Book Review: Connected toward Communion

Connected Communion Apprvd.inddConnected Toward Communion: The Church and Social Communication in the Digital Age (Liturgical Press, 2014) is a positive contribution to the ongoing dialogue between Catholic thought and the rapidly changing technological frontier. The book offers an overview of the major ecclesial documents pertaining to social communication and the Internet from Vatican II forward. Zsupan-Jerome’s focus, however, is on how the Church can form lay and ordained pastoral ministers to use these technologies and serve the faithful in the digital age.

She refrains from offering concrete suggestions for the formation of pastoral minsters, which is both a strength and a weakness. While a more detailed plan for formation would have quickly become outdated as technologies come and go, readers may finish the book wondering “what next?”

Zsupan-Jerome augments her analysis with plenty of references to more recent works (both religious and secular) on technology’s effects on the human person and the book includes an ample bibliography.

Recommended for theological and academic libraries.

N.B.: I received a free review copy of this book from the Catholic Library Association. This review was originally published in the September 2015 issue of Catholic Library World.

The Spirituality of the Catechist


Catechists must have a deep spirituality, i.e. they must live in the Spirit, who will help them to renew themselves continually in their specific identity.

The need for a spirituality proper to catechists springs from their vocation and mission. It includes, therefore, a new and special motivation, a call to sanctity. Pope John Paul II’s saying: “The true missionary is the saint”, can be applied without hesitation to the catechist. Like every member of the faithful, catechists are “called to holiness and to mission”, i.e. to live out their own vocation “with the fervour of the saints”.

Their spirituality is closely bound up with their status as lay Christians, made participants, in their own degree, in Christ’s prophetic, priestly and kingly offices. As members of the laity, they are involved in the secular world and have, “according to the condition of each, the special obligation to permeate and perfect the temporal order of things with the spirit of the gospel. In this way, particularly in conducting secular business and exercising secular functions, they are to give witness to Christ”.

Guide for Catechists, no. 6

September 2015 Link RoundUp

Here’s some of my favorite online articles from this past month:

Dorothy Day on Abortion and Mercy
“The image of the seamless garment like the image of the Body of Christ, with Christ as the head, is a hierarchical image. Abortion, the willful termination of human life, is simply not the same moral act as capital punishment or even economic exploitation. Rather, such a vision requires the careful and precise distinction evident in Evangelii Gaudium, when Pope Francis explained why the protection of the unborn takes primacy of place in the Church’s teaching on human dignity.”

The Secret History of Father Maloney
“Lloyd explained to us that Father Moloney used his privilege as a white man and as a Catholic priest in a heavily Catholic area to break down barriers of injustice. He started a federal credit union to help blacks who couldn’t get loans from local banks. He started a bus service to take poor black workers to and from the Avondale Shipyards, 70 miles away, so they could get good industrial jobs, and not have to settle for low-paying farm jobs. And he worked to undermine the plantation system, which played on the ignorance of poor African Americans to cheat them.”

Glen Keane – Step into the Page

Why Can’t We Do Catholicism Well?
“I do my best to wrench my thoughts back to what matters most—to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—to the beauty in the church’s architecture, the priest’s vestments, the poetry of the liturgy, and these things are all very good. But there’s something to be said about the beautifully vested priest mumbling the prayers or the fact that the liturgical motions—themselves richly endowed with meaning—are performed haltingly, truncated.”

Fourteen Tips for New Catholic School Teachers
“4. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about the students. So learn how to spell the word ‘concupiscence’. Concupiscence is a tendency to put yourself first. Only divine grace enables us to rise above it.”

A Divine School of Solidarity: The Hours
“The gift of the Liturgy of the Hours as a daily practice is that the Christian is schooled in the fullness of the spiritual life as we meditate morning after morning, night after night upon the Psalms. And these Psalms are given to us. We do not get to choose which ones we pray. We do not simply praise God with timbrel and harp but must also acknowledge our deep woundedness, the injustice of the world, and the sorrow that comes with hearing only silence in the midst of our prayer to God.”

Ars crescendi in Dei gratia

COA approved colorYesterday our bishop, Thomas John Paprocki, released his second pastoral letter “On Building a Culture of Growth in the Church”:

The art of growing in God’s grace is the key to growth in the Church. Building a culture of growth in the Church starts with inviting people to experience the love of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of St. Matthew concludes with the Risen Lord commissioning his disciples with these words: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). This growth looks not only to build up the number of followers of Jesus Christ, but also – and more importantly – for Christ’s followers to grow in the depth of their relationship with Jesus Christ and in their commitment to observe all that he has commanded us to do.

“Grace is a participation in the life of God.” It introduces us into the love of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the grace of Christ is a gift freely given by God that is “infused by the Holy Spirit into our soul to heal it of sin and to sanctify it. It is the sanctifying or deifying grace received in Baptism. It is in us the source of the work of sanctification,” that is, growth in holiness. Growing in God’s grace is not a science but an art, because each of us is a masterpiece of God’s creation. As Pope Francis explains, “Even the weakest and most vulnerable, the sick, the old, the unborn and the poor, are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.” These individual masterpieces of God’s creation do not exist in isolation, but are intended by God to be built up into a flourishing community that thrives and grows.

You can read the entire letter, which includes discussion questions, on our dicoesan web site.

Book Review: Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong Ones

boucherJohn and Therese Boucher’s Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong Ones: Eight Ways to Love as Jesus Loved Us is a slim volume that packs a powerful spiritual punch. The aim of the book is to help readers in “realizing God’s love and connecting others to Jesus” through eight interconnected practices.

The eight spiritual practices advocated by the Bouchers are intercession, respect, forgiveness, gratitude, affirmation, patience and forbearance, honesty, and a healing presence. Each practice is first explained in light of Sacred Scripture; then consideration is given for how readers can accept the gift of this spiritual practice. Finally, the Bouchers walk through concrete steps for putting the practice into action.

The book is written in an easy conversational style — it is not overly theological, but uses the Church’s tradition to illuminate real human experience. The Bouchers sprinkle stories from the saints and their own lives throughout the book to help illustrate the principles they have layed out. Each chapter also includes reflection questions, suggested skills to practice, and prayer resources.

Mending Broken Relationships, Building Strong Ones is a great read for any faithful Christian individually or as part of a small book group.

N.B.: I received a free review copy of this book from the authors.

Joyce Donahue and Liturgical Catechesis

Yesterday I hosted a wonderful conversation with Joyce Donahue. This past summer Joyce wrote an 8-part blog series on “Forming Children and Youth for the Mass”; in our conversation we talked about liturgical catechesis, and how to help young Catholics embrace the liturgy, helping families participate more fully in the liturgy, and more:

In our conversation we referenced the following resources:

I’m hoping to host more conversations like this in the future; let me know if you have a topic or guest you’d like to see featured!

August 2015 Link RoundUp

DSC_3192Here’s a list of some of my favorite reads from this past month:

The Eucharist: Food for Us Wild Things
“There is often a strong connection between an intense love for something and the desire to consume it—to break down any barriers of separation so that there is nothing between us and the object of our affections, and this desire is often understood from an alimentary point of view, a desire which has deep resonances with the Eucharist. Love—in its myriad forms—is, ultimately, a desire for knowledge of and union with the beloved…”

10 First-Week Mistakes You Must Avoid This Year
“If you really want to get the students engaged right at the beginning of the year, then you must focus on your WHY on day one. Remember that your students are excited to be there on that first day. They don’t know what to expect so they naturally have a curiosity about you and your course. Cultivate that curiosity. Give them something to be excited about.”

Finding Middle Ground Between “Churchy” and “Secular” Events
“We offer experiences that are either completely “churchy” in nature or completely secular in nature. We are not helping people find God in all things—something that St. Ignatius taught should be at the heart of our spirituality. If we are going to become a Church on the move, we need to invite people to participate in a variety of everyday experiences and help them to find God in these experiences. In other words, we need to bring the two poles together and invite people to experience the sacred in the secular.”

Marshall McLuhan and Liturgical Change
“Although not entirely conscious of it, perhaps the desire for “more traditional” liturgical rites is in fact a response to the rise of the internet, social media, and the IPhone alike. In a world that involves constant engagement with media, perpetual encounter with image, the use of Latin in the liturgy is a return to a kind of “coolness” where whispers rather than total clarity of speech are available.”

What You’ve Been Taught About Management is Wrong

Use This Hashtag to Talk To God
“Unlike traditional models of prayer, the hashtag variety comes too easily. But this is a criticism that extends to all social media, as Samuel Loncar, a Ph.D. student in Philosophy of Religion at Yale, points out. The nature of the virtual world, he says, is ‘rapid stimulus without any real commitment,’ which means in the case of praying for social media friends there’s no risk associated with it, ‘literally no skin on the game.'”

“I must establish this firm conviction…”


“If God calls me to apply my activity not only to my own sanctification, but also to good works, I must establish this firm conviction, before everything else, in my mind: Jesus has got to be, and wishes to be, the life of these works.

My efforts, by themselves, are nothing, absolutely nothing. ‘Without Me you can do nothing.’ They will only be useful, and blessed by God, if by means of a genuine interior life I unite them constantly to the life-giving action of Jesus. But then they will become all-powerful: ‘I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me.’”

Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, OCSO, The Soul of the Apostolate

Photo Credit: KOREphotos via Compfight cc

Hangout with the Liturgical Catechist

Next Tuesday, at 12 noon (Central Time) I will be streaming a live conversation with Joyce Donahue (Diocese of Joliet) about her recent 8-part blog series on forming children and youth for the liturgy:

You can watch live on YouTube at, or by visiting this page.

We will discuss her blog series, liturgical catechesis in general, and how to make your catechetical session more liturgical. We’ll also take your questions during the conversation — we hope you’ll join us live!

DVD Review: Demystifying the Book of Revelation

DemystifyingRevelationIn “Demystifying the Book of Revelation,” Fr. William Burton, OFM, accomplishes a difficult task: unpacking the complex symbolism of apocalyptic literature – and the Book of Revelation in particular – in a manner consistent with Catholic tradition while combating distorted interpretations that have come to dominate modern Christianity in recent decades.

Through six video segments Fr. Burton carefully lays out the historical and literary background of the Book of Revelation. Significant time is spent discussing the genre of apocalyptic literature in Jewish tradition and making connections between the symbols employed by John of Patmos and the situation of the early Church under Roman rule.

Fr. Burton also spends an entire segment debunking the popular “rapture” theory popularized by fundamentalist Christians and the Left Behind series.

The lecture by Fr. Burton is punctuated with artwork and video illustrations which, while not rising to the quality of other Catholic video series on the market, nevertheless serve the purpose of the material.

The DVD comes packaged with a short discussion guide containing questions for small groups, making the videos easy to use in a parish formation or educational setting.

Recommended for all libraries.

N.B.: I received a free review copy of this DVD from the Catholic Library Association. This review was originally published in the June 2015 issue of Catholic Library World.