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All Catholic commentary from January 2020

The best books we read in 2019

It’s that time of year again! As usual, I’ve invited the CatholicCulture.org staff to list their favorite reading of the past year, not restricted to books published in 2019. And as usual, I’ve included some other media in my selections at the end of this article.

Guess whose Name is missing?

Could someone please explain to me why, on the day that we celebrate the name of Jesus, we don’t celebrate the name of Jesus?

St. Paul tries everything in Second Corinthians

In this second letter, St. Paul tries nearly everything he can think of to induce the Corinthians to make further spiritual progress. Once again he has postponed visiting them in person, in the hope that he will not have to exercise a harsh judgment when he comes. The apostle employs one rhetorical technique after another to prompt change. Interspersed with these various commendations, accusations and exhortations, Paul also teaches a great lesson about the Christian life.

A second reading of the ‘ecumenism of hate’ essay?

His 2017 essay on the “ecumenism of hatred” was an embarrassment to the Vatican: a vitriolic piece, marred not only by its tone but also by its spectacular ignorance about American political affairs.

Episode 7—Shepherd of Hermas: Heavenly Visions & Earthly Morals

The Shepherd of Hermas is the strangest text from the Church’s earliest period. It’s at once a conversion story and a first-person account of heavenly visions. It’s a poem in prose and a guidebook for morals. It exercised a powerful influence in the early centuries of Christianity, especially on the practice of the sacrament of penance.

Bishops and Bribes

That’s nearly $1 million in gifts— large cash gifts— provided by two prelates who are now living in disgrace, to other prelates who remain in good standing.

St. John Henry Newman—The Lapse of Time

“We are now entering on a fresh stage of our life's journey; we know well how it will end, and we see where we shall stop in the evening, though we do not see the road.”

Episode 60 —Princeton Hosts Event Dedicated To St. Cecilia

Princeton University recently hosted and paid for a very Catholic event as part of its annual Being Human Festival. It was a several-hour program dedicated to representations of St. Cecilia in poetry, painting and music, exploring how a conversation between these art forms can stir us to wonder and the contemplation of the Divine. The day’s events included singing the Salve Regina and a dinner in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast it was.

When bishops tell lies

Has anyone ever heard a bishop apologize for a lie?

This week: A surprise in the Pope’s ‘State of the World’ address

This grand papal plan— a response to what Pope Francis called an era of “epochal change”— would involve a serious bid to address climate change, to protect the environment, to stimulate “ecological conversion” of the sort contemplated by the Amazon Synod.

On funding (or dissolving) episcopal conferences

Too frequently, the bureaucratic methods chosen serve to address generalities. The bishop does not personally ignite the purifying flame of the Spirit (“I came to cast fire upon the earth and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49). Nor does he personally and publicly address scandal (“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt 18:6, Mk 9:42).

St. Augustine—Letter to Januarius

“... if any of these customs is common to the whole Church throughout the world, it is the most unheard of madness to doubt that such custom is to be followed.”

Catholicism is even more local than politics

The Church’s job is not to change the world through political advocacy at the macro level. The Church’s job is to make her members holy, so that in all their interactions they live and act as Christ has called them to do. It is in this way that her members will form, in many places, local Catholic cultures—vibrant cultures tangibly different from the surrounding wasteland.

Ep. 61—Liberal Anti-Culture vs. the Western Vision of the Soul (Pt I)—James Matthew Wilson

This is the first of three episodes exploring themes from The Vision of the Soul. In this episode, after giving an account of the roots of liberalism and conservatism, and showing the emptiness of liberal “freedom”, “equality”, and “critical thinking”, Wilson lays out what he considers the six central insights of the Western (Christian Platonist) tradition, culminating in the contemplation of Being as our greatest excellence and happiness.

St. Athanasius—Life of St. Anthony, pt. 1

“Do not hesitate to believe what you have heard from those who have brought you accounts of him; believe, rather, that they have told but little... for it is probable that, when each one has told what he knows, the account will not do Anthony justice.”

We must stop running from reality. But how to begin?

Today it is not uncommon for the younger generation to spend large amounts of time within alternative “realities” generated and controlled by computers. The point is simply that we tend to be divorced from nature and, through the confluence of a number of different circumstances, we find it easy to conceive of nature not as something “given” with a “purpose” but as accidental material to be manipulated in accordance with our own desires.

Ep. 62—Overcoming Catholic Dating Hangups & Social Isolation

We’ve all heard the complaints about Catholic dating. Catholics have trouble with the concept of “casual dating” because they (rightly) see dating as oriented toward marriage but (wrongly) put all that weight on a single date. The “Catholic Yenta” joins the show to discuss the pathologies of Catholic dating and how to overcome them, and explains how she went from helping her friends find their spouses to making matches for Catholics across the country.

How Nicholas Sandmann made the March for Life safer

The leftists might still be out in force this week, doing their best to disrupt the March. But at least now the mainstream media will be aware that if they choose to promote the “two-minute hate,” that decision could prove costly.

Do we all worship the same God?

The furor over the Pachamama figure at the Amazon Synod raises several questions about the tension between evangelization and religious unity today. It raises questions about shared religious ceremonies, the repurposing of pagan images for Christian worship, and commonalities in religious belief. The one that interests me most here is whether it is right for Christians to attempt to strengthen bonds with non-Christians by claiming that both groups worship the same God.

Episode 8—Letter to Diognetus: Intro to the Apologists

Forget the Dale Carnegie course. Here's how to win skeptical friends and influence pagans. Read the second-century Letter to Diognetus. The author's name is lost to history, but his warm, winsome overture still stands as a model of apologetics, the art of explaining and defending the faith. It's good reading, praised by saints and popes for centuries.

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