Can Catholics Have Self-Esteem? on Salt + Light TV on Friday (Nov. 16)

On Friday, November 16th, at 7 PM EST, I will be appearing on Salt + Light TV’s Perspectives, for a full-ranging discussion with host Deacon Pedro Guevara-Mann about self-esteem, pride, humility…and how all of those connect with the Gospels. (You can watch the program here online: http://saltandlighttv.org/perspectives/ ) As you probably know, I have been writing and speaking about self-esteem for a number of years. Last month, Pauline Books & Media released my new book of mini-meditations on self-esteem, titled: Just A Minute: Meditations to Grow in Self-Esteem. The classic book—See Yourself Through God’s Eyes: 52 Meditations To Grow in Self-Esteem—has proved so popular that we released it as an audiobook last year (available at Audible.com, iTunes, and on CD as well).

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m going to try to be live on social media during the broadcast (Facebook Page, my Facebook Group and Twitter), in case anyone would like to chat during or follow up after the show. Come and join me!

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Lately, I’ve discovered a few recent gems of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis about culture and faith—many of them direct addresses to writers, journalists, and artists. Here are a few of my favorite quotes that I am pondering in these days. I have included links to the full articles/texts, which are well worth reading in their entirety:

 

Trust in Christ’s truth, which sets us free!

“As Christian journalists, you are distinguished for your positive attitude towards the person and for your professional ethic. You do not merely do a job, but rather you dedicate yourselves to a task and to a commitment. How easy it is, though, to let oneself be carried along by popular opinion, by a dissatisfaction and a pessimism that paralyses and blinds! “By force of habit we no longer stand up to evil. We ‘let things be’, or as others have decided they ought to be” (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exsultate, 137). Let us as for parrhesia, let us ask for the frankness that comes from the Holy Spirit and that helps us to trust in Christ’s truth, which sets us free. Let us scale the wall of sadness and resignation, and help people to open their eyes and ears, and most of all their heart, to take responsibility for each other and to be aware of being sons and daughters of the one Father.”  – To a group of German journalism students, on November 9, 2018)

“Be pioneers empowered by God!”

“Please be pioneers empowered by God (cf. 2 Cor 3:6). But do not give in to the temptation of domesticating these frontiers: it is essential to go out to the frontiers but not to bring frontiers home to touch them up with a little varnish and tame them. Today’s world, subject to rapid changes and convulsed by matters of great importance for the life of faith, calls for a courageous commitment to educate in a convinced and mature faith, to give life meaning and to offer convincing answers to all who are seeking God. It is a question of supporting the Church’s action in all the fields of her mission.” – Address of Pope Francis to the community of writers of La Civilta Cattolic, June 14, 2013 

 

Spread a Eucharistic Culture

“…Spread, through prayer and activity, a “Eucharistic culture” – in other words a way of thinking and working grounded in the Sacrament yet perceptible also beyond the limits of the Church community. In a Europe afflicted by indifference and swept by divisions and forms of rejection, Christians renew before everyone, Sunday after Sunday, the simple and powerful gesture of their faith: they gather in the Lord’s name and acknowledge that they are brothers and sisters. And the miracle is repeated: in the hearing of the word and in the sign of the broken bread, even the smallest and lowliest assembly of believers becomes the body of the Lord, his tabernacle in the world. The celebration of the Eucharist thus becomes a cradle of attitudes that generate a Eucharistic culture, for it impels us to express in our way of life and our thinking the grace of Christ who gave of himself to the full.”  – Pope Francis, to participants in Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses, November 10, 2018

 

The Contemplation of Beauty

“To admire the icons and the great masterpieces of Christian art in general, leads us on an inner way, a way of overcoming ourselves; thus in this purification of vision that is a purification of the heart, it reveals the beautiful to us, or at least a ray of it. In this way we are brought into contact with the power of the truth. I have often affirmed my conviction that the true apology of Christian faith, the most convincing demonstration of its truth against every denial, are the saints, and the beauty that the faith has generated. Today, for faith to grow, we must lead ourselves and the persons we meet to encounter the saints and to enter into contact with the Beautiful.” – Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Message at Rimini, “The Feeling of Things, the Contemplation of Beauty” An exquisite exploration of beauty and how it draws to truth and to the Truth, Christ himself. Essential reading for any artist today. 

 

The Way of Beauty

“One may speak of a via pulchritudinis, a path of beauty which is at the same time an artistic and aesthetic journey, a journey of faith, of theological enquiry. The theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar begins his great work entitled The Glory of the Lord – a Theological Aesthetics with these telling observations: ‘Beauty is the word with which we shall begin. Beauty is the last word that the thinking intellect dares to speak, because it simply forms a halo, an untouchable crown around the double constellation of the true and the good and their inseparable relation to one another.’ He then adds: ‘Beauty is the disinterested one, without which the ancient world refused to understand itself, a word which both imperceptibly and yet unmistakably has bid farewell to our new world, a world of interests, leaving it to its own avarice and sadness. It is no longer loved or fostered even by religion.’ And he concludes: ‘We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past – whether he admits it or not – can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.’ The way of beauty leads us, then, to grasp the Whole in the fragment, the Infinite in the finite, God in the history of humanity. Simone Weil wrote in this regard: ‘In all that awakens within us the pure and authentic sentiment of beauty, there, truly, is the presence of God. There is a kind of incarnation of God in the world, of which beauty is the sign. Beauty is the experimental proof that incarnation is possible. For this reason all art of the first order is, by its nature, religious.’ Hermann Hesse makes the point even more graphically: ‘Art means: revealing God in everything that exists.’ ”  – Pope Benedict XVI, Meeting with Artists in Sistine Chapel, November 21, 2009

 

Daily Routine: the Hidden Art of the Love Story of Each Person with the Living God and Their Brothers and Sisters

“…The history of the Church is also inseparably the history of culture and art. Works such as the Summa Theologiae by St Thomas Aquinas, the Divine Comedy, Chartres Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel or Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantatas are unparalleled syntheses of Christian faith and human expression. However, if these are, so to speak, the peaks of such syntheses between faith and culture, their convergence is brought about daily in the life and work of all the baptized, in that hidden art which is the love story of each one with the living God and with his brethren, in the joy and effort of following Jesus Christ in the daily routine of life.”  – Pope Benedict XVI, 25th Anniversary Pontifical Council for Culture, June 15, 2007

Finding God in the Culture

Here a few interesting resources I’ve recently found online:

In last week’s Message to the Information Agency of the Italian Episcopal Conference of Bishops (English translation provided by Zenit.org) Pope Francs reiterates his concerns that journalists focus on the truth, quoting this year’s Message for World Communications Day. At the end of his message, Pope Francis gives a few tips on how journalists and communicators can create “bridges of understanding and dialogue” that can help the truth to emerge:

I hope you will always be ready to listen and to engage in sincere dialogue, to let the truth emerge. I encourage you to focus more and more on the fullness of quality information that can build bridges of understanding and dialogue. Walk, as you have done so far, on the beautiful and tiring paths of thought, of not compromising with anyone. Be free and keep your distance from reductive models. Help to understand the facts in their complexity and their deep meaning.

Perhaps this could become a helpful checklist for the times when we communicate in a tension-filled, potentially divisive situation?

Does my message:

__ give quality information that focuses on context, breadth, and depth (always according to the communication media being used)

__ foster dialogue, that is, build a bridge of understanding between sides, between concerns

__ tirelessly seek the truth, free of compromise

__ free of agenda

__ stay clear of “reductive models” such as taking sides, overpoliticizing, stereotypes, etc.

__ help others to understand the meaning of events, going beyond the facts by giving them a context and a sense of the human complexity of the situation

 

In his homily for the Mass at the closing of the Synod on Young People, Faith, and DIscernment, Pope Francis offers us another tip for those of us who are consciously striving to evangelize: “We are called to carry out God’s work in God’s own way: in closeness, by cleaving to him, in communion with one another, alongside our brothers and sisters. Closeness: that is the secret to communicating the heart of the faith.”

 

This is a fun and fascinating article about the journey of Tim Clemente from cop to FBI agent to Hollywood screenwriter--and how he always puts his faith and family at the heart of his life and career.

 

Paul Asay’s Watching God column on Patheos has had some excellent columns in the past which I have quoted or linked to. In this week’s column, he looks at two new network television shows that explore faith.  Although I do not currently have the opportunity to often watch network TV, I found myself intrigued by his commentaries on both shows and thought you might enjoy it.

 

Finally, in my recent article on the Pauline Media Studies Center blog, I highlight how documentaries have increasing accessibility and value today, and I recommend three good documentaries produced this year.

Photo by Sam McGhee on Unsplash

A film festival for the Synod, and new Catholic games for kids!

At the Synod this week, participants were invited to an international film festival, “Finding Vince 400,” hosted by the Focolare movement celebrating the 400th anniversary of the charism of St. Vincent de Paul, the Catholic Church’s apostle of charity. The film festival ran October 18-21 at the town of Castel Gandolfo, and its goal was to foster a “globalization of charity.” One of the main organizers of the festival is Clarence Gilyard, the well-known actor (perhaps best known for his role in the TV series Walker, Texas Ranger), and devout Catholic. My favorite part of the article published by Crux about the festival is Gilyard’s reflections on how important and influential art is to young people today. Festival organizers hope the festival can become an annual event.

Two new Catholic games have just come out that I’d like to highlight:

Follow JC Go is a new free app for iPhone or Android that encourages young people to go out looking for saints, biblical figures, and Marian devotions, and then interact with them, in ways similar to the popular Pokemon Go! game. Ramon Pane Foundation has already released the app in Spanish,  and it will be available in English and Portuguese in the next few weeks. (Interestingly, Fundacion Ramon Pane, based in Florida, is named after a young Spanish friar who came to the New World with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1494.) Enjoy the game’s “trailer” in Spanish:

 

 

The Adventures of St. John Paul the Great is a 2D platform video game that allows viewers to “play through” the life of St. John Paul the Great! It is available for download here on the website of the Sydney Archdiocese for home or educational use for free on Mac or PC.  Enjoy the promo trailer by game developer Regine Caramancion:

 

For Catholic creatives in the Toronto area!

 

Join committed and enthusiastic Catholic Christian artists as we begin to explore Pope St. John Paul II’s Letter to Artists!

(During my brief visit to Toronto, I am privileged to help “launch” the exploration!)

Beauty That Saves, Harmonizes, Unites

Interior of the Church of the Resurrection in St. Petersburg, Russia* Photo by Steve Barker on Unsplash

Last week in his short speech when meeting with the patrons of the arts for the Vatican Museums, Pope Francis offered a few nuggets for reflection for those of us engaged with the arts:

“Throughout history, art has been second only to life
in bearing witness to the Lord.
It was, and remains, a majestic road
allowing us more than by words and ideas
to approach the faith,
because it follows
the same path of faith, that of beauty.
The beauty of art
enriches life and creates communion,
because it unites God, man and creation
in a single symphony.
It connects the past, the present and the future,
and it attracts
– in the same place and with the same gaze –
different and far-off peoples.”

♦›

“Contemplating great art which expresses the faith
helps us rediscover
what truly matters in life.
In leading us both within and above ourselves,
Christian art points us
to the love that created us,
to the mercy which saves us,
and to the hope that awaits us.”

♦›

“In today’s troubled world,
unfortunately so often torn and damaged
by selfishness and the thirst for power,
art represents, perhaps even more than in the past,
a universal need
because it is a source of harmony and peace,
and it expresses the dimension of generosity.”

* Also known as the Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood

 

For those in the Boston area, I wanted to let you know that on Saturday, October 20th, our Dedham Bookcenter is hosting a Pauline Author Day, at which several sisters who are authors, as well as myself, will be able to meet, to sign books, and to chat with readers. (I’m so looking forward to this because it’s going to be loads of fun–whether you you love to read, love to write, or are simply interested in the intersection between faith and books!) Here are the details:

 

A great read for Catholic communicators

My new favorite read: Ex Libris: Fulton Sheen, a book about one of my favorite people written by one of my favorite people!

The past few weeks have been really intense in the carrying out of our mission. Almost immediately after I posted that I would be back to blogging regularly, I was asked to take on an assignment that has basically taken up all my time for the past several weeks. (Which is, of course, not unusual in the world of media!) But now, I am picking back up where I left off several weeks ago, focusing on using God’s gift of creativity to express truth, beauty, and goodness.

The Servant of God, Venerable Fulton Sheen is someone I have greatly admired as a communicator for Christ: he won a television Emmy award for teaching about Christ!

Recently, another Catholic communicator, Emmy-award winning Alexis Walkenstein, published a book introducing the writings, thought, and spirituality of this great man of God. I stole some time this past week to read the entire book and am delighted by the breadth and depth of this easy read.

Alexis focuses on five topics, with excerpts from seven of her favorite books by and about Archbishop Fulton Sheen. She breaks topics into short, 2-3 page chapters. My favorite chapter is “Sanctifying the Moment,” in which Sheen highlights why it is so important for us to live in the present moment:

Every moment brings us more treasures than we can gather. The great value of the Now, spiritually viewed, is that it carries a message God has directed personally to us. Books, sermons, and broadcasts on a religious theme have the appearance of being circular letters, meant for everyone…. But though moral and spiritual appeals carry God’s identical message to all who listen, this is not true of the Now-moment; no one else but I am in exactly these circumstances; no one else has to carry the same burden, whether it be a sickness, the death of a loved one, or some other adversity. Nothing is more individually tailored to our spiritual needs than the Now-moment; for that reason it is an occasion of knowledge that can come to no one else. This moment is my school, my textbook, my lesson…. 

The University of the Moment has been built uniquely for each of us…. originally from Lift Up Your Heart

I think that the Servant of God had such a profound grasp of the present moment not just from his spiritual life and prayer, but also because he was a communicator. As an exceptionally gifted homilist and TV personality, Sheen knew the value of living in the present moment, because he had lots of practice as a homilist and on TV: it is only by being attentive to God’s presence in the moment that we can receive the grace and inspiration of God to communicate as/what God wants us to communicate.

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen was a tremendous gift of God to the people of the 20th century. With his informal language and rigorous logic, he made divine truth accessible to the ordinary person. Author Alexis Walkenstein shows us how Sheen continues to be a tremendous gift of God to the Church in America today, with his unflinching commitment to the Truth, with his intercession for us, and with his in-depth understanding of what it means to be Catholic in America and how to nurture that ability to communicate Christ with not just our words but with who we are.

More to inspire: 

Check out Alexix’s story of how she began to connect with Servant of God Fulton Sheen in this delightful podcast

Read the inspiring story of the miracle approved by the Vatican through Venerable Fulton Sheen’s intercession.

Our Call to Holiness: A Call to Creativity

 

Some days, I need help slipping out of the rushed, deadline-driven pace so that I can write not from a place of freneticism but from a place deep within. To do this, I’m picking up Letter to Artists by Pope St. John Paul and prayerfully reading and journaling through it, using a personal guide that I wrote a number of years ago. (For a quick preview of the beauty and depth of the Letter, check out Salt + Light TV’s reflection on Letter to Artists video above.) As I do this, I’m honing in on central insights and crafting reflection questions that I hope will be helpful to anyone interested in growing in their creativity. (And I’m taking the results of the recent poll into account–thank you if you took a few minutes to answer the questions about your creative life!)

Every human person is creative, by our very nature. When the Book of Genesis tells us that we are made in the image and likeness of God, the God that Genesis is portraying is the Creator. Pope St. John Paul puts it this way: each of us is at our most creative when shaping the masterpiece of our life. Living out our call to holiness is a creative pursuit!

In our times as perhaps no other, where we face challenges on so many fronts (in our increasingly secularized society, in the human family as a whole, and in our Church), I believe that today, God calls each of us to be especially creative in how we live our call to holiness. The New Evangelization calls for a New Holiness, which requires a new creativity in how Christ Jesus is the Center of our lives, and how our thoughts, choices, and hearts revolve around him! Pope Francis offers some wonderful insights into how we can respond to today’s challenges to our call to holiness:

“Every saint is a message which the Holy Spirit takes from the riches of Jesus Christ and gives to his people…. This is a powerful summons to all of us. You too need to see the entirety of your life as a mission. Try to do so by listening to God in prayer and recognizing the signs that he gives you. Always ask the Spirit what Jesus expects from you at every moment of your life and in every decision you must make, so as to discern its place in the mission you have received. Allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world.

“May you come to realize what that word is, the message of Jesus that God wants to speak to the world by your life. Let yourself be transformed. Let yourself be renewed by the Spirit, so that this can happen, lest you fail in your precious mission. The Lord will bring it to fulfillment despite your mistakes and missteps, provided that you do not abandon the path of love but remain ever open to his supernatural grace, which purifies and enlightens.”  – Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultatet, #s23, 24


I’ll conclude this post with a simple prayer for us this week:

“Come, Holy Spirit, set free in us the light and power of the Word!”

-prayer from Live Christ! Give Christ! Prayers for the New Evangelization