Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview


Catholic trials and joys: Collected essays since 2019

Most of the commentaries I wrote over the past three years that remain relevant deal with the problems in the Church today, the ways in which we all feel trapped in the current ecclesiastical and cultural situation, and observations which (I hope) make it easier for all of us to live each day full of Christian hope. These emphases are reflected in the titles of the three new ebooks, all free, into which these essays have been collected.

Just what we don’t need: Catholic ‘fact-checkers’

When every major media outlet is pounding out the drumbeat of incessant and unquestioning support for the vaccination campaign, perhaps there is no great demand for a “Catholic” version of the same fare.

122—Minor Indignities—T.C. Merrill

T.C. Merrill's debut novel, Minor Indignities, is an evocative portrayal of the vanity of undergraduate life at an Ivy League university. Its protagonist, a freshman consumed with what others think of him intellectually, socially and sexually, only makes a fool of himself the more he strains to impress. The novel ultimately becomes a richness of embarrassments whose final catastrophe illustrates the saying of St. Bernard: “Humiliation is the way to humility.”

Funding students, not school systems: a proposal

A $1,000 voucher does not nearly cover the cost of tuition at private or parochial schools. True. But it helps— perhaps more than appears at first glance.

J.R.R. Tolkien—From a Letter to His Son, Michael

"The only cure for sagging or fainting faith is Communion."

55—Isidore of Seville: Last of the Red-Hot Latin Fathers

Isidore of Seville lived at a time when the memory (or fantasy) of a homogeneous Roman culture was rapidly fading. The conquering “barbarians,” the Visigoths, had now been ruling in Spain for centuries. They were no longer foreigners. Rather, a new culture was forming, a “melting pot” of Roman and northern elements. A man of holy ambition, Isidore laid strong foundations for the medieval European culture that would follow.

Jesus is Not an Alien

Parents, ask your kids if they have learned anything practical about human nature the next time they report they’ve watched one of Hollywood’s horror pictures.

Diplomacy in the Church, in light of the Gospel

As the last vestiges disappear of a civilization substantially formed through Catholic influence, it is an anomaly that the Church still has a small territory and still retains a diplomatic role which is generally recognized around the world. This presents a routine way for the Church to advocate with most governments for peace, the enhancement of the common good, and the recognition of her own spiritual liberty. But what if it never goes beyond common ground?

“Everything is yours”—Dekalog: Ten (1988)

James and Thomas finally conclude their look at Dekalog, the series of short films inspired by the Ten Commandments which Krzysztof Kieslowski made for Polish television in the late 1980s. The series ends on a lighter note, with two sons fighting over their deceased father's stamp collection. The film continues the series' preoccupation with the sins of father, making the rueful observation that we often understand and compassionate our parents only after falling into their same vices.

Liturgical Year Volume 2 Released: Ordinary Time before Lent

This liturgical year ebook includes all the liturgical day information for the period of Ordinary Time before Lent just as it appears on It offers a rich set of resources for families to use in living the liturgical year in the domestic church. Resources include biographies of the saints to match each feast day, histories of the various celebrations and devotions, descriptions of customs from around the world, prayers, activities and recipes.

Our favorite books and films of 2021

As usual at this time of year, Catholic Culture's staff lists the books (and in some cases, other media as well) they enjoyed most in 2021.

The backward logic of Traditionis Custodes

If the Vatican is looking for an explanation of the heightened divisions within the Church, and particularly for the latest escalation of the “liturgy wars,” the search should begin, alas, on Peter’s Throne.

Compare and contrast

In the US, over the Christmas season, umpteen Catholic bishops were photographed smiling alongside politicians who support public funding for abortion on demand. Unborn children were not available for comment.

Ariel beware: The Church, its suffering, and its victory

But we must remember that a great deal of what we find in the Old Testament, which is true of God’s activity in Israel historically, is also a foreshadowing of Christ and the Church. Moses is a foreshadowing or “type” of Christ; Israel and Jerusalem are foreshadowings or “types” of both the Church and of Heaven itself. This is why we can read many distressing things, especially in the prophets, as referring to the situation of the Church on earth now, even in our own time.

The Pope’s stalled Vatican reforms

By making so many decisions personally, without consultation, the Pope is systematically draining off the autonomy— and thus the authority— of the Roman Curia.

A Mother’s Love

Tiny tots instinctively run to mom for help, and brave men usually do the same when traumatized. It’s only natural.

“Radical change is coming in the Church”

Archbishop Farrell places his hope in the “synodal pathway” advocated by Pope Francis. But slogans based around new catch-phrases never accomplish anything. What is lacking in the Church in the West is, more than anything else, the Faith. The vast majority of Catholic leaders (cardinals, bishops, priests, religious, professors, and even politicians) are unwilling to embrace, preach and teach the hard sayings of the Gospel, beginning with Our Lord’s claims about His own Body and Blood.

St. Ephrem the Syrian—Hymns on Mary | Hymn Ten

“When He began to cry / she got up and gave Him milk; / she embraced Him as she sang to Him, / swaying her knees until He became still.”

On the humanity of Jesus Christ

To me, in the context of Psalm 110, the phrase “therefore he will lift up his head” implies not merely victory but worthiness of victory. The one who can “lift” or “hold” up his head is the one who has no cause for shame. This last verse seems to say that Our Lord, so often described in the Psalms in terms of his rejection, disfigurement and passion, will now be able to “lift up his head” precisely because he will have drunk “from the brook by the way”.

54—Maximus the Confessor: Where East and West Meet

By the 7th century, Christian thinkers were settling into scholastic methods, systematizing the thought of their Greek or Latin forebears. Maximus represents the best of this movement. Greek by origin, he spent decades in Latin lands. His writing reflected the brilliance of both sides of the Mediterranean. He marshaled resources of East and West to oppose the Monothelite heresy. The emperor pinned hopes on the heresy to unite the empire against Islam. Maximus suffered brutal torture and exile.

Life Stinks. Merry Christmas!

You are on the verge of an honest and humble confession of sin. You ruined the gifts God gave you, and Jesus will help you start anew. He came into the world to save you from your sins. He also created you for a purpose.

The Liturgical Edsel

Whether lay Catholics wanted liturgical reform is debatable (as is the question of whether this new liturgy, the Novus Ordo, actually corresponded to the instructions from the Vatican Council). But unlike the Edsel, the Novus Ordo was never subjected to a market test. Catholics who wanted to attend Mass had no alternative.

The Vatican’s one-way ticket to liturgical reform

Pope Francis has done what his predecessor said could not be done: not quite “entirely” forbidding the TLM, but definitely suggesting that the old liturgy should be “considered harmful.”

Destined For Destruction

The historical defiance of the Jews despite the destruction of the Temple points to a poignant and enduring reality. Some temples are immune to destruction because human hands do not build them.

The ten commandments of liturgy

These ten principles capture an essentially Catholic understanding of how we are to respond to the Sacred Liturgy—an understanding which ought to reduce our own personal preferences in liturgical matters to just exactly that—preferences which, on careful study and consideration, can be recommended to the Church for her official consideration; but preferences which we do not allow to obscure or diminish our own reception of the Divine Liturgy as made available to us through the Church herself.

Who denies the Novus Ordo is valid? Prepare for a surprise.

But for the sake of unity within the Church— not to mention clarity of doctrine— the fact that more than 70% of the faithful effectively deny the Church’s teaching about the Eucharist, the “source and summit of the Christian life,” is surely a more urgent concern than the claim that 0.01% deny the validity of the new liturgy.

True and False Conversion: My Night at Maud’s (1969) w/ Matthew Schmitz

Jean-Louis, 34-year-old Catholic engineer, lives a quiet life studying mathematics and reading Pascal. One day, he sees a beautiful girl, Francoise, at Mass and decides he will marry her. But this pursuit is interrupted when he spends the night before Christmas at the apartment of a seductive divorcee, the atheist Maud, who tests his moral code.

St. John Henry Newman—Omnipotence in Bonds

"My Brethren, it is plain that, when we confess God as Omnipotent only, we have gained but a half-knowledge of Him: His is an Omnipotence which can at the same time swathe Itself in infirmity and can become the captive of Its own creatures... We must know Him by His names, Emmanuel and Jesus, to know Him perfectly."

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