I started this blog on my saint’s day, September 29th, and by some miracle I’ve managed to post something every day since. Now as we head into 2021, I’m approaching 100 posts, at which point I think I will take some time to reflect on how to proceed.
In the meantime, I’ve looked over the blog’s stats and thought I would feature the top six posts of the year, in case anyone missed them.
Why six? Well, there’s a couple ties in there and I didn’t want to choose between them!
Here they are.
This was a personal experience drawing on 10 years or so of ministry in Protestant contexts, but especially with a charismatic missionary group I was a part of for a short time. I tried to show how Luther’s “faith alone” doctrine continues to echo down through the centuries, and how it just misses the mark.
I can’t even share a breath with the charismatic stuff anymore: no glory clouds, no prophetic images, no deliverance prayers for me, thanks. It’s not that those things were bad or even not real. I think I saw miracles, exorcisms, and healings there, I really do. But there were problems that, I would bet, plague many charismatic communities: an attempt to manipulate the Holy Spirit through correct formulas and displays of emotion; a fixation on the miraculous as proof positive of one’s spiritual maturity; and most all, a confusion of what is peripheral with what is central.
The full post is here. (This was my mom’s favorite post, too, so you should read it for that reason alone.)
I was surprised this one was so popular, since it came on the heels of a nine-day series on Guadalupe (I much preferred this post about her, personally), but I suspect it’s because the title was decent clickbait. It’s a brief post looking at the Aztec-Catholic iconography of the Guadalupe image and explaining how it points to the identity of the child in her womb. For example:
Printed on the tunic, directly over Mary’s womb, is a unique four-petaled flower. Though small and inconspicuous, this flower is an Aztec symbol for Téotl, a central concept in their philosophy. Téotl could be roughly translated as “God”, but a more careful reading might lead us to a parallel Greek concept: logos, or Word. Mary’s son is Téotl, the Word, made flesh. For him, by him, and through him all things were made.
This post was part of a longer series on the problem of Christian authority. I enjoyed writing this one in particular because I used a famous (American) football play to illustrate the need for a living and authoritative Christian interpreter, someone who makes calls on the field of play.
Imagine trying to have professional football without referees. It would never work! While you can certainly play backyard football without refs, anytime you want to play a high-stakes game on a large scale, you need that living authority to be an official arbiter. And you have to continue to accept that authority even if you disagree with a particular judgment. Without that, you don’t have a league at all.
This is a short reflection about an early experience I had praying the Rosary, which was another gateway for me deeper into Catholic devotion. It’s about the power of contemplation as the highest form of Christian prayer:
The experience was visceral. My gut clenched, my body spasmed; I felt a wave of nausea. There’s no easy triumph nor comforting platitudes to be found in watching someone be tortured and executed. But the Hail Marys kept me in rhythm, kept pulling me through to the end, one step after another. And as I continued, I felt an odd catharsis. Just as the high priest laid the sins of the people on the scapegoat, which was then driven out of the city gates, so this Man of Sorrows was taking on, somehow, my sins. Something was, almost magically, being transferred from my flesh to His.
I enjoyed writing this post, about Catholicism’s love of feasting and partying, and how discovering the fullness of the Catholic calendar enriched my own spiritual life and gave me more to look forward to throughout the year.
Might I suggest that Catholicism, perhaps more than any other expression of Christianity, is committed to celebrating the story of Jesus in all its fullness? It begins with Christmas and Easter, certainly, but it also includes His Mother, His disciples, and every little saint that He has brought through Heaven’s doors. And so, in the Catholic Church, there’s just more reasons to celebrate!
This was my inaugural post, and also the way I announced my impending entry into the Catholic Church to my friends and family. I worked hardest on this post, so if you haven’t read it already, I hope you will. It’s an important part of my story, but in many ways, only a beginning to what I am sure will be a long journey.
The Good Friday liturgy is the same in every parish, brutal, gutting: the crucifixion story from the Gospel of John is sung in choir, the priest offers a brief homily, the cross is unveiled before the altar. Then we line up in the aisle to kneel and adore it, one by one. This particular year, however, nestled between the reading and the kneeling, it was the homily that arrested me.
I know a few of you who are following along, and I want to say thanks to you and many others who have taken the time to read my writing over the past couple of months. It’s been important and clarifying for me to write things out, and healthy for me to share my thoughts and experiences with my friends, family, and internet strangers.
Blessings and peace to each of you in 2021.