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Showing posts from April, 2019

Driving Home the Faith with Mary

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Join me and Fr. Rob Jack of Sacred Heart Radio for a Lenten series on Mary and prayer!



March 7 On how Mary trains Christians to pray:


March 14 On why Mary loves hearing the Ave Maria and what it means to serve her:


March 21 On whether it is possible to praise Mary “too much” and how Mary helps us understand the mysteries of the Incarnation and Trinity:


April 4 On the Middle Ages as the great Age of Mary, the complexities of the Marian Office, what Mary knew, and what it means to describe her as the Immaculate Conception:


April 11 On the psalms and prayer as the source of understanding about God and Mary and why Mary has so many names:


April 17 On the fire in the cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris and what it teaches us about praying with Mary:



On the psalms in the Marian Office, see Mary and the Art of Prayer: The Hours of the Virgin in Medieval Christian Life and Thought(New York: Columbia University Press, 2017). 

On the Marian commentaries on the Song of Songs, seeFrom Judgment to Pass…

The God-Ridden Bigotry of the Globalist Monomyth

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Over 200 people died today in Sri Lanka as victims of bomb blasts at three hotels and three churches.


It was Easter Sunday.

The President of Ireland posted a statement on the attacks:


“At a time of religious significance”? When the people killed were in church? Perhaps President Higgins had just been searching his iPad on Google and was confused about why the people were in church (sorry, “places of worship”). After all, Google (at least in its mobile mode) didn’t seem to know.

Or maybe, like myself, President Higgins was spending the weekend reading Joseph Campbell—that great source of religious wisdom behind so much of our modern myth-making (seeStar Wars).

I read this passage this morning right before going to church:
The recognition of the secondary nature of the personality of whatever deity is worshiped is characteristic of most of the traditions of the world. In Christianity, Mohammedanism, and Judaism, however, the personality of the divinity is taught to be final—which makes …

“Behold thy mother”

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Today, God is dying. He is there, hanging on the cross, while his mother burns with love for him, willing herself to suffer his pain.

His body carries wounds from the scourge. His head bleeds from the crown of thorns. His legs and shoulders are weary from carrying the cross to the place of his execution.

He is dying the most humiliating death that the Roman state could inflict upon him. And all of his followers, save his mother, her companion Marys, and his beloved John, have run away.

It is hard not to be angry.

On Monday, it was not just the roof of the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris that caught fire. It was the entire tradition of Western Christendom—as all those celebrating the fire on social media knew.

They knew that to see Notre Dame of Paris go up in flames was the religious equivalent of watching the Twin Towers fall.

They knew that to see the church burn was to see the destruction of Christianity as it has developed in the West.

They wanted it to burn—so that it might be …

The Miracle of the Rose

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Almost without exception, the response to the Notre Dame fire has overlooked something of immense importance. Or rather someone: Notre Dame, Our Lady, the Mother of God, to whom the cathedral is dedicated. Even Catholics have understated the Marian character of the building. Bishop Robert Barron, for instance, rightly praised the beauty of the North Rose window, its colour and mathematical design. He described it as “a foretaste of heaven in its beauty.” But the rose window also depicts the relationship between heaven and earth made possible through Mary. She sits at the centre of the rose with her Son in her lap, making for him a throne on earth even as by containing him in her womb she became heaven. It matters that Mary is depicted in glass: the sunlight streaming through the window symbolises the light of God entering into the world through her and taking on flesh.Read on...



For further reflections on Our Lady and her Son as Logos, go here.

Fire in the Cathedral

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In the Middle Ages, it wasn’t the building of stone, glass, and wood that mattered. It was the worship offered therein, which is why, when cathedrals caught fire—as they regularly did—medieval Christians took it as an opportunity to develop the skills they needed in order to rebuild. Nobody prior to the mid-twelfth century had built anything like the currently standing cathedrals at Paris or Chartres. Nobody knew how to make such beautiful glass before medieval glaziers learned the secret of the reds, greens, and blues. If the craftsmen of the Middle Ages could figure out how to make glass and carve stone, surely modern Christians can do so again. They have the medieval exemplars on which to model their work. All they need is the will to praise God. —Rachel Fulton Brown, “Fire in the Cathedral,” First Things, April 17, 2019 For further reflections on the importance of the Lady and her Son, go here

De historia Christiana

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My departmental colleague Amy Stanley worries that I am using the classroom as “a place for the conversion of students to Christian religious faith”—as if that were something diabolical! She needn’t worry. I understand the difference between preaching and teaching. Preaching is what my colleagues do! (They do, they know it. That is why they are so mad at me: I have called their bluff.) I, on the other hand, teach. Because that is what Christians do.

What does it mean to teach history as a Christian? I take my instruction from Augustine of Hippo, who knew a thing or two about teaching as well as about Christ.

First and foremost, Christians recognize the inadequacy of language for conveying even the simplest thoughts. In Augustine’s words, explaining to his friend Deogratias why teaching is so frustrating: For I am covetous of something better, the possession of which I frequently enjoy within me before I commence to body it forth in intelligible words: and then when my capacities of ex…

On Being a Christian in the Academy

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Rachel Fulton Brown is an Associate Professor of Medieval History at the University of Chicago where she works on the history of Christianity with a focus on devotion to the Virgin Mary, a subject about which she has written two books. We talk about how she became a medievalist, how this led to her conversion to Catholicism, the experience of being a conservative and a Catholic in 21st-century academe, and why she teaches The Lord of the Rings. My host John Tangney with the Intellectual Diversity Podcast asks difficult questions! Listen here.


For a full list of my podcasts and videos, go here.

Religion 101: “You Shall Be As Gods”

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“One of my readers who is preparing for a dissertation defense in history writes with a request. He is a practicing Christian and has been told that he needs to “think like a historian instead of a theologian.” In his words:
This has been a difficult transition as I have studied practical theology since the mid-1990s. I need to be able to communicate my thoughts and ideas to non-Christian professors—some of whom are antagonistic to Christianity—in a manner that they believe is academic. In one of your writings you stated: “As I see it, this is the challenge I face writing as a Christian to a scholarly audience: how to frame what I see through the lens of faith in a way that makes what I see at the very least thinkable, even as I appreciate that many will not be persuaded that what I see is true. This is no easy task, thus the years that it has taken to develop the methodology that I have since publishing my first book in 2002.” I desire to communicate that the methodology I use allows…