A priest for the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo. Associate Pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Columbia, Mo., Sacramental Minister of St. Mary's in Milan, Mo. and St. Mary's in Unionville, Mo.. http://gbrookejr.wordpress.com
For this edition of “Praising the Press“, an article from the fashion website: Fashionista.com. While so far this series (for a reminder on its purpose, read this post) has focused on articles published by local newspapers, I also would like to include national and digital secular news sources.
I love the decision of the author to begin with quotes and perspective from Leah Darrow. Why? She is a sort of bridge between the two most likely audiences reading this article, fashionistas and Catholics. Furthermore, she has a reputation, and therefore some sort of authority in both camps. By building this bridge with Darrow, the author opens up dialogue to build upon.
In crossing this bridge the author moves on to interview a variety of other young Catholic women. One point to be made here is the value of getting the perspective of these various women on their experience of veiling, faith, and theology. It is a very good thing that the voices of these women are heard. This is much better than say, interviewing some priest as a theological expert.
Furthermore, in listening to the voices of these women, the author establishes a fair dialectic between their perspective and what might be the perspective of someone approaching this practice from afar. The value here is in the fairness of considering both perspectives instead of dismissing the experience, opinion or perspective of the women.
Lastly, the author is fair in recognizing some of the demographic limitations of this practice. This is important because it prevents the article from painting with too broad of a brush stroke and therefore giving a false impression of the reality of practice of veiling within the Church.
If you see any other well done articles about the Catholic Church in secular news sources, please send them my way for future editions of “Praising the Press.“
In my reading, there two parts to this article. The first on the state of vocations, why young people are joining the priesthood today. The second speaks to the seminary process by which one becomes a priest.
As regards the first point what I appreciate about the article is that the reporter takes time to listen to the arguments made by the priest regarding some of the factors leading to an increase in vocations. There have been other examples, this very week of reporters who rather chose to stick to their own storyline or narrative regarding the vocations crisis, instead of listening to those on the front lines.
To the second part of the article about the formation process, I believe there are a few points worth commending. The first is just the fact that the process is outlined and explained. So many reporters seem to skip over this as if priests just fell from the sky. Furthermore, the depth of explaining the process particularly in regards to the scrutinies and evaluations is valuable information to be included. Those kinds of details show some of the steps the Church is taking towards developing a healthier, holier next generation of priests.
If you see any other good articles in the secular press about the Catholic Church, please send them my way.
For many years while I was in seminary I always talked about and envisioned reusing this space to share come comments regarding the intersection of journalism and Catholicism. Instead, as the tides have turned, I’ve mostly continued to use it as a portfolio kind of site, linking to my various content around the web, reflections, media appearances etc..
One of the web sites that I have always admired from afar when it comes to promoting religious literacy is GetReligion. As a Catholic theologian, specifically of fundamental theology, yes, I may at times disagree with particular nuances or points in their coverage. However, on the whole I find their work to be fair, thorough and balanced.
Furthermore, outside of the journalism bubble and deep, or even not so deep, within Catholic confines, it can be quite popular to bash, “the media,” “the press,” or “journalists.” Claims of Anti-Catholicism and an antagonist lack of trust can be strong at times.
Certainly at times there are instances where I read a secular article about the Church, that as a priest, theologian, and former journalist, make me want to throw my laptop through the wall. However, on the whole I attribute such mistakes what is known as religious illiteracy. I’m not saying there aren’t cases of Anti-Catholic bias, I am saying that religious illiteracy amongst journalists, and society as a whole is the far more prevalent problem. It’s also not a problem exclusive to Catholicism.
With all that being said, I’d like to start attempting to realize that vision I had of how to use my love of journalism and the Church. The other day I was talking with friends about it at lunch and realized that I had no excuse as to why I’ve waited nearly three years since leaving seminary.
Instead of contributing to the laments and critiques, cultivating a culture of division and pessimism, I’d prefer to take a more positive approach. There are plenty of other spaces for one to satisfy their cravings for that kind of material. Instead, I’d like to focus on some of the times when secular press does a particularly good job. To give praise when and where praise is due. Not to say to that all of the pieces featured are perfect, but to provide compliments when they are well-earned. Hence the title, “Praising the Press.” For now I make no commitments as to how frequently or infrequently such posts might appear, it’s just another project I’d like to try.
One of the things that I like about this piece is the manner in which it combines the historical context, the teaching of the Church (i.e. what is the diaconate?), and various local individuals involved. Furthermore, the writer appeals to both figures of authority, the bishop, as well as the human interest side of those who are living the reality of the diaconate. All together this provides a thorough background and foundation of some aspect of the Church (the diaconate), along with a contemporary, personal, and local connection. The depth of the explanations are a good example of the opposite of religious illiteracy, but instead, actual religious literacy and comprehension. Lastly, the author addresses some of the concerns going forward into the future as well in a fair and realistic manner.
Again, the point of these pieces will be to briefly highlight good work. There is already enough negative noise on the internet. If you see any other good stories about the Catholic Church in secular religion journalism, please send them my way.
Tell me the story of the holiest person you’ve ever met
It’s not an easy question, because I believe I’ve been blessed to meet so many people from all over the world who are quite holy. It was so hard to chose just one, but at the end of the day I had to “trust my gut.” So in trusting my gut, I don’t intend to speak ill or lesser of anyone else, but rather to highlight some of the most intense expressions of holiness I have experienced.
To me this person is Sr. Loreci. She is a member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who, if I was allowed, I would have chosen as a whole group. They are my dear friends, but they also challenge and inspire me to more fully live out my vocation everyday.
I first met Sr. Loreci when I spent the summer doing missionary work in Albania. Sr. Loreci, originally from Brazil, worked as the head nurse in their health clinic. I served as her assistance and pharmacist, or on a second trip, deacon. I have told many stories about Sr. Loreci in my homilies over the years all around the world, from Rome, to Connecticut.
What in my gut leads me to name Sr. Loreci? In short it’s her capacity to integrate her prayer life with her apostolic work in the face of great injustice and suffering, all while still maintaining a cheerful disposition.
A few stories to bring that bold statement to life (warning – some of them are medically gross):
In her examination room in the clinic, she did not have the typical posters of human anatomy you might find the doctor’s office. Instead she had an image of Christ on the cross. While carefully removing bugs from holes in a man’s infected feet, she invited him to look up at the image of Christ crucified and to unite his sufferings to Christ, even going to the detail of pointing to the nail through Christ’s feet. This encouraging patients to understand their pain through the suffering of Christ was a daily practice. It was a beautiful way for her to care not only for their physical wounds, but also their spiritual ones.
The day before my second visit to Albania, Sr. Loreci had suffered a great tragedy. Back home in Brazil two men broke into her sister’s home and killed her brother in law, in cold blood, in front of his children, her nieces and nephews. Now I don’t know about all of you, but if that was me, I’d be pretty angry and would want come back and at least comfort my sister, if not go after the guys who did it. But what did Sr. Loreci do, she got up in the morning, prayed morning prayer, went to Mass, and then off to the homes, to imitate Christ. She wasn’t superhuman or immune to suffering from this terrible incident, there was time for mourning and sadness too, but the faithfulness in her response to keep doing what she was called to do in that moment remains so inspiring to me.
Then there is story that tops them all. I’m not sure words can ever do it justice, but I’ll try.
One morning we received a phone call at the health clinic. We were told that this man’s cousin, 33 years old was suffering from extreme internal and external burns as a result of an electrical accident. He was so badly burned, he could not come to the clinic. So we went to his house. When we arrived the man was lying in bed in only a pair of boxers as his entire body from shoulders to toes was covered in third degree burns. Most would want to turn and run away at the sight. It was truly horrific. His vocal cords were damaged so you could see his neck strain, and his toes curl, as if he was crying out in pain, but no noise came out. Instead of turning away from such suffering, Sr. Loreci went right to work, so carefully tending to each and every single one of his wounds. We ended up there for hours.
I sat at the end of the bed attempting poorly to console the mother of the man, his wife and his little daughter. As I noticed the most profound wound on this man was on his torso near the heart, it occurred to me that as I sat at his feet, with his mother, it was like being gathered at scene of the crucifixion. Furthermore, I was watching this sister, an Apostle of the Sacred Heart, curing the gash in his side. His accident was only made possible by the economic injustices and poverty present in his country.
That evening, after we had returned home and made our evening holy hour, after dinner I asked Sr. Loreci a question, “Sister, how do you do it everyday?” She looked at me and said, “If it weren’t for Jesus, I couldn’t do anything.” More specifically, she added, “If it weren’t for Christ in the Eucharist, I couldn’t do anything.”
That level of integration between the sacraments, the spiritual life, and service is holiness to me. It’s what I want. What I strive for. It’s what I’ve seen in others as well, but perhaps most concretely in Sr. Loreci. So for now, that’s the story of the holiest person I’ve ever met.
What about you? Feel free to write you own post and join the link up. Don’t forget the hashtag #HolyPeople, and to link to Liz’s post.
Furthermore, I often say the greatest thing about being a priest is that I get to meet so many people from all over the world, from so many different backgrounds etc. So how am I supposed to choose?
Lastly, I want to add that I think that this blog link up is a worthwhile exercise because sometimes we romanticize the saints to the point of missing the inspiring faithful right in front of us. No, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have devotion to the saints, nor should we turn living people, sinners like us, into saints before it’s too soon. Rather, we can have a healthy awe for those who do their best, even if imperfect, to respond to their particular call from God.
After thinking too much with my brain, I realized the answer to all of the above questions was simply to trust my gut…check back later this week to find out who I chose and why. (Here’s a hint as to where I met this person).
Also be sure to check out these other great writers as they too contribute to the #HolyPeople celebration.
A month ago I was contacted by a former colleague from my first stint at CNS as an intern. At the time she was an assistant editor, now she is busy raising her young family and works part time with Peanut Butter & Grace.
Peanut Butter & Grace is a web site and social media conglomerate seeking to provide parents with practical ways to pass on the faith to their children.
Later this week, they will be releasing my first video as a part of a new series “Brick by Brick with Father Brooke.”
A few weeks ago, Pope Francis released a new apostolic exhortation titled, “Gaudete et Exsultate.” I was asked to write a commentary for Catholic News Service. I focused on three steps which lead to joy in the document as the key to unlocking holiness. Read it here: