God is Bigger Than …

I just finished taking a Soul Beliefs class through Coursera. When talking about the course to my husband, I would jokingly refer to it as, “The class that’s teaching me that I don’t have a soul.”

You see, I went in expecting a comparative religion class. What I got was something along the lines of “the psychology of spiritual belief,” and I probably would have taken the class even with that title. But it was essentially a psychology class, most of which covered ground I’d already covered (the only thing that kept me from a major in psychology was my unwillingness to take upper-level stats classes, so I ended up with a very heavy minor). What’s more, it essentially used psychology to “explain away” religious beliefs. In addition to the class lectures, we were required to watch a two-hour discussion amongst the four leading atheists thinkers, and then another full-length documentary about the battle of evolution vs. intelligent design. The conclusion was essentially this: God doesn’t exist because everything we used to attribute to God is now explained by science; and the soul doesn’t exist because everything we once attributed to the soul we now know happens in the brain.


Yes, but.

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The saint who helped bring me back to the Church

When it came to be time to select my confirmation name, I chose John.

Officially, my choice came from St. John Berchmans, the patron of altar servers. But in reality, I wanted to have a simple name, so I went with John. I had an apathetic faith, so it made sense that I should choose an apathetic name to go with an apathetic confirmation.

Blessed John XXIII

Soon-to-be Saint John XXIII

Perhaps something was preparing me for a different John, one who would not become a canonized saint for another 18 years. That John, Pope John XXIII, will be canonized next Sunday, along with Pope John Paul II.

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P04-12-14_18.09Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!

Exult, all creation around God’s throne!

Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!

Sound the trumpet of salvation!

In high school, we took a theology class called “Jesus of History, Christ of Faith.” Early in the semester, we had to write a paragraph about who we thought Jesus was and what we thought he came to do.

I wrote a few sentences. It was something standard, boilerplate. Jesus was sent by the Father. He saved us from our sins by his blood. He won our place in heaven for us.

I finished the exercise. I passed it up to the front of the row. As I did, I remember thinking ever so briefly: “Wait. Do I even know what any of this actually means? Why did it feel so dull and flat when I wrote it?” Read more of this post

Time to make peace with St. John Paul II

When the Vatican announced the impending canonization of Blessed Pope John Paul II last fall, many were thrilled. Many were disappointed. Few were surprised. It was always seen as a matter of when, not if, John Paul Two would get the official halo.

Soon-to-be Saint John Paul II

Saint John Paul II

John Paul II will share a canonization ceremony with Blessed Pope John XXIII on Sunday, April 27. Orthodox Catholics will likely ratchet up to a fever pitch their adulation for the man they call “John Paul the Great” and maybe make a few comments about John XXIII. On the progressive side, we can expect effusive praise heaped upon Good Pope John for creating the Second Vatican Council and lamentation of John Paul II’s (as we see it) demolition of it.

I say we take a step back from the battle lines and offer our admiration of both.

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The Word in Peace, Good Friday: Take Comfort in Discomforts

Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Luke 23:46; Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-17, 25; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42

“Yet it was our pain that he bore,
our sufferings he endured.” - Isaiah 53:4

I woke up groggy and congested, starting a cloudy day alone.

It’s Good Friday.

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The Word in Peace, Holy Thursday: Christian Trifecta!

Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14; Psalm 116:12-13, 15-18; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-15

“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him.” - John 13:12-16

You know what I love about the Holy Thursday mass readings? This is the only time that all three readings describe three unique events that are central to our Catholic faith.

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“Were you there” (a Holy Week photo)

Were you there

“The Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb.” Mural detail from Loop-bound platform, 18th St. Pink Line station, Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Justin Sengstock, August 29, 2011.)


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