Does living an authentic Christian life mean we have to withdraw from society? Hardly. Word On Fire Blog contributor Fr. Michael Cummins is traveling in Ireland and visited the ruins of Glendalough, a monastic city south of Dublin founded by St. Kevin. There, Fr. Cummins discovered a rich example of what living a Christian life can mean, and today he shares what he learned with us.
Glendalough is a glacially formed valley in Ireland that is about an hour’s drive south of Dublin. The name means “glen of the two lakes.” The glen is remarkable for its peacefulness and beauty. In the sixth century, St. Kevin arrived in the glen seeking a life of prayer, penitence and contact with nature. The reputation of the holy man grew and other people came to the glen seeking Christian community. A monastic city grew and thrived there for centuries. Scholars estimate that at its height around one thousand souls lived within the monastic city, with non-monastics (merchants, tradesmen, etc.) living outside its walls and pilgrims arriving continuously from all over Ireland and Europe. The monastic city became a center of faith, learning, peace and life within the dark and often violent times of the middle ages. The city was destroyed around 1368 A.D. by British troops and now all that is left are the stone ruins of a once-thriving faith and cultural center.
Today, as I toured Glendalough and learned its history, I was reminded of the stunning mosaic above the main altar in the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome. In the center of the mosaic is the cross of Christ, and from the cross sprouts branches calling to mind the saying of Christ that he is the vine and that we are the branches. Within the twists and turns of these branches are found different images of culture and life: artists at work, people performing music, laborers, people learning, and many more such images. The mosaic testifies that life flows from the cross of Christ and that it is life that both transforms and builds culture. The monastic city of Glendalough was a living testimony of this truth. In a savage and brutal time, a man began a community that, informed by the Christian faith and the light of the Gospel, developed learning and truly aided humanity. I would say that Ireland and in fact all of humanity is in a better place because St. Kevin and his followers took the light of the Gospel seriously and, by so doing, raised the human condition...
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's... it's... Jared Zimmerer! Today our blog contributor of extraordinary powers (and time management skills) offers his take on the latest spin on the classic superhero story, "Superman: Man of Steel." What he finds is a lesson in sanctity and saintliness.
There is little else in American culture as recognizable as the “S” that is emblazoned upon both the chest of Superman’s suit and the hearts of almost every boy born in the last 80 years. Comic books, cartoons, movies, video games, high-dollar action figures, vehicles and tattoos from around the world brazenly broadcast the message of the intriguing personality of a man named Clark Kent who has a intensely woven past, which takes him 33 years to truly understand. When one thinks of a superhero, Superman is at the top of the list. From sleeping in my cape to watching the same cartoons and movies over and over again, Superman virtually defined my childhood.
How is it that a fictional character, a figment of one man’s imagination, can interlock its way into the minds and hearts of generations in such a unique way? Is it his seeming immortality, his super strength, or his ability to simply wear a pair of glasses and become a face in the crowd? The latest epic film “Man of Steel” is Clark Kent’s preparation for his destiny and it acts as a mirror of boyhood hopes and dreams to save the world...
Early last month, the "hardest working man in Catholicism" (we just gave him that title), Brandon Vogt, launched his newest web project, StrangeNotions.com, which aims to engage atheists in civil, fruitful and high-minded dialogue about the existence of God. He built it, and they're coming.
About a month ago, did you feel something in the universe shift? An almost imperceptible force nudging humanity toward a greater end? Do you know what that “strange” presence was?
Brandon Vogt making the Internet more civil … for atheists.
In early May, the busiest young evangelist we know launched his web project two years in the making, Strange Notions, to address this growing threat to Christianity and the culture. But he did it not by going on the attack, he did it by welcoming atheists into the fold.
“It needs to be focused on dialogue,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “It needs to provoke discussion.”
Pointing fingers and regurgitating rote ideas online were taking the conversation nowhere, Vogt noted, but creating an online model of the ancient Greek Areopagus, a place of learning and idea exchange, could become more provocative. Contributing Catholic writers, theologians and intellectuals post a new article daily on the existence of God, and civil, well sourced and “high-minded” commenters are invited to join the discussion. Vogt has organized the resources well, with pages for recommended reading, for example, as well as a well-organized list of topics and starting points with drop-down menus. And then, of course, the “MUST READ” page, which leads to a list of commenting rules and tips. The Internet comment box is a notoriously unkind place, but Vogt’s specific but not intrusive rules aim to keep it respectful. It was a wild idea for such an untamed medium...
"Tony, Tony look around..." Actually, stop right there. Ellyn von Huben tells us about her personal and repeated invocation of St. Anthony, the patron saint of (among other things) lost items, but more importantly, how she finds something that will help us much more than those long-gone keys will.
I hadn’t been a Catholic too long when I had my first opportunity to implore the intercession of St. Anthony for help in finding something lost. Not that I was totally sold on the idea that I could I ask a saint to help me find a missing item. There was enough Wisconsin Lutheran practicality in me to keep a constant internal voice repeating, “Find your own keys, idiot.” But they weren’t my keys. What I had lost were the keys to a church in which my La Leche League group met. The shame of admitting that I had lost keys to someone else’s church (a Lutheran church) — which had been kind enough to give us space to meet — was too much to bear.
Now that I have worked in my parish for over 10 years, I know how unhappy the powers-that-be would be to hear that someone lost a set of keys to the whole church. We have strict controls on who signs out which keys and for how long. And when quibbles arise, I have no problem at all defending the parish rules. Keys can go astray. Keys get lost. I know whereof I speak.
I prayed fervently to St. Anthony to help me. If not for my sake, for the sake of my group. For the sake of the church that gave them to me. St. Anthony, among his many attributes, is also known as the “Hammer of Heretics,” but I can now attest that hiding keys to a Lutheran church are not part of his plan. There are novenas to St. Anthony for the finding of lost objects, but I didn’t need a novena. The same day I prayed, I found the keys. I will spare you the details that assured me that there was divine intervention. Let me just say that I found them in a place they should not have been and in a place I wouldn’t have thought of looking. But that day, going about my usual mom stuff, I came across my keys. One thing led to another, like "Tinker to Evers to Chance,” and there they were. This is the small, derriere-saving kind of miracle that showed me that St. Anthony could indeed be a holy helper for anyone who begged his intercession...