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Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”: A Great Film for Our Time

“We must make an idol of our fear, and call it god.” So says the recently departed Max von Sydow in his most famous role as Antonius Block, the returning crusader who plays chess with Death, in Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 masterpiece, The Seventh Seal. Block comes home from many battles to find a plague-infested homeland. He is not afraid to die, but he is curious about why he has been chosen, and what the ultimate meaning of life and death may be. “I want God to stretch out his hand, uncover his face, and speak to me,” the knight tells Death in the confessional. For a while, he puts off the inevitable while getting to know a rag-tag group of his fellow countrymen trying to avoid the black death during the brief, beautiful Swedish summer heat. Block imagines he is capable of “one meaningful act” before it is finally check-mate.

Coronavirus and the Realities of Homeschooling

Living within a quarantine of indeterminate length, many parents are having their first experience of becoming hands-on in the academic and spiritual instruction of our children. Word on Fire Institute Education Fellow Robert Mixa brings us a helpful interview on the benefits and challenges of homeschooling, whether planned or circumstantial, featuring Kathleen Vogt. Kathleen is the wife of Word on Fire’s Content Director, Brandon Vogt. She studied at Florida State University where she graduated with a degree in Elementary Education. She and Brandon have six children, with a seventh due in July, and they live on a small farm outside Orlando, FL. There she homeschools their four oldest children.  Kathleen would be happy to answer any questions you might have about homeschooling at [email protected]  RM: How did you get involved in homeschooling? KV: Growing up, I went to Catholic school for grades K-8 and then switched…

Dr. Holly Ordway on Apologetics and the Christian Imagination

The Word on Fire Institute is happy to introduce its readers and students to Dr. Holly Ordway, Fellow of Faith and Culture at the Word on Fire Institute, Visiting Professor at Houston Baptist University, and the author of Apologetics and the Christian Imagination. Dr. Ordway is a former atheist who speaks and writes movingly of her journey into Catholicism and the vocation she has found there. Here she discusses her role as a Fellow of Faith and Culture with Andrew Petiprin, himself a Fellow of Popular Culture here at Word on Fire. AP: Your new role at the Word on Fire Institute is “Fellow of Faith and Culture.” Welcome! What will your work entail, and what will Institute members and fans of Word on Fire content be getting from you in the months and years to come? HO: Thanks! I’m delighted to be joining the team. As Fellow…

COVID-19 May Help Parents Reclaim an Important Role

Many commands are being issued today in response to COVID-19, and all for the good. But if you don’t mind, I’d like to call your attention to a perennial command to ponder as you’re at home realizing your parental duties: educate your children in the faith. Parents are important witnesses to the faith in the lives of their children. Through them, the faith is handed on generation by generation. Jews have been heeding this command for millennia, so it might be good to learn some things from them, especially the importance they give to household religious education. Years ago, a friend of mine was seriously studying Rabbinic Judaism, and he told me that part of the Talmud’s list of a father’s duties to his son is to teach him: (1) the Torah (2) a craft (3) how to swim Leaving aside the literal vs. metaphorical meanings of “to…

For a Good Quarantine Read, There Ain’t Nothing Like a Classic

Not infrequently, in the middle of a harried day in clinic or after an onerous day slinging emails on the computer, I find myself—in my mind’s eye—nestled in a dimly lit room, swallowed in an oversized chair, reading a classic work of literature. It may be a doorstop novel, lofty poetry, or a series of penetrating essays. No matter. Only one thing is certain: it is old. Who might I be reading? It may be William Shakespeare, Michel de Montaigne, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexandre Dumas, Dante Alighieri, or the Greek Tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, or Euripides. Now, that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy writers from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I am entranced by G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh, Georges Bernanos, T.S. Eliot, and P.G. Wodehouse. But every so often, I hear the criticism that I don’t read enough “modern” writers. Modern writers,…

The Dangers of Digital Anonymity

When I was in college in the mid-2000s—right around the time “Thefacebook” and Myspace launched and cell phones were suddenly everywhere—I became fascinated by the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s writings on the press, which seemed to anticipate the dangers of the digital world by 150 years. (Hubert Dreyfus—whose book On the Internet Robert Mixa explores in the latest issue of Evangelization & Culture—was all over the connection.) Kierkegaard saw that flattened, disembodied communication had a deeply dehumanizing effect, turning passion into reflection, commitment into chatter, and concrete individuals into an abstract “public.” A key element of his critique of the press was its anonymity. Here is the ever-passionate Kierkegaard in his Point of View: The fact that an anonymous author by the help of the press can day by day find occasion to say (even about intellectual, moral, and religious matters) whatever he pleases…

Catholic Prayer and Adoration—Through Space and Outside of Time

It is beautiful and silent—so silent that you might not believe the feed is live if not for the occasional flicker of a flame caused by one Benedictine nun of Tyburn convent moving in and bowing as she takes her place before the Blessed Sacrament, while another bows and takes her leave. And then, of course, there is the perpetual movement of light and shadow as the day progresses—another reminder that the image on your monitor is not a static photograph, but something alive, being transmitted via “live feed” directly to where you are. To where each of us are. Whatever is happening within the mysterious waves and crackles of electricity—a live energetic force that few of us really understand—what it is being delivered to us in real time is access to the Real Presence of Jesus Christ, adorned in a monstrance and situated in a monastic chapel…

The Theology and Christ-Consolation of Spiritual Communion

The Church has weathered numerous storms throughout her history. Wars, plagues, famines, persecution—all of these are impressed upon the memory of Mother Church, forming her age-old wisdom and inspiring her pastoral concern. One of the ingenious notions developed as a result of these trials is the practice of spiritual communion. The theology of spiritual communion gives us profound insight into the very nature of the Eucharist itself. The Mass (aka the Eucharist) is the source and summit of the Church’s life. As such, it is also the epicenter of Christianity per se. Firstly and most essentially, the Mass is the activity of Jesus offering himself to the Father. In other words, the Eucharist is primarily a sacrifice. The word sacrifice comes from two Latin words: sacra, meaning “holy,” and facere, “to make.” The Mass, therefore, is Christ “making holy” his Mystical Body, the Church. It is Jesus, through the hands…

Together But Apart: Being One, Online, in the Eucharist

Priest of Jesus Christ, celebrate this Holy Mass as if it were your first Mass, your last Mass, your only Mass. —St. Teresa of Kolkata My first experience of the Mass happened on an Easter Sunday, and we arrived right on time, which on that day meant we were ten minutes late. We had to sit in the very back of the balcony. I couldn’t see what was happening on the altar, but I could smell the incense wafting up to the rafters. I could hear the clang of the thurible, and the beautiful hymns rising to heaven. I could feel my heart finally finding its place. When I got into the car with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, my silence was deafening. We pulled into his parents’ driveway and he asked what was going on. I remember him telling me, “You…

Three Simple Words to Help Your Parish Go Digital

Digital media, including social media, presents both unique opportunities and serious challenges to Christian evangelization. This is the focus of the Word on Fire Institute’s third issue of its Evangelization & Culture Journal. Subsequently, several pieces on the blog this week will offer observations and constructive ideas for how to best use new media as a missionary tool. A few years ago, I spoke to hundreds of priests from the Archdiocese of Chicago about evangelization and digital media. Throughout my talk, their eyes were glowing. I could sense their excitement as they saw the potential new media held for their parishes and ministries. Afterward, one of the priests approached me. He said that he was excited after my presentation, but he still had a troubling realization: “I have no clue where to begin.” That’s not unusual. Our priests are brilliant, our parish staff members are hardworking, but when it comes…