Catholic Distance University

King Saul

Michael Doyle

“Twenty minutes, Saul. You promised,” she says from the other room. A weak cry follows and then her weary voice again, “Hush now, hush… Daddy’s going any minute. Belly’ll be all swollen soon, then sleep, sleep.”

Eighty push-ups. Not too bad. Saul rises to his feet and faces the mirror. Only the table lamp is on because he looks more chiseled that way, his skin smooth again. He brings his wiry arms in toward his bare chest, admiring the oily sheen that clings to his body. He bites his lip, clenches his fists, then holds his hands loose by his side. Try to be loose tonight. Jaw loose, fingers trembling. [Read more...]

Gazing into the Abyss

J.B. Toner

This painless life has been too little blest,
 Too little in true suffering immersed—
 Of all disease is comfort not the worst,
For one who seeks a cause, a cross, a quest?
Yet one who treads the road of holiness
 Leans perilously near a brink accurs’d:
 For vampire-slayers oft are bitten first,
And exorcists are oftenest possessed.

[Read more...]

Pursuing the Sacred in Art

Daniel Balan

A picture is worth a thousand words.
-Unknown origin

“There are two ways of expressing things; one is to show them crudely, the other is to evoke them with art.”
-Henri Matisse

Every mark is a kind of word—-a communicative record or sign of one’s presence or of an event. Whether footprint or fingerprint, scratch or signature, the identity of the originator is embedded in the mark, becoming an individual’s “I am” left behind for others to see. Humanity’s first marks developed into pictures that conveyed ideas or concepts that represented real things. Thus the visual, the conceptual, and the real were closely connected. Writing developed from these images and so the origins of written language are in art. A work of art, like a written word, remains a mark of the originator’s identity. These early marks, both word and art, were both sign and symbol, conveying ideas as well as evidence of life and existence. These were man’s first attempt at immortality: words that outlive their originator. [Read more...]

Celibacy and the Eucharist

Rev. Pang Joseph Shiu Tcheou

As a transitional deacon eagerly awaiting priestly ordination this past year, I was confronted with the challenge (amidst many others!) of attempting to finish my last significant academic work: my Master of Arts thesis. Fortunately, the topic that I chose was one that is very intimately connected to the destiny that the Lord had mapped out for me: priestly celibacy. Studying the history and theology of priestly celibacy not only allowed me to hand in something substantial and of value to the seminary as part of my Master of Arts program but was, providentially, a beautiful way for me to meditate on and prepare for the incredible life that awaited me. In the little essay that follows, I would like to share the heart of this thesis and how, as a priest ordained for less than three months, I have humbly come to see the beauty and the glory that is the priesthood, lived out in celibate and chaste love. [Read more...]

Saving Berlin

K.E. Cybulski

The Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz is disconcertingly beautiful. Healthy maple trees frame the shining white façade of this almost century-old German villa as well as its lush gardens. A short walk down the road leads to the shore of the Wannsee itself, a lake bespeckled during the warmer seasons with sailboats and swimmers. Wannsee is lovely, which can be unsettling. How can such beauty grace a town with so ignominious a past? [Read more...]

Reversion

Shannon Berry

When I was a kid, I was Catholic—-my head filled up like a chalice with holy mysteries. When I was an infant, my parents clothed my small body in a white dress and baptized me with the name Shannon Elisabeth, a good, strong Irish-Catholic name. At seven, I stood in line with the other second graders, waiting to enter the confessional for the first time. I hid a little hand-written slip of paper in my shoe, so I wouldn’t forget what to tell the priest. In the spring of that same year, I wore daisies in my hair and a simple white dress as I knelt, ecstatic and overly solemn, during my First Communion Mass. [Read more...]

Christ, Culture, and the Culture Wars

Ryan T. Anderson

“The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply. Love—-caritas—-will always prove necessary, even in the most just society.”
—Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est

[Read more...]

Light from the East

Matthew Alderman

The claim that the altar of the early Church was always designed to celebrate facing the people, a claim made often and repeatedly, turns out to be nothing but a fairy tale.
—Josef Jungmann, S.J., a former advocate of Mass facing the congregation 1

When asked about the era before the liturgical changes of the mid-1960s, Catholics who lived through it often bring up exotic tales of Masses celebrated by a priest with “his back to the people,” sometimes wistfully, sometimes not. In these reveries, the Second Vatican Council inevitably becomes the event that turned the priest around and broke the altar away from the wall. Until then, the celebrant had typically faced the apse or rear wall of the church, ostensibly appearing to be “away from the people.” This practice was described for symbolic and historical reasons using the Latin phrase, ad orientem, “to the east,” sometimes also rendered in English as “the eastward position.” 2 Now he was turned to face the congregation, versus populum, an apparent fruit of post-Conciliar openness. However, a careful combing of the relevant Council document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, reveals that Vatican II did not mandate any such action. In light of the skepticism Pope Benedict has expressed throughout his career concerning the prudence of this change, it is imperative that the informed layman to be able to evaluate the true historical rationale behind this still-controversial decision. Any detailed examination of the matter will find the logic behind this shift deeply flawed. [Read more...]

A Song for Caitlin

J.B. Toner

God’s earth is full of beauty, that I know;
   It scintillates and dances in my eyes,
   His laughter rolls and rings and multiplies,
And makes the turning vistas chime and glow—
But little peace it grants me, even so:
   I cannot cling to bright salvation’s prize;
   The Heaven-light that lights my way soon dies,
For want of faith (perhaps) through which to flow.
 And yet my world holds hope and purity;
   Our Lady’s Son redeemed the depths of Hell—
 And traces of her grace I still can see,
   Like sun-sparked droplets from a silver well:
 This medal round my neck which is, to me,
   Three strands of hair from my Galadriel.

[Read more...]

Joy

J.B. Toner

And when I lift my blinking gaze to You,
   Your Resurrection I begin to share—
   In seconds all that’s desolate turns fair,
The louring skies flash instantly to blue,
I sprint, leap, fly, all tireless, through the globe,
   On zephyrs with my brother birds I ride,
   And dance on soaring crests of foaming tides,
Restored by just one touch, Lord, of Your robe.
 I am not meant, perhaps, to comprehend
   Why rue-smoke palls the sunlight half the time;
 But goodness is so good, such strength it lends,
   That I can still believe some plan divine
 Will someday somehow make us whole again—
   For now it is enough Your sun still shines.

[Read more...]

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