Dec 05

Modesty Is a Direction Not a Line

I wrote my monthly piece on Catholic Stand about the virtue of modesty:

cy7kaiixgaaaaynI get frustrated when I see this seemingly endless discussion in certain Catholic circles about how women should dress. How long should the skirt be? Are skinny jeans appropriate? How much cleavage is allowed?

I also remember my sisters describing shopping for wedding dresses and the saleswoman assuming they were Mormons because they didn’t want a strapless gown or too much cleavage. They were really annoyed when only shown dresses with tiny sleeves that looked more like extended shoulder pads because that was the Mormon minimum but looked horrendous on them due to their shoulder shape.

On Twitter I get sent a lot of “ask a priest” questions and about once a week the theme is modesty: is jogging as a date modest? Does listening to this song go against modesty? What about this hand gesture?

Problems with the modesty line

Unfortunately so much of the discussion I hear or the phrasing of the questions I read is based on a misunderstanding of what modesty is. Modesty is not a line where your skirt can’t be more than 13.5 inches above your ankle and your cleavage can’t be more than 0.25 inches. If we impose such legalism and exacting standards, no wonder people are stressed out about it: no wonder it’s one of the top questions I receive.

Having a line for modesty creates several other problems…

Read the rest there.

Dec 01

5 Hidden heroes I’ve known in my life

I  wrote about our need for heroes over at Aeteia:

web-sailor-baby-infant-navy-dvidshub-ccModern society seems to find it tough to find heroes. Instead of turning to the saints, we often look to celebrities (who often aren’t real heroes) or to superheroes (who often aren’t real).

Where can we find heroes for ourselves and for the next generation? In an almost hero-less society, we can’t go about it in a haphazard way.

I like the suggestion Wendy Shalit made (she’s the author of A Return to Modesty, if the name sounds vaguely familiar but you can’t put a finger on it). She says “we must all somehow, step up and become heroes for one another.”

So often, we can look for role models but Shalit’s comment reminds us that if we want heroes or role models for adults and for kids, we ourselves need to become those people.

Read the rest over there.

Nov 21

A quick summary of pope’s letter ending the Year of Mercy

I wrote a summary of this letter for Crux:

As the Year of Mercy ended, Pdf21efeee82a337d09d1cdf7e65d35c4-690x450ope Francis signed an apostolic letter imploring us to continue being merciful called Misericordia et Misera. This letter continues key themes of Francis. The title refers to the mercy with misery Jesus grants the woman caught in adultery. I intend to provide the key lines here with minimal commentary where needed.

He gets to his thesis fast: “Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the Church; it constitutes her very existence, through which the profound truths of the Gospel are made manifest and tangible.  Everything is revealed in mercy; everything is resolved in the merciful love of the Father.” (1 – numbers in brackets refer to paragraphs in the document).

Forgiveness is the most visible sign of the Father’s love, which Jesus sought to reveal by his entire life.  Every page of the Gospel is marked by this imperative of a love that loves to the point of forgiveness.” (2)

Read the rest there.

Oct 04

Men Only! Mary Story Contest

When we think about Mary, we tend to think a lot about how women have been helped. I know many men who have also been helped. A few weeks ago, Crossbound rosaries offered me one of their manly paracord rosaries. I want to offer it as the prize for the best story by a man about how Mary helped him. I think this is also a great way to celebrate the month of the rosary.

Here are 3 pictures of the rosary:

ax-jtgqd rqqy42xr dps0_mrj


  1. Entries must be received by Monday, October 10th at 2pm Eastern..
  2. Entry is open to males only age 12 and up.
  3. Stories must be about the author (male relatives from the past 100 years can also work).
  4. By entering you give me permission to publish your comments. (I will only put a first name and last initial to protect privacy.)
  5. I will pick what I think is the best entry. My decision of a winner is final and cannot be appealed even though it is likely subjective.
  6. I will contact the winner via email to mail them the rosary.

No more submissions accepted. Winner announced soon.

Sep 21

How I use Twitter

How I use Twitter

I’ve somehow succeeded on Twitter so I finally decided I would explain some of how I work. I did so in a series of tweets I’ll post here as a blog.

Update: I finished out my cleaning at a little over 20,000 people unfollowed a few days ago.

After I thought I’d finished, a few more thought came up:

Sep 17

Genocide of Christians by ISIS a reality we can’t ignore

I think there is a storng moral argument to help persecuted Christians and this argument was just published on Crux.

3269414206_d6fb3b36e5Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Usually, we apply this verse to serving the poor or sick; but if we think about it, a person who faces daily death threats, whose family has been killed, and whose whole society is in real danger of extinction, definitely qualifies as “one of the least of these my brethren.”

In that spirit, the ongoing genocide of Christians in the Middle East, especially in ISIS-controlled areas, is a reality we cannot deny.

Crux editor John Allen Jr. documented the persecution of Christians a few years back inThe Global War on Christians but the situation in the Middle East has deteriorated significantly since then. Christ based his judgment in Matthew 25 on how we dealt with these least: this applies not just individually, but how we – as an at least nominally Christian nation – respond to genocide against these least of Christ’s brothers.

Recently, I was at a conference run by In Defense of Christians, a non-profit founded to help persecuted Christian minorities. Andrew Doran, a senior advisor to IDC, began the conference by laying out the arguments used to convince both the U.S. Congress and the State Department to declare the violence against Christians and Yazidis and other minorities in Syria and Iraq as genocide.

Read the rest over on Crux.

Sep 13

Sound Bite Problems… Even in Christian Media

Sound bite problems in Christian Media
I have commented a few times on what helps teens stay active in their faith. About 2 weeks ago, Catholic News Agency contacted me to interview for a story they were doing on a recent CARA study on the how many kids leave the Church. I later got a Google alert that I was mentioned on Christianity Today (yes, I have Google Alerts set up to know what’s being said about me). When I got the the story I was rather disapointed in how reducing me to a sound bite, they lost the meaning of what I said.

I spoke with CNA for about 20 minutes and I think Matt Hadro accurately represented what I said. Here’s part of the section on me (I also commented on faith & science). The article is here.

How can parents raise their children to stay in the faith? Fr. Schneider cited research by Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, who concluded that a combination of three factors produces an 80 percent retention rate among young Catholics.

If they have a “weekly activity” like catechesis, Bible study or youth group; if they have adults at the parish who are not their parents and who they can talk to about the faith; and if they have “deep spiritual experiences,” they have a much higher likelihood of remaining Catholic, Fr. Schneider said.

This mirrors an earlier blog of mine called 3 Things that Almost Guarantee Teens Stay Catholic which I know I was consciously remembering when talking to Matt Hadro. (I put numerous ellipses to shorten it).

Christian Smith is a leading sociologist on the sociology of religion: he did a study of over 2000 young adults in their teen years on the religiosity and then followed up with them while they were in their 20s…. the end of the book, he talks about how different combination of factors can come together to ensure that Catholic teens are active Catholics (for him, this basically means attending mass weekly, although I would hope that a truly active Catholic would do more). There are only seven possible paths that lead to more than 50% of the teens remaining active Catholics as adults – and some of these require 4 or 5 factors to come together. Of the seven paths one stands out for two reasons: it produces an 80% success rate at having active Catholic adults and all three of the factors are things that we can create the environment where there almost definitely going to happen.

The first factor is a teen attends Sunday school. We have to remember that Christian Smith is a sociologist of religion goes beyond the Catholic Church – as most Catholics don’t have “Sunday school” but rather either CCD and/or some form of youth ministry…

The second factor is teen had many religious experiences. We can never create a religious experience but if we provide a wide plethora of retreats, adoration, service to the poor, evangelization opportunities, and other spiritual opportunities the probability that a teen will have a subjective religious experience is very high…

The last factor is: teen has many adults in religious congregation to turn to for help and support. In simple terms this means that teens can talk adults other than their parents about their faith…

So this was picked up by Christianity Today who decided to reduce my comments to a sound bite:

Fr. Matthew Schneider, LC, who worked in youth ministry for four years, meanwhile challenged the parents of today to help their children keep the faith.

Fr. Schneider suggested parents facilitate a “weekly activity” for the kids like catechesis, Bible study or youth group. He added that parents should become more aware of their children’s faith.

Is that what I said? To me, it seems like they reduced my comments to empty platitudes. Of course any reader of a Christian publication should be encouraged to help their children and be aware of their faith… that’s so obvious, it barely needs to be said. And nothing of Christian Smith’s research makes a “weekly activity” particularly transformative for teens’ faith in isolation, only with the other two factors: I’d still encourage it but their are several other more powerful factors in isolation.

Sep 07

Why Catholics are leaving the faith by age 10 – and what parents can do about it

I was intervewed by Catholic News Agency on preventing teens from leaving the Church.

Church_pews_Public_domain_CNAFr. Matthew Schneider, LC, who worked in youth ministry for four years, emphasized that faith and science must be presented to young people in harmony with each other.

A challenge, he explained, is teaching how “faith and science relate” through philosophy and theology. While science deals only with “what is observable and measurable,” he said, “the world needs something non-physical as its origin, and that’s how to understand God along with science.”

“It was the Christian faith that was the birthplace of science,” he continued. “There’s not a contradiction” between faith and science, “but it’s understanding each one in their own realms.”

How can parents raise their children to stay in the faith? Fr. Schneider cited research by Christian Smith, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame, who concluded that a combination of three factors produces an 80 percent retention rate among young Catholics.

If they have a “weekly activity” like catechesis, Bible study or youth group; if they have adults at the parish who are not their parents and who they can talk to about the faith; and if they have “deep spiritual experiences,” they have a much higher likelihood of remaining Catholic, Fr. Schneider said.

Read what everyone else said on their site.

Aug 07

Muslims: Nuancing the Good and Bad

I just posted this on the Catholic StandCpnAfEmWYAAeUWv.

About a month ago, during the Euro Cup, I was impressed reading a few pieces in the press about Mesut Özil, an extremely talented Muslim soccer player who often opens his palms in prayer during stoppages in play and reads the Koran before matches. I saw a quote from him saying, “I’d rather not play football again than to not fast in Ramadan,” even though I later found out that during the Euro Cup he took advantage of the dispensation to move fast days if you’re traveling. For those of you who don’t watch soccer, Özil is likely the best playmaker in the world right now, creating more scoring opportunities than any other player in the five major European leagues last year, and breaking the 1 year record in that regard for the English Premiere League by a clean dozen.

Özil even shows certain acts of charity he links back to his Muslim faith and family upbringing like paying for operations for 23 sick children after the World Cup in Brazil and regularly paying for disabled children to come watch his games in London. I believe him 100% when he talks about how positive influence Islam is had on his life. In fact, I’d considered writing a whole article on him titled “The Muslim Tim Tebow.”

Even though I’d love for him to convert to Catholicism, I can see him fitting perfectly into what Vatican II said about Muslims:

The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting. (Nostra Aetate 3)

Read the rest on the Catholic Stand.

Aug 01

The Church Just Did for Movements What She Did for Religious in 1978, Only Better

Church-Did-for-Movements-artThe Church does not rush to judgement, but reflects and ponders clearly to ascertain what is God’s will. This can take years, even decades. Vatican II renewed many aspects of Catholic life: the sacramental character of a bishop’s consecration, the lay vocation to holiness, the religious life, and the structure of the Church. All of these have brought about a need for further reflection on the relationship between different branches within the Church. In 1978, the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes published Mutuae Relationes, which gave norms for the relationship between bishops and religious in the Church.

On June 14, 2016, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published similar norms for other charismatic elements within the Church, notably movements and new communities, under the title Iuvenescit Ecclesia. (In this essay, “charismatic” will refer to movements of the spirit in general, not specifically to the Charismatic movement.) My intention here is to explore the similarities and differences between the two documents. When Iuvenescit Ecclesia was first announced, many speculated that it would simply update Mutuae Relationes, as Pope Francis had suggested was needed1; however,Iuvenescit Ecclesia applies rules similar to those found in the first document to entirely new types of groups.

Both documents begin with a section on doctrine, and then move to a section on practical application. I will review each of the two sections in parallel, and then talk about some applications of how to facilitate synergy between religious communities or movements, and dioceses or parishes.

Read the rest on Homiletic & Pastoral Review.

Jul 10

Religious Liberty: an American Innovation and Tradition

flag-300x111If you’ve grown up in the United States in the 20th or 21st century, you might miss how revolutionary the religious liberty in the Constitution is. Until 1791, no national government in human history had officially declared that there was no established religion and people were free to practice whatever religion, and almost every state had some official or semi-official religion. Even the French Revolution, at about the same time, established an official religion of reason rather than permit religious freedom.

What brought this about? First, many of the original 13 Colonies were founded by groups in England who practiced a religion other than state-sponsored Anglicanism in Great Britain. The British government wouldn’t tolerate them at home but would let them live far away if their religion was that important. Second, Christianity is quite unique among world religions in that it is based on personal belief not corporate belonging. From the beginning, Christians lived in opposition to the official religion. Other groups would be fine under Roman rule because Romans would allow you to worship your god so long as you also worshiped their god – a fine proposition for a polytheist but not a Christian. Third, enlightenment philosophy, despite his defects in other areas, was able to see the religious liberty in a way that wasn’t previously clear.

Read the rest on Regnum Christi Live.

Jul 07

When Pope Francis goes off the cuff, think Latin America

Several times, Pope Francis has said things that have really shocked a number of North American Catholics.  Yet if we put the comments in the context of Catholicism in other countries, often we’ll be shocked by the situation in those countries, not by the pope.

Pope Francis is Argentinian and, save a few years of study in Europe, he’s spent his entire life in the Latin American Church. In many respects, the Church in Latin America is in a very different position from the North American Church, both internally and with respect to regional cultural perspectives.

I spent three years studying in Rome in a college where the majority of the religious brothers were from Latin America, and I began to realize how different some of our cultural and ecclesial assumptions are.

I remember talking to a priest from Brazil, for instance, about how in the U.S. many religious communities do philosophy before novitiate. He was shocked because he was certain that most taking philosophy, for those communities, would be cheating the system to get a free education. In the U.S., I don’t think this is an issue, because there are easier ways to get a college degree than faking a religious vocation for four years.

Read the rest on Crux.

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