Highlight Wednesday: The Catholic Gentleman

Last time, I highlighted a website designed for Catholic women.  It only seemed fair that the guys got a shout out, too.  “The Catholic Gentleman” provides resources for men to live out virtuous lives while embracing their God-given masculinity.  Like “The Art of Manliness,” it gives general tidbits and how-tos on bringing back manliness in everyday life, but I like “The Catholic Gentleman” especially for its spiritual aspect.  It features sincere and powerful masculine spirituality, inspiring stories of Catholic men, and commentary on important subjects.  As its author, Sam Guzman, says: “Holiness is for men. There is nothing more difficult, rewarding, or manly than becoming a saint. The spiritual life is full of combat, struggle, hardship, and adventure…Catholic men are called to leave mediocrity behind and to strive for greatness.”

The Catholic Gentleman Website

Here are some sample posts:

The Cardinal Virtues: Fortitude

Spiritual Weapons: Three Hail Marys for Purity

And as a bonus:

The Official Catholic Beer Blessing


Even Unto Death

Audrey Assad has recently released a new single, and boy, it is powerful.  When I listened to it for the first time, I just sat in stunned silence, in utter awe of the beauty.  “Even Unto Death” is inspired by modern martyrs, especially the 21 men killed by ISIS in a video released this year.  Since Audrey can explain her own song better than I can, I’d like to first show you her own story.

This song is much more than an anthem of the martyr’s triumph.  It’s much more than a prayer for courage or hope or for even life after death.  It is a love song.  The melody and lyrics depict the soaring of the soul to the Lord not as dead and gone but as the beloved returning to the Lover.  It made me reflect on what it really means to be a Christian martyr.

Usually when people think of martyrdom, they think of death for a belief system, for faith.  While this is certainly an aspect of martyrdom, it’s not the deepest motive of a Christian martyr.  Consider that many of our martyred saints could have outwardly renounced their faith while still “mentally assenting” to all the truths of the faith.  Instead, they decided to witness to the faith out of love for Christ.  They died because they would rather lose their lives than pretend they never knew the One who died for them.

Love is not only the motivation for, but the essential element of true, Christian martyrdom.  Peter Kreeft in his book The God Who Loves You reminds us of Paul’s discourse on love in 1 Corinthians: “If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3)  In his commentary on this verse, Kreeft says: “Even the works of love are no substitute for love itself…You can be a martyr without love: an angry, hateful martyr.  A terrorist suicide bomber is not an apostle of love.”  A Christian martyr has his true merit in the depth of the love that would and did consummate in the gift of the whole self, body and soul.

Audrey Assad’s song has brought out the heart of martyr’s prayer and his powerful witness to love.  With awesome passion and reverence for those martyrs, she has crafted a song that reflects real love, love that suffers but still sings.  I’ve used this song to meditate and pray, hoping that I might be granted the grace to love like a martyr.  I whole-heartedly recommend it to anyone looking for substantial music for prayer or contemplation.

You can get the song on itunes or by pledging to support her upcoming album “Inheritance”.  Here’s the Spotify link to enjoy it right now!

Highlight Wednesdays: Catholic Sistas

Catholic women have a funny habit of instinctively forming communities of support, love, and prayer.  “Catholic Sistas” isn’t so much a blog as it is a community of Catholic women living in the secular world.  It does have traditional blog posts, but it is also filled with resources, reviews, and even a place for prayer requests.  True, the site is aimed mainly at Catholic moms and homemakers, but I definitely have enjoyed and profited from the blog posts.  It’s awesome to see a site dedicated to promoting and supporting authentic femininity.

Check them out! Catholic Sistas

Here are a couple of sample articles as a taste of what they do:

Creating a Monastery in Your (Catholic) Homeschool in Ten Steps

A Call to Veil: The Mysterious Unfolds

Fairy Stories are True

Since I’ve already referenced The Lord of the Rings’ Catholic nature in at least one post and will stoop to any chance to reference it, it’s high time I should address what I take for granted: that just like J.R.R. Tolkien himself called it, The Lord of the Rings is a “fundamentally religious aLOTRnd Catholic work.”  Tolkien was a devout Catholic who did not hesitate to let his faith shine through in his works, especially in The Lord of the Rings.  Both Peter Kreeft and Joseph Pearce have written and lectured extensively on the subject.  I heartily recommend both of them for further reading/research if you are interested in the subject.  However, I wanted to take an approach to Tolkien inspired by a reading of Tolkien’s own essay “On Fairy Stories” and the philosopher Josef Pieper’s book Leisure, the Basis of Culture.  I learned this approach to Tolkien’s infusion of Catholicism into his works from my Philosophy of Education class at UST.  It was so mind-blowing that I want to share the fruits of my paper that I wrote on the subject on this blog.

Josef Pieper’s ideas on how we know is particularly helpful to form the basis of why Tolkien’s fairy stories can teach us anything at all.  Pieper distinguishes between the forms of knowing ratio and intellectus.  Ratio is linear understanding.  It involves logical, step-by-step processing, in which a result naturally follows from premises.  Intellectus, on the other hand, is the understanding which is the “light-bulb moment.”  Like a flash of lightning, you can understand something that up until that point puzzled you, and understanding becomes as easy as seeing.  Pieper names intellectus as the higher form of understanding, and even goes so far as to call it “superhuman,” because it is more of a gift than something earned.  It is a sudden opening of a clouded vision to the brightness of knowledge.

One of the greatest ways to lead and to be led to intellectus is through art.  Art, in all its forms, not only presents a physical vision to the recipient, but the vision of meaning.  It allows artists to share in their own way their moments of intellectus and thus guide and allow the audience to participate in the insight of the artist.  In a collection of his talks titled “Talks in a Sculptor’s Studio,” Josef Pieper says this of the vision and power of artists to convey truth and reality:

The true artist…is not someone who simply and in any way whatever “sees” things.  So that he can create form and image (not only in bronze and stone but through word and speech as well), he must be endowed with the ability to see in an exceptionally intensive manner…to see in contemplation, moreover, is not limited only to the tangible surface of reality; it certainly perceives more than mere appearances.  Art flowing from contemplation does not so attempt to copy reality as rather to capture the archetypes of all that is.

TolkienTolkien has this power.  Moreover, he is consciously aware of that power and uses it to reveal the archetypes of the universe as revealed by God and upheld in the Catholic faith.  In “On Fairy Stories,” Tolkien describes the art of writing fantasy as building up a “secondary world” from the materials of the “primary world” in order to make the things of the primary world clearer: “fairy stories deal largely, or (the better ones) mainly, with simple or fundamental things, untouched by Fantasy, but these simplicities are made all the more luminous by their setting.”  Fantasy’s purpose is to move the reader to the form of knowledge that unveils reality to the mind’s eye: intellectus.  J.R.R. Tolkien’s primary world on which he built his secondary world of middle earth was formed upon the conviction that the Catholic Church contains the fullness of truth.  To leave out the archetypes of this world would not only be to defeat the purpose of a fairy story as he himself understood it, but it would be to produce bad art.

The Lord of the Rings is certainly not allegory nor is it a fable.  It is a fairy story, born from the contemplation of a Catholic artist and presented as an invitation to the contemplation of intellectus.

To see exactly how the archetypes of the world are presented by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings, watch either Peter Kreeft: Christian Themes in ‘Lord of the Rings’ or Unlocking the Catholicism of “The Lord of the Rings” | Joseph Pearse


For further reading:

“On Fairy Stories,” by J.R.R. Tolkien

Liesure, the Basis of Culture, by Josef Pieper

Only the Lover Sings, by Josef Pieper

Highlight Wednesday: Bad Catholic

Don’t let the title fool you as it once fooled me.  “Bad Catholic” (Marc Barnes) is a passionately orthodox blogger, spewing out philosophy and Chesterton quotes in ranting defenses of sanity.  Thoroughly reasonable and enjoyably satirical, Marc skillfully weaves his way through the most controversial of Catholic subjects.  He is one of those “Come for the jokes, stay for the insights” kind of bloggers.  “Bad Catholic” is a perfect read for young theologians and philosophers.

Bad Catholic Homepage

Sample posts:

Why Christianity is Far More Sensible Than Whatever You’re Doing Right Now

Masculine and Feminine Time

Why Silence?

Into Great Silence“Into Great Silence” is a gorgeous documentary on the lives of the Carthusian monks living at the Grande Chartreuse monastery in France.  To achieve a more accurate depiction of monastery life, there is no narrator, no background music, and only one interview throughout the entire two-and-a-half-hour-long movie.  The viewer sees the monks at prayer and at work in silence, while occasionally a bible verse will be presented as a rhythmic meditation on the call to silence.  The monks live and breathe the presence of God, and their lifestyle exudes an air of holiness.  It is a beautiful documentary of the contemplative life that is held to critical acclaim.  So what did I do when I watched it?

I dozed off.

There is something very irking about silence in my 21st century world, one in which I can listen to music anywhere and anytime, where entertainment is usually loud and on a screen, and I can talk to anyone I want instantly on my phone.  Even in the world of prayer, it’s hard to really be quiet.  Silence seems like such an absence.  How can we learn anything from silence if you can’t hear anything in silence?  It feels like being deaf.  Sometimes the way silence is valued is so mysterious and unfathomable.  It is a particularly troublesome concept for me, for my theology-of-the-body-inundated background recoils at the apparent lack of actions of love of neighbor.  I know in my head that silence must have powerful effects and is a holy way to pray, but it is one of those things that my heart finds difficult to accept.


I mentioned to a friend that I had watched “Into Great Silence” and my difficulties with paying attention and understanding its concepts.  She is much wiser than I, and said something that put everything right back into perspective.  She pointed me back to the paradox of it all, that silence really is for relationship, a much deeper relationship than what is built on simple, human words.  Silence doesn’t make sense to the world, but it does on a supernatural level.  When we are quiet, that is when relationship deepens the most, because we allow ourselves to simply BE in His presence.  The Carthusian statutes say this on silence:

Our supreme quest and goal is to find God in solitude and silence.  There, indeed, as man with his friend, do the Lord and his servant often speak together; there is the faithful soul frequently united with the Word of God; there is the bride made one with her Spouse; there is earth joined to heaven, the divine to the human.  (Book 2, Chapter 12)

Silence is indeed beautiful because it is a level of supernatural communion.  But because it is supernatural, it is also very difficult, and may seem pointless or dry.  From what I can tell, only those who practice the way of silence really understand its power.  The Carthusian statutes also admit this:

God has led his servant into solitude to speak to his heart; but he alone who listens in silence hears the whisper of the gentle breeze that reveals the presence of the Lord.  In the early stages of our Carthusian life, we may find silence a toilsome burden; however, if we are faithful, there will gradually be born within us of our silence something that will draw us on to still greater silence.  (Book 2, Chapter 14)

Spending time in silence might very well be like making ourselves deaf, but I think it’s important to remember that it is the deaf that Christ makes to hear.  It is He Who will transform our silence into intimacy.  We need not worry that we are not enough.

In the silence of the heart, You speak

And it is there that I will know You

And You will know me.

Highlight Wednesday: Catholic Stuff You Should Know

In January 2010, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged Catholics to use new forms of media for evangelization.  This podcast, Catholic Stuff You Should Know, is a concrete answer to that call, what the podcasters like to call, a “J10 Initative.”

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill evangelization of some enthusiastic people who don’t actually know what they are talking about.  It was started by seminarians (who are now new priests), and so many of the topics are fueled by what they learn in their classes and their ministries.  Each podcast is full of catholic “tidbits” and fun facts, all of the cool things that make being Catholic so great.  The presentations are fun, enthusiastic, but also deep.

You can subscribe to them here on itunes, and also check out their website here.

Here are a couple of podcasts to check them out!

The Examen Prayer

Bananas or Cupcakes?