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All Catholic commentary from March 2022

The hopeful trend that nobody notices

We hear often about the severe decline in attendance at Sunday Mass. But I’m reporting that— at least from my perspective— there’s another, more hopeful trend: a quiet growth in the cadre of people at Mass every day.

Review: Man of God

James and Thomas review a new film about the popular Greek Orthodox saint Nektarios, Man of God. Nektarios was slandered and mistreated by his fellow clergy and his patriarch, but bore it all with great meekness. (Mickey Rourke plays a paralytic healed by the saint.)

T.S. Eliot—Ash Wednesday

"This is the time of tension between dying and birth"

Liberalism and the fundamentals of Catholic politics

Liberalism—which is the dominant theory behind politics as operative in the world today—trivializes the Real in the same way it trivializes both tradition and religious belief, that is, by positing that every belief outside of politics is purely personal and idiosyncratic. Thus there are no truths readable either through nature or Revelation which can command more than a private commitment; there is simply nothing there which is essentially public and belongs to the common good.

Preparing for Lent: Seven Principles to Apply

Preparing our Lent is not just giving up or mastering self. Apply these seven principles: 1) God has a plan, 2) Don't Be Anxious, 3) Plan Time Alone with God, 5) It's Not for Show, 6) Learn Detachment, and 7) Connecting with the Body of Christ.

Being a bishop means never having to say you’re sorry

Have you heard of a case in which, after an accused priest has been cleared of abuse charges, he has received an apology from the bishop who suspended him? I haven’t.

126—How Charlie Parker’s Music Changed My Life

Thomas Mirus's relationship to music was transformed in his late teens by exposure to the music of alto saxophonist Charlie Parker. Before he had used music to stimulate an emotional response, but soon he found himself listening for the sake of musical beauty itself, regardless of emotions. Then Thomas explains how to follow the musical form of a jazz performance, and introduces the music of Charlie Parker and the new form of jazz he pioneered in the 1940s and early 50s, known as bebop.

The Putin enigma

Some Catholics in the United States, anxious to find a worldly power—any worldly power!—sympathetic to their own moral concerns, like to think of Vladimir Putin as a kind of Christian knight. But Putin himself rose to prominence as a KGB foreign intelligence operator and he is now, well, a politician. It is difficult to know when politicians really mean what they say. It is even more difficult to assume that because a politician favors one good thing he must also favor other good things.

Wanted: a Covid Truth-and-Reconciliation committee

But it is not Covid— that is, not the disease— that has shut down thousands of small businesses, kept millions of children out of school, driven millions of adults into depression, forced the postponement of important medical screenings, and drastically curtailed our civil liberties.

St. John Chrysostom—Homily 33 on the Gospel according to St. Matthew

“So long as we are sheep, we conquer: though ten thousand wolves prowl around, we overcome and prevail. But if we become wolves, we are worsted, for the help of our Shepherd departs from us: for He feeds not wolves, but sheep.”

Can Joseph cure the Church of today’s chronic infidelity?

Why, I wonder, have recent popes not put St. Joseph in charge of the Church’s effort to cleanse herself from the oppressive worldliness within—not the ordinary worldliness of laziness and personal comfort but the extraordinary worldliness of a professoriate and clergy profoundly infected by Modernism, liberalism, relativism, secularism? Or make it positive: Why not a Josephine campaign to restore Joseph’s most important role throughout the Church: The security of the those within.

First Week of Lent Fly-Paper Thoughts

Beginning of Lent flypaper thoughts. We do not do this on our own, Ember Days, and the time is now. Seize the day.

How Clericalism Happened: A Tale of Theodosius

When asked what's wrong with the Church, commentators from Pope Francis to Russell Shaw will blame an elusive beast named "clericalism." But what is clericalism, and where did it come from? In this episode we track the beast to its birthplace, the Church of the fourth century. Our native guides are Augustine, John Chrysostom, and others — who offer us good counsel for defeating it in our own time.

Ukraine 2022: Fatima, Austria’s neutrality, prayer and fasting

It is hard to disagree with the statement attributed to Benjamin Franklin, that “There never has been a good war, or a bad peace.” But far more importantly, Christians should recall the Beatitude Christ gave us: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).

The Pope’s arbitrary actions belie his call for ‘synodal’ governance

Run down the list of bishops who have been accused of misconduct and forced to resign, and you may notice that a disproportionate number could be classified as “conservative” or traditionalist in their sympathies. Or take the opposite perspective, and look at the list of prelates who have retained in office or even promoted during the current pontificate, despite evidence of misconduct, and notice the preponderance of progressives.

127—Gregory the Great—Chase Faucheux

Today's guest is Chase Faucheux, translator of a recent biography of Pope St. Gregory the Great.

Holy fool: La Strada (1954) w/ James Matthew Wilson

A poor, half-witted girl is sold by her mother to be the assistant of a brutal traveling circus strongman in La Strada ("the road"). Federico Fellini's 1954 masterpiece attests to the seeds that can be planted by selfless love, even in the face of abuse and rejection. Condemned by Marxist critics in 1950s Italy, the film found a better initial reception in the United States, where viewers saw Giulietta Masina's unforgettable protagonist as a "cross between St. Rita and Mickey Mouse".

Christian shame, and Christian hope

One of the great problems in the life of the Church is the assumption that the disasters inevitably brought on by sin are so far off that sinners need not worry about the adverse consequences of their actions. Of course, a Christian ought to see the consequences all around him. But those who rationalize (as most of us do when we sin) are often protected from despair by a blindness to the deep consequences of their infidelity.

On the blasphemy of prayer for victory in war

Most people on the winning side regard military victory as self-justifying. If they do not believe in Providence, of course they prefer victory. And if they do believe in Providence, they generally prefer whatever reading of the meaning of Providence is most favorable to themselves. But of course the victory of one nation over another tells us absolutely nothing about God’s active will. All we know is that He has at least permitted this conquest so that some good can be realized from it.

Bombshell memo to cardinals on next papal conclave

"The first tasks of the new pope will be to restore normality, restore doctrinal clarity in faith and morals, restore a proper respect for the law, and ensure that the first criterion for the nomination of bishops is acceptance of the apostolic tradition."

St. Patrick—His Confession

"You can judge and believe in all truth that it was a gift of God. This is my confession before I die."

Directing Man of God—Yelena Popovic

James and Thomas interview Yelena Popovic, writer and director of the new film Man of God, about the Greek Orthodox saint Nektarios of Aegina. Man of God will be in select theaters in the U.S. on March 21 and 28. At 17, Yelena left Belgrade, Yugoslavia to escape civil war. She ended up as a model in New York City, and then in L.A., where she learned the filmmaking arts. Parallel to this artistic journey was a spiritual one, which ultimately led her to make a film about St. Nektarios.

Justice and War in Ukraine: Part I

The Russian invasion is indefensible; our sympathy for the Ukrainians is both natural and healthy. But not every step that we could take on their behalf would be prudent or morally licit. The sins of the West are scarlet, but Russia’s aggression is not a remedy for our faults.

Maurice Baring’s C.

Given C.’s upbringing, which was minimal, and the lack of parental affection shown him, which was in many ways normal for the class and the period, this lack of drive is understandable. Clearly there is much of Maurice Baring in C., and key traits of many other characters are thought largely to have been borrowed from Baring’s friends. Baring himself insisted that he took personality traits from a great many people, and combined them differently in his characters.

128—As Earth Without Water—Katy Carl

Katy Carl, author of the excellent new novel As Earth Without Water and editor-in-chief of the Catholic arts journal Dappled Things, joins the show to discuss the novel and the state of the Catholic literary scene.

The Act of Contrition and Personal Health

Schedule a Confession with your annual medical exam. There are usually several doctors and priests to choose from. Choose competence and doctrinal orthodoxy. Or schedule your annual physical with your Lenten Confession.

When the Pope breaks the rules

Pope Francis himself wrote: “I am saddened by abuses of the liturgy on all sides.” Yet here the Pope displayed the same cavalier attitude toward liturgical rules that he deplored last July.

On just war, the Pope contradicts himself

“There is no such thing as a just war; they do not exist,” the Pope said last week. This week he reportedly told Ukrainian President Zelenskyy: “you must defend yourselves.” How, if not by warfare?

Catena — The Chain that Set Scripture Free

Ever wonder how Bible study was done in the early Church? It was done with chains. The CATENA did the work that Bible software does for us today. It did the work of concordances and even entire shelves of commentaries. Catena is Latin for chain, and the links in these long-ago chains were extracts from the sermons and letters of earlier interpreters of Scripture.

New Apostolic Constitution: He who has ears, let him hear!

The inaction of the Curia should never be an excuse for a bishop to do nothing or to do the wrong thing, any more than the action of the Curia should be an excuse to disclaim any responsibility. Every bishop should both defend and advance the Catholic faith as the very core of his mission, and must recognize that curial structures make comparatively little difference in the exercise of that responsibility.

Fatima Today: In Defense of Private Revelation

The first part of this article is a reminder of the essential importance of Fatima in our time. The second, and longer, part corrects a misunderstanding of private revelation held by many—namely that whatever falls into this category can make no claim on our mind or conscience, and that it is a matter of indifference whether we pay heed to it.

129—Fatima Today: In Defense of Private Revelation

Thomas Mirus reads his article "Fatima Today: In Defense of Private Revelation". The first part of this article is a reminder of the essential importance of Fatima in our time. The second, and longer, part corrects a misunderstanding of private revelation held by many—namely that whatever falls into this category can make no claim on our mind or conscience, and that it is a matter of indifference whether we pay heed to it.

Justice and War in Ukraine—Part II: What Putin Wants

“The most dangerous thing on earth is a great power that refuses to act like a great power.”

St. John Henry Newman—The Reverence Due to the Virgin Mary

"For, truly, she is raised above the condition of sinful beings, though by nature a sinner; she is brought near to God, yet is but a creature, and seems to lack her fitting place in our limited understandings, neither too high nor too low. We cannot combine, in our thought of her, all we should ascribe with all we should withhold."

A treat for today’s feast

Father Imbelli remarks that the medieval mind had an intuition that “the personal and the cosmic are inextricably linked.” If we lack that important recognition today, is it because we are not fully prepared to acknowledge the message of the Incarnation?

Bishop Conley’s bid to foster apostolic Catholicism

James Conley, Bishop of Lincoln, grasps the reality that in today’s world, everything is seen on a material plain, as a series of elements subject to material manipulation to get whatever we want. Manipulation of “nature” is in high demand, but genuine personal fulfillment remains elusive. People do not even understand what a person is. In such a culture, the Church must commit herself once again to a truly Apostolic form of mission.

The comedies of Preston Sturges w/ Anthony Esolen

Poet, translator and cultural commentator Anthony Esolen joins James and Thomas to discuss two classic comedies by Preston Sturges: Sullivan’s Travels (1941) and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944). Sturges wrote dialogue that is fast, sharp and snappy, but never flippant or glib. He was virtuosic in navigating dark material with a light touch, and able to switch seamlessly between pathos and humor, ending up in a place of warmth and graciousness without sappy sentimentality.

Opposition Research

We all feel the need for allies to protect our reputations from abuse and distortion… After returning to his family, the Prodigal Son needed such an ally.

Military preparedness is not a sin

Doubtless everyone would prefer that their taxes be used for the benefit of families, healthcare, work and to fight poverty and hunger, instead of for military spending. But families, healthcare, work, and material well-being in Ukraine are currently being destroyed because the Ukrainian government did not put itself in a position to deter a Russian invasion.

False advertising in Vatican document on Catholic identity in schools

When questions arise about a school’s Catholic identity, a bishop’s first instinct should be to rush to support faithful Catholic parents. In practice, however, bishops usually choose to support the school administrators, helping them to ward off the concerned parents.

Mike Aquilina’s new book series on the Fathers of the Church

Mike can cover more material in these books, which also make better long-term references for family and friends, without sacrificing his trademark entertaining style.

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