Browsing News Entries

Browsing News Entries

World Mission Sunday: What It Means and Where We Serve

As the Catholic Church around the world prepares to celebrate and support Pope Francis’ World Mission Sunday (October 24), Word on Fire Communications Director Will Sipling interviewed Monsignor Kieran Harrington, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, who provided some interesting facts and compelling comments about evangelization and the Great Commission.  Will Sipling: What are the Pontifical Mission Societies? How are they different from other missions or evangelistic organizations? Monsignor Kieran Harrington: We are the pope’s own mission societies, helping him, along with the bishops, to raise awareness of the Church’s missionary work around the globe and gather support for the 1,100 mission dioceses, mostly in Asia and Africa, but also in Oceania, as well as in remote regions of Latin America and parts of Europe. Each of the four Pontifical Mission Societies had at their founding and to this day a particular focus: …

“Dead Poets Society” and the Crisis of the Humanities

The following piece, “What We Stay Alive For: Dead Poets Society and the Crisis of the Humanities” first appeared in the Autumn 2021 issue of Evangelization & Culture, the quarterly journal of the Word on Fire Institute. You can learn more and become a member today to read more pieces like this. It is a strange thing to return to a coming-of-age story having doubled the age of the angsty protagonist.  I learned this lesson recently upon rewatching Dead Poets Society, the 1989 drama starring Robin Williams as John Keating, an unorthodox poetry teacher who shakes up a stodgy all-male prep school in the late 1950s. Peter Weir’s film was naturally a hit with teachers—according to Ranker.com, it is the #1 film for and about teachers—and I suspect that it has been screened for thousands upon thousands…

When Hating God and the World Seems Reasonable

There are times when, all too innocently and because we have not been mindful of what is before us, we give too much license to a dead past that cannot be changed, and then we lose our handle on things. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, we conjure from the ether of our past a solitary-but-sharply-outlined idea, and then, one after another, memories begin to fall upon us, like bright orbs called from galaxies far beyond and much better kept in the distance. Our disappointing families and imperfect friends, our closely held secrets and sins and sorrows and regrets, given too much free reign, begin to dominate us. They wreak havoc on our emotions and then begin to drain our spirits until we have no willingness to fight but are just depleted and depressed—all trust, all hope diminished. When we get to that place, we begin to hate…

Kanye’s “Donda”: Still Christian, Still Meeting Many Where They Are

“This the new me, so get used to me.” So raps Kanye West on his long-awaited tenth studio album Donda, named after the rapper’s late mother, who passed away in 2007. It’s a fitting tagline because by now, many of Kanye’s old fans probably expected him to stop being so Christian, and many of his newer Christian fans probably expected him to stop being so . . . well, Kanye. But Donda offers ample evidence that he is still very much both: a man wrestling with his past, forging through the present, and thirsting for more of the grace that finally perfects nature. The album dropped with no small amount of controversy and confusion: delayed release dates, multiple album covers, a public feud with fellow rapper Drake, and no less than three dramatic listening events, which…

St. Luke: A Good Reader, Observer, and Listener

The following is the introduction to the Gospel of Luke from The Word on Fire Bible (Volume I): The Gospels, the first installment of the forthcoming collection. You can find the Bible in three different styles here in the bookstore: https://bookstore.wordonfire.org/collections/bible  What are we to make of the Gospel of Luke—a Gospel traditionally believed to have come from the hand of a Greek physician (the same man who wrote the Acts of the Apostles) and whose words comprise nearly a quarter of the New Testament? We could do the usual research and access plenty of information about how and where it is sourced, but if we approach Luke and his “Good News” simply as curious readers and thinkers, then it is self-evident that the writer is intelligent. It is also clear that he is deeply read, because what Luke delivers is the…

Horror and Catholicism: Hounds of Hell Show Up for “Midnight Mass”

Midnight Mass is a seven-part, supernatural horror series for Netflix about a predominantly Catholic island, long in decline, that is suddenly and miraculously reinvigorated. Creator and director Mike Flanagan’s previous offerings for streaming include The Haunting of Hill House (2018) and The Haunting of Bly Manor (2020), along with feature films including Doctor Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. Flanagan was raised in the Catholic Church, and he recently told an interviewer that sometime between his first communion and Confirmation, he began asking his parents, “If we’re drinking blood and eating flesh to stay alive forever, aren’t we vampires?” Midnight Mass explores weird but apt questions like this one. But the show also goes beyond weird into…

Carrying Things to Term: Why Patience Is So Difficult

It was pretty awkward. They all just stood there staring at me. And the sweat just trickled down the back of my neck. Let me start by saying that it had been a long night. I was a freshly minted third-year medical student. Awash in book knowledge but bereft of experience, I began my internal medicine rotation at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, with my short, white medical student coat stuffed with books, a stethoscope, and a reflex hammer. Of course, I would be on overnight call the first day, and, as luck would have it, I would get the complicated late-night patient admission: a seventy-three year old woman with new-onset thyroid storm. Susan (let us call her) came into my life with a plethora of complaints, including sweats, weight loss, a racing heart, heart failure (and swelling from her toes to her hips),…

John Henry Newman: Patron Saint of Novelists?

St. John Henry Cardinal Newman, famous for his conversion from Anglicanism to Catholicism, is widely known as a gifted thinker and writer, with his powerful and incisive intellect demonstrated in closely argued scholarship, such as Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, A Grammar of Assent, and The Idea of a University. He was also a powerful preacher and writer of prayers and devotional pieces (many collected in Meditations and Devotions) that are readily engaging to any reader. What is perhaps slightly less well known is that he was also a poet and novelist. Newman is the author of Loss and Gain, an autobiographically-inspired story of a young man at Oxford becoming convinced of the truth of Catholicism, and of the historical novel Callista…

2 Great Books to Complete the Year of St. Joseph

When Pope Francis declared 2021 to be the Year of St. Joseph, many of my Catholic friends expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity to focus more intently on the foster father to the Christ and spouse of Mary, the Theotokos. Although popes and bishops and saints, to a one, have expressed admiration and spiritual gratitude to Joseph (with some, like Teresa of Avila, declaring that petitions to St. Joseph always redound to the good), many Catholics will confess themselves a bit puzzled by that enthusiasm. In fact, they will say they are puzzled by Joseph himself, largely due to his perceived silence throughout Scripture, where none of his speech is quoted. “We don’t know him,” a colleague of mine said, as the dedicated year began. “It feels like everywhere you go in this diocese, you see another parish named for Joseph, but I’ve never…

Passing on the Faith Through Storytelling

Faithful parents are rightly stressed about handing on the faith to their children—an always risky proposition, for we have no idea whether the story of salvation will take root in good soil or somehow end up amid rocks as yet unseen—and hence, the need for guidance in the art of religious parenting.   Only decades ago, families felt confident that the faith would be successfully handed down from generation to generation within the family, particularly when the culture of faith itself was alive within families and whole neighborhoods in a way it no longer is. But parents now must make a conscious effort to pass on the faith to their children. Each parent has a different approach. Some get overly involved, forcing every moment to be a catechetical opportunity, while others take a more laid-back approach, either leading by example or perhaps fearing that offering too much…