Category Archives: Weblogs

How to Communicate with Those Who Don’t Give a Fig

Last week’s Catholic New Media Conference in Dallas left me puzzled.  Many of the speakers and other participants with whom I spoke were full of “spiritual direction, discerning, charisms,” etc. That’s what I call full-bore spiritual jargon.  I felt as though I had dropped in from another planet.

Don’t get me wrong – they were lovely people.  At the same time, they seemed to live in a parallel universe to the one I’ve been inhabiting for the last several decades.  If you were into apologetics, arguing with militant atheists, defending doctrine, elucidating ethics – these were the folks for you.  An online world of people who seem to live for talking about religion.

At the same time, this meeting was supposed to be about “the new evangelization” (a term that is making me increasingly nervous).  At best, these blogs, podcasts, comment wars, and tweets seemed more about fine-tuning the already-evangelized and/or already-interested.  Oddly enough, it reminded me of the original tract movements in England and the USA whose goal was to hang on to Protestants in the midst of the distractingly urban industrial revolution.  Preaching to form a better choir.  But new media or old, this presumes an interest in the topic.  Make an atheist into a Christian.  Clarify a Protestant into a Catholic.  Etc.

Many, if not most, of the people I know don’t give a fig about religion.  They’re doing just fine without it, thank you very much.  Maybe they harbor prejudices from their childhood or the media.  Maybe they never give it a thought at all.  Whether it’s the Four Spiritual Laws or 2,000 years of the splendor of Catholicism or Orthodoxy, it’s “thanks but no thanks” (and that’s assuming you got their attention for a second anyway).

There’s nothing like going to a conference looking for answers and coming home with even more questions.  But maybe that’s why I was there….


Leaving Dallas with New Ideas

Three days with folks who are immersed in new media was quite intense.  And Inspiring.

Dreams of podcasts and tweets, more focused writing and network building dance in my head.

Ah, but what will actually emerge?  How to tie things together?

Something to ponder through 3 airports, 2 flights, and a Cathedral fund raiser this evening.

Stay tuned.

Whitsunday Poem by Dom Mark Kirby, OSB

“Wait,” you exclaim, “that was last week!”  No matter – I just came across the poem today.  And the Holy Spirit is ever present.  Especially on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

I dare to quote a bit here.  But promise me that you’ll follow the link – and also learn about the new monastery in Ireland. 

Today, even where there is nothing good
Goodness elects to dwell;
and where there is nothing holy
Holiness makes a tabernacle,
so that the broken, the sad, and the powerless
find their voices to sing: Alleluia!

Is Evangelization More Than a Word? Finding a Door to the Heart

Catholics hear regular calls to evangelize, to undertake the “New Evangelization,” to share the faith, especially during homilies.  And then what? 

Don’t worry, it will be back to business as usual in no time.  And sadly enough, in many parishes, “business” and “busyness” seem to be the main activities.  As staffing has grown, large churches function as small non-profits and bureaucracies full of meetings, planning, staff evaluations, and stewardship (aka fundraising).  The customer base is the pool of existing parishioners who are served offerings of volunteer opportunities, youth get-togethers, occasional educational events, in addition to the core work of the Roman Catholic Church which is preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments.  Sadly, the last two often seem to get the most perfunctory attention, with budgeting that focuses on bringing in the cheapest music, tiki-torch-like candles, and newsprint missals.

Yes, I know there are exceptions and I’m grateful for them.

But what about the world outside the door (or the parking lot, if you’re out in the burbs)?  If you knew nothing about the Catholic Church and wandered in on a Sunday, what would you see and hear?  Would it be beautiful?  Would it be compelling?  Would you know that this faith is the door to the only true happiness and to eternal life? Would it tell you that this is an institution founded by Christ Himself that has perdured through two millennia?  What would you see of the splendid art, music, and liturgy that centuries of faith created? Would you want to know more if you came knowing little or nothing at all? 

I’m not so sure.  How much of our time is spent in the proverbial “preaching to the choir”?  Or those who used to be in the choir?  While I applaud every outreach to disaffected Catholics, as a convert I think of all the people with whom I’ve worked and performed and studied who won’t give Christianity a first glance, let alone a second look.  They’re not going to listen to Catholic radio or watch EWTN.  We have to find another door into hearts and minds that have written off the Gospel as irrelevant and probably something that will ruin their lives.

It’s happening, but not inside the closed corporation that many parishes have become.  People like Barbara Nicolosi read the signs of the times and bring talent and high production values to their work.  As Dostoevsky said, “Beauty will save the world.”   He said that in a world where the Russian intelligentsia were happy to follow any ideology as long as it wasn’t Christianity. 

It’s time to say it again and to create and show the beauty that cannot fail to find a home in the human heart.  Excelsior!




The Agonies of Social Networking

Some days I long fondly for a time when I didn't have to worry about web sites, Facebook, blogs, etc.  And then I remember that I live right here, right now and I might as well get over it.

Today's struggle appears to be the interference of Explorer 9 with image posting.  I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.  (I might as well try an attitude change.)

Now for the test image – success at last!


Considering the Good, the Beautiful, the True, and the Pure

Monk_Contemplation This is taken from a longer essay by Fr. Mark Daniel Kirby, OSB over at Vultus Christ.

This evening we had a splendid Vespers at the beautiful Cathedral-Basilica of St. Augustine to welcome our new Bishop. All that beauty – sonic, visual, literary (for the Psalms are great poems) – and then I came across this bit (while looking for something else, of course).

If it is true, let us choose our contemplations carefully.


We Become What We Contemplate

Philosophers, psychologists and saints agree that we become what we contemplate. Look at goodness and you will become good. Look at beauty and you will become beautiful. Look at truth and you will become true. Look at purity and you will become pure. Saint Clare of Assisi, herself so marked by Gospel of Saint Luke, wrote to Agnes of Prague: “Gaze upon Him, consider Him, contemplate Him, as you desire to imitate Him” (Second Letter to Agnes of Prague).

Spend some time with Metropolitan Hilarion

Metropolitan hilarion I always like to keep up on Metropolitan Hilarion's writings.  Thoughtful, lengthy (of course), and a good window on the Russian Orthodox view of the world. This essay on missionary questions covers some interesting territory on liturgy – with issues that may resonate with Catholic readers.  (Scroll down to find that section if you're afraid of bogging down in patristics.) 

So head over to his website - read something or just look at the pictures if you like elaborate vestments (something the Russians have taken to a high art-form).

I like this more approachable photo as well.