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All Catholic commentary from December 2019

An Advent Meditation

"The priesthood is like Shane. You ride into town. You see a lot of bad. You do a little good, and you ride off into the sunset."

Episode 57—River of the Immaculate Conception—James Matthew Wilson

James Matthew Wilson’s new cycle of poems, The River of the Immaculate Conception, is a reflection on the history of the Catholic faith in the Americas, from Juan Diego to Elizabeth Ann Seton. Its title is the name given to the Mississippi River by the missionary Fr. Marquette. James reads four of the seven poems, explains their relation to the recent Mass of the Americas which inspired them, and discusses the challenges and delights of poetic form.

St. Ignatius of Antioch—Letter to the Smyrnaeans

"Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." 

First Corinthians: Paul’s insistence that we really must grow up

In the first part, Paul rebukes and warns the Corinthians for their worldly Christianity. In the second, he offers spiritual advice on matters that could easily be genuinely perplexing. And in the third, he teaches them about spiritual gifts, including the charismatic gifts, but in a way that sheds further light on what is really the main point throughout: The Corinthians wear their Christianity like spoiled children, and it is time to grow up.

The real reason for postponing Archbishop Sheen’s beatification

The purpose of the ceremony is to provide encouragement for the faithful. As things stand, regrettably, this beatification would more likely to cause discouragement.

A gift to all: Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter on the Nativity Scene

The Pope wishes to encourage the family tradition of setting up a nativity scene and “also the custom of setting it up in the workplace, in schools, hospitals, prisons and town squares.” In this simple wish, the Pope acknowledges that he has ignored the memo from our increasingly secular culture and its leaders. Instead, he begins with St. Augustine’s observation about the birth of Christ: “Laid in a manger, he became our food”.

St. John Henry Newman—Worship, a Preparation for Christ’s Coming Seasons

"The season is chill and dark, and the breath of the morning is damp, and worshipers are few, but all this befits those who are by profession penitents and mourners, watchers and pilgrims."

In a remote Indian village, a victory against persecution

During a frenzy of anti-Christian violence, seven illiterate men were convicted of killing a Hindu leader-- despite the fact that Maoist rebels claimed credit for the murder. They remained imprisoned for years, their appeals ignored by local officials in a region dominated by Hindu nationalists. Now-- thanks largely to the efforts of a CWN correspondent-- the nation's high court has ordered their release.

The Sheen beatification debacle: Why?!

You might not have believed that plans for the beatification of a revered prelate could be turned into another reason to mistrust the hierarchy. But our bishops have managed to do it.

Episode 5—St. Polycarp and the Social Network

St. Polycarp was a man with many connections. He knew the Apostle John, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyon, Pope Anicetus, and the arch-heretic Marcion. He also sought the company of many elders who had heard Jesus and witnessed the Lord’s miracles. Polycarp led a long and fascinating life, and he died a martyr’s death. In this episode we tell his story through his many relationships — his social network in the infant church, which like an infant child was rapidly growing in 150 A.D.

St. John Henry Newman—The Glories of Mary for the Sake of Her Son

“It was fitting, for His honor and glory, that she, who was the instrument of His bodily presence, should first be a miracle of His grace.”

Here’s how to end the CCHD scandals

The moral argument against the CCHD has been made again and again and again and again. Every year the US bishops’ conference insists that the problems have been addressed, and yet every year there are fresh scandals.

The New Advent Feast, Our Lady of Loreto

This December 10 is the first time that Our Lady of Loreto is on the General Roman Calendar. It is very fitting for Advent. After the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, celebrating Mary’s preservation from original sin at her conception, today we are remembering Mary in her Holy House which is now in Loreto, Italy, where she was conceived without sin, and also the place of the Incarnation. These key moments brought us to the season of preparation for the birth of Jesus at Christmas.

Who is most likely to succeed Pope Francis?

The Pope could be thinking about ways to ensure that his policies will survive beyond his death or resignation— that he will ensure the "irreversible change” that his supporters hoped he would bring to the Church.

The So-Called Second Letter of St. Clement

"And let us not merely seem to pay attention and to believe now, while being admonished by the presbyters, but also, when we have gone home, let us remember the commandments of the Lord..."

Toward a deeper understanding of Vatican II

Every Catholic who has struggled to understand the nature and the importance of the Second Vatican Council owes an enormous debt to Aidan Nichols for this book. It is one of the best books of 2019, clarifying many of the human questions surrounding the Council and certainly increasing my respect for the Council’s achievement. The documents should have enabled the whole Church to grow in faith and love—without in the least justifying the widespread errors which followed.

Don’t just defend the fort. Attack!

When a new acquaintance tells you that he was raised as a Catholic but drifted away, because “I had some troubles with what the Church teaches,” you don’t immediately suspect that he is a monophysite.

Episode 58—A Hidden Life Film Review w/ James Majewski

Terrence Malick’s stunning new film, A Hidden Life, is about Blessed Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who was martyred for refusing to swear loyalty to Hitler. James Majewski joins Thomas to discuss the film. He reads excerpts from Bl. Franz’s letters and prison writings, to see how well Malick’s portrayal lives up to the real-life saint.

New Free Ebook: Practical Theology, Essays on Going Deeper as a Catholic

To me, practical theology refers to the basic theological understanding one ought to have in order to grasp firmly the principles of the Catholic Faith and to make orderly progress in the spiritual life. It is not at all uncommon that a faulty understanding of Divine Revelation or Catholic teaching on faith and morals can interfere with our growth in love of God and neighbor and our proper response to the challenges of our culture and our personal lives.

Hope and the Cycle of Life

All hopes are fleeting, except for our hope for salvation.

The O Antiphons: The Fullness of Time

The 'O' Antiphons or Great 'O' are prayed in the liturgy from December 17-23. The letter 'O' at each of these antiphons symbolizes richer meaning with the fullness of time and reflecting eternity. The Virgin Mary as "Madonna of the 'O' reflects this fullness perfectly. And each Antiphon reflects the unending circle by reflecting both past, present and future: Old Testament, Jesus as fulfillment and Kingdom of God fulfilled completely at Parousia.

The single factor that endangers our society’s future

After decades of misbegotten family policies, the US now leads the world— by a wide margin— in the one category most likely to produce societal disaster.

A Eucharistic miracle when Bergoglio was an auxiliary bishop

Two aspects of this Eucharistic miracle have immediately caught my attention. The first is merely tangential, a matter of current interest: The future Pope Francis initiated the investigation. The second is more significant: According to the report I received, it has been scientifically established that the heart tissue from the Buenos Aires miracle belongs to the same person as the flesh and blood at Lanciano

The Vatican’s financial bait-and-switch

For years the Vatican has asked the faithful to support the Pope’s needs, emphasizing his charitable projects— and then invested the returns in London real estate, a shady Italian bank, a bankrupt hospital, and, yes, a film about Elton John

Letter to Diognetus

"This faith, if only you desire it, you can have."

Episode 59—The Glorious English Carol

Did you know that not just any Christmas song is a carol? The true carol, in all its earthy splendor, is a distinctive product of the Catholic middle ages. Yet our forefathers didn’t limit caroling to Christmas: they wrote carols for every season of the year covering the entire story of our Redemption, not to mention secular topics at times.

Episode 6—What’s in a Name? Anonymous Texts from the Early Church

The work of the early Church was largely done by Christians whose names we’ll never know. In fact, many of the most important documents from the first and second centuries have unknown or uncertain authorship. In this episode we examine some of those fascinating documents — the Didache, the Letter of Barnabas, and Second Clement — and we pay homage to our great (though nameless) ancestors in the faith.

Being Single: State of life, vocation, or both?

Some are being called by God to commit themselves permanently to the single state in order to serve Him as He wishes them to serve, but without switching over to long-established vocational categories like priesthood, religious life, or even any organized form of consecrated life.

On the Apostolic Fathers: An Interview with M.J. Thomas

A bit of back and forth about the Apostolic Fathers: Mike Aquilina's interview with Dr. Matthew J. Thomas, who teaches at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, California. Dr. Thomas is author of “Paul’s ‘Works of the Law’ in the Perspective of Second Century Reception.” He earned his doctorate from Oxford.

St. John Henry Newman—The Special Charm of Christmas

"If at any time we might love the world, it is now. If at any time, it is when He is come to be our Emmanuel."

Adjectives

Perhaps the most corrosive effects of evolutionary theory occurs when lawyers misapply them to modern jurisprudence.

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