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It’s always darkest before the dawn

I love Advent and Christmas. Really I do. I wear a Santa hat, light the Advent wreath, deck the halls, and drink eggnog like it’s going out of style, but usually by this point I am in closer to a pit-of-despair feeling than I am to holly jolly.

And every year I forget that I felt the exact same way the year before. I can go back to posts from Advents gone by and see the same sorry attitude. Read more

Remembering Thomas Merton

Ever since I first came in contact with the writings of Thomas Merton about 28 years ago, he has spoken to me. I know I’m not alone there. Countless people of every faith and persuasion have found meaning in his writings and his life. Of course, others will counter that with claims that he was too flawed to be held up as a role model, or, dare I say, saint, but that’s precisely why he’s a great example. Read more

The Advent Games: Catching Fire

If any of you were around these parts last year, you may remember that we started our Advent season not with a prayer but with a coin toss. Because that’s how we roll here at the Poust House. We can take four weeks of peace, joy, and love and turn it into an epic battle of wits, willpower, and outright manipulation. Katniss has got nothing on these kids. All they’re lacking is the bow and arrow. And so it begins again. Who knows what this Advent will bring, but nothing would surprise me. Read more

Receiving unexpected grace via the U.S. mail

Grace can be hard to put your finger on, like trying to grab at fog or hold onto a breeze. I remember even back when I was writing The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism that I struggled to define it in a way that would make sense to people, especially people who maybe had never really contemplated that word before and what it might mean in their lives. Read more

For people who spend so much time in prison, they sure are fun — and inspiring

I had the honor of addressing 50 Catholic prison chaplains on retreat at Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua, N.Y., this week. And while my presentation was meant to give them a spiritual lift and maybe a little levity — I am totally goofy when I get up there in front of an audience. Go figure. — the truth is that they were the ones who did just that for me. The Spirit works in amazing ways, and there is no doubt in my mind that I was meant to be exactly in that place at that moment this week. And I need to thank them for welcoming me so graciously but also for teaching me and sharing with me and laughing with me and reminding me what is so wonderful and beautiful about the individual Catholics who make up the Body of Christ. Read more

Show me how big your brave is

All of my regular readers here at NSS know that honesty is the name of the game. I always try to tell you the truth, even when it’s not easy or pretty. You’ve been to some dark spiritual places with me. And I try to be that way in life — honest. Just ask the prison chaplains who sat through about 90 minutes of honest yesterday. But sometimes, despite all the best attempts at honesty, there’s a sliver of truth that gets left out, something we’re afraid to say because we think hearing the words out loud would shake us to the core.  Read more

Now that I have your attention…

Although I can’t respond to every blog response to my “Losing My Religion”  and subsequent posts, I do want to include the comment I left over on OSV Daily Take this morning because this is my former blog home and because OSV is still family to me. I feel I owe it to them to be sure people see that post and my response to it.  Read more

“Reckless and harmful.” Who me?

“I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses! I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!” — Pope Francis said at World Youth Day, ending his talk with an off-the-cuff-remark reported by AP, “Don’t forget: make trouble.”

And so I am. Consider it tough love. Really, that above quote, and perhaps the reminder that Jesus himself turned over tables in the temple, are all I need to continue saying what I’m saying without fear and without doubt. Read more

Words matter. The Word matters. Especially at Mass.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:1-5

Over and over yesterday, in response to my “Losing My Religion” post, many people tried to convince me that a bad liturgy shouldn’t matter all that much in my faith life. Some who don’t know me very well — or at all — assumed (wrongly) that one or two bad homilies had sent me running. All that matters is the Eucharist, they said. And, I’ll give you this, the only reason I stayed seated in that church this weekend is because of the Eucharist. I would have been out the door before the homily was even close to over if not for that, but are we really going to pretend that the Word doesn’t matter? Because it does. Read more