Learning to pray, again

How strange that it’s still so hard to pray. How strange that I have to learn it over and over again. Maybe some people take to it more naturally, but I constantly find myself coming to it like a rank amateur, making silly mistakes, sheepishly repenting, and starting over again.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image: detail of photo by By Chris Creagh (Creative Commons)

Nothing looks pretty when it’s still becoming

What is our final project? Ah, that’s the tricky part. If I’m making a lobster costume or a vampire costume, I have a general idea of how it needs to look when it’s done. But when it’s our own selves we’re working on, there is less clarity, less certainty. We’re not in the process of making a costume or a disguise; we’re in the process of becoming who we are meant to be. If we have a clear picture in our heads of who we’re meant to be — or, even worse, if we think we’ve already become it — we’re probably wrong. Sorry!

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image of unfinished Godzilla costume courtesy of John Herreid

Napoleon at the baptismal font

There’s really no sense in saying, “I’m interested in Christ, but only a little bit, please.” You gotta go all in.

So where do Napoleon and his crown-grabbing ways fit it? Well, I have seen a good number of Catholics who strongly identify with Catholicism and are heavily involved with other Catholics. The drive and hunger is there. But as soon as it comes time to kneel and accept something good and meaningful from God, they don’t just gleefully, joyfully go for it. Instead, they grab it out of his hands and bestow it on themselves.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image: Marie-Victoire Jaquotot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons)

The Weight of Bells

It is an honor to be there, inside the church, under the steeple. But not all honors are easy to bear.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Photo via Maxpixel (Public Domain)

Knowledge should make us humble, not impatient

Check out the epistles, written to Christian communities that had already been catechised: Half of these letters have the very distinct air of a fifth-grade teacher whose class has no idea how to do long division even though they just spent the entire month on it, but darn it, she will go ahead and tell them again because that is what she is here for.

That is what we are all here for. If we know something good, we have to tell it over and over and over again because God knows we needed to hear it more than once ourselves.

Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine.

Image: Jaysin Trevino via Flickr  (Creative Commons)

Give up your pride. Only God saves.

The central problem the fellow was grappling with wasn’t lust, it was pride. There’s no such thing as protecting your wife by sinning. The only way out of the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” conundrum is to take yourself out of the center altogether, to admit defeat, to seek personal repentance, and to let God work out how to bring salvation out of that humility. The fellow couldn’t make any progress with his sexual compulsions because he was trying very hard to make sure he was still in charge — not only of his own behavior and his own soul, but his wife’s soul, as well.

Read the rest of my latest from The Catholic Weekly.
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Image: Daniel R. Blume via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Mite makes right

There’s a reason treasure is more popular than pennies.

But woe to me if I keep on being snarky to someone who is trying hard to make amends, trying hard to be a better person. I wouldn’t smack a coin out of the hand of a widow who’s being as generous as she can be, and I shouldn’t despise a message like the one I got. I should, in fact, follow his example.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image by Erica Zabowski via Flickr (Creative Commons)

God Almighty in the crumbs

If God is so great, eternal and omnipotent and omniscient and all, why the heck does He care about a few ounces of processed animal protein? What difference could it possibly make? What kind of infinite deity even notices stuff like that? And how in the world can you say that God is love if He cares about hot dogs?

Read my latest at The Catholic Weekly.

The samurai martyr and the sex abuse scandal

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Where do we go when we as a church are caught persecuting ourselves? How do we respond when the aggressor lives within our walls, and when the criticisms of our church are accurate and true? When the enemy of the faith is a hostile outsider, our course seems clear: we fight back, to defend ourselves and our church. But this is a different matter.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly of Australia.

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Image: detail from woodblock by Hokusai(?)

Catholics with a Past

“The man who has not suffered, what can he possibly know, anyway?” says Rabbi Abraham Heschel. He may be onto something. When we look for insight and understanding, we go to someone who has been wronged, and who has come out stronger and wiser: survivors of wars, genocide, concentration camps; people who have overcome massive disabilities; people who have been abused and outcast, and who have responded with love, gentleness, generosity, and wisdom.

But what about the man who caused his own suffering? The man who has been selfish, foolish, ugly, cruel, and who has suffered because of his own willful sins?  What can he possibly know, anyway?

Read the rest at the Register.