Recently someone asked me– in all seriousness– what the Church thinks of all the claims in the news of people seeing images of Jesus and Mary in all sorts of unexpected places.  Well-publicized examples include the famous Mary-in-the-tortilla, Mary-in-the-grilled-cheese, and Jesus appearing in the salt stains of a Chicago highway underpass. None of these were what the Church would call an apparition: an actual appearance … Continue reading Apophenia


When choosing a Bible, one faces a wide array of choices.  Often the question is heard, “Is it a Catholic or a Protestant Bible?”  This question isn’t usually about the translation per se, or who the editors were.  Usually it’s about how many– and which — books are included. The Bible is a collection of writings written, edited, compiled, copied, and passed on over a … Continue reading Apocrypha

Anti-Catholic Literature

  It’s not uncommon today to hear Catholic apologists and intellectuals talk about the entrenched anti-Catholic bias in the mainstream media.  While the Church is unquestionably a dramatic “target of opportunity” for many screenwriters and novelists, contemporary works of fiction have nothing on the vituperative anti-Catholic literature of the 19th Century.      Much of the anti-Catholic media in the 1800’s was fueled by the political … Continue reading Anti-Catholic Literature


In the US, New Years Day is January first.  In other parts of the world, the new year is based on the lunar calendar.  But in many parts of the world, the celebration of the new year was connected to the religious calendar.  In fact, until the year 1752 (when the Julian calendar was adopted), the new year was observed on “Lady Day,” or March … Continue reading Annunciation

Alternative Christmas

In recent weeks, I’ve had conversations with my brothers and sisters about approaching  Christmas gift-giving a little differently this year.  We’re all adults with pretty well-established lives, and the fact is we don’t really need more “stuff.”  Still, we’d like to preserve the Christmas season’s sense of generosity and giving.  So, we’ve thought about some alternative ways of giving that we hope will extend the … Continue reading Alternative Christmas

All Souls Day

On the first two days of November each year, the Church commemorates two linked feast days:  All Saints, and All Souls.  All Saints is easy to understand:  we remember all those who have lived lives of heroic holiness, whether the Church has canonized them or not.  But on All Souls, we remember all those who have died, not just the spiritual superstars. From the earliest … Continue reading All Souls Day

Alacán Martyrs

In the history of the settlement of America by Europeans, Catholic missionaries played a vital role in establishing footholds in the new world, with the intention of bringing the Gospel to the native people of America.  Most famous, of course, are the Franciscan missions that stretch along the coast of California.  But one of the earliest efforts at establishing a missionary presence in North America … Continue reading Alacán Martyrs

Advent Wreaths

In many parts of the world, it’s customary to decorate one’s door with an evergreen wreath during the seasons of Advent and Christmas.  Many Christian Churches and homes also maintain the tradition of an Advent wreath, an evergreen wreath decorated with four candles: three violet and one pink. The first Advent wreath was invented by Johann Hinrich Wichtern, a protestant pastor in Hamburg Germany, around … Continue reading Advent Wreaths


Catholicism is a religious tradition that lives in a cycle of feasts and seasons.  This cycle begins each year four Sundays before Christmas, with the season of Advent.  These four or five weeks are a time of prayerful preparation, during which we contemplate the coming reign of God at the end of time, and the Incarnation of Christ which we’ll celebrate at Christmas. At least, … Continue reading Advent