Lana Del Ray and began producing eclectic pop songs that were thick with old Hollywood glamor and nostalgic Americana. Her albums feature wildly different vocal styles and production, and her appearance changes often. In 2019, she received critical acclaim for her album Norman F*****g Rockwell, which offered glimpses of sincerity behind the pop star façade. The album’s best song, aptly called “The Greatest,” is a heartfelt lament about the state of her soul, and the world. She sings, “The culture is lit and I’ve had a ball. I guess I’m signing off after all.” Recently, Lana released Chemtrails Over the Country Club, which carries the previous album’s themes of authentic love…

Critical Realism: John Polkinghorne and How Science Leads to Religion

Christians contend that theology can be harmonized with science. Both disciplines pursue the same object—truth—and by that common object are unified. Even methodologically, science and religion are complementary. As Pope St. John Paul II duly observed, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.” Among the many scientists who would agree with John Paul II, one of the greatest modern advocates for the complementarity of science and religion has been Sir John Polkinghorne, the distinguished particle physicist and Anglican priest. Polkinghorne, who recently died at the age of ninety, obtained a doctorate in quantum field theory from Cambridge in 1956. He obtained a second doctorate in elementary particle physics in 1974. A few years later he left his research post (to the shock of many) to pursue theological studies, eventually being ordained as a priest in the Church of England…

As in Eden, God Is Still Calling Us from Our Hideouts

“Where are you?” God’s question to Adam and Eve in Eden is directed to all of us too. Like the first humans in Genesis, we have all at some point tried to hide ourselves from the presence of the Lord.  The rabbinic tradition has much commentary on God’s question to Adam that is particularly relevant today, when the hustle and bustle of our consumerist way of life has been slowed due to COVID-19 restrictions and shutdowns, and we are compelled to consider what our “hideouts” look like. Because of the fall, we tend to avoid this question, inventing all sorts of diversions from it. Restless consumerism is one of them. Lest we miss the chance, it would be wise, now, to step back and ponder God’s question to Adam: “Where are you?”  Recently, a friend of mine—let’s call him Dave—told me…

What I Just Learned From Eighth Grade Religion Class

“Be careful with the pages, Daddy.” I looked at her and smiled. She looked back and raised her eyebrows to remind me that she was serious. It was time to prepare Annabel for the next day’s eighth-grade religion quiz. As I flitted from one page to the next in her immaculately penciled spiral-bound notebook, I finally landed on the proper starting place: St. Thomas Aquinas’ Five Ways (also known as the arguments for God’s existence). As Annabel shifted in her seat, I began to ask her questions about motion and causation, contingency and degree. I started to probe a little off script (as it had been quite some time since I had read Aquinas). Though she wanted to stick to the quiz material (after all, we all wanted to watch The Office), Annabel engaged me with spirited explanation that transcended the bullet points on the page. As her eyes lit…

Stolen Umbrellas: Fumbling into the Kingdom of God

G.K. Chesterton once said that his umbrella helped reveal to him why he knew the Catholic Church was for him. He said that whenever he went to non-Catholic churches, he would customarily leave his umbrella by the back door during the worship service. In these churches, his umbrella would always be there waiting for him when he went back out. But the first time went into a Catholic church to hear Mass, his umbrella disappeared from the back of the church. Someone had stolen it. His conclusion? If the Catholic church offered such a generous and open doorway to the rabble, being a home for both sinners and saints, then he had indeed found a home where he could also fumble along into the kingdom. He also added, “Every one on this earth should believe, amid whatever madness or moral failure, that his life and temperament have some object on…