The Domestic Church

Here’s something shocking that the bishops said about marriage—not the bishops in the Synod in Rome right now, but the Fathers of Vatican II. In Gaudium et Spes, they said that the task of being a father or mother is a munus, a Latin word that means service, gift, duty, and office. Continue Reading »

No Fear Mysticism

Walk into any Barnes & Noble and it won’t be long before you’re confronted with rows and rows—and rows—of self-help books, all different and yet all the same. They’ll usually have covers with a blown-up torso-up shot of their respective authors, arms crossed, sporting an immensely self-satisfied pearly white grin, or at the very least a knowing, penetrating look. They’ll almost certainly have titles which include colons, such as–and I’m now culling from a random selection of books that have been published within the past few months–“Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message,” “Goals Suck: Why the Obsession with Goal-Setting is a Flawed Approach to Productivity and Life in General” (note that this author is making a valiant effort to be different), “Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative,” and on and on. There are also often numbers involved, because steps are comforting. Joel Osteen is the king of these—“Your Best Life Now Study Guide: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential,” “Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day,” etc. Even “Religion” and “Theology” sections of bookstores seem to have been encroached upon by this insidious book breed, so much so that I’ve often seen about one hundred titles like, “Sow and Grow: Planting God’s Word and Manifesting a Breakthrough” and only two or three of the spiritual classics a la Thomas a Kempis’s “The Imitation of Christ” or Augustine’s “Confessions”—and those tucked hastily into a corner. Continue Reading »

Catholic Writers Take Notice

One year ago, in the December 2013 First Things issue, Dana Gioia regretted the decline of the Catholic writer in America. Whereas the mid-twentieth century literary scene was packed with Catholics (Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, Walker Percy, Jack Kerouac, Donald Westlake, Allen Tate, Robert Fitzgerald, Claude McKay, Claire Boothe Luce, Robert Giroux, Hugh Kenner), Gioia noted, today’s “aggressively secular literary culture” allows for only a few of them (Alice McDermott, Tobias Wolff, Richard Rodriguez). Continue Reading »

Catholicism, Sex, and Marriage

The Extraordinary Synod on the Family issued an interim “relatio” yesterday. This is a document meant to sum up the current state of discussion among the gathered bishops. George Weigel has written a definitive refutation of the media’s spin, which, predictably, interprets every sane (and commonplace) pastoral observation about the need for the Church to welcome sinners and accompany them in their efforts to seek sanctity as a sea change in Catholic teaching on sex and marriage. Continue Reading »