Word on Fire

  • The Fantastic Voyage of St. Brendan the Navigator
    on May 17, 2021 at 12:00 am

    Having been so blessed as to attend a Catholic high school that put an emphasis on studying the humanities, particularly the classic literature of Western civilization, I was introduced early to Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid and became quickly enthralled by the fantastic voyages of the heroes of the Trojan War and their many colorful adventures. However, I was not aware until recently that a Christian counterpart to these extraordinary nautical sagas exists in the account of the fabled journeys of St. Brendan the Navigator. St. Brendan, whose feast is celebrated on May 16, is venerated by Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox Christians as the special patron of sailors. His deeds are shrouded in legend and little is known for certain about the details of his life. He is thought to have been born in the year 484 in County Kerry, Ireland. By age twenty-six, he was ordained a priest. He…

  • X-Files: 25 Years Later, the Truth Is Still Out There and I Want to Believe
    on May 14, 2021 at 12:00 am

    I came of age in the 1990s. I remember watching the Berlin Wall come down on the cusp of the new age. I remember the Soviet Union disintegrating and the official end of the Cold War. When I was in fifth grade, my dad went off to fight in the first Gulf War. When I was in seventh grade, William Jefferson Clinton was elected president. It was a time of prosperity—the moment of triumph for international market economies and the spread of liberal democracy. The Catholic Church seemed poised to make gains amid the rest of the victories in the culture surrounding it. The American political scientist Francis Fukuyama famously theorized that we had reached “the end of history.” But under the surface, there was a lot wrong. In 1991, a black man named Rodney King was beaten by white police officers, and riots followed in Los Angeles. In 1993,…

  • “How Does One Make a Holy Hour?”: A Helpful Guide
    on May 13, 2021 at 12:00 am

    The most influential chapter of any book I have ever read has to be the one entitled “The hour that makes my day” in the autobiography of Venerable Fulton Sheen, Treasure in Clay. I remember reading it over twenty-three years ago as a seminarian and being so inspired that I too resolved, from that time on, to make a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament every day. Apart from the Mass itself, this hour of prayer remains the fulcrum of my day even still. Recently, I gave a talk to a group of promoters of Eucharistic Adoration in my diocese. These are the good folks who are involved in promoting Eucharistic Adoration in parishes. During the talk, I mentioned that while it is important to encourage people to commit themselves to regularly spending a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, it is also important to teach and guide them how to…

  • Good News: Pope Francis Creates Lay Ministry of “Catechist”
    on May 12, 2021 at 12:00 am

    On the Optional Memorial of St. John of Avila, sixteenth-century Spanish priest and Doctor of the Church, Pope Francis established, by apostolic authority, the lay ministry of catechist. I have to admit that I did not know about this Doctor of the Church before reading this motu proprio, but with a little bit of research, I now see the fittingness of establishing this lay ministry on this day.  St. John of Avila  (c. 1500-1569) re-evangelized Andalusia during a time of ecclesial and spiritual crisis, a time much like ours. The Church was fiercely divided; mammon was unduly adored; doctrinal confusion was rampant; formal training in the faith, amongst both the clergy and the lay faithful, was poor. The list of issues (as in our day) could go on and on. Clearly, the Church needed reforming. But re-form in what? To what…

  • Chris McCandless, St. Francis of Assisi, and the Allure of the Wild
    on May 11, 2021 at 12:00 am

    My wife and I recently re-watched the 2007 film Into the Wild, and this prompted me to re-devour the book upon which it is based. Author Jon Krakauer drew upon his own lived experience of wanderlust and mountain climbing in the Alaskan country to write the bestselling biopic on the life of Christopher McCandless, a young man who left behind his belongings to live off the land of Alaska until his tragic death in 1992. McCandless’ life has inspired some to dismiss him as a self-absorbed, witless fool and others to praise him as a modern Thoreau, heroically eschewing suburban society in the pursuit of the essence of life itself.   Re-engaging with the story of McCandless, I couldn’t help noticing that the fervor that relentlessly pushed McCandless forward was not dissimilar, in some ways, to what drove the equally polarizing figure of St. Francis of…

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