James Martin, S.J. is a Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine and author of numerous books, including The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, a New York Times bestseller; and My Life with the Saints, which Publishers Weekly named one of the Best Books of 2006. (It is also available in Spanish as Mi Vida con los Santos.) He lives in New York City and often publishes articles in the secular press, and on America magazine's blog In all Things and on The Huffington Post.
¿Cómo podría influenciar la espiritualidad jesuítica el pontificado del papa Francisco?
Las semanas siguientes a la elección del papa Francisco, el primer jesuita elegido para ese cargo, vieron a más gente formulando preguntas sobre los jesuitas que cualquier otro momento en los últimos 25 años. La mayoría de los lectores de America saben ya lo que es un jesuita, pero hay otra cuestión que merece reflexión: ¿Cómo podría la espiritualidad ignaciana influenciar a nuestro nuevo papa y cómo le ha influenciado ya?
I’m an over-the-top “Downton Abbey” fan. Lately I’ve been avoiding all Sunday night engagements (at least those that continue past 9:00 PM ET) and am downcast if I haven’t heard the Dowager Countess’s most recent aperçu. Despite the show’s manifest weaknesses (sorry, but didn’t amnesia go out with Susan Lucci?) and because of its strengths (read: Dame Maggie Smith) I’ve been hooked since Season One. Like most DA fans, I’ve watched “Sh*t the Dowager Countess Says” on Youtube more times than I care to admit, and thought that SNL’s Spike TV parody of the show was, hands downton, the funniest thing I’ve seen all year that didn’t feature Melissa McCarthy.
Wow. Tim Tebow, the famously religious quarterback who kneels in prayer before, during and after games, led the Denver Broncos to another apparently miraculous win yesterday. And, as if the win itself weren’t dramatic enough, the football phenom passed for an astonishing 316 yards in ten throws. That would be 31.6 yards a throw. Does that number sound familiar? It should. It’s the verse from the Gospel of John (3:16) that Mr. Tebow had written on his “eye black,” the patch of paint under his eyes to cut glare. For those without your Bible handy that would be: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Here’s a serious question about levity: The Bible clearly paints a picture of Jesus of Nazareth as a clever guy, but he never seems to laugh, much less crack a smile. Did Jesus really have no sense of humor; didn't he ever laugh?
The Catholic Church’s stance on homosexual activity is well known. There probably isn’t an intelligent Catholic in this country, perhaps even in the Western world, who isn’t aware of the church’s clear teaching. The Catechism teaches that homosexual activity is “intrinsically disordered,” that is, always and everywhere wrong. It also teaches that the inclination itself is an "objective disorder."
More recently, the Vatican and many local church leaders have communicated the church’s strong opposition to same-sex marriage, as that issue has increasingly come to the fore in many countries. Archbishop (soon Cardinal) Timothy Dolan of New York, who serves as the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has spoken out against same-sex marriage, calling it an “ominous threat” to society. The archbishop of Minneapolis-St. Paul, John Nienstedt, recently wrote to his priests about the “gravity of this struggle, and said he expected them to support his efforts opposing same-sex marriage or remain silent. (Last year Archbishop Nienstedt sent out 400,000 DVDs explaining the church’s position to Catholics in his archdiocese.) And Charles J. Chaput, the newly installed archbishop of Philadelphia, called it “the issue of our time.”
Last year I listed 12 things I knew at age 50 that I wish I had known at 25. Now I'm a year older. And if I'm not wiser, at least I'm a bit more experienced. So here are 12 really stupid things I've done that I never want to do again. Maybe you've done some of them, too. But I'll bet we'd both be happier if we didn't...
1. Compare. Ever heard the saying "Compare and despair"? Comparing yourself to someone else usually means that you imagine the other person is better off, more satisfied -- in a word, happier. But here's the problem: We end up comparing what we know about our life, which is a mixed bag of good and bad, with a fantasy of someone else's supposedly "perfect" life. Why do we do this? Because we know all about our own problems, but other people's problems are harder to see. As a result, our real life always loses out. That leads to despair. Besides, there's probably someone comparing his or her life to your supposedly perfect one -- which shows you how ridiculous it all is.
"The Muppets" proved a surprise hit this month with moviegoers, not only for its appeal to children, but perhaps because it taps into adults' fond memories of the original TV show (not to mention their earlier memories of "Sesame Street.") I saw the movie this weekend and was delighted at how well the screenwriter (actor Jason Segel) combined adult humor (not racy, just adult) with a fun story for kids. Kamaria B. Porter reviews it this week in the Culture section of America Magazine:
"The Muppets" feels both familiar and wonderfully fresh. Segel, who co-wrote the film, is a huge fan of the Muppets, as evidenced by his homage in the 2008 comedy “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” The film subtly explores how our passions shape us. Walter's love for the Muppets has defined his life, and working with Kermit becomes the fulfillment of so many dreams. As he tells Kermit, "You're my hero. You're on my [wrist] watch." Though Walter seems content to help backstage, the compassionate frog pushes him to create a new act for the show. Despite having helped to reunite the Muppets, Walter feels unworthy to perform with them. When Walter discovers his talent, he finds the self-confidence to act on his dreams and become a part of the group.
“The lack of humour and irritability into which we in the contemporary Church and contemporary theology have so often slipped is perhaps one of the most serious objections which can be brought against present-day Christianity,” wrote Cardinal Walter Kasper, a German Catholic theologian, in his book An Introduction to Christian Faith. I’ll say: some Catholic priests make you wonder how they can say that they “celebrate” the Mass when they never crack a smile.
It’s not just a Catholic problem. The Rev. Martin Marty, the distinguished Protestant theologian, author of many books and over 5,000 scholarly articles, told me that certain aspects of the Protestant tradition have always struck him as “grim.” In a recent interview Marty said, “Hilaritas is not characteristic of the Protestant ethos.”
Dear friends: In case you missed it last night, Stephen Colbert asked me on his show to talk about joy, humor and laughter, and of course, he made me laugh. Along the way, we ended up exegeting the biblical stories of the Storm at Sea and the Birth of Isaac. Enjoy!
Here's my take on CNN.com, who asked me to weigh in.
Asking if we have turned Steve Jobs into a saint is different from asking if he was a saint. The first question turns on how society sees the digital-age genius. That’s a question of perception. The second turns on how Mr. Jobs lived his life. That’s more a question of reality. The first is easy to answer; the second less so. So onto the easy answer: Yes, we have turned Steve Jobs into a saint, in the same way that we often project qualities of holiness onto any celebrity with whom we felt affection.
Or perhaps you’re reading this online in heaven, where I bet they have excellent Wi-Fi. (No dropped calls either.) Anyway, the End of the World has been scheduled, most recently, for Oct. 21, 2011, with a tip from Harold Camping. Don’t get me started on how a few Christians keep predicting the end of the world when Jesus said we couldn’t predict it. So it’s on for Oct. 21. (Mayan rain date: Dec. 21, 2012).
Frankly, I’ll be sorry to see the End of the World, even though it means (assuming I’m forgiven for my sins) that I’ll be welcomed into the heavenly banquet, in company with the saints, and all the rest who made it into God’s presence. But even with the promise of eternal bliss, I’ll miss my time on earth.