Monthly Archives: July 2011

VIDEO REPORT: Laughing with St. Ignatius

St. Ignatius of Loyola at prayer in Rome. (Father William Hart McNichols)

In honor of today’s Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola – founder of the Jesuits – here’s a video clip of Father James Martin, S.J. sharing some of his favorite Jesuit jokes. It’s taken from the priest-author’s July 29 talk at St. Ignatius in Baltimore. I know you’ll enjoy it!

Also, the image of St. Ignatius shown on this blog is one of Father Martin’s favorites. It shows the great saint at prayer in Rome – perfectly capturing his humanity. Father William Hart McNichols was the iconographer and you can learn more about his work here.

For more funny and insightful clips from Father Martin’s lecture on humor and spirituality, click here.

Happy Feast Day to all my Jesuit friends from a proud graduate of Loyola University Maryland!  Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam!



VIDEO REPORT: Colbert Report chaplain says God wants us to laugh

Father James Martin, S.J.

Being a faithful Catholic doesn’t mean you have to be a joyless one.

New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan knows that. When Archbishop Dolan was installed to his post in the Big Apple, an enterprising reporter asked the newcomer if there was anything he would like to condemn. Archbishop Dolan responded in the affirmative.

“I condemn instant mashed potatoes and light beer,” he deadpanned.

A few years ago, when Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl visited a Catholic bookstore, the owner approached him and said, “Oh!  You’re looking for a book, Father. You must be a Jesuit!”

“No,” Cardinal Wuerl replied, “but I’m literate.”

Back when Blessed Pope John XXIII enjoyed making surprise visits to Catholic institutions in Rome, he once stopped at a hospital run by the Sisters of the Holy Spirit. The superior of the religious community ran up to the Holy Father and announced that she was “the superior of the Holy Spirit.”

Without skipping a beat, the pope countered with: “Well, you outrank me. I’m only the vicar of Christ!”

Those were just a few of many stories of faith and good humor shared by Jesuit Father James Martin during last night’s Ignatian Day Lecture at St. Ignatius in Baltimore. The Jesuit priest, a bestselling author and culture editor of America Magazine, spoke on the important role of humor in living a spiritual life.

Well-known for his amazingly funny appearances on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, Father Martin is traveling the country to spread a message that might be summed up in two words: “Lighten up.”

Along with Matt Palmer – my good friend and colleague at The Catholic Review, I had the honor of interviewing Father Martin at the end of his lecture.  The priest was very generous with his time and gave us a lot of good insights into evangelization.

We will be sharing some of what he had to say in the next few days.  I will also be posting some interesting observations from Father Martin on what it’s like to be on the Colbert Report.

For now, take a look at some of these three video clips from last night.  Father Martin will have you laughing like you won’t believe.  Stay tuned for much more to come and check out The Welcome Matt to see what Matt Palmer’s posting about Father Martin’s appearance last night.

7/31 UPDATE: Click here to hear Father Martin share some of his favorite Jesuit jokes.

Narthex is open

Sorry for the light postings of late, folks.

Since this blog began, I haven’t gone longer than a few days without posting.  The last two weeks have been busy, however, and I haven’t had a chance to step into The Narthex.

The good news is that I’ve got lots of good stuff coming your way.   If you like to laugh, you’ll really like what’s coming later today and in the next few days.  I have also come across some really cool stuff that’s been sitting in my notebook.  It’s long past due for sharing.

Let’s go to the tapes

This week’s Catholic Review will feature a special report on how the practice of the faith has developed in Poland since the collapse of Communism.  You can read the story online here. Below are some video reports I put together while I was in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary in late May and early June. Check them out if you haven’t already had a chance to watch them.

Pope John Paul II’s home parish shows love for native son


Our Lady of Czestochowa draws pilgrims


Trumpeter of Krakow


Monument in Hungary safeguards against the plague


Infant of Prague inspires devotion

Our Lady of the Butterflies

An image of the Blessed Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child is made out of African butterfly wings. (CR Staff/George P. Matysek Jr.)

One of the great joys of my recent pilgrimage to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland was meeting Father Anastasio Roggero.

The Carmelite priest, who shepherds the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague, is a bundle of energy – constantly greeting people, spreading the Gospel and sharing the story of the famous Infant of Prague statue that’s so gloriously displayed inside his church. (Read about that here).

Carmelite Father Anastasio Roggero discusses the Infant of Prague with pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Baltimore. (CR/George P. Matysek Jr.)

It seems that Father Roggero’s enthusiasm for the Infant of Prague is matched by his passion for his religious community’s missionary work. Carmelites have ministered in the Central African Republic for 40 years, he said, and they currently work at several medical centers and schools.

Father Roggero showed me photographs of his brother priests helping impoverished and hungry people in Africa. Then, to my surprise, he gave me a one of the coolest images of the Blessed Virgin Mary I’ve ever seen.

An African artist crafted the unique portrait from butterfly wings!

(Don’t worry, there are millions of colorful butterflies that migrate over Central Africa.  When they die, the wings are collected by people in villages to be used in their artwork. The Carmelites give the images to donors who support their mission work).

I don’t know if there is a “Lady of the Butterflies,” but maybe there should be.

Decriminalizing polygamy is no laughing matter

Jonathan Turley (From Turley blog)

Some people laugh when they hear New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and others suggest that the decriminalization of polygamy might be the next big fight in the ongoing battle to defend marriage.

Here’s a story to wipe the smiles off their faces.

Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, says he is going to Salt Lake City today to file a challenge to the Utah statute criminalizing bigamy and cohabitation. He’s filing the lawsuit on behalf of the Brown family. The Browns are nationally known as an openly polygamous family showcased on the TLC program Sister Wives.

Writing on his blog, the professor said he is “proud” to represent the family:

We believe that this case represents the strongest factual and legal basis for a challenge to the criminalization of polygamy ever filed in the federal courts. We are not demanding the recognition of polygamous marriage. We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs. This action seeks to protect one of the defining principles of this country, what Justice Louis Brandeis called ‘the right to be left alone.’ In that sense, it is a challenge designed to benefit not just polygamists but all citizens who wish to live their lives according to their own values – even if those values run counter to those of the majority in the state.

Talk about a slippery slope.  Check out more on the professor’s blog.

MD braces for gay marriage fight; NY archbishop worries about what’s next

In the wake of a failed effort to block gay marriage from becoming law in the Empire State, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan is raising concerns about what might be on the horizon. Check out what he wrote in a recent blog:

Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Veterans my age and over can remember sixty years ago when we fought widespread, no-fault divorce, convinced it would lead to a cheapening of the marriage bond and harm our kids (as, of course, scholarly studies now report has, indeed, happened).  Recall how the Church resisted the “contraceptive mentality,” fearing it would rupture the sacred bond between love and the procreation of children.  Then, remember how the Church sounded the alarm over rising rates of promiscuity, adultery, pre-marital sex, and cohabitation prior to or instead of marriage.  And now we ring the steeple bell again at this latest dilution of the authentic understanding of marriage, worried that the next step will be another redefinition to justify multiple partners and infidelity.

If you think I’m exaggerating, within days of the passage of this bill, one major newspaper ran a flattering profile of a proponent of what was called “nonmonogamy.” Apparently, “nonmonogamy” is the idea that society is unrealistic to think that one man and one woman should remain faithful in marriage, and that openness to some infidelity should be the norm!

Reflecting on the campaign against legalized gay marriage, Archbishop Dolan expressed thanks to “those courageous millions who valiantly fought this unfortunate project of social engineering.” He also apologized to anyone in the gay community who felt hurt by the Church’s campaign.

“We tried our best to insist from the start that our goal was pro-marriage, never anti-gay,” he said.

Supporters of traditional marriage demonstrate in Annapolis prior to a March 11 debate in the House of Delegates to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. (CR Staff/George P. Matysek Jr.)

Meanwhile, it’s looking like Maryland is about to go through a similar battle as advocates prepare to launch another all-out effort to pass same-sex marriage here.

Gay marriage almost became a reality during the last legislative session, but fell short at the last minute when it became clear there weren’t enough votes. Maryland’s bishops had taken a lead role in opposing the effort, joining forces with other faith leaders.

A statewide coalition of groups including Equality Maryland, Progressive Maryland, SEIU, CWA, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry and others plan to announce the launch of Marylanders for Marriage Equality – a statewide coalition in support of the legalization of same-sex marriage.

According to a July 8 advisory, the coalition is planning a July 12 press conference at Baltimore’s City Hall to announce a campaign to “work with allies to secure the votes necessary for passage of a civil marriage equality bill in the 2012 legislative session.”

What happened in New York is bound to loom large in the Free State.

‘For heroes proved’

Happy Independence Day!

Woman says she was healed through Pope Pius XII’s intercession

The AP has an exclusive on a woman who believes she was healed through the intercession of Pope Pius XII.  Could it be the miracle that leads to the beatification of the World War II-era pope?  One American papal biographer thinks so.

Blessed Pius XII?

Maria Esposito was ready to give up. Wasted away at 42 kilos (92 pounds), she couldn’t bear another dose of chemotherapy to fight the Stage IV Burkitt’s lymphoma that had invaded her body while she was pregnant with her second child.

But as she and her family had done since she was diagnosed with the rare and aggressive form of cancer in July 2005, Esposito prayed to the man who had appeared to her husband in a dream as the only person who could save her: Pope Pius XII.

Esposito survived, cured after a single, six-week cycle of chemotherapy — a recovery that, she says, stunned her doctors and convinced her that the World War II-era pope had intervened with God to save her.

Esposito’s case, which the 42-year-old teacher recounted to The Associated Press in her first media interview, has been proposed to the Vatican as the possible miracle needed to beatify Pius, one of the most controversial sainthood causes under way, given that many Jews say he failed to speak out enough to stop the Holocaust.

Pius’ main biographer, American Sister Margherita Marchione, has championed Esposito’s miracle case and personally presented it to the Vatican’s No. 2 official, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.

Pope Benedict XVI moved Pius one step closer to possible sainthood in December 2009 when he confirmed that Pius lived a life of “heroic” Christian virtue. All that is needed now is for the Vatican to determine a “miracle” occurred.

“I’m certain that inside of me there was the hand of God operating, thanks to the intercession of Pope Pius XII,” Esposito said during a recent interview in her cheery dining room in the seaside town of Castellammare di Stabia on the Amalfi coast. “I’m convinced of it.”

The AP reports that some doctors and church officials aren’t as sure as Esposito.  Read about that and much more here.

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