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The hope that’s found in the promise of purgatory

Some people have a problem with the idea of purgatory, which is something I honestly just don’t get. Of all our teachings, this is one that is not only incredibly beautiful but also especially logical (as logical as things of the spirit can ever be) and especially compassionate, at least in my book. When I look at my life here on earth so far, I can’t imagine — despite all my good intentions — that I’ll be ready to meet God face to face when I die. And so I’m banking on purgatory and the possibility that I might be able to do in the next life what I haven’t been able to achieve on this side of heaven, namely, get right with God. Read more

THIS is what a vibrant parish looks like

I knew from the get-go that St. John the Baptist Church in Madison, Alabama, was an active and vibrant parish. After all, the people there scooped up 550 copies of my Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Catholic Catechism in order to use it as a text during the Year of Faith. That’s some serious Catholic mojo happening there. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, I received an email a while back asking if I’d be willing to come down and do a series of talks for the parish. That’s typically something that would happen on a diocesan level, at least where I come from, so the fact that a single parish would have the resources and motivation to do this intrigued me. Clearly they get it: If you don’t feed people, they just might walk away. And at St. John the Baptist Church, the people are being fed, and not just tiny scraps but endless buffets of spiritual goodness from what I saw on my recent visit. Read more

Should Eucharist be the only thing that matters?

Over the past few weeks, folks here have talked about the role of Eucharist in their lives and in the liturgy, with a lot of people saying as long as there is Eucharist it shouldn’t matter how lame the rest of the liturgy might be. One commenter went so far as to say that even if Nazis did liturgical dance for an hour, it wouldn’t matter if Eucharist was at the end of it. Yes, someone actually presented that argument. So I thought maybe we needed to talk about this a little more, about Eucharist and how it plays into the life of an average Catholic. Read more

Shepherds who live with the smell of their sheep

I was going through some old posts this week as I was preparing for a radio interview, and I found this post from March 29, 2103. I thought it might be good to re-post it here. Two weeks ago, when I posted about Losing My Religion, many reacted by saying that maybe the priest was just having a bad day, as if my frustration was based on a single episode. And at that point it’s hard to argue without sounding defensive, even though I know what was in my own heart. Then I came across my own post on this exact topic from months ago. Maybe many who have joined the NSS ranks recently haven’t seen it since it’s buried behind many other posts. So here it is again, a reminder that what I’ve been talking about these past weeks isn’t new, isn’t isolated, and has been on the pope’s radar screen since the beginning of his papacy. Here you go: Read more

Did Pope Francis read my blog post?

Yeah, hey, so guess what? I’m not the only one who has issues with bad homilies. Turns out Pope Francis feels the same way. And he gets applause when he talks about it! Have I mentioned yet today — this hour — that I love our pope? Yeah, I thought so. Check out what CNS tweeted today about Pope Francis’ comment on this very same issue.

Pope Francis on the “leprosy of the papacy,” the leaven of love, and the feminine Church

This time Pope Francis is talking with Italian newspaper La Repubblica. Second interview, just as fascinating, 4,600 words bearing the headline “Pope Francis: how the Church will change.” The pope called to set up the interview himself with Eugenio Scalfari, the atheist with whom he (now famously) exchanged letters. Read more

From Eagle’s Wings to Agnus Dei

When we got into our, um, conversation last week about good vs. bad liturgy, people from both sides of the spectrum chimed in with what they thought would be the remedy, and I appreciate that, I really do, but I’m not looking to go to any “extreme.” In fact, I’m actually quite happy b0uncing back and forth between contemporary and classic, progressive and traditional. It was never a matter of needing one type of perfect liturgy or a perfect liturgical element but rather a matter of just wanting to participate in Mass and feel like I was getting what I need to deepen my relationship with God. I happen to be one of those people who can get that equally well from the often-dreaded “On Eagle’s Wings” or the old-school Latin “Agnus Dei.” In fact, I prefer a blend, which is precisely my problem. Again. I don’t fit into anyone’s “camp.” 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