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Engaging Online: 5 Tips from St. Benedict

Original sin has rendered our world an ever-contentious place, but for many who remember the late 1960s, the Year of Our Lord 2020 seems (largely thanks to the internet, social media, twenty-four-hour news channels) like a banner year—a David Banner year, furious and destructive—like 1968 on steroids. It’s brought us to a place were dialogue is strained, where people are reacting-at each other, rather than responding-to. Particularly on social media where—thanks to a virus that won’t seem to quit—many of us are doing the bulk of our talking, people are snarling, going for the ad hominem early and often, and tossing labels about with reckless abandon. It’s easy to do this on social media; we sit behind screens that block us off from anything but the words before our eyes and then forget that there is a living, breathing person on the other side—someone with whom we share more…

Here’s How Christian Action Is Distinct from Mere Activism

I recently posted an article here at Word on Fire titled “How Does a Christian Respond in Time of Social Crisis?” I was encouraged by the reactions and replies, but a number of readers asked if I could more clearly define and articulate the distinction between activism and Christian action, a topic that is multifaceted and perennial, stemming back to the early Church and still relevant today. It is no secret that contemporary culture is permeated by activism. Our solution to every problem is to do something about it—to create a program, form a committee, or lay out tangible steps. But we Christians must be rooted in being before doing. St. Thomas Aquinas provides us with a helpful maxim in this regard: agere sequitur esse (action flows from being), which means what we do necessarily flows from who we are. Some may think this leads to passivity, the negation…

Seeds of Grace, and How We Receive Them

The parable of the sower is part of a collection of stories told by Jesus that form (at least structurally) the centerpiece of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Together they address the central theme of the Matthean Gospel: the kingdom of heaven. For if we want to enter God’s kingdom, we must allow our souls to become receptive, fertile grounds for the seeds of divine grace.  The existence of a kingdom entails the existence of a king. So, if we hear news of a kingdom, we want to know who occupies the throne. “Kingdom of Heaven means, in fact, lordship of God,” writes Pope Benedict XVI, “and this means that his will must be adopted as the guiding criterion of our existence.” In his highly celebrated Jesus of Nazareth trilogy, Pope Benedict goes into even more depth on a similar phrase used by Jesus—the kingdom of God. This latter term, preferred…

Fr. Connor Danstrom’s Music Seeks Out the Hard and Dark Places

Fr. Connor Danstrom is a priest, an accomplished musician, and host of the podcast “Three Dogs North.” He spoke to Jared Zimmerer last year about his EP Why the Water Came, and he has just released a new collection of songs called Doralydia, available now on Bandcamp. All digital sales will go to support the St. John Paul II Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Chicago, where Fr. Danstrom currently serves. Doralydia will be available on streaming services beginning July 1. Andrew Petiprin recently had an opportunity to ask Fr. Danstrom about his work. Both musically and lyrically, your songs very nuanced—perhaps not even obviously the work of a Christian, let alone a priest. I don’t think creative Christians are producing enough of this sort of mature art that could draw in people who aren’t ready yet for the specifics of Catholicism or the Gospel.

The Family Bookshelf: Secular Books Can Complement Catholic Catechesis

Ashley Canter of The Family Bookshelf blog is a Catholic convert, a farmer’s wife, and the mother of five children. Having earned a BA in European history from Ohio University in 2006 and married soon after, she has enjoyed reading and writing through years of discernment, change, and parenting. Now settled on an organic dairy farm in rural Wisconsin, she chats with Word on Fire’s Robert Mixa about her belief that Catholic family life is enhanced by living liturgically, playing outside, and reading great books. During the pandemic shutdown, many parents have had to become the primary catechists of their children. From your experience teaching your children the faith, what has been especially effective? Thank you, Bob. We observe all the liturgical seasons of the Church year, and encourage the children to help. They might take turns blowing out the candles on the Advent wreath, or help hide the bean…

Heartbeats of Incarnation: Creativity in Crisis

During World War II, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay called “Learning in War-Time” in which he defended the continued pursuit of education during a time of global conflict. In his conclusion he admits the limits of human culture and its ultimate finitude in light of the eternity which Christians anticipate. And yet Lewis’ final words affirm that there is nonetheless some sort of echo of that eternity which the pursuit of knowledge makes visible, and which it may even reveal in a way: “If we thought that for some souls, and at some times, the life of learning, humbly offered to God, was, in its own small way, one of the appointed approaches to the Divine reality and the Divine beauty which we hope to enjoy hereafter, we can think so still.” The employment of the intellect opens up a window into the life of the divine mind itself, and…

Jesus of Nazareth, Breaker of Hearts

“Why do you think evil in your hearts?” Jesus of Nazareth directed the question to the scribes who lingered among us. He had landed in Capernaum only a short time earlier, and—after permitting him time to greet his hosts and joke and jostle with some of the children—we had brought him to see a friend of ours, recently struck down with a paralysis we could not understand. The scribes, who beyond their official capacities were naturally nosy types and self-appointed historians of our neighborhoods, had followed along, watching to see what he would do. What they saw was something quiet and mostly unspectacular, at least at first. The rabbi had squatted over our friend, surveying him with compassion—with a look of love that seemed at once familiar and detached, that asked nothing, expected nothing, demanded nothing. Seated head on, as I was, my heart was struck by the softness of…

Video Games and the Hero’s Narrative

After finishing the Lord of the Rings spin-off Shadow of War, I was looking for a new RPG (role-playing game), and Dragon Age: Inquisition seemed appealing. It checked off all the right boxes for me—at least when it comes to RPGs: Box #1: Does it take place in medieval times? Box#2: Can I use magic? Dragon-Age meets both of these requirements quite splendidly. Plus, I get to battle wild dragons, so call it an all-around win. Yet what draws me to this game and others like it is not so much the cool fight sequences, amazing graphics, or expansive world-maps as its epic nature—its ability to stimulate within my soul a feeling of gallantry. As I mention in other articles, video game culture is not as superficial as one may think. There is a reason so many people are drawn to it. Simply put, video games tap into…

Should My Son Be a Father?

QUESTION: Should a father try to dissuade his son from pursuing the priesthood? “Last week my son asked me if I had ever thought of him becoming a priest. “I’m the first to offer money to the vocations collection; just ask our pastor. We never miss a Mass or a collection! I agree we need priests! But, my boy? A priest? Come on; not him. He’s got such a bright future ahead of him! “I just don’t think being a priest would be a good use of his talents, that’s all I’m saying. . . . It’d be a waste of his true potential. He’s top of his class—a natural leader.  We need our best men in charge of businesses, raising families, and leading governments! Not running the little parish. . . “It just seems like too many priests have some combination of being overweight, not taking care of themselves,…

Why Icons Should Be Part of Catholic Catechetics

When I first met Fr. Steve Grunow, CEO of Word on Fire, I was struck by a strange and beautiful image on his desk. It was an Icon of  the Christ Pantocrator of Mt. Sinai, and the Christ who stared at me was both of this world and beyond it.  Stranger than the image, however, was my feeling that Christ was staring right at me from within the depths of the icon. When I asked, Father Steve kindly explained the theology of the icon, cluing me in on how effectively they can help to engage us and deepen our faith, and even teach us.  Like the Gospels, icons present “the form of Christ” who reveals the “form of God”. With this in mind, I’d like to argue that icons deserve a more prominent  role in religious education.  One…