This Year’s Book on Catholic Blogs

The results are in — and the winners of this year’s Catholic Blog Awards are …

Actually, you’ll have to go to cybercatholics.com/cba2005 for the full rundown of nominees and winners.

But I can tell you that, this year, there were 19 categories, including such innovative ones as Most Insightful (which went to Secret Agent Man at secret-agent.blogspot.com), Most Devotional (Jeff Culbreath’s El Camino Real at elcaminoreal.blog-city.com) and Most Creative (Jeff Miller’s The Curt Jester at splendoroftruth.com/curtjester).

The hosts, Joshua LeBlanc and Chris Decker, launched CyberCatholics.com back in 2000 while they were studying in the seminary together. Their own site doesn’t tell a whole lot more about them than that, but it does state their mission: “to put into practice the call of Pope John Paul II to a New Evangelization. Part of this New Evangelization is to spread the Gospel by any means necessary, especially through the newest media of the Internet. Through the cyberCatholics apostolate, any individual can respond to God’s call to evangelize at a very low and reasonable cost.”

Now I know some of you have no idea about what a blog — which is shorthand for web log — is all about. You’re not alone. According to a January study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a nonprofit initiative to examine the social impact of the Internet, only 38% of American Internet users can correctly identify a blog.

Essentially, a blog is a web-based journal maintained by one or more individuals. Unlike the hidden, hand-written diaries of old, blogs can be read by anyone who’s got a computer and a connection to the Internet. And most blogs allow visitors to post comments on the journal entries.

Blog readership shot up by 58% in 2004, bringing the current blog readership to 32 million people. Then, too, there are more blogs to read: Some 8 million Americans have set up a blog of their own. Naturally, given such a broad a swath of the population getting into the blog game, the sites vary widely in quality, quantity and frequency of updates. According to Weblogs Inc. founder Jason McCabe Calacanis, only 1 million blogs are updated regularly.

We know how that goes. Brother Craig here at the monastery started a blog he called A Monk’s Letter (brothercraig.tblog.com). At first he posted entries frequently, but then got busy with other things and realized blog maintenance can be quite time-consuming. Since then, he hasn’t paid much attention to his blog. He hopes to get back to it, but isn’t sure when he’ll find the time. Sound familiar to any bloggers out there?

Getting back to the 2005 Catholic Blog Awards, one of the multi-category winners was Father Bryce Sibley’s A Saintly Salmagundi (britius.stblogs.org). It took home top honors in the Most Humorous, Most Bizarre, Best Blog by a Man and Best Blog by a Priest or Religious categories. It also came in second place for the top prize, Best Overall.

Father Sibley graduated from the North American College in Rome and was ordained to the priesthood in 2000. He is currently pastor of St. Joseph Church in the Diocese of Lafayette, La. His blog, whose tagline is “Various ruminations on Catholicism, satire, esoterica, hagiography, nuttiness, culture, etc.,” is largely a compendium of his notes on current events of interest to Catholics, with links to the news stories that spurred them. But it also features a steady stream of his witticisms on odd cultural happenings of all sorts.

On the pastoral side, he offers such things as reflections on the Holy Eucharist. He updates his blog sometimes daily, sometimes every other day.

This year’s Best Overall award went to Amy Welborn for her Open Book (amywelborn.typepad.com/openbook), which also won in the Most Informative and Best Blog by a Woman categories. Welborn was a well-known Catholic speaker and writer even before she launched her blog, penning commentary for Our Sunday Visitor and authoring numerous books. Her news-oriented blog has a large and loyal following; it’s not unusual to see a given entry draw 50 or more reader comments. Sometimes the discussion gets so lively — heated may be a better word — that she needs to step in and call it off or bar troublemakers from posting. It’s well worth a daily check to see what knowledgeable and faithful Catholics are buzzing about.

Notably missing from this year’s Catholic Blog Awards was Mark Shea, host of Catholic and Enjoying It (markshea.blogspot.com). What happened? After claiming four awards in 2004, including Best Overall, he announced back in November that he was taking an indefinite leave from his blog in order to work on a book.

Many blog followers eagerly await his return because, like Welborn’s Open Book, Shea’s blog has been known to generate plenty of dialogue and debate among Catholics who care deeply about the Church. If he returns soon, he may well challenge this year’s winners when the call goes out for 2006 nominees early next year.

Come to think of it, by then I might even be able to nominate Brother Craig’s blog. If only I can help him find the time …

Brother John Raymond

is co-founder of the Monks of Adoration in Venice, Florida.

Monthly Web Picks

Since March is a month dedicated to St. Joseph, I would like to see what we can find out on the web about this hidden but great saint.

Certainly the place to start is with Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation “On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church” at vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_15081989_redemptoris-custos_en.html.

During the month of St. Joseph it would be good to pray a novena to him. One popular devotion is called the Seven Joys and Sorrows of St. Joseph.

The Oblates of St. Joseph have these prayers and others. They also tell you about him in Scripture, liturgy, apocrypha, magisterial teachings, writings of the Church Fathers and sacred art at osjoseph.org/stjoseph/.

Women for Faith & Family have a St. Joseph prayers and devotions page at wf-f.org/stjoseph.html. You might want to check out their “Family Activities for Saint Joseph’s Day.” You may also be interested in making a batch of something called Saint Joseph’s Rice Fritters!

The Loreto Chapel in Santa Fe, N.M., has a spiral staircase that seems to have been built by St. Joseph himself. Don’t believe me? See the pictures and read the story at newmexicoet.com/loretto_chapel_photos.htm.

St. Joseph is the Patron of a happy death. Blessed Louis Guanella began the Pious Union of St. Joseph. To become a member, one only needs to pray daily for the dying. The organization recommends the following prayer: “O St. Joseph, foster Father of Jesus Christ and true spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us and for the dying of this day (night).” You can learn more about the union and their bimonthly publication at piousunionofstjoseph.org.

St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal, Quebec, is the largest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph in the world. Blessed Brother André Bessette, a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, had a great devotion to St. Joseph. Learn more about this brother and the shrine at saint-joseph.org.

Sunlight illuminates a tree in full bloom as New York City celebrates Earth Day at Governors Island on April 20, 2024 in New York City. Earth Day originally started in 1970 as a way to celebrate and raise awareness about environmental issues facing the planet.

5 Catholic Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day and in response to the Holy Father’s message urging the faithful to take action in protecting the environment, here are five ways Catholics can celebrate Earth Day.