Cheating the Oracle

03/29/2015 Comments (3)

One of the most popular sorts of story in the world is the "Cheat the Oracle" story. The idea is that Heaven decrees the hero's fate and nothing can change it. The hero (or perhaps the hero's parents or guardians if the hero is an infant) then attempts to cheat the oracle by hiding the hero in a distant land or selling him into slavery or something. In so doing, this sets in motion the fulfillment of the prophecy. And so, in ancient Greece, Oedipus is fated to kill his father and marry his mother. In ancient Israel, Joseph is fated to rule over his brothers and father. Oedipus' guardians and Joseph's brothers labor to thwart their respective oracles, but every step they take is just one...READ MORE

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The Ambition of the Sons of Thunder

03/22/2015 Comments (14)

Leonardo da Vinci did us a disservice when he painted St. John in his Last Supper. In his zeal to show St. John as especially close to the loving heart of Christ, Leonardo winds up portraying the Evangelist like a wan and wilting flower. Yet Jesus nicknamed John and his brother James "Boanerges" or the "Sons of Thunder." Zebedee's boys were, we should recall, rough cut from solid peasant fisherman stock. They knew all about sweating in the sun, fishing in the Sea of Galilee, and cussing out people in no uncertain terms. In fact, the gospels actually record an incident in which these young turks, miffed at the crummy hospitality they received from the Samaritans, wanted to call down fire...READ MORE

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03/19/2015 Comments (14)

If you asked most people, "What would Jesus say about somebody who says one thing and does another?" they would reply: "Jesus called such people 'hypocrites" and denounced them."

This is true as far as it goes. But as is nearly always the case with our Lord, this was not the only thing Jesus had to say about inconsistency between words and deeds. Surprisingly, at other times he commended such inconsistency as a paradoxical mark of sanctity.

Consider, for instance, the parable of the two sons. Their father came and said "go and work in the vineyard" and the first son said "I will go" but then sat down and started watching the Jerry Springer show. The second son said "No way!" but then...READ MORE

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The Inner Ring

03/15/2015 Comments (34)

Once there was a sketch on Saturday Night Live featuring the character of an incredibly self-important secretary for some minor star (the sort of star who hosts low-rating game shows). The secretary is utterly oblivious to his client's puny standing in the grand scheme of things and instead, basking in the reflected two-watt glory of his boss, treats every visitor to the office with the utmost snobbery and officiousness. Each person asking to see the star is treated with withering haughtiness and asked: "And you are....?" As the day wears on, half a dozen fabulously famous people stop by the office (including, at last, Jesus Christ) and all are greeted with the same belittling arrogance:...READ MORE

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The Family as the Icon of the Holy Trinity

03/14/2015 Comments (20)

My nephew Tom came home from first grade in anguish. At dinner he could barely keep the tears out of his six year old eyes. When his parents pressed him to find out what was wrong, he replied that "this kid at school says I have a funny name." His parents glanced at each other, thinking, "'Tom Shea' is a funny name?" So summoning their best parental wisdom, they told him to ignore the kid and he would go away.

Of course, this didn't work. The kid kept it up for another day or two till Tom was really beginning to worry: maybe he did have a funny name.

Finally, Tom's parents decided it was time to take action. Reasoning that they would have to go talk to his folks, they asked at dinner that...READ MORE

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Holiness Therapy for the Not-So-Holy

03/08/2015 Comments (43)

When C.S. Lewis was approached by a publisher and invited to write a book about the problem of pain, he asked to be allowed to write it anonymously, since, he said, "if I were to say what I really thought about pain, I should be forced to make statements of such apparent fortitude that they would become ridiculous if anyone knew who made them." The publisher said no to anonymity, but gave Lewis the exhilarating option of writing a preface explaining that he did not live up to his own principles.

I am in pretty much the same boat here, writing brashly about something called "personal holiness" as if I were St. Francis. To be honest, I am not particularly holy. That is to say, I don't...READ MORE

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Some Remarks on Pro-Death Penalty Arguments

03/06/2015 Comments (82)

Yesterday, the Register, along with America, the National Catholic Reporter, and Our Sunday Visitor, made me proud to be a Catholic by joining together in the unity of the Faith and asserting the obviously right and Catholic position of calling for an end to the death penalty.  Predictably a loud chorus of objections was heard from the comboxes making arguments that have been made many times before.  

It's justice! Something hard to maintain given the hugely disproportionate number of minorities slated for death, not to mention the disturbing number of innocent people on death row who have been exonerated by, for instance, DNA evidence.  Also, one doesn't really get the sense of sober...READ MORE

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Why Tithe?

03/01/2015 Comments (19)

One of the unfortunate effects of human sin and of the weird and fractured borderline between the sacred and the secular in postmodern culture is that the word "tithe" provokes reactions ranging from the skeptic's cry "The whole thing's a scam!" to the dim uncomfortable notion of many people that money, if it doesn't belong to the devil, is at any rate coated with icky microbes from the infernal regions and ought not to sully the life of the Church.

But neither of these views reflect the biblical perspective on tithing and our stewardship of money. To be sure, the love of money is called the root of all kinds of evil by St. Paul (not unlike the love of food, power, sex or any other...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.