Discipleship and Evangelization

Welcome to my index of popular, useful, or easily-misplaced articles on evangelization, discipleship, and related topics.  The initial collection is culled from my writing at New Evangelizers and from Patheos.   Per my standard policy on blog posts, parish and diocesan publications have permission to reprint at no charge, please provide a link back to the original in your attribution, or to this page.  For other uses, please e-mail me at: currentresident at fitzes dot com.

Evangelization and Discipleship 101

On Catechesis: Love and Common Sense “I have a single question for would-be catechists, and it is my failsafe predictor of success: Are you wildly, madly in love? You think I oversimplify? I think you don’t get this love thing.”

Why Do We Evangelize? “Evangelization is about looking at the person in front of your face, no matter who that person is, and gasping in wonder at the miraculously beautiful creation God has endowed with a dignity and a worth that nothing can erase, no matter how deep in the mire that person is swimming just now. You see that person, and you know for a fact: Here is somebody worth dying for.

Lent in the School for Evangelization “During Lent your parish is likely to take on some kind of other program as a sort of evangelization-thingie.  Small groups (I approve), or a parish mission (ditto), or some other worthy pursuit.  These things are good.  But what if your parish isn’t doing one of these programs, or you try it and nothing happens? . . . You need Lent 1.0.  The original Lent.  The prayer, fasting, and almsgiving edition.”

On Evangelization: Even People Like You are Missionary Material  “She’s not exactly walking off the page of that vocations poster tacked up on your parish bulletin board. But Jesus meets her where she is – spiritually out of sorts, physically work-weary herself. Through a gradual back-and-forth, He draws out of her the makings of a missionary.”

What is Discipleship? “Discipleship is hard to pin down because it isn’t some weird extra thing that stands out.  Either you’re a sincere follower of Christ, or you’re not.  If you aren’t, no amount of training and programs will cause discipleship to happen.”

How to Start a Discipleship Group the Easy Way “Having just observed how desperate Catholics are for serious discipleship, I’d be remiss if I left you hanging on how to meet that need. Here’s about fifteen years of experience with discipleship groups across a variety of contexts (evangelical, Catholic, young adult, grown-ups, mixed-generations, mixed-gender, single-gender, etc. etc.) summed up in a blog post that will, yes, actually tell you what you need to know.”

Small Groups: The Best Most Dangerous Thing That Can Happen to Your Parish “What made this group excellent was that it perfectly met the needs – intellectual, spiritual, and social – of the dozen or so members gathered.  By definition, then, it could not be the group that met the needs of everyone else.”

What Makes a Small Discipleship Group Different from Other Groups? “When we talk about “small groups” what we mean are small discipleship groups.  That is: Groups whose purpose is to help each other with explicit concerns about how to live out the Christian faith.”

What Teens (and Everyone Else) Want: Serious Discipleship Time  “By dint of owning a real soccer ball, I had a chance last night to chat with the leaders of a parish youth group that happened to be in the same place I was. Something I learned: The kids are begging for more adults to help with their youth group. Why? Because what they want is small group discussion. You simply can’t get into a deep conversation about your faith with forty other people. It doesn’t work.”

10 Things Christian Kids Need to Prepare for an Uncertain Future “With that in mind, here’s ten things I think my kids need to know, really know deep to the core, if they want to make it through uncertain times. And they are all uncertain times.”

The Mass is Not Your Evangelization Event “We live in a time, though, when the Church is run backward. The Mass is our public event, the one place the doors are open to anybody. And then if you come enough, you might be invited to be catechized. And then, if you’re lucky, you might get evangelized. It’s like liquid being poured into the small end of a funnel. Don’t try to change your oil that way.”

Get Young Adults to Join Your Parish in Two Easy Steps, Guaranteed. “If your method of going out into the world and making disciples is to sit home and hope people show up on Sunday, you aren’t evangelizing. If you aren’t evangelizing, you aren’t serving Jesus.”

On the Forming of Young Christians “When I consider my children’s formation, I have to recognize two terrifying forces in their lives: My free will and theirs.”

 

Christian Community

Catholicism Is for People Who Don’t Fit In “If we are living entirely and only for Christ, everything else in our lives is just details.  Suddenly the person with whom I have nothing in common is the person with whom I have Everything in common.”

I Can’t Do This Without You: The Case for Christian Community “What a pleasure to have a place where we can just be Christians.  Living together, growing in our faith together, helping one another in small ways. Unquestioned.  Supported. Able to live our lives in peace.”

Is Your Parish Your Community? Or Not So Much? “The topic of loneliness and exclusion from parish life came up recently, and I threw down the gauntlet: I don’t think most of us have a real community at our parishes.  Even those who seem so busy or involved or catered to don’t necessarily have much going on in terms of genuine social and spiritual relationships.”

Communal Life in the Parish and Making Time for Our Evangelical Mission “We don’t live together, therefore we don’t serve together. How can we? These hurdles are real. Can we overcome them? Yes, to a certain extent. But we will always be fighting against the barriers of distance and fragmentation.”

Five Steps to Helping Your Pewmates Improve Their Spiritual Fitness “But let’s say you really do want to help coach along one or two friends in the faith: You want to help them get into spiritual shape, but without giving them a heart attack in the process.  Where do you begin?”

Christian Community Renewal for Ordinary Moms “I don’t live in Catholic Wonderland. I live in as typical a corner of American Catholicism as you could hope to make a sitcom about. Since it’s the Bible Belt, we are helped by a culture of discipleship in the evangelical congregations that surround us — but my children’s Catholic childhood community looks nothing like the typical pattern for evangelical kids. We may be buoyed by the surrounding evangelical culture, but our reality is distinctively Catholic not just in the decorations, but in the overall rhythm of interaction. . . Just as the Church can only be built one small soul at a time, Christian communal life can only be built one small invitation at a time.”

How Do You Build a Community of Disciples Who Observe Catholic Liturgical Culture Together?  “No matter what your format, plan to extend approximately ten invitations for every acceptance. Once you have a group going, plan for about twenty-percent of your group to slip off into other pursuits each year. You’ll have higher acceptance, but also higher annual attrition, if you serve a more migratory population.”

Repentance, Mercy, and Prudence “We can’t read souls.  We do need to make wise decisions about how to run our parish ministries. Part of that decision-making process includes making an educated guess about the kind of behavior we can expect from our volunteers and staff. Let’s take a look at different types of ‘repentance’ and what they might mean.”

 

Best Practices – Principles & Case Studies

Liturgy & Evangelization: Lessons from a Church Bulletin “Why do we evangelize? To bring people into a relationship with God. That relationship is expressed in its fullest, here on earth, during the Mass. What we do at Mass is what we have to offer the world. And so I find it commendable that someone would see fit to put so much effort into putting the prayers and music of the liturgy into the hands of those who seek it.”

Case Study: Best Practices in Parish Logistics “My post for today is a variant on the business-school case study, operations-management edition — but instead of maximizing profit, let’s look at a parish that has made a goal of maximizing souls-served. I like this particular example because there was no revolution: Successful practices were kept in place, and changes were implemented slowly and gently.”

Scheduling Evangelization into Parish Life  “Scheduling shouldn’t become a parish gripe-session, in which everyone is encouraged to whine if the calendar isn’t built entirely around their personal needs. There will always be that one person who has a difficult situation and just has to be helped some other way.  It is possible, though, to use effective scheduling as way to add more impact to the ministries you already have in place.”

Anatomy of a Liturgically-Centered Evangelizing Ministry “Last month I wrote in broad terms about how scheduling decisions affect our ability to evangelize. This month I’d like to look at a case study to show how these principles can be applied in real life.”

Survey Results: What Would Make it Easier for Families to Learn About the Catholic Faith? “The responses to the first Listen to Me survey have been astounding so far. If you are charged with the care of souls, could I recommend you do this? It takes about twenty minutes to whip together a Google form, and then you have a free, confidential way to ask open-ended questions that let people tell you what they are really thinking. Even the shy people. Even the people you think you have pegged, but really you don’t.”

 

Catechist Chat

Ignorant Kids, Slack Parents, Tepid Culture . . . What’s a Catechist to Do? “Take a deep breath and get a cup of water ready, because the medicine might be a tad unpleasant going down.  But I promise: If you take it, you’ll feel better in the morning.”

How Do We Learn the Catholic Faith (or Anything)? “Over at Amazing Catechists, I wade back into the religious education debates with a piece laying out what might be a philosophy of education, but really it’s just what I see happening.” These are the entertaining notes on how I wrote the article.  

How Do We Learn the Catholic Faith? “Today I’d like to look at how education, in any subject, works. This isn’t a scholarly piece, and you could take the components I’ve put here and divide them out differently. (I tackled the subject from a completely different angle last summer, when I wrote about the Four Ways of Loving God.) Think of this more as a rough framework to help you think about what you are teaching, and why it’s working as well as it is.” These are the instructive bits.

Evangelize While Teaching the Sacraments “Everything you teach, you put in the context of the Good News. The sacraments are all about your relationship with God.”

Does Your Work as a Catechist Matter? “Catechists, don’t lose heart when everything you say seems to get lost. When you watch a student who was once so eager to learn about God suddenly grow up and move out and completely walk away from the Catholic faith. It wasn’t that you did nothing. It wasn’t that all your work was a failure.”

 

Slackers! They’re All a Bunch of Slackers!

Lousy Parents and the Case for Unkempt Souls “It’s an unkempt soul.  It’s not pretty.  It needs some pruning, some fertilizing, some watering — and it may never be that spectacular display from the garden catalog.  So what?  It’s the one that God put in your parish garden, and it belongs there.”

Religious Ed Parents Who Don’t Come to Mass – What to Say? “A catechist wrote to me privately asking for ideas on how to invite parents to start attending Mass with their children.  Below is more or less what I suggested she consider including in her talking points. . . .”

Tax Collectors and Other Sinners: Family Life & the Place of Wayward Catholics in the Parish “Your parish is full of rank sinners. In functioning as brothers and sisters of Christ, the question isn’t, ‘Who are the holy people I can trust with the work of the Church?’ The question is, ‘Who’s the right kind sinner for this particular work?'”

Taming the Feral Faithful: How to Lure Serious Catholics Back to Your Parish “How do you coax faithful Catholics, hardened into isolation by years of rejection, out of hiding in the pews and back in to service? You don’t even know who these people are half the time.”

Adult Catechesis on the Thorny Issues that Make People Hate the Church “People don’t arrive at the doors of the Church a finished product. It was a year later before my marriage was finally convalidated, and in the meantime I can’t say I was the model disciple. I was eager, sincere, and in love with God, but I didn’t do everything as I should have. I didn’t walk out of that first confession with a perfectly-formed conscience. We learn with practice. Father keeps teaching the truth, and we keep getting closer and closer to it.”

 

Mass is Good for You

Come to Mass Ugly, Please “But here’s the secret about the Sunday Obligation: God doesn’t want you skipping Mass just because you aren’t picture-perfect.”

Is the Mass Just Like Everywhere Else? “As a lapsed Catholic, one of the pivotal moments in my return to the Church was the day I visited a historic Catholic parish as a tourist.  I crossed the threshold into the church, and I felt nothing.  No presence of God.  I knew then that I was in big trouble.”

Death by Liturgy “If people don’t understand the language of the liturgy — symbolically, musically, catechetically — you must teach them. Gently. It takes years to master a new language. For the spiritual traveler, perhaps visiting Liturgy Land for a funeral or baptism, think about what makes you feel welcome when you’re stuck in a foreign country. A few explanations and a pile of reassurance, perhaps?”

How You Get People to Behave at Mass: A Story About What Works and What Doesn’t “What was the different? To Cleric Grumpy, the room was full of offensive people who just didn’t get it. To Mrs. Gospel, that room was full of people Jesus was dying to get His arms around. How do you teach people to respect the Holy Eucharist? By loving God so fully your heart breaks to share the Gospel, your lungs ache, your hands cramp at the thrill of it, because you love the other people nearly as much as Jesus does.”

Three Secret Spiritual Benefits (for You!) of Bringing Your Children to Mass “At ladies’ Bible study this past week we were talking about our prayer lives, and one of the moms worried that with small children in tow, she just wasn’t “getting much out of Mass.” This is a common worry, but it’s unfounded. Yesterday as I watched the mom in front of me do her best with a pair pew-scramblers, I was reminded of the three genuine spiritual benefits that can only be had by bringing wiggly, noisy, naughty children to Mass.”

 

Problems in the Church

Millstones and Mitres: Recovering the Lamb by Forgiving the Wolf “Mercy means forgiving people, and healing our relationships with them, even when they have done something really, really bad. Our obligation to forgive isn’t limited to situations in which the person didn’t really sin. When it was all a big misunderstanding, or an accident, or an honest mistake. We also have to forgive those who freely choose to do really evil nasty horrible life-damaging things. To us.”

Evangelizing in the Face of Dissent “How do we think about evangelization, if our own parish has serious problems in its practice of the Catholic faith?”

10 Ways to Support Evangelization Even When Your Parish Is Falling Apart “Are you the kind of person who lives and practices your Catholic faith as best you are able? Then no matter where you find yourself — in ministry, in ordinary workaday life, or mired in some terrible obscure form of suffering — you’ll be on the job, evangelizing. You won’t be able to help it.”

The Can’t-Be-Bothered Method of Anti-Evangelization “The reality is that families with special needs of any kind — the people who don’t fit in, the people who pose the least little inconvenience — often just disappear from the Church.   If we mean to evangelize, we need to put an end to our can’t-be-bothered attitude.”

 

Priests are the Best

Doing Something Right, Priest Edition “His priest — his father — taken too soon. And so my friend comes and stands before the Blessed Sacrament and weeps the same way our Lord did when His friend was taken too soon. I didn’t know the man. I might have seen him twice in my life. But I can tell from that grief just what kind of priest he was, and I could write a long list of others just like him.”

Good Things Priests Do, Episode #328,345,798 . . . “Were I keen on spinning this I could add all sorts of dramatic conjecture and turn this into a homily-worthy tearjerker. But all that I know for certain is that there’s this priest who did something very good for my daughter. We’re grateful.”

Preaching: What Works? Why Does it Matter? “Conclusion: Yes, Father Longenecker, there is a Santa Claus.  Um, that is, thank you Fathers and Deacons for your willingness to preach, even though you have to preach it to us slobs in your parishes, instead of the people in Heaven who finally have their act together.  Don’t give up now, you’re not dead yet.”

3 Things We Need From Our Priests Before We Can Evangelize “Executive Summary: If you want your parishioners to evangelize, Fathers, there’s not a whole lot we need you to do. Many of you are doing it, and doing it well. Thank you. I repeat: Thank you.  For those who are wondering, ‘Is it me, or is it my parishioners?’ here’s my answer: You bring to your parish just three things, and the laity should be able to take care of the rest.  If you are doing these three things, the problem is not with you. It’s with us.”

Love and Priestly Ministry at the End of Life “She saw all the funeral flowers at the church and tried to figure out where, at eight at night, we could quick go out and buy some flowers of our own to put on that altar in Father’s honor.  She had loved that man. And I didn’t even know she knew him.”

 

Catholic Bloggers Are the Worst

How to Stay Sane in St. Blog’s “We’ve got a new round of Catholic internet drama going, and it hardly matters what the excitement is this time. I’m keeping my nose out of it, because otherwise my post will lose its perennial freshness. Ever ancient, ever new — that’s Catholic craziness for you. Meanwhile, for those who haven’t sworn off iGossip and taken up gardening or macrame, here are my three top tips for keeping your head on straight and your friendships in order, even when someone’s wrong on the internet.”

Behind the Scenes in Catholic Blogging “But in all things, the goal is always and every timeū to point the reader towards a more Catholic understanding of the world.
That’s my background. I say that so you understand the standard I am setting as I answer other questions that have been posed lately about Catholic blogging.”

Me.

A Southern-Style Reversion: Evangelization in the Deep South “Back at my desk, I flipped through the yellow pages.  The next Mass in town would be at 8:00 AM the next morning.  I made plans to arrive late to work.  I would have given up my job to be at that Mass.  There was no resisting.  It was God.  He’d answered my prayer.  I was in.”

Staying Catholic: Jack T. Chick and the New Evangelization “Having to answer these egregious attacks on the Church was the best thing that ever happened to me. I didn’t have the luxury of saying, “Well, I just like the liturgy,” or “This seems to be where God wants me for now.” I had to turn on my brain and find out: Is this faith true?”

How My Parish Youth Group Helped Me Leave the Catholic Faith “My reversion is an aberration. We console ourselves when our children leave the Church by pointing to people like me, who came back. But we’re lying to ourselves. Most of the kids don’t come back.”

The Real Presence and My Reversion to the Catholic Faith “Inside it was bright and drab and unimpressive.  Also inside: The unmistakable, palpable Presence of God. I wished Catholics could have nice churches. But I knew that this artless place was the one for me. Art is good, but God is better. I shouldn’t have to choose, but if I did, I knew which one I wanted.”

Jen Fitz & Pat Gohn – Chatting on Among Women   “I seem to recall I said my usual things, such as, ‘You have to actually believe the Catholic faith. Told people to evangelize, maybe? Stuff like that.  Great conversation.  If you ever get an invitation to Pat’s show, ACCEPT.  She is positively delightful and sharp as a tack.”

Easter, Better Late than Never “Though I be a Triduum-loving girl to the core, and though I certainly did not mean to completely forget my child was supposed to be altar-serving at Adoration on Wednesday evening during Holy Week either, the fact of this year is that I did not darken any church door from the time I walked out with my palm in hand a week earlier until I shook off my umbrella and slipped inside for that evening Mass very late in the day on Easter.”

 

Stories &  Seasonal Topics

A Youth Group Story You Need to Hear “We can’t always make it to our church’s youth group, but my daughter loves it. She says it’s the one place she can show up, and be herself, and people accept her for who she is.”

Mid-Easter Evangelization “If you’re off-kilter spiritually, get yourself back on track by making your physical life match the liturgical year. Put some flowers on the table. Get a nice coffee cake to serve with breakfast this Sunday. Put on the bunny ears if it helps you. If you aren’t already doing so, consider lining up your prayer life with the liturgical year by reading the daily Mass readings, or following along with one of the hours of the divine office.”

Now and at the Hour of Our Death: Agony, Holy Water, Consolation “The elderly next door neighbor was in the hospital, dying, and my friend Janine had volunteered to babysit the great-grandson. . . .”

Confederates and Conversion “If you read the whole story, you’ll recognize the complexity of the man even before his conversion. In history and in evangelization, the person is the thing. There are no living, breathing generalizations, and there never were.”

10 Reasons It’s Safe to Come to Mass this Christmas “All year long, the people who attend Mass every Sunday do this routine where they pass themselves off as holy, pious people. And then, twice a year, the Church runs a test. All these visitors show up, and the regulars lose their regular parking space and their favorite pew, and they have to see these people they don’t even know! And then the pastor looks out and sees who remains smiling and prayerful, and who is maybe not so holy after all. Since repeatable results are the gold standard of scientific proof, you’ll want to inflict your presence on the regulars as often as you can.”

 

Useful Resources

Body + Soul = A Theology of Discipleship “But this book is about something more fundamental.  It’s a book about what it’s like to be human. It’s about the fact that our bodies are the outward expression of our souls, and the way that our souls experience the world.  It’s an exploration of the way the world around us changes us — the way we’re treated by others, the way we treat ourselves, the way we’ve landed in this world, and what we’ve made of it so far.”

Learning from the Experts: Read the Lives of Saints “I can’t emphasize enough the importance of learning about the lives of the saints who have gone before us.  In addition to being fun and interesting — I’ve never yet encountered a boring saint — there are some crucial spiritual benefits.”

Return by Brandon Vogt – When Your Child Has Left the Faith, or Before “Brandon Vogt covers the entire process of helping a loved one discover the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith, from first panicked prayer to the sometimes-messy logistics of settling into parish life. This is the 101 on Evangelization, drawing on the expertise of today’s top Catholic home-field missionaries. Return is a straightforward, readable, realistic handbook ordinary Catholics can use in any situation at home, work, or in parish ministry.”

Culture and Evangelization: Working with the People You’ve Got “The Culture Map wasn’t written for churches.  It was written for business leaders trying to keep their organization afloat while working internationally.  But the Church is the ultimate in cross-cultural, international communities.  I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to help spread the Good News to the ends of the earth.”

Catholic Life Hacks: Truly Last Minute Saint Costume “Catholic mom negotiating tactics, as heard at my house: If you, precious child, will do for me the thing I want you to do but really can’t force you to do, then I, your mother, will find you a saint who is both obscure and disgusting, so that you can shock and confound all your friends during the saint guessing-game at the party.”

How to Teach Kids about the “Straw Man” Fallacy “The kids, of course, grasped this one intuitively. They see it all the time. What with literacy and a presidential campaign on, it’s virtually unavoidable. If you’re in Catholic blogging, it’s the pollution lacing the air you breathe.”

Non-Cantankerous Evangelization with St. Jerome and Team “There’s no shortage of good work being done by all kinds of folk out there. Bazillions of choices these days from firmly faithful Catholics. There’s no excuse not to look around and find the thing that works for your family or your parish.”

Resources for Small Groups: Life After Sunday “Today Sherry Weddell writes: ‘Life After Sunday is a beautifully written, very inexpensive, highly flexible adult small group process that fosters encounter and discipleship and is downloaded directly off Lumen’s website. Inspired by Communion and Liberation. I know the authors!'”

Easy, Effective, No-Cost and Low-Cost Catechist Training “Turnover can be high, and the last few volunteers tend to arrive about three weeks into the new school year.  How do you get them up to speed, and without bankrupting the parish in the process?”

Three Great Ways to Help Parents Teach Their Children the Faith “Lots of good work being done in the field. Alleluia.”

Book Review: The Salvation Controversy by James Akin “The topic of Catholic vs. Protestant views of salvation has come up several times in conversation lately. With that in mind, here’s a reprint of the review I wrote several years ago of Jimmy Akin’s book The Salvation Controversy, published by Catholic Answers in 2001. The book is currently in print in electronic version only, but you can find hard copies used here and there. Read on, and see if you are the target audience. If you’re not, give it a skip; but if you are the likely reader, I’m not aware of any better title to meet your need.”

The Church is No Place for Cowardice – Homily Link “At minute 5:38: ‘The temptation to refuse to witness to one’s faith, and to act according to a well-formed conscience, is a temptation to cowardice for us all. . . . It is not only a temptation for individuals, but a temptation for the Church herself, as she is increasingly pressured by civil authorities and public opinion to be silent on the great moral questions of our time.'”

 

Things Disciples Talk About

The John 4 Lenten Faith Check “Do we believe? When the Lord asks us to trust Him without being able to see the proof, do we believe?”

Paris and the Battle for the World “But our happiness isn’t the careless, conscienceless happiness of the dog stretched out by the fire on a crisp autumn night — however pure and beautiful such pleasures are. Ours has always, from the beginning of time, been a happiness won by sacrifice.”

A Patron Saint for Rabble Rousers and their Bishops “A desire to engage the culture is fine as far as it goes, but it’s a relative (albeit vocal) minority who’s erring on the scrupulous side. The bulk of us are so terrified of being found fools for Christ, or so unwilling to bend our necks, that, like the 4th Century Christians in Barcelona, we’d rather run around dressed like wild animals than be caught too pious at home.”

The Antidote to both Clericalism and Nostalgia “. . . is a thorough reading of the lives of the saints. Don’t pick up one of those sweet-tart packets of platitudes people try to pass off as hagiography. What you want, if you wish to understand the Church and understand the nature of the Faith, is Butler’s Lives, the big version. Here are excerpts from the life St. Beatus of Liebana, who died circa 798, and whose feast came around just recently . . .”

Five Reasons I Love Ashtags. Actually Six. And a Youtube Video. “I like ashtags the same way I have to constantly tell myself not to stare at everyone going up to receive Holy Communion, even though the sight of that, too, makes me happy. It makes me happy to see people making a stab at repentance, even if they’re doing it terribly imperfectly and for all the wrong reasons. It’s still more than nothing.”

So, Mr. Jesus. We Meet Again.  “Andrew, Simon, James, and John aren’t just these random guys that Jesus happens across when he’s looking for a Filet-o-Fish on a Friday afternoon. They’re looking for Jesus, or whomever it is that God has sent as the Messiah. As disciples of the soon-to-be-beheaded John the Baptist, who never was a slouch, they know the cost of discipleship.”

Atheists Advise: Don’t Watch Just Anything, Be Discriminating to Safeguard Your Faith  “Be careful what you let into your home. Think not only about who and what are influencing your children, but what kind of education you are giving yourself. And if you were feeling self-conscious about doing that before, what with people telling you that prudence was really just you being “intolerant” or “close-minded”, now you can point to your friendly local Atheists and observe that you’re just using common sense.”

You Can Have Santa Magic Without Lying to Your Kids “This post is not about ‘mental reservation.’ This is about how it’s entirely possible to have all the wonder and magic of playing at Santa Claus — I maintain more wonder and magic — while still being entirely frank with your kids about the fact that it’s a game. A very good game.”

If It Doesn’t Cost You Everything, You’re Not on the Little Way “Flirt with the dangerous life. Go out a few times. Then settle down and get married to something so good it terrifies. When it feels like you are wheat being ground on stone, like grapes being pressed into pulp, that means you’re doing it right.”

Sinning Bravely: Start Like You Mean to Finish “The tendency is to make sins into little gods. We let the sin own us when we declare it invincible. I cannot defeat it and God cannot redeem it? That’s turning sin into an idol. I fight, God fights, one of us can win this. If not me than He.”

Religion is about Reality – and so is the Black Mass “Serious Catholics aren’t upset about Harvard’s Black Mass because it hurts our widdle feelwings. . . . No. We’re concerned — gravely concerned — because unlike tatoos and piercings and pouty garage-band lyrics, inviting Satan into your life is no stage-play. It’s not the thing you do to show how sophisticated you are. It’s the thing you do if you mean to end up enslaved to a personal force more powerful than yourself, and who will only let you go at unspeakable cost.”

 

Oh Boy, Now You Really Got Me Started

Getting Past a 2nd-Grade Faith with Pope Francis “We have a fear, and that fear is grounded in reality: If you let people do things, they will screw it up. That’s the law. Let people do things, and they will screw it up. But what’s the alternative? Perpetual childishness.”

Where Are You Going, Catholic Church? “The 21st century could be a time when the Church comes alive with saints to give St. Lawrence a run for his money. Could be big. It’s ours to lose.”

Want Religious Freedom? Ditch the Assembly Line and Start Raising Mature Catholics “I’m going to be very blunt.  Pastors and religious educators lament that they cannot offer one-on-one discipleship because they have no mature Catholics to carry out the work . . . and then they continue to pour every parish resource into a system that has proven it cannot produce mature Catholics.”

Gay Marriage, Slack Parents, and Religious Ceremonies: An Even Simpler Solution “I don’t propose that we torment same-sex couples with our notorious bureaucracy until they cave under the weight of it all and flee to the UU. But what if we were to treat our sacraments as something that Christian souls seek when they are earnestly desiring to know, love, and follow God? What if, when someone presented themselves for a sacrament, we were to take them seriously in their request, no matter how utterly unready for the undertaking they seemed to be?”

The Shame that Breeds Helplessness is Destroying Our Parishes  “It seems like Catholics are, almost to a man, terrified of real human beings. We lump people into broad categories and talk about problems that way, as if you ever met a category who was pressured into an abortion, or saw a category turn out at the confessional after thirty years away. ‘Just the other day I was at the grocery store, and I met the nicest category in the check-out line,’ said no one ever.”

Single-Solution Christian Formation is Guaranteed to Fail “The very notion that any one evangelist or catechist could come up with a way to meet the genuine spiritual needs of every parishioner in a sacramental bracket is ludicrous. So why do we keep trying to do the one thing that we can be 100% sure will not work, and we have ample data to prove it?”

#Synod14 – Prostitute Nation and a Jar of Perfume  “When we see lives transformed by Christ, time and again what we see is change so radical, so overwhelming, that you would never guess what had been there before. The Hospital for Sinners isn’t short on cures. We just need to use them.”

#Synod14 – In Which Justice & Mercy Try Dating for a Bit “Mercy never comes in the form of a lie. Mercy brings the truth, the whole tragic, hopeful, glorious truth. It’s not mercy to tell you that your sins aren’t sins. It’s mercy to tell you that yes, your sins are killing you and taking others down in the process, but look: There is hope. Divine hope. Eternal hope. You don’t have to be a slave to this. You don’t have to be condemned.”

Catholic Education: You Can’t Serve Two Masters “For the St. Anodyne’s of this world, there’s a hard choice. To choose to teach the Catholic faith in depth and breadth is to choose to alienate good paying customers. There’s a market for Catholic education, but it’s full of large families with stay-at-home moms and piles of loans from Christendom. To choose to serve that market is to take the risk that you won’t find enough faithfully-Catholic sponsors to keep the school out of the red.”

 

Samaritan womans meets Jesus at the Well, by Annibate Carracci

Artwork: Annibale Carracci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.