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catholicism | Truth & Charity
A Cancer Shave for Jesus

A Cancer Shave for Jesus

            One of the things my high school students frequently ask me is “Mr. Hester, how can I be a better disciple of Our Blessed Lord?” Stop laughing.  It could happen. I am, however, summarizing and conflating their many, many questions about the faith into that one.  If it seems like a daunting question to answer, well, hey, it’s my job.  It’s why I get paid the big bucks.  Again, stop laughing.  Here are some of the actual questions I get. “So, um, like, if Jesus or like God or whatever, um, drank wine…  So how come, like, alcohol is bad for you?  Like, didn’t He know that?” Is that one question or five and are you revealing a fondness for drink that should concern me? “Hey, T$ [That’s my nickname]” – “Excuse me, sir, it’s ‘Mr. T$’” – “Mr. T$, like what’s the deal with the Church being so mean to gay people?” Clearly you don’t read my column on Truth & Charity or you’d know that the Church is no such thing.  Don’t believe everything you read in the paper, kid.  What’s that?  A newspaper?  It’s a daily publication that, oh never mind. “Mr. Johnson,” – “I’m Mr. Hester, young lady, Johnson is your art teacher.” – “Oh right, sorry, I just had art.  So, did you see that YouTube of the Ebola nurse?  And do you think we’re all safe?” Of course I saw it and who can say?  Why?  Do you have any flu-like symptoms?  Have you been to West Africa in the past three weeks? “I like that tie...
Taking It For The Team

Taking It For The Team

I was talking to a non-Catholic friend the other day when, for whatever reason, the conversation turned toward sex and morality. I always get a little uncomfortable when this happens because I’m a serious Catholic, and people know that: my friends have become conditioned to expect that I’m unable to participate in a discussion on the comparative merits of the pill or the IUD, or that hearing about steamy Tinder hook-ups makes me a little green about the gills. I’m happy to express my opinion when asked, but on such sensitive topics, I think that discretion is almost always the better part of valor. So I was taken aback when the most recent conversation ended abruptly with, “If that’s what Catholics believe, it’s a stupid religion.” Don’t get me wrong: I welcome serious debate because I think it’s an honor to share my knowledge and dispel some common misunderstandings about Church teachings. I’m well aware that not everybody is going to like or agree with what I have to say. But there’s a constructive way of debating, and then there’s school-yard name calling. It concerns me that many otherwise sensitive people don’t seem to realize how hurtful it is to call a person’s faith or religion “stupid.” It’s like insulting a member of the family. In charity, I have to suppose that most people who thoughtlessly insult Catholics or launch hurtful attacks on our Church, our beliefs, and our practices fundamentally misunderstand what it means to be a religious person. Before I started taking the faith seriously, I didn’t get it either. Being a Catholic and living it out...
Living More Abundantly

Living More Abundantly

It may be different now, but the chapel of the Newman Center at GWU when I was a student was in pretty rough shape. The floor creaked, the AC/heat was unreliable at best, and it had the general run-down, jerry-rigged feel of the room that was built over a retro-fitted garage in an old campus townhouse that urgently needed renovation. Its general decorative theme skewed heavily to 1970s “youth ministry,” with tacky multi-colored stained glass panels covering the windows behind the altar. They had Gospel quotations on them, only one of which I remember: “I have come that you may live more abundantly.”[1] The first time I visited the chapel, I remember looking at that verse and thinking, “That’s what I want.” When I began coming to the Newman Center as a sophomore in college, I was pretty unsure of my faith. I’d been baptized and confirmed as a Catholic, but faith was never an active part of my life. I didn’t know about the Real Presence, I thought most of the moral teachings couldn’t possibly be applied in modern life, and I didn’t want to be seen as one of those religious people. But I was inexplicably drawn to Catholicism—enough to cagily sneak over to the Newman Center’s free Tuesday night dinners without telling my friends where I was going, to sit for a few minutes in the chapel praying that no one would recognize me, and to tell myself that I was just there for the social events, not for any of that God stuff, which I was of course only doing out of politeness before nipping...
Book Review: Something Other Than God

Book Review: Something Other Than God

During the three days it took me to read Jennifer Fulwiler’s memoir, Something Other Than God, my husband made the same joke every time he picked it up. He would skim the endorsements on the back of the book from famous Catholic authors, radio hosts, and even Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and then become extremely impressed when he saw that on the inside of the front cover C.S. Lewis had also “endorsed her book” saying this: “All that we call human history…[is] the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.” He would then laugh at his own joke, hand back the book, and move on to something other than my reading. As I was reading Something Other Than God, I realized that my life has been so much simpler than the life of an atheist convert, having Catholicism taught to me from a young age. Yet, she was taught to investigate the world and seek to learn everything she could about it. Fulwiler starts her story with childhood encounters with zealous Christians and her realization of her own mortality. She spent the next years of her life trying to escape from the haunting realization that everyone dies. Once she started dating and then married her husband, Joe, she lived a life of traveling almost continually and attending parties regularly. She immersed herself in distractions so that she would not have to face the reality of death. Then they had their first child. It was during the first few months of motherhood that she realized that her experience of love for her...
When Catholicism is in Your Bones

When Catholicism is in Your Bones

Since we moved to Minnesota, my family and I have been meeting a lot of converts, many of them my husband’s colleague at the Catholic university where he is a professor. It seems that more of them than not are converts. The other day a distinguished colleague asked my husband, “You are a cradle Catholic, aren’t you?” After my husband assured him that he was, his friend said decidedly, “Then it is in your bones.” Every year I live, I realize more and more how Catholicism really is “in my bones.” There is something about being Catholic from infancy that takes over one’s whole life, and the further one is from one’s conversion to the faith the more time the Catholic sense has had to set in. One of our convert friends, Brantley Milligan, wrote a piece for Alethia about 4 Things that Catholics do that Rightly Scandalize non-Catholics. It seemed to me that his first point on how Catholics don’t talk enough about Jesus missed something genuine about Catholicism. Mr. Milligan says that, “Even among otherwise faithful Catholics, it sometimes seems we can spend a lot of time talking about the Church, the clergy, the Pope, the Mass, moral teachings, the Sacraments, and yes, Mary and the saints – all important things – but hardly ever mention Jesus.” I would disagree and say that by talking about these things, Catholics really are talking about Jesus. At a recent play date with other Catholic moms, they singled me out as the only non-convert in the group. For a moment I agreed and then I looked at the eight children...

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