James Martin, S.J.

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.

 



James Martin, S.J.

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Robert Mickens sent us this tip about a new report that he says has "produced extensive evidence that last-minute changes were made to the English translation of the Roman Missal without the knowledge or approval of the competent bishops’ conferences and in violation of the Vatican’s own translation rules.  The anonymous report, circulated to all the English speaking Bishops’ Conferences, highlights that changes were made to the new English translation of the Missal, just before it was approved and presented to Pope Benedict XVI."  Mickens, the Tablet's Rome correspondent, was referring to a link on the liturgical website "PrayTell," posted by Anthony Ruff, OSB.  (Btw, it is rather shocking to see a Vatican document ending up on Wikileaks, better known for sharing leaked documents about the Iraq War).



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Hallelujah!  Last week the Opera Company of Philadelphia surprised holiday shoppers at Macy's in downtown Philadelphia (which many old-time Philadelphians still refer to by the name of the original storied store on that site: Wanamaker's) with the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's "Messiah."

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If you're like some of the people who post comments on the Religion page of HuffingtonPost, your primary reaction to the news that today is All Saints Day might be: "Who cares?" Or if you're in a more expansive mood: "God is a ridiculous, superstitious tool used as a crutch by the delusional. Religion is a tool for evil in the world. So the saints are easily fooled saps who have sacrificed their life for a lie."

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Wonderful piece the other day in The New York Times about a De La Salle Christian brother.  Lovely photo, too.



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Peter Steinfels on Catholic Attrition
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James Martin, S.J.

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Powerful stuff, and required reading, from Peter Steinfels over at Commonweal on the leave-taking of Catholics from their church.

 

Why have I spent so much time on those of Catholic upbringing who have left the church? First, because the numbers are not trivial, to put it mildly. “Catholicism,” the Pew study found, “has lost more people to other religions or to no religion at all than any other single religious group.” In American Grace, their new study of religious polarization and pluralism, Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell quote a member of the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Acton, Massachusetts, where it is estimated that former Catholics make up nearly half the congregation. “If it weren’t for people leaving the Catholic Church,” he said, “the Episcopal Church would have died a long time ago in America.” (See William A. Galston, "Getting Along.")

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James Martin, S.J.

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New York Magazine has a fun feature on its last page called the "Approval Matrix," which critiques cultural trends.  Along the vertical axis is the spectrum "Highbrow to Lowbrow."  Along the horizontal axis is "Brilliant to Despicable."  Here is this week's, in case my lame description is too vague.

Anyway, somewhere near Highbrow this week is a note saying "Stop telling us to see 'The Social Network.' We'll get to it.  We'll get to it."  The only film that's getting anywhere near the attention of "TSN" is "Waiting for Superman," a documentary on the failing American public school system.  Raymond Schroth, S.J., a longtime educator, takes a look at this important new film in this week's Online Culture section.  See both "TSN" and "WFS."

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What is a Catholic response to gay suicide?
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James Martin, S.J.

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It's impossible not to be moved by the terrible stories of the five youths who recently took their own lives because they were being harassed as gays and lesbians.  In New York the story of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who was filmed having a romantic encounter with another man, which was them live-streamed by his "friends," seemed particularly harrowing.  A despairing Clementi, age 18, ended his life by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge.  Any suicide is an unspeakable tragedy, just as any murder of any kind is a tragedy, but there is something especially sad about a young person believing that their life will never be, or can never be, better.  The Christian heart is, as Jesus's heart was, "moved with pity."



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Obama: Closet Catholic?
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James Martin, S.J.

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File this under the "Really?" column. David Gibson over at Politics Daily reports President Obama's surprising devotion to Mary, Help of Christians.

Somehow this slipped past the Disputations filter, but during her vacation in Spain in August, First Lady Michelle Obama revealed that her husband--a.k.a. President Obama--"always carries a picture of Mary Help of Christians in his wallet."

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Douthat on Newmania
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Ross Douthat, an intelligent and literate Catholic observer, and a columnist in the New York Times, writes perceptively on the surprising turnout for Pope Benedict in light of the protests by atheists like Richard Dawkins and predictions of embarrassing crowds.  (The same phenomenon of surprised secular observers happened during the pope's visit to the States in 2008).  He's spot-on when it comes to the hidden Catholics who practice their faith and who are loyal to the office of the pope; he's less spot-on, I think, it comes to the trauma inflicted on the church by the abuse crisis.  But he's always worth reading.  See what you think.

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Robert Spitzer, SJ on Hawking's Idea of God
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Stephen Hawking's recent comment that the universe does not need a creator God--because it can spontaneously create itself--has prompted lively debate on the web, and also this intelligent response from Robert Spitzer, S.J.   Fr. Spitzer, a Jesuit priest and the former president of Gonzaga University, also has a Ph.D. in philosophy, and is an energetic and articulate Catholic apologist.  My general question for Professor Hawking would be: Can something come from nothing?  This flies in the face not simply of natural law but simple logic.  Anyway, here is Fr. Spitzer on the creation of the universe.

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Glenn Beck and Liberation Theology
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James Martin, S.J.

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On Sunday, after his colossal “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, D.C., Glenn Beck took aim at one of his favorite targets, Barack Obama, but in a novel way.  Beck regrets saying a few months ago that President Obama was a “racist.”  What he should have said instead, he now realizes, was that he didn’t agree with Obama’s “theology.”  And what is Obama’s theology, according to Beck?  Liberation theology, of all things. 

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