What Young Adults Who Were Homeschooled Tell Us Today
They were homeschooled in the 70s and 80s, decades before the current explosion in homeschooling across America. Today, they are adults, with lives of their own. In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, two West Coast young people share their stories, reflecting on the surprising ‘good, bad and ugly’ about homeschooling — in their own personal experience and words.*
REGINA: When were you homeschooled and for how long?
Jennifer: I started being homeschooled in 1973, for nine years.
Keith: I was homeschooled for 12 years, beginning in 1988.
REGINA: Where did you attend university and what are your professions today?
Jennifer: I graduated from Portland State University with a BFA. I am now a freelance fine artist.
Keith: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. University of Portland (2005) and a Master of Science in Computer Science and Engineering. University of Notre Dame (2008) I am now employed as a software engineer with WW Technology Group (government contractor).
REGINA: Looking back on your own experience after all these years, what would you say were the benefits of being homeschooled?
Jennifer: For me, it was the freedom to explore interests and develop skills. And freedom from negative peer pressure. Not to mention free time.
Keith: I would say there were three benefits for me. The first was autonomous learning; I learned how to pursue and acquire knowledge on my own, which led to an easy college transition. Second was customized education; I was able to engage topics of interest in the manner best suited to my learning modality. Finally, there was social skills; I interacted with adults and children of other ages as frequently as with my peers. I learned from them and become comfortable interacting with them.
“Homeschooling gave me the freedom to explore interests and develop skills. And freedom from negative peer pressure. Not to mention free time.”
REGINA: Sounds very impressive. How about the negatives?
Jennifer: I experienced a lack of acceptance/understanding from society at large.
Keith: The three main negatives for me were preconceived biases, assumed cultural knowledge and mornings. (LOL)
“The three main negatives for me were preconceived biases, assumed cultural knowledge and mornings. (LOL)”
REGINA: On balance, would you recommend homeschooling to your friends and family? Why or why not?
Jennifer: I believe the benefits always outweigh any drawbacks. As parents, no one knows our children’s strengths, weaknesses, gifts, abilities and personalities better than we do. Ideally, we are the ones best equipped to tailor their educational experience and help them flourish as unique individuals.
Keith: Homeschooling amplifies the influence of the parents (and siblings) and reduces the influence of peers. If the parents are likely to be a positive influence on their children, I would recommend that they homeschool.
“Homeschooling amplifies the influence of the parents (and siblings) and reduces the influence of peers. If the parents are likely to be a positive influence on their children, I would recommend that they homeschool.”
* Interviewees’ names have been changed to guarantee their anonymity and to encourage their candor.
Beyond their individual histories and charisms, all of these growing men’s Orders in America have some common elements. They wear habits. They follow their Rule strictly. And they are orthodox in their views, quite loyal to the Magisterium.
Ten years ago, no one would have believed what we are witnessing today.
Back in 2002-2003, horrendous headlines blared across America and Catholics cringed.
After wave upon wave of sex scandals cut a debilitating swath through the ranks of our priests and brothers, the US Catholic Church made more then $3.4 billion in payments to a few law firms. Most allegations were never proven, as most cases never came to trial.
Pundits predicted the imminent demise of the Church. Not many Catholics dared to disagree. No one, it seemed, would want to associate themselves with such perfidy.
A Surprising Trend
But the Barque of Peter is ever-buoyant. It may come as a surprise to the nay-sayers and the secular media, but the traditional male Catholic religious Orders in America are experiencing a renaissance.
This is occurring regardless of the Form of the Mass celebrated by the Order. From the Benedictines at Clear Creek, Oklahoma who celebrate the Extraordinary Form to the Dominicans of the Eastern Province who celebrate a reverent Novus Ordo Mass, American young men are stepping forward to take vows in Religious Orders.
Some Common Elements
Beyond their individual histories and charisms, all of these growing Orders in America have some common elements.
They wear habits. They follow their Rule strictly.
And they are orthodox in their views, quite loyal to the Magisterium.
In this issue, Regina Magazine features a wide-ranging interview with American Dominicans. We also are privileged to have an intimate conversation with a brand-new novice entering The Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest at their Oratory in South Saint Louis.
Stay tuned, though as Regina Magazine continues to cover this astonishing turnaround in future issues!
Five Sisters of Mercy arrived in the Oklahoma Territory in 1884, a scant five years before the famous Oklahoma Land Run. They had accepted an invitation from the Rev. Isidore Robot, first Prefect Apostolic of the Indian Territory, to work with the Native American tribes at Sacred Heart Mission.
Their long journey to Oklahoma (Choctaw for ‘red people’) began in Lacon, Illinois. The Sisters endured forging rivers, riding in covered wagons, walking endless miles, living through an encounter with outlaws, and even surviving a tornado! Undaunted, the little band overcame the hardships of the long, wearying trip. They did not turn back as other Orders before had.
These Sisters belonged to an Order which was founded in 1831 by Mother Catherine McAuley in Dublin, Ireland. By the grace of God, this Order was established to shelter, feed and educate poor women and children, and to help relieve their sufferings. Shortly after Mother Catherine’s death just ten years later, the order had grown to 150 sisters. Like many successful Orders before and since, they began to establish Missions, sending small groups of sisters to the east and west coasts of America. So when these five sisters settled down into Potawotami tribal land in July of 1884, they were indeed following the dream of their foundress.
On their way to the Oklahoma Territory, the Sisters endured forging rivers, riding in covered wagons, walking endless miles, living through an encounter with outlaws, and even surviving a tornado!
The Center of Catholicism
Their first order of business was to open a boarding school for Native American girls. Saint Mary’s Academy educated the daughters of Pottawatomie, Chickasaw, and Seminole tribes as well as the daughters of white settlers. In the years that followed, the little school would grow into a self-sustaining community, an island of civilization. The Sisters had stables, employees’ houses, a blacksmith shop, a tool shop, a carpenter shop, and a bakery where the sisters baked 500 big French loaves each day. Sacred Heart Monastery, which had been built before the sisters’ arrival, housed the novitiate and a boys’ school run by the Benedictines. The large campus was called Sacred Heart; it became the center of Catholicism in the Territory.
Then, disaster struck. On the night of January 15th, 1901 a fire engulfed the Sacred Heart Mission. It swept through the boys and girls schools and overtook the monastery, convent, and college – everything was burned to the ground. The bakery and a small log cabin are the only buildings remaining today.
In the years that followed, the little school would grow into a self-sustaining community, an island of civilization. Then, disaster struck.
Two years later, the Sisters moved to Oklahoma City to continue their ministry of education with the opening of Mount Saint Mary’s Academy boarding school (which my great grandfather helped build). The cornerstone was laid, and soon young ladies began arriving from across the United States to be educated. It was there at ‘the Mount’ during 1910 that local women also began to attend day classes. Mount Saint Mary’s Academy continued as a novitiate until 1929, with at least 32 of their graduates answering the call to a religious vocation.
In 1947 the Sisters of Mercy bought the 85 bed Oklahoma City General Hospital in downtown OKC which they would re-name Mercy Hospital. In 1974 they made the visionary decision to build a new Mercy Hospital in very north Oklahoma City in a cow pasture. Today, it is a huge medical complex.
Mount Saint Mary’s Academy continued as a novitiate until 1929, with at least 32 of their graduates answering the call to a religious vocation.
Three Sisters To Steal Your Heart
Over the years, my family has had many encounters with these sisters, and we have become friends with a few. Less than a decade later, three Sisters of Mercy walked into our small Catholic Bookstore, Our Lady of Fatima.
There they stood in their modified habits: Sister Beatrice Bergman, Sister Boniface Kettner, and Sister Madlyn McCann. Sister Madlyn stole my heart immediately. She was short, round and her smile reminded me my grandmother. As they oohed and ahhed their way through our store, they endeared themselves to us immediately as they excitedly examined all the Catholic devotional books and items on our shelves. All three began talking about how they loved their life as Sisters of Mercy, their favorite devotions, and their love for all things holy in the Catholic Church.
Our relationship with these Sisters grew over the years. Once, they invited mom and me to Mount Saint Mary’s for a tour. One year the International Statue of Our Lady of Fatima came to Oklahoma for an entire month, and every church, school or organization had a chance to secure a day or night for a visit. Mom and I were thrilled to be asked to be on the committee to host the statue.
Our Sisters were excited, too and immediately asked their pastor to host Our Lady’s statue. His response was an emphatic “NO!” He did not want that statue visiting, he explained disdainfully, because the Church was past all that nonsense.
Well, those Sisters told me that they would NOT take no for an answer. They would go over the priest’s head — to the Mother of God. They began to pray their rosaries, and fast! They also made a novena.
Just before the final time slot was taken for the statue, their priest suddenly called me. To my utter shock, he asked politely if his parish might have the statue for an evening. Before I could respond, he named the very date we had open.
Our Sisters immediately asked their pastor to host Our Lady’s statue. His response was an emphatic “NO!” He did not want that statue visiting, he explained disdainfully, because the Church was past all that nonsense.
A Spooky Old Attic on the Mount
What an incredible evening it was. Snow was falling, and we had been invited to stay all night at the convent at Mount Saint Mary’s. Late in the evening, our three Sisters told us that they had a surprise for us.
We were intrigued, as they beckoned us to follow their flashlights down dimly lit hallways and into an old, old elevator that creaked as it labored to take us to the top floor. We emerged from the lift into a dark space, leading into a staircase into the attic.
Those Sisters fairly flew up those broken old steps. We followed, but at the top of the stairs we stopped abruptly. The attic looked like a scene out of a scary movie – complete with ghosts everywhere!
However, the ghosts turned out to be sheet-covered statues, crucifixes, framed papal blessings, and various other Catholic treasures. We were in awe; all of these holy things were very, very old. The Sisters explained that some of them had survived the fire at Sacred Heart Mission. Others were gifts to Mount Saint Mary’s during the early days.
Those Sisters fairly flew up those broken old steps. We followed, but at the top of the stairs we stopped abruptly. The attic looked like a scene out of a scary movie – complete with ghosts everywhere!
The Sisters’ Secret
Why were these treasures hidden in the attic? The Sisters exchanged glances and lowered their voices. Decades before, the changes in the Church had led to changes within their own convent, they said sadly. They had been worried that some of the younger Sisters would have had the statues destroyed.
They’d made a secret plan, they said. Some of the older boys from the Mount had agreed to help them hide their treasures in the attic, where they had rested undisturbed for decades since.
Oh, how those three Sisters treasured the secret contents of the attic! This time it was our turn to ooh and awe at the sight of so many sacramentals hidden away.
After a short time, we started back down the treacherous stairway. When we shut the door to the attic behind us, we never dreamt that we’d see anything like this again.
Why were these treasures hidden in the attic? The Sisters exchanged glances and lowered their voices. Decades before, they had been worried that some of the younger Sisters would have had the statues destroyed, they explained.
Five Years Later
Sister Beatrice asked if we would like a few of the treasures from the attic, as they had won permission to give them to someone who would take care of them. They had already given a few things away — a Sacred Heart statue and a Saint Joseph statue went to a church that had gladly taken them.
Of course we said yes, and that’s when Saint Anthony, Saint Jude, Saint Aloysius, Saint Agnes and two altar angels came to live at our home. Today, the angels adorn either side of an altar at St Damien of Molokai church, where the Traditional Latin Mass is said each day.
These statues are all indeed treasures, beautiful sacramentals, and each time we look at them it brings back the sweetest memories of those three very special Sisters of Mercy — gone now, to their heavenly reward.
Requiescat in pace.
Today, the sisters’ angels adorn either side of a beautiful altar at an Oklahoma church where the Traditional Latin Mass is said each day.
It should have been the death of an urban parish. In 1980, Holy Rosary Church and Priory in northeast Portland, Oregon was an island in a vast sea of debris. What had been a classic American working class Catholic neighborhood had been utterly destroyed. Sixties-era government ‘urban renewal’ programs had driven out families and small businesses. Land prices plummeted, and Motel 6, car washes, parking areas, and gas stations took their place.
In short order, the parish community evaporated. There were no more than a dozen families who came to Mass at the Dominican church on Sundays. The church was surrounded by vacant lots, choked with litter.
Today, Holy Rosary has over 900 families on the parish rolls, who faithfully fill the pews for six Masses every weekend. What’s more, many Catholics drive from the areas around Portland for Mass, socializing, catechism, Bible classes and book groups.
How did this miracle happen, in Portland, Oregon – a town known for its militant atheism and West Coast liberalism?
Father Vincent Kelber, OP, Holy Rosary’s hard-working pastor, tells us in this exclusive Regina Magazine interview:
REGINA: How would you characterize your parish and Mass attendance?
Father Vincent Kelber: Holy Rosary Parish was founded in 1894 to, as one Archbishop stated it, “labor to build up and increase the worship of the Blessed Mother of our Lord Jesus.” This is what Holy Rosary has continued to do for almost 120 years, administered by the Western Dominican Province. The church itself is the chapel of the Rosary Confraternity whose western offices are across the street.
Father Paul Duffner, O.P., 98 years old and still assigned to the Priory community of Friars, founded KBVM as a radio Rosary apostolate to broadcast the recitation of the Holy Rosary and provide catechesis, even before the founding of EWTN. Although a territorial parish, Holy Rosary has ever served the wider Portland Metropolitan area. A great number of parishioners travel 45 minutes or more each Sunday to attend Mass at the parish.
We are told it is the faithfulness to the sacred liturgy, orthodox doctrinal preaching, the availability of confessions, sound catechesis, and the spirit of prayer that draw people from so far afield. Holy Rosary Church has also long celebrated the ancient Dominican Rite on a regular basis.
Holy Rosary gladly serves two kinds of “parishioners:” those who are registered here and attend frequently and the many visitors who do so occasionally to augment their spiritual life.
We are told it is the faithfulness to the Divine Liturgy, orthodox doctrinal preaching, the availability of confessions, sound catechesis, and the spirit of prayer that draw people from so far afield.
REGINA: Confession is a big part of most successful parishes. How would you characterize the numbers of people who come to Confession at Holy Rosary?
Father Vincent Kelber: We have thought about keeping count of the number of confessions at Holy Rosary, but that would be most difficult! It is our belief that if you preach about confessions and make them available, many people will come to seek out the Sacrament of God’s Mercy. Indeed with apostolic preaching, ensuring the availability of confessions was one of the main goals of the first Friars who came to Portland.
On an average week we have at least six and half hours of scheduled confessions, but very frequently we run over the time allotted. As people also walk in or make special appointments so that time increases. The beginning of each month, with first Fridays and first Saturdays, there a great increase in the numbers of penitents and we provide extra confessors and hours. On first Sundays confessions are also heard before the morning Masses.
On an average week we have at least six and half hours of scheduled confessions, but very frequently we run over the time allotted. On the “first weeks” of the month we hear about 12 hours of confessions.
REGINA: Any vocations from the parish?
Father Vincent Kelber: Holy Rosary Parish has been the source of many vocations to the priesthood and religious life. While an official count needs to be taken, we would say that upwards of 30 men and women attribute at least part of their discernment to time spent at the church.
Thankfully, there are also many young people currently in the parish discerning such a vocation. It should be added, that there are many married men and women who have found strength and inspiration for their vocation from the parish as well.
While an official count needs to be taken, we would say that upwards of 30 men and women attribute at least part of their discernment to time spent at the church. Thankfully, there are also many young people currently in the parish discerning such a vocation.
REGINA: How actively are your parishioners participating in the life of HR?
Father Vincent Kelber: Given that Holy Rosary Parish is very much a “commuter parish,” the extent of the participation in parish life is remarkable. Parishioners are active in supporting the liturgy, assistance of the poor, ministry to the ill, catechesis, street evangelization, maintenance and labor support, homeschool activities, hospitality, Third Order Dominicans, Knights of Columbus, reading groups, participation in homeschool activities, apostolates of prayer, social events, youth groups, etc… Truly the people of Holy Rosary Parish remind us that this church is not only a sanctuary of prayer, but is also active as a leaven in our local community.
Parishioners are active in supporting the liturgy, ministry to the poor and ill, catechesis, street evangelization, maintenance and labor support, homeschool activities, hospitality, Third Order Dominicans, Knights of Columbus, reading groups, participation in homeschool activities, apostolates of prayer, social events, youth groups, etc…
REGINA: What impact has music had on your parish?
Father Vincent Kelber: As a parish dedicated to the preservation of the sacred liturgy and contributing to the ongoing new liturgical movement, music has been an essential component. Gregorian chant and the rich repository of sacred polyphony graces the 11 o’clock Sunday Mass, while the preceding 9 o’clock Mass with organ and cantor fosters the very best of congregational participation through traditional hymns and sung responses accompanied by the parish’s impressive pipe organ. Latin Polyphonic Masses for Feast Days and other liturgical observances throughout the year are sung by Cantores in Ecclesia, an extraordinary choir long associated with the parish. Its Director, Blake Applegate, is the principal Cantor for Holy Rosary, and its founder is the long-standing Parish Director of Music, Oxford-trained Dean Applegate.
As a parish dedicated to the preservation of the sacred liturgy and contributing to the ongoing new liturgical movement, music has been an essential component. Gregorian chant and the rich repository of sacred polyphony graces the 11 o’clock Sunday Mass.
REGINA: What have been your greatest challenges? Your greatest joys?
Father Vincent Kelber: One challenge and opportunity for the parish is to continue to grow in a manner that not only teaches and sanctifies those with worship here, but continues to give to the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon. So to preserve the traditions of the parish and the parish community is essential as is the continued building up of the parish as a regional resource of prayer and catechesis.
In many ways Holy Rosary is not unlike a shine which as the USCCB states, “is dedicated to promoting the faith of the pilgrims by centering on a mystery of the Catholic faith, a devotion based on authentic Church tradition, revelations recognized by the Church, or the lives of those in the Church’s calendar of saints.” My greatest joy is to see how the lives of Catholics are changed by the encounter with Christ that happens at Holy Rosary, as well at the potential for even greater heights of ministry.
Holy Rosary is not unlike a shrine which as the USCCB states, “is dedicated to promoting the faith of the pilgrims by centering on a mystery of the Catholic faith, a devotion based on authentic Church tradition, revelations recognized by the Church, or the lives of those in the Church’s calendar of saints.”
The Parish: Supporting Catholic Homeschooling For 30 Years
If you’re among the growing ranks of American Catholics looking to support homeschooling through your parish, Holy Rosary is an excellent model. Begun by pioneer homeschoolers in the 1980s, Holy Rosary Homeschool Group today is a Catholic support group with over 120 families.
“We are obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and believe that parents are the first educators of their children,” says Dorothy Gill, the group’s experienced leader. “Although based at Holy Rosary , our membership includes parishioners from many other Catholic churches in the Portland/Vancouver metro area.
If you’re among the growing ranks of American Catholics looking to support homeschooling through your parish, Holy Rosary is an excellent model.
“Our members enjoy monthly support meetings, field trips for both elementary and high school students, Little Flowers, and a high school commencement ceremony. We also arrange weekly enrichment classes which include ballet, piano, violin, iconography, and more.”
Holy Rosary’s homeschool group offers weekly summer park days, feast day parties, service projects and an annual talent show. Their monthly newsletter, The Torchbearer, keeps members informed while the e-mails lists allow us to stay connected with prayer requests, sharing and advice.
We are obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and believe that parents are the first educators of their children. We support our homeschooling families with weekly enrichment classes which have included ballet, piano, violin, Latin and iconography. That’s not to mention weekly summer park days, feast day parties, service projects and an annual talent show!
One of the hottest pages on Facebook these days goes by the unlikely name of “The Catholic Gentleman.” Here’s Regina Magazine’s exclusive interview with the young gentleman behind this fascinating look into the minds and hearts of young American Catholics today.
Q. So, you are “The Catholic Gentleman” on Facebook, but who are you, really?
A. My real name is Sam Guzman, and I am 25 years old. I live in the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin, USA.
I am not a cradle Catholic; I am a convert. My journey to Catholic faith is too long to share here, but very briefly, I was raised protestant with a strong Reformed influence—as in the doctrines of John Calvin. In college, I strongly considered becoming a Baptist minister, and further on my road to Rome, an Anglican priest. Eventually, after much agonizing study and prayer, I realized that Jesus had founded only one true Church, and I had to unite with it to be faithful to him. My wife and I were confirmed in the Catholic and Apostolic Faith Easter of 2012.
By day, I am the Communications Director for Pro-Life Wisconsin, a legislative action and educational organization dedicated to defend the dignity of human life from conception until natural death.
I am married to a beautiful woman, and I am the father of three children—one in heaven, one just over a year, and one about to be born.
Q. How did you arrive at the idea for this page?
A. For many years, I have been a faithful reader of the site, The Art of Manliness—a blog which seeks to encourage a revival of classic manhood. AoM regularly features articles on everything from shaving, to starting a fire, to virtuous manhood. Frequently, posts will center on manly heroes, such as Teddy Roosevelt, and draw practical wisdom from their lives.
While praying about how I could serve the Church, the idea occurred to create a Catholic version of The Art of Manliness. Instead of inspiring men with the example of Teddy Roosevelt, I envisioned sharing the lives of the masculine gentleman saints from the history of the Church. After all, these extraordinary men modeled true holiness, masculinity, toughness, and courage better than anyone else.
Rather than sharing advice on the virtuous life from Ben Franklin, I envisioned blogging about the four cardinal virtues, the three theological virtues, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and other treasures of wisdom and knowledge left to us by Holy Mother Church. I realized more strongly than before that everything a man needs to know is contained in the Catholic faith, and I simply wanted to share that with the world. The Catholic Gentleman was born.
Everything a man needs to know is contained in the Catholic faith, and I simply wanted to share that with the world. Hence, The Catholic Gentleman was born.
Q. What are you trying to accomplish?
A. First and foremost, it is my desire to inspire men to be saints by creating an atmosphere—an ethos—of Catholic manliness. Contrary to popular opinion, there is nothing more manly, challenging, or rewarding than the pursuit of holiness. The truest men were the saints.
Unfortunately, the Church has been effeminized and softened in recent years, and men have drifted away. This happened for a number of reasons, but seeking to deny it will do no good. It is a fact. Most men no longer see the Catholic faith as something worthy of a man’s interest, and this is a tragedy in the highest degree. I want to counteract this notion by presenting images that portray the strength, majesty, and beauty of the Catholic faith.
Along the way, I hope to encourage a revival of classic manliness. Men today are told that they are either fools, belching brutes, or effeminate fops. This simply isn’t true. Men (I include myself) need to know traditional manly arts like how to treat a lady, iron their pants, use technology responsibly, defend their families, or polish their shoes.
I want to emphasize that I am very much learning as I go. It has been said that the best way to learn is to teach, and I find that adage true. By no means do I consider myself the master of all things manly or Catholic. But that really isn’t the point. True masculinity is a journey, and we are all at different stages of it. I am the one managing the page and writing the posts, but this community is about journeying side by side, encouraging one another and learning together.
Finally, I want to have fun. Catholics know how to have a good time, and I want the page to be a place where men can talk about manly things and enjoy themselves. There are a lot of bad things happening in the world, and we all need somewhere to laugh and be encouraged, even if it is an online community.
Men today are told that they are either fools, belching brutes, or effeminate fops. This simply isn’t true.
Q. What is your definition of a Catholic Gentleman?
A. Above all, the Catholic gentleman has God at the center of his life, informing every decision, desire, and action. He loves and protects everything that is good and true. He fights zealously for the honor of Christ and his Bride, the Catholic Church. He pursue holiness with his whole heart, mind, and strength. He is a virtuous man.
The Catholic gentleman is also cultured and courteous. He doesn’t dress like a slob, and he is respectful of others. He is temperate and self-controlled. He knows how to treat a lady, and he cherishes true femininity. He is humble enough to learn from others, and he does not scorn wisdom or learning. He does not sink to the lowest common denominator or choose the path of least resistance. Instead, he is always ready to courageously embrace sacrifice and suffering.
The Catholic gentleman loves and protects everything that is good and true. He does not sink to the lowest common denominator or choose the path of least resistance.
Q. Can you give us some examples of Catholic gentleman — from history, from today?
A. There are countless Catholic gentleman, but among the saints, St. Francis de Sales is foremost. This humble man was universally known for his gentle courtesy and the warmth of his charity. He even earned the nickname, “the gentleman saint.” You can read my profile of him in the link above.
Among modern Catholic men, I believe Pope Benedict XVI is a shining example of Catholic gentlemanliness. While he is often overshadowed by the charismatic John Paul II and Pope Francis, Pope Benedict is a wonderful and holy man, and it is hard to overestimate his contributions to the Church. He possesses both a profound intellect and a profound humility, and throughout his pontificate, he sought to promote the treasures of Catholic culture—artistically, musically, and liturgically.
Q. Who are your fans? Male? Female?
A. Due to the nature of the content, most of the fans are men. However, I am continually surprised at how many women readers we have. While I can’t speak for all women, I believe women are drawn to true masculinity, just as men are drawn to true femininity. While feminism has sought to effeminize men, deep down women love men that are tough and strong, but who are also gentle and holy. That is my theory, anyway!
It is also worth noting that we have protestant readers. Lutherans, Anglicans, and Presbyterians have left comments that they enjoy the page. I always take the opportunity to encourage them to become Catholic!
Q. How do people react to your page? Any negatives?
A. We had one angry atheist pay a visit, but other than that, all the feedback has been very positive. It is incredible to see the passionate community that has formed in a short amount of time.
Q. What are your plans for the page you have created?
Long term, I want to give back to the fans with opportunities for them to share their projects and passions. I am still working out exactly how this will be done, but I am constantly receiving links to great things men are working on, and I want to share them in some way.
In addition, I am working on a book. While the blog is a great venue for sharing brief thoughts, I see the need for a full length book covering Catholic manhood. There are many such books for women, but only a few for men.
We had one angry atheist pay a visit, but other than that, all the feedback has been very positive. It is incredible to see the passionate community that has formed in a short amount of time.
On November 2nd, 2000, while visiting Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, Derry Connolly experienced something that would change his life.
“I saw a campus full of young Catholic students on fire for the Lord. I had never seen that level of excitement about Jesus Christ by so many students on a college campus. Late on that evening, sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the Portiuncula chapel, I felt the Lord placing on my heart the request to build a university, like Franciscan, in San Diego. My immediate answer to the Lord was ‘NO – Impossible, a university is too big and too expensive. And I don’t know how to do it!’
“During the summer of 2003, three key thoughts came together in my mind. First, I had just finished teaching a class on the start-up process for entrepreneurial high-tech companies to graduate and under-graduate students at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), I was strongly impressed by the passion the UCSD students had to go out and change the world by building successful technology based businesses. Next, I reflected with deep concern on the fact that the Catholic influence on the media was near rock bottom. The New Media industry was rapidly evolving and maturing daily, and was poised to radically change the landscape of the media industry.
“Finally, contemplating the role of Stanford University in the growth of Silicon Valley, I was convinced that a Catholic university, centered on Jesus Christ, in the model of Franciscan University, must be a critical centerpiece to the Catholic resurgence in the field of media. San Diego, long a hub for innovation in new media enabling technology and geographically very close to the creative center of the industry in Los Angeles, was a great place to start.”
John Paul Catholic University was born on September 2nd, 2003. Connolly’s vision for the University was a ‘niche’ Catholic university focused on the culturally influential field of media, with the dynamic spirituality of Franciscan University, and the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of UCSD.
Q. What kind of young person is attracted to your school?
Students tend to have a strong desire for a deep relationship with Jesus. Faith matters. They are entrepreneurial – not afraid of someplace new and small. They come from all across the US – from Vermont to Guam, from Florida to Alaska. They seek an education the fields of Entertainment Media, Entrepreneurial Business and Biblical Theology.
Q. How do students rate their experience of your school?
Most students love their JP Catholic experience – they can’t find an experience like it anywhere. Some don’t fit – small, niche and non-traditional is not everyone’s cup-of-tea. We don’t try to please everyone – we can’t.
Q. Given the scarcity of vocations in America, how is your school doing in this regard?
We have many students responding to God’s call. As we begin Summer quarter, we will have seven Chaldean rite Catholic seminarians, four doing a Masters in Biblical Theology and three doing undergraduate degrees alongside their pre-theology studies. Two graduates will be starting their graduate Theology studies at St John’s Seminary in Camarillo, CA. We also have a pre-theology seminarian from the Eudist religious order. Two of our graduates are in the convent of the Workers in the Vineyard. Many more students continue to discern.
Q. Cost is a huge factor these days as students balk at assuming large debts for undergrad degrees. How is your school addressing this?
We give generous institutional aid. We are proactive in assessing student success and are quick to recommend alternate career options for students that are likely not to benefit from an expensive college education. College is a great investment for many. However, it can be a terrible investment for some.
Q. How would you characterize the formation of young Catholics these days – as opposed to 20 years ago? Any reason for hope?
Great reasons for hope. The Lord is blessing us with increasingly fine young men and women. That said, formation is very tough – the force of Satan infused through the secular culture is very confusing even to young Catholics from strong families. Formation is a battle, which often times is very tiring to fight. A very high percentage of our graduates tend to become strong Catholic men and women. Christ is truly is hope.
How can I help? Make a decision to help. Fund a scholarship for a student with a great need. Endow a professor. Fund a new program. Create a program resource. Seed fund the process to build a permanent campus.
If you feel called to connect your legacy with that of the University, please contact Derry Connolly, President at 858-653-6740 or emailDConnolly@jpcatholic.com
Father Sean Sheridan, TOR, is an interesting guy. In addition to a BA in pharmacy, he’s a lawyer with degrees is both secular (University of Pittsburgh) and canon (Catholic University of America) law. He’s a late vocation, too, having spent a decade practicing law in Sacramento and Pittsburgh, with a focus on healthcare litigation before joining the Franciscans in 2000. He’s also an expert on the role of a Catholic university; his 2009 dissertation was a canonical commentary on John Paul II’s 1990 apostolic constitution “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” which deals with the role of the Catholic university in the Church’s mission.
Today, Father Sheridan is the new President of Franciscan University of Steubenville, and he’s taken time out of his busy schedule to give this exclusive interview — an-depth look at his University, as it stands today.
Q. What was the genesis — the inspiration for the college?
Franciscan University of Steubenville was founded as the College of Steubenville in 1946, in the aftermath of World War II. The Diocese of Steubenville had just been formed and its first bishop, John King Mussio, reached out to a religious order to establish a Catholic college in his diocese. That order asked the bishop for $1 million to accomplish the task.
Not having the funds, Bishop Mussio turned to the religious order to which I belong, the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular, Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is based in Loretto, Pennsylvania, and which already was running a Catholic college there. The friars accepted Bishop Mussio’s offer, and in true Franciscan fashion they borrowed $348,000 and to the surprise of many, were able to open the College of Steubenville in under six months.
From our first president, Father Dan Egan, TOR, we find that his vision is in concert with today’s vision for the school. In a 1946 speech he said, “The College has a two-fold purpose . . . to give those who enroll here a thorough sense of values designed to train men for a full life which occupies 24 hours a day, not simply 8 hours spent in the shop or office. It also aims to contribute to the development and welfare of a man’s nature, recognizing that he has not only a body but an immortal soul.”
The College of Steubenville went through some tough times in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was on the verge of closing due to stiff competition from state institutions and the social unrest of the era. Our fourth president, Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, did an amazing job of rededicating the school to Jesus Christ and turning it into a Catholic university of national prominence that today draws students from all 50 states and many foreign countries.
Father Terence Henry, TOR, took the mantle from Father Scanlan in 2000 and built on that foundation, adding a Catholic bioethics institute and many other academic and student life programs that have bolstered our Catholic identity and our commitment to academic excellence.
In true Franciscan fashion the Friars borrowed $348,000 and to the surprise of many, were able to open the College of Steubenville in under six months.
Q. What has been your experience of the university?
When I became president in June 2013, I dedicated myself to upholding these foundations. I taught theology here for one year before becoming president, and I can tell you first hand that there is a rigorous pursuit of truth through academic study here. This comes in every course of study, from accounting to theology and every subject in between. But we know that academic study, while good in and of itself, is not the supreme goal of our learning. Our students and faculty know that academic work naturally lead us to the source of all truth – God himself.
And so, in our daily activities, the way we gather as a worshipping community is central to this encounter with God. In his apostolic constitution, Ex corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II taught that as a natural expression of the identity of the Catholic university, the university community should give a practical demonstration of its faith in its daily activity, with expressions of prayer, and especially the Eucharist, as the most perfect act of community worship.
So the life of prayer is central to our academic life. Each semester, 24/7, students take an hour with the Lord for eucharistic adoration in the Portiuncula Chapel, a replica of one of the chapels repaired by St. Francis early in his public ministry. Our daily Mass attendance is very strong: Over 70 percent of our students voluntarily go to Mass two or more times a week. On Saturday afternoons over 800 students who belong to small faith-sharing groups known as faith households hold Lord’s Day celebrations. We have a monthly Festival of Praise that fills our fieldhouse, and students join in weekly praise and worship, Bible studies, Rosaries, among other prayers and devotions.
In my homily at the Opening of the School Year Mass, I told the students that
“as members of the body of Christ, all that you say, all that you do, must be rooted in God. God is the center of our lives, God is the beginning, God is our source for beginning to understand and embrace the truth.”
Over 70 percent of our students voluntarily go to Mass two or more times a week.
Q. How would you characterize the formation of young Catholics these days, as opposed to 20 years ago? Any reason for hope?
Young Catholics today are passionately searching in their lives for the truth that can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Many have come to understand that despite what society might promise with regard to finding “happiness” in material possessions, they can only find joy by embracing, rather than running away from, the challenges that living lives of truth might require. As a result, many young Catholics are willing to dedicate their lives to not only pursuing holiness themselves but to assisting others with their pursuit of holiness. Strong catechetical programs such as we offer at Franciscan University prepare young Catholics to be formed and also to form others.
All of these themes tie into what our recent Holy Fathers have called the new evangelization—to catechize properly the baptized so that they might catechize others. There is great cause for hope that the formation of young Catholics will continue to improve as we see their great desire to deepen their relationship with Christ and to demand the formation needed to do so—both personal and as provided in catechetical programs.
Many young Catholics have come to understand that despite what society might promise with regard to finding “happiness” in material possessions, they can only find joy by embracing, rather than running away from, the challenges that living lives of truth might require.
Q. How is your school helping to answer the dire need for vocations?
First of all, I would say by the overall spiritual atmosphere that pervades the Franciscan University of Steubenville campus. Students often tell us how much they appreciate the many opportunities for prayer and the daily interactions with priests and nuns they find here.
We have 20 Franciscan friars teaching and serving in various capacities—an astoundingly high number for any Catholic university today. Our friars are a strong presence on campus. They serve as chaplains to the athletic teams, as advisors to the faith households and other student groups, they provide individual spiritual direction and have many informal interactions with students, such as conversations after Mass and while walking across campus, which help increase awareness of the call to the priesthood and religious life.
We have eight Franciscan TOR sisters who work in campus ministry at the University and at our study abroad program in Gaming, Austria. Add to this the many women’s religious orders who send members here for studies, and it’s clear that our female students have many encounters with religious sisters during which they can learn about these orders and their particular charisms.
In a more formal ways, our Priestly Discernment Program was established in 1985 expressly to encourage vocations. In this program, the men commit to a shared life that includes daily Mass, a Holy Hour, daily communal prayer, regular spiritual direction and weekly talks on the call to the priesthood. This year, six men who graduated from this program entered a major seminary or joined a religious community.
Over the last seven years, more than 76 Franciscan graduates who discerned and prepared for the priesthood through the University’s Priestly Discernment Program have entered seminary or a religious order.
We also have a Third Order Regular Affiliate House in one of our residence halls for men discerning entering the Franciscan Third Order Regular after they complete their studies at Franciscan University.
Of course, not all vocations come directly through these formal programs. For instance, two men not in either of these programs who graduated this year are now Franciscan TOR postulants. We did some research recently and found that in total, more than 400 Franciscan graduates currently serve the Church in the priesthood.
We’re also helping with vocation discernment at the high school level. Franciscan University hosts high school summer conferences that this year reached over 42,000 participants at 18 locations across the U.S. and Canada. A highlight at each conference is the “vocations call” at the closing Mass where young men and women step forward to be prayed over about a possible religious vocation. Over four thousand youth responded to the vocation call this summer.
According to a study conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 11 percent of all priests ordained in the U.S. in 2013 said they participated in a Franciscan University Youth Conference before entering seminary or religious life, and 11 percent of women in the U.S. who professed perpetual vows in religious life in 2012 said they participated in a Franciscan University Youth Conference prior to entering religious life.
We did some research recently and found that in total, more than 400 Franciscan graduates currently serve the Church in the priesthood.
Q. What kind of young person is attracted to your school? Where are they from? What kind of student are they?
Franciscan University is a national Catholic university. We draw students from all 50 states and over a dozen foreign countries. For the incoming class of 2017, the top 10 states were: Ohio, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New York, and Indiana.
The top 10 majors chosen by these new students were theology, business, nursing, communication arts, catechetics, education, biology, and psychology.
Academically, our students place above the national average. The average ACT score of new freshman students is close to 25, which is 4 points higher than the national average.
Q. What are your students seeking?
What we hear from our students over and over is that they seek a living Catholic culture to immerse themselves in while in college. Our students tell us they want to be around other students who can encourage them in developing a prayer life, to be called on to live a life of holiness but also to be encouraged to study hard—and still have good, wholesome fun, too, I might add.
We have many transfer students who tell us that they felt isolated at the state, private or Catholic university they were attending. When they came here for a visit, especially when they spent a night in one of the residence halls, they found what they were looking for. They saw how our students had fun—dances, outdoor movies on the grass, socials on the Piazza dei Santi, NCAA athletics, and the like—while they also lived out their faith life. And that appealed to them.
We have many transfer students who tell us that they felt isolated at the state, private or Catholic university they were attending. When they came here for a visit, especially when they spent a night in one of the residence halls, they found what they were looking for.
Q. How do students rate their experience at your school? After 5 or so years? Further out?
Our recent alumni survey revealed that:
More than 90 percent of Franciscan graduates successfully enter the next phase of life—employment, further education, the priesthood, or religious life—within one year of graduation.
Ninety-four percent of alumni said they would recommend Franciscan University to a prospective student or parent.
Over 91 percent rated their overall Franciscan University experience as an 8 or higher, with 48 percent rating it a perfect 10.
Over 90 percent of alumni say they are “very connected” to Franciscan, and have visited campus, attended reunions or University events and read Franciscan Way and other materials sent to them by the University.
Q. Cost is a huge factor these days as students balk at assuming large debt for undergrad degrees. How is your school addressing this?
Over 80 percent of Franciscan University students receive some form of financial aid that totals more than $11 million each year. Aid comes in the form of academic and need-based scholarships, military aid, and grants that do not need to be repaid, to various types of loans and work study. Students are also directed to outside scholarships and direct financial aid for which they may be eligible.
During our most recent Capital Campaign $15.6 million was raised for new and existing scholarships. Our newest scholarship, the Spirit of St. Francis Scholarship Fund, benefits students who qualify to attend Franciscan University but have limited income, including those who come from large families.
Our newest scholarship, the Spirit of St. Francis Scholarship Fund, benefits students who qualify to attend Franciscan University but have limited income, including those who come from large families.
About Franciscan University of Steubenville:
For more than 11 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report’s guidebook on “America’s Best Colleges” has ranked Franciscan University in the elite “top tier” of Midwestern universities.
Young America’s Foundation rates Franciscan as one of the top 15 conservative colleges in the nation.
The Templeton Honor Roll for Education in a Free Society considers Franciscan one of the 13 colleges that are “best in liberal arts education.”
Franciscan is one of 22 “faithfully Catholic universities” in the U.S. recognized by the Cardinal Newman Society.
Kiplinger Personal Finance Magazine has included Franciscan University of Steubenville as one of its “best values” in private higher education, ranking it 55th among the top 100 private universities in the nation.
Ways to Give
You can help Franciscan lead the way in providing a faithfully Catholic education! There are many ways to help support Franciscan University of Steubenville, and all levels of support are greatly appreciated. Every amount makes a big difference.
However you choose to support the mission of Franciscan University of Steubenville, you have our deepest gratitude, and will be included in prayeres offered at Mass as well as holy hours for benefactors and supporters.
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. Back in the 1990s, all the best people knew the Latin Mass wouldn’t last.
Nevertheless, at the behest of Pope John Paul II, in bishops’ palaces around the world a grudging ‘accommodation’ was made to those faithful who were — albeit inexplicably — still ‘attached’ to the old Form of the Mass. (In this way, it was to be hoped, the old Mass would quietly die out with those die-hards in the old generation.)
But it didn’t happen that way.
Today, this inexplicable ‘attachment’ has spread far and wide — and most rapidly and passionately, among young, serious Catholics.
Herewith then, is the story of a young couple, amid photos of their magnificent wedding that ‘all the best people’ would never have believed possible — in Latin, in Connecticut, in 2013. (With honeymoon photos in Rome!)
“At first, I was fascinated by the concept of Mass in an ancient and otherwise silent language. I wanted to hear it, just once. When I went, I felt like I was living inside a movie. It felt like something transcendent.”
KERRY HARRISON’S STORY: I’m 26 and Peter is 27. I am from Connecticut — Peter is from the Boston area originally, but moved to Connecticut to work for the Knights of Columbus Headquarters in New Haven, CT. We got engaged on our one year anniversary, at church after the Easter Vigil Mass, at the stroke of midnight.
HOW I FOUND THE LATIN MASS: I’ve been attending the TLM since 2009. I took Latin in school, and one day someone told me, “Did you know that in the Middle Ages the Mass used to be in Latin?” I thought, “I wish that still happened, somewhere on earth.” Then, I found out there was a traditional Latin Mass at St. Agnes in New York City, so I started taking the train from Connecticut to attend. I had no idea there were any TLMs anywhere else, much less any in Connecticut.
PETER IS INTRODUCED TO THE LATIN MASS: Peter had gone to one TLM before, in college, but since he didn’t know the Latin, he was a bit lost. When we went on our first date, I told him how I loved this Mass, and said he was welcome to come any Sunday. He showed up the next day. However, it was Palm Sunday, and he didn’t know that meant a two hour liturgy, followed by a Gregorian chant procession through the city streets, and an hours-long brunch, quaintly termed “coffee hour”. I think the poor man was in shock.
HOW THE LATIN MASS DEEPENED MY FAITH: At first, I was fascinated by the concept of Mass in an ancient and otherwise silent language. I wanted to hear it, just once. When I went, it felt absolutely otherworldly. I found it wasn’t so hard to believe, after all. When you realize that your grandparents, and great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents, all the saints and doctors of the Church, have prayed these same prayers, repeated these same words, you realize how small you are in the vastness of time, how little you are and how big God is. And you begin to really love Him for loving you.
THE POINT IS TO ‘GET LOST’: One of the best pieces of advice I got is that you’re not really going to get it at first, and that’s normal. You can go every week and months in, still get totally lost. It’s not a play. The priest is doing one thing, the choir is doing another, the altar boys are doing something, and a bell is ringing, all at the same time. You don’t know where you’re supposed to look. But that’s okay, and knowing where you are in the Mass isn’t the goal. If you get lost in prayer, or reading and re-reading one part while everyone else has moved on, or you forget to care what the words mean when the chant takes your breath away, then, in my mind, you really have met the goal. The POINT is to ‘get lost.’
WHAT ABOUT CHASTITY? I would say that I think it’s critical for the formation of a healthy relationship. If you use sex from the start as a means of fixing fights or providing entertainment when you’re bored, I think you cheat yourself of a lot of information. You may use intimacy as a crutch, instead of realizing, “We fight a lot” or “I’m bored… we don’t have that much in common”. You skip a lot of steps, instead of seeing if the relationship has real staying power and real compatibility. The Church doesn’t teach what it does because it enjoys being a fun-squasher. It teaches what it does because God knows us better than we know ourselves sometimes, and because God wants to call us to be better than our human nature often does. I don’t think too many people regret holding out on sex. I think a lot more people regret too much, too fast, too soon.
A RELATIONSHIP BASED ON TRUTH: On our first date, we started talking about politics. I began to say, “I think the most important issue today is -” and he finished my sentence with the exact words I was going to use: “the right to life. Because without that right, all other rights are meaningless.” We both began to realize that we saw the world the same way. Our unity on this issue has drawn us closer together and been the basis for a relationship based on truth rather than the lies our society is often selling.
WHAT PEOPLE SAID ABOUT OUR LATIN MASS: My family knew that the wedding would be a TLM. (They’re usually pretty entertained by us.) Our practicing Catholic friends were very interested in the Mass, and our other friends seemed interested in the concept. I didn’t get a lot of questions beforehand about the Mass, one of my aunts wanted to know what it was so she could look it up. The response from guests was positive. Many people had never been to a Latin Mass before and found it very interesting. A few people thanked us for the opportunity to attend a TLM.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT MY LATIN MASS PARISH: I was so excited when I heard about the Latin Mass in Connecticut. I went the next Sunday and haven’t stopped since. That parish is a blessing in my life. I can’t describe how much I have learned and changed in the time since I found it, and how grateful I am for the wonderful people I’ve met at St. Mary’s in Norwalk, Connecticut. They’ve been with me through thick and thin, good days and bad. It really feels a lot like family.
My husband Rick and I have lived in the Lincoln Diocese for 19 years. We were not aware that the Diocese was very traditional until we moved here. In fact, it was not really until we returned to Ohio for my father-in-law’s funeral in 2000 when we spoke with the priest who had married us and baptized our children that we knew there was a stigma about our Diocese. Even that priest raised his eyebrows when we told him we were living in Lincoln. But we also told him that we never felt closer to God or more committed to our Catholic faith.
I do know of people who have actually moved from across the world just to live in this Diocese. It’s amazing and we feel so very blessed to live here.
WELCOMING BISHOP CONLEY: Seminarians in cassocks applaud their new Bishop.
From the very start, the authenticity of the Catholic teaching here – speaking from the pulpit about our history, emphasizing sacraments (especially Confession and the Eucharist), pro-life (including being faithful to not taking artificial contraception) – has truly challenged us to examine how we live our lives, what is Truth, and how to raise our children to be authentic Catholic Christians.
We have opportunities to participate in Bible studies and Pro-Life Conferences, and to serve the poor in Catholic Social Services or the St. Vincent de Paul Society. And of course, the encouragement to step outside yourself and volunteer is always present.
I do know of people who have actually moved from across the world just to live in this Diocese.
Amazing, Affordable, Faithful Catholic Schools
Both our children have been raised in Lincoln. Their Catholic schools were much like what my husband and I experienced in our youth – Sisters in habits, who live community, teaching in the schools, and priests teaching at the high school level and visiting the grade schools.
In fact, about 11 years ago, my husband and I were forced to make a decision due to employment changes as to whether or not we would leave the Diocese. The major factor in our staying in Lincoln was to keep our children in these Catholic Schools, where we felt a real foundation was being laid.
In Lincoln, Catholic schools thrive and are kept very affordable through the support of the parishes. It helps also to have thriving Religious Sister communities here that help to keep the cost of Catholic education lower. I think that means Catholic Education is not just for the elite, but for anyone who wants their child to have a good faith foundation.
In the Lincoln diocese, Catholic education is not just for the elite, but for anyone who wants their child to have a good faith foundation.
The Catechetical program for the public school students is also well done. And there is no shortage of priests either! The influence of the priests teaching my children in the grade and high schools, leading Quest and TEC retreats, providing a summer Leadership Camp for young boys who serve on the altar along with the seminarians is an opportunity for them to consider their own vocations.
Our Newman Center
Although we encouraged both our children to go away for college, neither has. I believe their decisions were made in part because of the campus ministry at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. The Catholic Newman Center, with its 10 FOCUS missionaries, is thriving. In fact, the daily Mass attendance every night is so large, and the Sunday Mass attendance so great that they are currently building a larger church. They’ve just completed the new Catholic fraternity, and will also build a Catholic sorority. Bible studies abound both in the dorms and in the Greek houses. The Newman Center is such a draw, that even the University advertises it in their materials to draw new students.
Why We Stayed
From the beginning we have been involved in both parish and school life. I have served as President of one of the altar societies at my parish, President of the Parish Council of Catholic Women, currently Treasurer of that same organization. I taught CCD for about 4 yrs. My husband is a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus.
Together we have served as Presidents of the School Family Association at our parish grade school and later on the fundraising board for the high school. We have both participated/led Bible studies or Leadership Conferences. My husband also served on the fundraising board for our parish when we were building an addition to the church/school.
I can assure anyone who asks that the Catholic Diocese here is the main reason we have stayed all these years. It is a beautiful Catholic culture.
Rick and I grew up in different parts of the country, moved as single people to various states, and only as a married couple did we move here in 1994. We never would have thought that Lincoln, NE would be a place we’d be in for long. I can assure anyone who asks that the Catholic Diocese here is the main reason we have stayed all these years. It is a beautiful Catholic culture.
By day, he’s mild-mannered Brian Williams, a financial services manager in Charlotte, North Carolina. By night, however, he’s Liturgy Guy — blogging on matters relating to the Faith and Liturgy at liturgyguy.com.
Brian’s clever tagline — ‘Life, Liturgy & the Pursuit of Holiness’ — will resonate with American Catholics. (For non-Americans, it’s a riff on Thomas Jefferson’s famous words in the Declaration of Independence, issued on July 4, 1776.)
In this exclusive Regina Magazine interview, Brian talks about his conversion, and his convictions about Catholic liturgy as we prepare to launch ‘The Secret Catholic Insider Guide to America” on October 8.
Tell us something about yourself, and how you found your Faith.
I grew up in Los Angeles, and my parents were largely irreligious when I was growing up. I have an aunt who quite often would scoop up my brother and me and take us to non-denominational Christian churches. Eventually in my early twenties I began attending a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, which is of course liturgically oriented, recognizes two Sacraments, follows a liturgical calendar, etc. My wife is a cradle Catholic who, at the time we met, had somewhat fallen away. It was the birth of several children and convalidating our marriage in the Church in 2005 that set the stage for my conversion.
Once we moved to Charlotte I immediately began RCIA, with my wife as my sponsor. I would say that I largely read my way into the Church. I had to intellectually grasp the faith before it could work its way from my brain down to my heart. I was confirmed at Easter 2006 and have continued to grow in my love for our Lord and His Church everyday since.
“I would say that I largely read my way into the Church. I had to intellectually grasp the faith before it could work its way from my brain down to my heart.”
Q. For centuries, the Liturgy was considered a matter for specialists, mostly clergy. Why is the Liturgy so important to ordinary Catholics today, do you think?
I think there are two primary reasons why the laity today finds the Liturgy so important: exposure to poor liturgy in the past and access to information via the internet, television and print.
First, I would focus on poor liturgy. For decades many Catholics have been subjected to liturgy largely devoid of beauty or reverence. As a convert myself, it is clear that in many parishes the Mass has been treated very much as a communal worship service, devoid of its inherent Catholicism. As a relatively recent convert, I would argue that the ongoing “reform of the reform” that our Pope emeritus so often referenced has been embraced by many clergy and laity alike. Further, as we have seen the Traditional Latin Mass (now called the Extraordinary Form) become more widely available to the faithful since Summorum Pontificum, the lay Catholic has more opportunities now to participate in a sacred and beautiful liturgy. In addition, our holy priests who offer both forms of the rite have increased the reverence in the Novus Ordo (or Ordinary Form), highlighting our liturgical heritage and continuity. For so many Catholics today, once you have seen the Mass offered in such a manner, it becomes difficult to tolerate the casual, Protestant service, approach that was so prevalent for years and years.
“Our holy priests who offer both forms of the rite have increased the reverence in the Novus Ordo (or Ordinary Form), highlighting our liturgical heritage and continuity. For so many Catholics today, once you have seen the Mass offered in such a manner, it becomes difficult to tolerate the casual, Protestant service, approach that was so prevalent for years and years.”
Secondly, I believe that media such as the internet, television and print has provided the ordinary Catholic with the history, tradition, theology and (most importantly) the imagery of what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass always was, and once again is becoming. Websites like New Liturgical Movement, publishers like TAN books (in my hometown of Charlotte) and Ignatius Press, the writings of Ratzinger, Gamber and Nichols (along with those from the past such as Gueranger and Fortescue), and even You Tube with so many clips of beautiful masses have all contributed to the collective formation.
There has been quite a bit of self-catechizing going on with regards to the liturgy. I don’t know if we would have seen the exponential growth of the Latin Mass in America, recently covered in a great piece in Regina Magazine, if we didn’t have the Internet and social media such Facebook to bring people together. The traditionally minded Catholic discovered that they were not alone in their love for the Mass.
“I believe that new media has provided the ordinary Catholic with the history, tradition, theology and (most importantly) the imagery of what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass always was, and once again is becoming. There has been quite a bit of self-catechizing going on with regards to the liturgy.”
Q. People say ‘Lex orandi, lex credendi’ — do you believe this is true? If so, how do the issues surrounding the Liturgy today affect Catholic belief and identity?
I actually blogged about this. Several years ago I first heard the Latin expression, “lex orandi, lex credendi” which translates to the “law of prayer is the law of belief”. To paraphrase, how we worship is how we believe. Added to this sometimes is “lex vivendi” which completes the thought: how we pray is how we believe which is how we live.
We know from St. Matthew’s Gospel that our Lord teaches us, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment”. The Mass is the liturgical prayer of the Church. Defined, liturgy is simply a prescribed form or set of forms and rituals for public religious worship. How we worship affects what we believe which then influences how we live.
There is a uniquely Catholic way to worship. A traditional and reverent liturgy which is unabashedly Catholic, far from being optional, is actually a necessity for imparting the faith. I would also argue, much like Cardinal Raymond Burke has, that we do not succeed at the New Evangelization if we do not “get” the liturgy right. From a catechetical standpoint, an understanding of why we worship and how we worship helps to form us as Catholics.
What we believe, from the centrality of Christ in our lives to His real presence in the Eucharist, can either be reinforced by beautiful liturgy or done serious harm through the desacralization of the Holy Mass.
“There is a uniquely Catholic way to worship. A traditional and reverent liturgy which is unabashedly Catholic, far from being optional, is actually a necessity for imparting the Faith.”