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The ultimate Zion National Park travel guide…

The first time I road-tripped from Los Angeles to Zion National Park, I remember thinking that the Virgin River Gorge, which cuts a deep slash across Arizona’s northwest corner, was something like a certain literary wardrobe: you entered on one side via the quiet Nevada desert, then emerged a handful of twists later into the magical expanse of Utah, which practically vibrated with otherworldly sights. But the journey was nothing compared to the destination—Zion brims with bucket-list backdrops, from its intoxicating blend of brilliant colors to its serpentine canyons and sheer cliffs, that since my very first visit have never failed to leave me awestruck. One ingredient in that Zion special sauce is that the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin, and Mojave Desert all converge here to cr...

Confessions of a feminist heretic…

During the advent of my first pregnancy, in 2012, I was comfortably settled into my own unique brand of postmodern feminist Christianity. I remember lounging on the couch amidst waves of debilitating nausea, watching news coverage of the controversial Contraceptive Mandate, rolling my eyes in anger and disgust at those regressive Catholic priests in their prim white collars, telling women what to do with their bodies. Yet almost exactly two years later, I would be standing before such a priest at the Easter Vigil Mass, publicly confessing my desire to be received into the largest, oldest male-helmed institution in the world, the Roman Catholic Church. My sudden swerve into Catholicism prompted a dramatic worldview inversion on a number of issues related to feminism and sexuality, including...

Pope’s Sunday Angelus: This Christmas, imitate St. Joseph’s trust in God…

Vatican City, Dec 22, 2019 / 04:57 am (CNA).- In a difficult situation, St. Joseph put his whole trust in God and was obedient, an example for all Catholics to imitate, Pope Francis said during the Angelus Sunday. St. Joseph “does not preach, does not speak, but tries to do the will of God; and he does it in the style of the Gospel and of the Beatitudes,” he said Dec. 22. “The example of this meek and wise man urges us to lift our gaze and push further,” he continued. “It is a matter of recovering the surprising logic of God who, far from small or large calculations, is made of openness to new horizons, towards Christ and his Word.” In his catechesis, the pope reflected on the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, when St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary are betrothed but not yet living toget...

Hilaire Belloc on observing Christmas…

Christmas is not the birth of Christ; what the birth of Christ was, and is, will never change. Christmas is a celebration, a remembrance and marking of the birth of Christ – and it has changed, and is still changing. “People ask themselves how much remains of this observance and of the feast and its customs.” So mused Hilaire Belloc over ninety years ago in his essay, “A Remaining Christmas.” Cognizant of a general loss of age-old Christmas traditions, Belloc set out to record how Christmas was still celebrated in his home in Sussex. Much more than a tale of quaint holiday practices, the essay is a profound reflection on the place of such observances in human life. “Man has a body as well as a soul, and the whole of man, soul and body, is nourished sanely by a multiplicity of observed trad...

Overcoming scrupulosity with moral conversion…

In 1984, Hollywood released “Gremlins,” a film about a father who brings home an unidentifiable furry little animal as a Christmas present for his son. Turns out, this little guy is even more unique than they realized. If you feed it after midnight, it spawns intelligent and vicious lizard-like creatures who are intent on mayhem. I’m not sure there’s an insightful moral of the movie, but there’s an unmistakable surface-level message: otherwise-innocent things can become monsters if you improperly feed them. Therein lies a message to the scrupulous.  How? We’ll come back to that in a moment. So far in this series, we’ve discussed how intellectual conversion can help us know God and how spiritual conversion can help us love God—and how both these forms of conversion can help us overcome...

Liberal Catholics and the Real Presence: A wakeup call that shouldn’t be swiftly dismissed…..

It was not until early October that I encountered a full-throated conservative reaction to the Pew finding: the September 29–October 12 issue of the National Catholic Register with its 60-point headline, “Eucharistic Wake-Up Call.” The issue contained no less than fourteen articles on the Eucharist, including articles on the production of hosts and Eucharistic wine and sidebars on Eucharistic miracles, Eucharistic books and DVDs, and Eucharistic papal encyclicals. Nowhere did I find any outright blaming of the Second Vatican Council, although there was a lot of familiar grumbling about the post-conciliar “spirit” and lack of catechesis. If many of the articles could have fit into my pre-conciliar childhood, they were less dogmatic and more conscious of contemporary challenges to understand...

Fifty Years On…

The year of 1969 was a time of the finest and the worst, when most institutions, equipped with the polished trophies of new science, seemed to be having a mental breakdown. A man walked on the moon. But there were riots, protests, and a moral fragmentation whose detritus now controls the seminal arbiters of culture. The tone of thought at the heart of it was a composite of bewilderment, fascination, and obtuseness. I have rarely written about the days when I was formed into a particular way of ordering my thinking, with a reluctance born of an intuition that looking back might make me brittle as a pillar of salt or soft as sentiment, for nostalgia can be a lethal alchemy. The sound and scene from fifty years past do not need to come alive again, for they never faded in my recollection. It ...

How to understand the readings for the 4th Sunday of Advent…

As Christians, we tend to assume that the idea of God coming into ones’ life is always an attractive concept.  However, that’s a bit naïve.  Having the almighty creator of the universe come into one’s reality could also be an upsetting prospect.  When doing evangelism, I have encountered people who understood the concept of “letting Jesus into your life” very well, but didn’t want that to happen, because it might upset the apple cart, so to speak.  A God living within you might want to change things.  He might want to take over.  Are we ready for that? In this Sunday’s Readings, we encounter situations in which people found the “invasion” of God into their lives a little bit distressing.  The Readings remind us that Jesus is not a passive presence within ...

The well-fought fight…

The incorporation of Anglican hymnody into English-language Catholic worship is one of the great blessings of the past 50 years. And within that noble musical patrimony, Ralph Vaughan Williams surely holds pride of place among modern composers. Well do I remember the summer day in 1965 when I heard a massed chorus of men and women under the direction of my old choirmaster, Robert Twynham, rock the Baltimore Civic Center with all eight verses of Vaughan William’s masterpiece, “For All the Saints,” the processional hymn at the opening Mass of what used to be known as a “Liturgical Week.” It was stirring beyond words. And if a retrospective look at the program of lectures and seminars that followed reveals hints of choppy waters ahead in implementing the liturgical reforms mandated by the Sec...

The Vatican’s financial bait-and-switch…

By Phil Lawler ( bio – articles – email ) | Dec 18, 2019 If you asked loyal Catholics to subsidize a film dramatizing the life of Elton John, you’d get a disappointing return. But ask them to contribute to the needs of the Holy Father, and you’ll see real generosity. If you ask Catholics to invest in the London real-estate market, or in a shady Italian bank, or a bankrupt hospital, don’t expect much. But say that the Pope has charitable projects in mind, and the checkbooks will open. So for years the Vatican has asked the faithful to support the Pope’s needs, emphasizing his charitable projects—and then invested the returns in London real estate, a shady Italian bank, a bankrupt hospital, and, yes, a film about Elton John. That’s the fundamental scandal behind the latest financ...

J.R.R. Tolkien, Advent and the light that conquers darkness…

2 Minute Read December is a month in the Catholic Church where the liturgical year ends and is renewed by the season of Advent. It is a month where we see the general theme of the liturgical season being echoed in nature. Darkness has crept over the world, and is increasing each day. Yet, there is hope for soon the days will begin to lengthen and the sun will conquer the night. The earth reveals that there is a light in this dark place and that Light reigns victorious. A Passing Shadow The great Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien knew this reality very well. Throughout his works there is an ongoing contrast between the dark world and the light that illumines it. In particular, Tolkien stressed that even though there is great evil in the world, goodness always triumphs in the end. This theme of...

Paid family and medical leave and the USCCB…

Man holding baby (CC0 Jude Beck on Unsplash) The other day, a friend noted on Twitter that his wife was not granted paid maternity leave by her employer, the Catholic Church. He noted that he made enough for her to take unpaid maternity. This led me to look into what the US Bishops have proposed regarding maternity leave. Now, I want to share a little of that investigation. Current USCCB Policy The USCCB site currently has: Following the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), all qualified employees in the United States are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family or medical reasons, including for the serious health condition of the employee, parent, spouse or child, pregnancy or care of a newborn child, or for the adoption or foster care of a child. T...