All posts filed under: Blog Posts

Winston Churchill’s Dark Night of the Soul

SPOILER ALERT: This review does indeed contain spoilers. Darkest Hour is a compelling dramatization of the life of Prime Minister Winston Churchill during the time between the resignation of his predecessor, Neville Chamberlain (which coincided with the German invasion of Holland, Belgium, and France), and Churchill’s famous “We shall never surrender” speech to the House of Commons following the evacuation of the defeated British army at Dunkirk only a few weeks later. During this short period, the Allies experienced their worst defeat of World War II. However, the slow-motion disaster unfolding in France and the low countries is mostly in the background; the focus of the film is on Churchill, and his lonely struggle through Britain’s darkest hour. That struggle may truly be said to be a spiritual one. From the beginning, Churchill must contend not only with the collapse of the Allied forces, but also with the mistrust of his king and growing opposition from his political colleagues, several of whom wish to give up the fight and negotiate a peace with Hitler. The …

The 2018 Best Picture Nominees and the Script of Transcendence

The nominations for the 90th Academy Awards were announced on 23 January 2018. In recent years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences received harsh criticism for a lack of diversity among its nominees which many interpreted as an indication of the Academy’s lack of cultural awareness in general, and many people have simply written off the Oscars as an awards show that only means something for people of a certain gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation. This year, thankfully, the nominees include a more diverse array of incredible talents, but the perennial conversation serves as a reminder of the fact that movies and awards, like most everything else, have become politicized, and it’s not necessarily the best picture that wins “Best Picture.” But, in the end, it doesn’t really matter which film wins the top honor year after year, for in reality, every film in the category is worth our attention for one reason or another. What matters is the fact that the stories told in these movies have the potential to change …

Christians Dare Not Shirk the Work of Ecumenism

Hope, of course, is a theological virtue—a gracious gift of God. It is not the same as optimism. This is a useful distinction, and goad, for many aspects of the Christian life. We are not our own but belong to the Lord Jesus. Accordingly, we might say that our future is not our business: it is given over to God. More than that, we should expect to be led, at least in part, where we do not want to go (John 21:18). Jesus said these words to Peter as a prophecy of his martyrdom, but they equally apply to every interesting aspect of our Christian lives, just insofar as God uses our circumstances to shape and mold us into the persons he would have us become—in marriage and within families, in close friendships, as we engage political and societal questions, as we combat sin within and without, and as we both gratefully and wearily take up our work. My teacher Brevard Childs taught us in our study of Scripture to pray that the Holy Spirit …

Bestowing Charity Hastily

Mary of Nazareth is at once the Mother of God and the first, perfect disciple of her son. In her willingness to patiently await the arrival of God’s word in her life, and her subsequent haste in acting upon God’s word, Mary enfolds the pattern of receiving and responding to the Lord within her hidden life of grace. Those who devote themselves to Mary discover the beauty of this hidden life, learning to receive as she receives and respond as she responds. Two of the most beloved modern saints discovered their own sanctity in this Marian rhythm: Thérèse of Lisieux and Teresa of Calcutta. Childhood devotions to the Blessed Mother shaped the religious imaginations of both Thérèse and Teresa, resulting in a vivid comprehension of Mary as a living mother whose beauty calls for a response of the body and soul. Both proceeded to pattern their lives after Mary, maintaining a posture of generosity to the Lord, participating in the “hasty” bestowal of charity, and thereby experiencing a foretaste of the eternal joy of divine …

African Catholicism: The Birth of the Liturgical Vernacular in Igboland

Catholic missionary efforts on the shores of Nigeria began with an initial attempt by Portuguese missionaries in the 15th and 16th centuries. Though their first attempt was unsuccessful, these missionaries persisted and in the 19th Century, there was a successful expansion of Christian missions in Nigeria. [1]  By the 1800’s, various parts of Nigeria had a rooted Catholic Mission presence. In Southeast Nigeria, Igbo Catholicism began with the arrival of Father Lutz at Onitsha in 1885, and thrived with the efforts of Bishop Joseph Shanahan (1905-1931), and Archbishop Charles Heerey (1927-1967). The mission was dire, as these men had no knowledge of Igbo (the language the people spoke) and were unable to grasp the deep and sui generis religiosity embedded in the cultural life of the people. With resilience and perseverance however, the missionaries ultimately succeeded in sowing the seed of the new faith in the hearts of a people that have since become harbingers of Catholicism in parts far beyond Igboland. In general, the advent of Catholicism in Igboland is divided into three phases. The first phase …

The TOP 25 Church Life Journal Reads of 2017

Church Life Journal is back from its Christmas hibernation. We promise that plenty of reading adventures await you on these pages in 2018. But before that starts in full force, take a meditative glance back at Church Life Journal’s most popular posts of 2017. The rankings are based on pageviews. The titles of the pieces are linked, just in case you missed these pieces, or, would like to revisit them. A Happy 2018 to you and yours! Human Dignity Was a Rarity Before Christianity by David Bentley Hart Editorial Musings: The Charism of Infertility by Timothy O’Malley The Perfect Family is an Idol by Anna Keating The Sex Life of Joseph and Mary by John Cavadini Life After Life After Death by Timothy Kelleher 97 Aphorisms Adduced from the Thought of Benedict XVI by Cyril O’Regan Catechesis of the Good Shepherd: Cultivating the Christian Imagination of the Child by Jessica Keating Black Bodies, Kneeling, and the Liturgy by Eric Styles Single Life Is More Fundamental for Christianity than both Married and Religious Life by Michael …

The Hidden Life and History of St. Joseph

Some years ago I got an icon of the Holy Family done by an elderly Coptic nun (German by birth) who lives in a convent near the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. It depicts the flight into Egypt. St. Joseph stands in the center with the child Jesus on his shoulders with Mary at his right and a serving girl at the left. While looking at that icon recently I began to think of St. Joseph. The Eastern Church has a long tradition of honoring St. Joseph in the liturgy but it was only from the early sixteenth-century that he was so honored in the Roman Rite. In fact, it was only in 1847 that Pope Pius IX extended the Solemnity of St. Joseph as a feast for the universal Church. It was St. John XXIII who inserted his name into the Canon of the Mass on the eve of the Second Vatican Council. That belated recognition of the spouse of the Virgin Mary, known in the Gospel as a just man (vir Justus) is …

Stories of Grace 17: Finding Grace Through Adoption

This reflection is the 17th installment of the popular Stories of Grace Podcast: Growing up, bedtime at the Brummond house was quite an extensive ritual. After we took a bath, my mom would let my brother and I pick out three books EACH that she would read to us before tucking us in. One such book that sticks out in my memory is Happy Adoption Day, a short children’s book based on a song. The lyrics to the chorus were something like this: So here’s to you, three cheers to you Let’s shout it, “Hip, hip, hip, hooray!” For, out of a world so tattered and torn, You came to our house on that wonderful morn And all of a sudden this family was born Oh, happy Adoption Day! I have known I was adopted from the time I can recall being able to understand what that meant. I am so incredibly thankful that my parents were always honest and open with me about being adopted, but that they didn’t let it become my whole …

The Church Has a Morbid Streak

I was in my mid-twenties when my father handed me his 1929 edition of Sigrid Undset’s Nobel Prize-winning trilogy, Kristen Lavransdatter, and said, “I think you’ll really like this.” This is typically how my dad makes his book recommendations. He puts a story in your hands and says, “I think you’ll really like this.” It took a few years and a couple of starts and stops to get through this massive historical novel set in medieval Catholic Norway. The tome sat at the bottom of a stack for while, but in the end, I fell in love with Kristin Lavransdatter, which I have often described as not unlike Augustine’s Confessions if the Confessions were written in third person feminine voice and set in medieval Scandinavia. Sigrid Undset became one of my favorite authors because her writing reveals that rare perception of the pain and beauty of St. Paul’s words in the Letter to the Romans: “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.” Without affect, sentimentality, or illusion her writing expresses the realities of the …

What is the Catholic Worker Movement?

1. What is the Catholic Worker? What is its charism? The Catholic Worker is a lay movement that was started by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the 1930’s in New York City. Dorothy was an anarchist journalist and a labor activist, and Peter was a working-class, itinerant philosopher. They met in the winter of 1932 and by May Day of the following year had put out the first issue of The Catholic Worker, a newspaper that addressed questions of labor, poverty, and nonviolence through the lenses of what we now think of as the Catholic social tradition. From there, they opened the first “house of hospitality,” welcoming the many people made homeless by the Depression in for a cup of coffee, a meal, and a place to stay. They developed a three-point program of houses of hospitality, round-table discussions, and “agronomic universities,” or farming communes where people could learn to grow their own food. Inspired by their example, other laypeople opened houses of hospitality or moved to farms in or near other cities. Today, …