Help! Help! Humanae Vitae isn’t a rigorous logical treatise!

I don’t know anything else about Paul VI, so I don’t know if this was on purpose, or whether it tried and failed to make a logical argument. But whether it was intended to be a logical treatise or not, it isn’t one; so let’s stop trying to present it as one, and let’s stop complaining when we discover that it isn’t one.

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But what if I don’t love God?

They really, really loved God, enough to willingly die for Him, enough to renounce their families for Him, enough to cheerfully surrender their riches and beauty and power for Him, enough to praise Him with their last dying breaths.

And I? I didn’t love God. I didn’t even like Him.

That worried me.

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It’s a great loss when we train ourselves to stop receiving beauty

I can learn to decipher what their calls might mean, but it would be a great loss, a bizarre and ungrateful act, to deliberately train myself to stop hearing their music as music.

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Sunshine, buttercups, and rainbow flags

I understand the idea of incrementalism. I understand accepting people where they are, accompanying them, and praying with them as they gradually become more open to the fullness of the truth, whether they’re deeply invested in a homosexual relationship or deeply invested in a contraceptive relationship. You can’t accompany someone unless they decide walk through the door, so you want that door to look as welcoming as possible. Plant flowers. Put a fresh coat of paint. Hang a rainbow flag. It is our job to be loving first, so as to make it possible for people to receive the law and then identify it as the same thing as love. I understand this.

But where do we draw the line between accompaniment and bait and switch?

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Image by BookMama via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Should you go into debt to get a liberal arts degree?

So if you hear someone telling you that a liberal arts education is a luxury in which only the independently wealthy should indulge, I’ll agree . . . if you mean the kind of education that makes you think of your own brain as an exquisite platter of pâté, to be passed around at parties and admired for its velvety richness. Don’t get that kind of education, no matter how much money you have. The world needs exactly zero of that.

But if you mean the kind of education that gives you the unshakable idea that life is interesting, worth thinking about, worth talking about…

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Image via Pixabay (Creative Commons)

When receiving art, be Penelope, not Argos

A pox on anyone who tries to extract a message from The Odyssey. It’s not that The Odyssey doesn’t mean anything. Quite the opposite. It’s just that a work of art isn’t like a fortune cookie which can be cracked open, its message to be plucked out and read aloud over dessert. Instead, a work of art is like a deep, active pond into which you can cast your line and draw up any number of things, depending on the season, the time of day, your skill as a fisherman, and your willingness to wait.

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Image: “Penelope” by TheoJunior via Flickr (Creative Commons)

 

What I’ve learned from my mistakes as a writer

Someone recently asked me, “Did you even stop and think about what would happen if you wrote what you did?” Many years ago, the answer would probably be, “Nope.” It just popped into my head, so I wrote it.

Today, the answer is almost certainly, “Yes, I thought about it all night long.” And I prayed about it; I probably ran it by some trusted editor friends; and if it was a tricky subject, I probably shed some tears. It’s exhausting, but I consider it part of my job.

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Image by stevepb via Pixabay (Creative Commons)

Learning to live as a baptized person

It was a kindly old priest in Coke bottle glasses, a matter-of-fact French Canadian servant of God with no desire to act as Grand Inquisitor. But his simple, basic questions did the job they were intended to do: They let us know that this was real, this was serious, and our responsibility was not going to go away.

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Five pieces of advice for pastors (and a thank-you)

Last week, a priest responded to the article “Five Rules for a Royal Bride” with a humble request: “I wish Catholics in the pews would write us new pastors and new ordained priests advices like these! Y’all help us to be men of God, men for others, and men that have joy in their lives! Send me your five advices before I become pastor . . .”

Can do.

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Image by photographer Matthew Lomanno, part of his visual essay North Country Priest. Used with permission.

Our personal apocalypse is the only one worth tracking

The only sins that matter for our personal salvation is the sins we personally commit. The only penitence we are responsible for is our own personal penitence. The only apocalypse that we should have our eye on is our own, personal apocalypse.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image: Last Angel by Nicholas Roerich,  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons