The Our Father and the Hail Mary: The Two Pillars of Catholic Prayer

11/09/2015 Comments (5)

Franciszek Ejsmond, "The Anchorite" (1881)

Whole books with titles like A Treasury of Christian Prayer attest to the fact that the Church can dip into vast pools of prayer and come up with any number of prayers that it might set before us for our contemplation.

Some of them, such as the “Prayer of St. Francis,” are very popular and very old indeed. Some of them, such as sundry litanies, are easy to memorize and serve well for both individual and communal prayer. Some of them, such as the “Serenity Prayer” or the “Prayer of Jabez,” are (for a brief time) hugely popular and could be capitalized on by a spiritual marketing campaign, had the Church chosen to do so (thank God the Church is abysmal at and has no interest in “marketing”)....READ MORE

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Naming Names

11/06/2015 Comments (5)

So it appears that Osama bin Laden, in the weeks before his death, was noodling the possibility of rebranding al-Qaeda, since the old name seems to have attracted a bit of bad publicity. I held a brief contest on my blog inviting readers to help these guys out by coming up with a new name for their venerable community Islamic social activists; and though there were a number of great suggestions, such as “Lady Qaeda,” I had to conclude that the winning entry was “Mohammedan and Enjoying It!” I think that really captures the upbeat, sunny side of Bronze Age fanaticism and murder, don’t you? With a new name, people will hardly notice the trail of corpses they leave in their wake.


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Wobbling World

11/02/2015 Comments (4)

In antiquity, everything depended on tradition because people recognized that their ancestors were the ones who had survived in a hostile world that wanted to kill them.  So smart people listened to what their ancestors said and, Darwin being right about some things, tended to be the survivors while stupid people ignored seasoned wisdom and wound up getting killed by a hostile world that, sure enough, wanted to kill them.

Is living by tradition therefore perfect?  No.  Many times, tradition wound up developing into some very dangerous mutations, as for example, the traditions of Aztec human sacrifice and Moloch worship demonstrate.  Jesus and the apostles likewise warn strongly of human...READ MORE

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Charisms =/= Sanctity

10/25/2015 Comments (17)


One of the big puzzles that many Catholics have grappled with in recent years is the baffling phenomenon of some charismatic figure (one thinks of a Maciel, for instance) who can, for years, inspire or otherwise offer blessing and solace to good and decent Christians who are full of faith and obedient to the Church.  Said figure can preach or write clear and engaging explications of the Faith.  He can do all sorts of wonderful things that help struggling souls find healing, that give new purpose to the hopeless, and that help the lost discover the riches of grace in Christ.  He is beloved by his devotees—and not without reason.

And yet that charismatic figure then turns out to be bound up...READ MORE

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Why it is Great to Be Catholic

10/22/2015 Comments (17)

Matthias Grünewald, "Isenheimer Altar" (1512-1516)

Our mothers taught us to count our blessings.

That’s not Pollyanna denial of the troubles in the world.  It’s healthy Christian faith, hope, and love.  After all, the Church herself was born in a crucible of sins and troubles when her Lord was crucified and died under a heap of shame that made Him an outcast to both Jew and pagan.  The shame only deepened in that His closest, hand-picked disciples all abandoned Him in the most cowardly way.  If there was ever a dark time in history, that day was it.

And yet, here the Church still is two thousand years later, with a billion members and counting.  Because the central lesson of the Faith is not that we humans are cowardly, sinful weaklings...READ MORE

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Love Ain't Feelings

10/18/2015 Comments (12)

Evgraf Semenovich Sorokin, "Crucifixion" (1873)

Last week, we talked a bit about the meaning of concupiscence in the Church’s moral tradition. The good news about concupiscence is that it is not sin but merely the “tinder for sin,” and therefore temptation is not a revelation of what a disgusting disappointment we are to God, but is in fact the field of battle upon which we, with the help of God’s grace, grow in virtue and become saints (CCC 1264).

Because of this, those of us who suffer from disordered appetites, a weakened will, and a darkened intellect (meaning 100 percent of all human beings, with the exception of Jesus and Mary) have hope, because God is not an impatient critic, fuming at our weakness and carping at us about what...READ MORE

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You Are Created in the Image and Likeness of God and Redeemed by Jesus Christ

10/15/2015 Comments (13)

A reader wrote in to ask what I think about this story, where a young boy underwent monstrous “reparative therapy” because he exhibited feminine behavior, only to end up killing himself at 38.

As you may have gathered, I think it monstrous. This will no doubt confuse people who have noted that I think homosexual acts to be sinful and believe much homosexual agitprop to be militant, intolerant, and totalitarian in intent.

So why do I think this particular “therapy” monstrous? For the same reason I oppose totalitarian attempts and acts of violence calculated to force me to approve of homosexual acts: because I believe in human freedom and dignity.

Here’s the thing: Grace builds on and...READ MORE

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The Spirituality of Waiting Around

10/12/2015 Comments (7)

Santeri Salokivi, “The Wait” (1911)

“Time,” the man said, “is God’s way of keeping everything from happening at once.” Another way of looking at the same thing is Arnold Toynbee’s remark that some people think “history is just one damned thing after another.”

As Christians, we believe that time, history, and the sequence and interplay of events in human affairs is not merely one damned thing after another but is, like all created things, grist for grace. God doesn’t just bless things and sacramentalize them; He blesses time itself and makes it sacramental, too. He doesn’t just hallow spaces in space like temples and churches; He hallows spaces in time (like Sabbaths and feast days).

And so, for instance, we have the Old...READ MORE

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About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.