Friday, 27 December 2013

How to Write a Popular Article about Pope Francis: Five Top Tips

With the media's saturation with material on Pope Francis, this novel Pope has captured the attention of people who seemed to have written off the Catholic Church. He is Time's Person of the Year, The Advocate (LGBT paper) Person of the Year, the news is full of his one-liners. But with so much stuff being written about him, how does one hope to make a successful article? Here are the five top tips:

1. The most important point to make is how dramatically different the nice Pope Francis is from that dreadful Benedict XVI. Do not even consider mentioning any similarities, be they in tone or the identical teaching of the two Pontiffs – make sure you contrast heavily the conservative Benedict with the emancipated Francis.

2. Similarly, talk about how much of a break this is from everything the Church has taught in the past: make it clear that Catholics are now pro-choice, and no longer believe any exclusivist nonsense like Jesus’ old-fashioned statement that “nobody comes to the Father except through me.” Make it doubly clear that anything the Church has ever taught or done is likely to be changed at upcoming synods and in future Pope Francis encyclicals.

3. Put in some good quotes that seem to suggest that Francis is indeed changing everything, but make sure all the context is removed, lest it sound like he is just saying something the Church has been saying for the past few decades under this Pope’s predecessor’s. Extra points for phrases like “rejection of dogma.”

4. Dedicate a paragraph to how concerned those nasty moralistic “conservative” or “traditional” Catholics are about this “liberal” Pope. If you can make out that the usual targets, like Cardinals Arinze, Pell or Burke are anything but chuffed at this new Pontiff, even better.

5. If nothing else, highlight how the Church is no longer concerned about the totality of the human person, which would include humanity as a sexual creature, but only the fashionable theme of care for the poor. Omit completely the strange talk of evangelism and missionary discipleship, and even more importantly, do not tie this in to anything like judgement or Hell, because that is uncool.


So there it is, the most important tips to making a successful article about someone who seems so great you might even call him Catholic. 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Catholic Feels

How does it feel to be a Catholic? Certainly different.

It is difficult to count all the ways it differs from being both an atheist and a Protestant, because many things are different, either in shade or in nature. Since I can contrast Protestantism with Catholicism better, that is the comparison I will make.

The transition was weird. I have had all sorts of people say I am no longer Christian. I have betrayed the glorious Reformation. I went over to the Mary-worshippers and ritualizers, the works-righteousness bunch, the ‘church’ that had tried to hide the Bible from everyone, and to good measure, because if they had not, someone would have read the epistle to the Romans or Galatians, and we would not be in such a mess. That was what I was meant to feel.

The initial reaction I actually had once I was in was that I was in some sort of cult. My dad calls it “la secta,” or “the sect” in English. Except it is a strange cult, because it is enormous in size and has a very long history. Nonetheless, we have really esoteric claims. We claim that a guy who had his hands laid on by another man, who in turn has been playing laying-on-of-hands tag all the way back to Jesus and the apostles, can now change what looks like an unleavened disc of bread into the flesh of a man who was born about 2,000 years ago, which we are all meant to eat. Ditto with the wine, except that is blood – but get this, it all looks the same. Sounds like the claim a cult would make.

Of course, there is nothing inherently ridiculous with that claim, other than it being less than common-sense. That’s OK, I study both physics and philosophy, which at any university seem to be the two faculties with the least common-sense beliefs around. Whenever one wishes to express something that sounds peculiar, yet nonetheless sound intellectual, one has the option of beginning sentences with “According to quantum mechanics…” and “You could argue philosophically that…” So weird is OK. The only thing that is a pressing concern is whether or not it is true – which I do.

The feeling of a cult did not last for very long – the Church is too big, too ancient, boasts too many intellectuals, to be dismissed as cultic nonsense. That gave way to a feeling of awe, that there are so many people, dead and alive, in this global communion. The size of the Church on the inside is staggering! It is like the TARDIS – overwhelmingly bigger inside.  Such brilliant people, too: from my hero St Francis of Assisi, to the brilliant St Augustine of Hippo, great scientists like Mendel and Le Maître, great philosophers like St Thomas Aquinas and René Descartes, great missionaries like St Francis Xavier, and I even felt in deeper communion with St Paul of Tarsus – which, of course, I was, and still am.

It is clear, I am now also in deeper communion with some of the most infamous Catholic sinners – we are all sinners, but the ones famous for their sin – like the chief inquisitor, the bad popes and the not-so-great people in the categories I just mentioned.

Worse, so many of the bad Catholics are not figures in the past, they are figures in the present. One of the things that is considered really uncool in an Evangelical Protestant-style church is nominalism, and there is stacks of them in the Catholic Church.  As I wrote in my post “The Road to Rome,” these people were a massive stumbling block. Or, probably far worse than the nominal ones, the unfaithful Catholics who reject everything it means to be Catholic – so much irreverence, ignorance, blatant disregard for Church teaching. If even Catholics did not believe this stuff, how was an outsider meant to? If someone from outside was not meant to believe this stuff, then why be Catholic at all?

The staggering beauty of being in communion with the greatest Christians that have walked the earth, contrasted with the “honeymoon over” reality that great saints are few and far between has now led to more mellow concoction: the Church does not just have the people radically transformed by the love of Christ, it has the ones that have “faith” because it is part of their family culture, or for some other reason that is similarly confusing to me. Put simply, it is full of a lot of people, and this is something that one has to live with.

I doubt it ever gets easier to live with it – read Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium), and quite soon one can see that one of the most pressing concerns that the Pope sees are Christians who are unchanged by the Gospel, in particular, who have “Lent without Easter,” who seem unchanged by the joy the Gospel brings. No, he says, the Gospel brings joy, and the Gospel brings the desire to spread to others the good news, or in other words, evangelization stems from the joy of being Christian.

Essentially, that is what Christianity is about: the urgent and breaking news, good news, that God has decisively acted in history, he has fulfilled the promises he had made to the particular nation of Israel, and in Jesus, God is reconciling the world to himself, redeeming it and transforming it by his love. Christ has died for us, therefore we have died also, and live in Christ, who God has raised from the dead. This message precludes apathy and nominalism, it excludes anything but that powerful phrase that recurs in the New Testament: Kyrios Christos! Christ is Lord! Nobody else is: not Caesar, though he dominates the known world, not Satan, though he is prince of this world with so much evil – no, Christ is Lord.

Hence, as always, I am practically scandalized by the “Sunday Catholics” or the so-called “CAPE Catholics” – only Catholic on Christmas, Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Either one believes the Gospel every day of the week, or none of them – there is no real middle ground.

I suspect I will spend much of my life in veritable angst over my brothers and sisters “in the faith” that do not have the faith in reality. Let me be absolutely clear: there are many saints in the Church, hundreds of people I have met, and many millions that I have not, on that journey of faith, being sanctified daily – I am honoured to be in fellowship with many of them in this Archdiocese of Brisbane. This post is titled “Catholic Feels”, however, and the scandal caused by casual Catholics too often blocks the noise of the growing forest of holiness. Like I said, these are my feelings, not my thoughts. My feelings never get much airtime anyway.

As much as the communion-with-the-great-saints aspect is dulled by the communion-with-the-great-sinners side of matters, the Catholic tradition continues to overwhelm me. If one simply believes in sola Scriptura, then basically a good knowledge of the Bible is a good knowledge of Christian theology in its entirety. Not so in the Church – thousands of years of very intelligent, Spirit-led and Spirit-filled people, arguing over theological matters, many of which the Church had to use her apostolic authority to settle, either by the papal Magisterium or conciliar decree – everything is richer, deeper, far more profound than I could previously conceive of. One area of theology might be as far away from another as mathematical physics is to zoology in the natural sciences, and all areas of theology are untameable.[1]

Deeper theology I might have expected, but I never would have guessed I would love the liturgy. I had previously thought that even repeated prayers were basically ritualistic (a word which I used to mean that outward signs are done with no inward involvement), and hence talk of vestments, all those funny-sounding names, missals, incense, the sitting-standing-kneeling movements and the centrality of the Eucharist in the Mass was way off my radar.

Relatively early on, my discomfort with the different rites disappeared. I would now claim quite the opposite, that the Catholic (or Sacramental more generally) view of rituals is the only one that makes sense: it is not being ritualistic to place a high importance on Baptism if it is a Sacrament, or in other words, if it is regenerative, a means of grace. But it makes little sense to be baptized at all if one thinks it does nothing – other than the fact that Jesus connects making disciples with baptizing, and the Apostles in general place a high value on it. This latter perspective constitutes ritualism, because on the Catholic view a Sacrament involves an inward grace – but on a non-sacramental view of Baptism (or the same goes for Holy Communion), it really is only an outward sign.

All these problems with the liturgy that I had were feelings – the Church has had them since the beginning: many of the vestments come slightly later (but not all of them), the funny-sounding-names are only odd because they were not English, incense is almost undeniably apostolic in origin, and nobody who was not heretical for more prominent reasons ever denied the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The complaints I had with the liturgy, I think, come more from a postmodern culture than any incoherence with Christianity. Christianity has always been liturgical.

One final word: whilst it is true that I had moved a year or so before from atheist to theist and then to Protestant Christian, I can still quite clearly perceive the differences between the more common strands of atheism and the Church, since it is quite hard to miss if one is serious about being Catholic. There is a fluidity of beliefs and anti-authoritarianism that is built into Protestantism from its beginning – and some would say this is an advantage – so the easiest Christian target is obviously the Catholics.

As a Catholic in a very secular environment, then, how do I feel? A range of feelings occur to me: there is defensiveness at times, as interesting-yet-offensive points are brought to me and I find myself expected to defend the Church. Arrogant at times, as very ignorant and simple minded arguments are brought to me, and the fallacies or misinformation only produces a sense that I must be more intelligent than other people. Mostly, though, I am OK to just let it slide. It is no longer my fault if, once I attempt to calmly respond to queries, the same points are made against me without any thought. There are the nice secularists, of course, who are lovely to talk to. Again, though, this was about my feelings.

[1] This position is a caricature of the mainstream Protestant view, first because it is almost impossible to say anything too general about Protestants, and second because sola Scriptura has more nuance if you ask some people. Still, if anything sola Scriptura means that the only solid special revelation is numerically identical with the Bible (with perhaps some early conciliar creeds), and any development is what one called a “hermeneutical phenomenon”, something that people missed before but it was there all along. There’s a place for that, but it is not so clear to me that it accounts for all developments.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

The Eucharist and Poverty

Spend enough time with Catholics from a broad enough background, and the issue of taking Holy Communion will pop up. Sometimes these discussions are very fierce. Broadly speaking, and I note that there is much more complexity and depth to what I write here, those who favour receiving our Lord on the tongue claim to do so in the name of reverence, and those who argue for receiving him in the hands do so in the name of freedom. There are lots of interesting commentaries on this issue, so I need not go into them.[1]

Historically speaking, faithful Christians have received on the tongue and in the hands. When receiving on the hands it was, traditionally, in a manner distinct to how it is received nowadays, but customs change, so this is not a necessary sign of invalidity. When receiving on the tongue, it was pretty much the same as these days, but again, not a necessary indicator that such a style must be normative.

The Eucharist makes the Church. The unity and essence of the Church is in Christ, and her participation in Christ is made possible first by Baptism, and then is nourished and renewed by the Eucharist – hence St Paul writes to the Corinthians: “The bread which we break, is it not participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of one bread.” Christ, who is the bread of life, becomes the basis for the Body of Christ, the Church.

Continually nourished by the bread of life, the Church exists for her mission, on which Pope Paul VI states: the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church.” Evangelism is the proclamation of the good news. Were the Church to leave the good news (or gospel), she would leave her essence, and were the Church to keep silent the good news, then St Paul declares woe.

Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah to similar effect when he explains his own ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” This good news is universal in scope, it affects everyone in the world – but in Jesus’ typical style, he is first and foremost concerned with those in need. So are we. Right after declaring that the Eucharist makes the Church (CCC 1396), the very next paragraph of the Catechism opens “The Eucharist commits us to the poor.”

What does poverty have to do with how we receive the Eucharist? A lot, actually. The poor are not a group alien to us, indeed, we are the poor: perhaps not in terms of bank accounts, but in terms of how we relate to God, we are poor. There is no way around it – God has given us everything we have, even our very existence is a free gift. When we receive the Eucharist, when we receive Jesus Christ – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – we receive the greatest treasure the Church has, or according to St Thomas Aquinas, the only treasure the Church has.

Cardinal Bergoglio handing out the Eucharist reminiscent
of how one hands out food to people in need.
Therefore, when we receive the Eucharist we must receive it in such a way that recognizes our poverty. This does not actually shed much light on how to receive Holy Communion, or perhaps it seems to indicate that in the hands is the right way to receive, for when does one actually feed a poor person by putting the food in their mouth? No, usually food is passed to them whilst they are standing, and in their hands.

We should receive the Eucharist in such a way expresses our spirit of poverty and both ways are appropriate within the poverty motif, as well as permissible by Church practice.[2] Jesus says something very important, however, when he talks about people coming to him: Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.

Children are one of the neediest groups of all: they are not fully formed, they are not well educated, they lack means and the maturity. Even more than a spirit of poverty, of which Jesus already said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the kingdom of God,” we are told that also to the children does the kingdom belong to.

Is not the Eucharist more
nourishing than vitamin A?
It seems quite clear to me, when combining both lines of reasoning, how to partake of the Eucharist: I must receive this most Holy Sacrament as a child, as a poor child, as a child who cannot help themselves: on the floor and straight into the mouth. To do otherwise would be to make the appearance of having grown up and becoming self-sufficient – I can scarcely imagine a time in which a creature could say to God “cheers, mate, and thanks for all the fish.”

I suspect this issue is like vocation: one has a thousand reasons for why one pursues one course and not another, and hence can often lack any comprehension of why another would do differently. How to partake of Holy Communion is something the Church currently leaves up to individual preference – both ways are lawful, as they say, but perhaps not both ways are beneficial.

[1] For those interested, however, Danielle Bean commented in 2010 about the awkwardness involved in receiving on the tongue with Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (see, Paul Kokoski wrote an essay for the Homiletic & Pastoral Review, in which he discusses the claims of the Archbishop of Karaganda (Kazakhstan), Athanasius Schneider, (see and I found the foray into history of I. Shawn McElhinney fascinating (which can be found here:

[2] Something being permitted is different to something being encouraged, I should note.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

University of Queensland J.H. Newman Catholic Society: a vision statement and manifesto

The Newman Catholic Society has been at the University of Queensland for longer than any other club or society. Like all societies, it has had highs and lows in terms of membership, and like most interesting groups on campus, it has not always existed without friction. The Newman Society is not alone, being one of Newman Centres and Clubs around the world in secular universities – although each one is autonomous.

The UQ Newman Society (here on simply “Newman”) is first and foremost a Catholic society, and indeed the only Catholic group at UQ. As we end the academic year and having elected the executive group for next year, it is a pertinent question to ask: what is Newman about, anyway?

I do not know what the answer from a historical perspective might be, so instead I propose to give my own vision. To be a Catholic group means to be a collective of individuals who have been transformed and are being transformed with an encounter with Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the incarnation of the Gospel of God. These individuals, through their incorporation into Christ in baptism, form part of the People of God and so become part of a much larger group: the Catholic Church. The term comes from the Greek katholike ekklesia, which literally means “universal assembly,” or “universal church”. This point about what it means to be Catholic also tells of what it means to have a Catholic society at UQ: Newman will not be alone, but part of something greater, that is, the universal Church. Nonetheless, part of the organizational brilliance of the Church is that she has a diversity within herself, and so Newman is not merely a sort of university congregation, but an organically distinct arm of the broader Church.

In practical terms, this means that Newman exists within the context of the Archdiocese of Brisbane, and so my vision for Newman is that she be in close communion with the person who oversees the archdiocese (that is, the [arch]bishop, from the Greek episkopos or “overseer” – Archbishop Mark Coleridge at present), and connected also with Catholic communities (in particular: parishes and their youth ministries, as well as Catholic groups at Queensland University of Technology, Griffith University and Australian Catholic University).

The role of the Newman Society is distinct from that of a mere university congregation, in that she is a bridge between the sheltered environment of schools, often Catholic schools, and the secular university environment of the University of Queensland. Its modus operandi, therefore, is shaped by its place in the mission of the Church.

Back to the encounter with Jesus Christ, crucified and risen – what does that mean, how does it relate to who we are, and what actions flow from this encounter? These are not only good questions, but it is important that every Catholic know the answer. To this end, part of the core of Newman is its catechetical drive, or in other words, its teaching role. Noting that the move to university means a shift from the more sheltered life at school, we seek to learn together and deepen in knowledge of our Christian faith in a context which can at times be very hostile to the unsuspecting Catholic at a secular university.

Equipped with the message of the Gospel, and part of the broader universal Church, we seek to carry out in our capacity the essence of the Church and live her primary mission, which is the commission given by the risen Christ to his followers: to proclaim Christ to the world and hence make disciples of all, baptizing them and teaching them how to be followers of Jesus (cf. Matthew 28). This proclamation of the incarnate Gospel is called evangelism and is motivated by love of God and neighbour. We aim to bring our joy in Christ risen to others, whilst at the same time being witnesses to the redemptive grace of Christ crucified.

Yet we know that missionary activity in the modern world takes on character different to earlier forms of evangelism. Our apostolic nature means something different to what it once was in the early days, where the apostles would arrive in a new city and announce the good news at a synagogue or place of gathering. Furthermore, we understand that not all are called to be witnesses to the Gospel in the same way: some may be excellent orators, and others may witness more quietly throughout their daily lives. In whatever way Jesus calls us, we say with St Paul: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:16)

By the light of our faith we begin to see Jesus in in all people in need. Our dual commandments to love God and love our neighbour compel us to go out of our way to become the neighbours that others may need. This produces our profound concern with charity (simply an anglicised form of the Latin for love), which is a core component of what it means to be Catholic. For this reason, Newman aims to have active participation in various ministries to alleviate the evils of dehumanizing poverty in the archdiocese, as well as helping women seeking safe haven from domestic abuse and caring for people who carry the burden of mental health problems.

In summary, the UQ Newman Catholic Society sets as its aims:

-         To form a community of Catholics at the University of Queensland, and to situate this community within the broader context of the archdiocese of Brisbane and the universal Church.
-          From within this community, to deepen our knowledge of our faith by coming together to learn from the Scriptures or the teachings of the Church in a safe environment.
-          To partake of the apostolic nature of the Church in witnessing to the Gospel as our hope and joy at the University of Queensland, each in the manner in which they are called.
-          To serve any person who is in need of any kind, in particular taking as our own the Church’s preferential option for those in need, ministering to any material, spiritual, emotional or relational needs, all of which are important to the full flourishing of the human person.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Why Paul?

Many of my friends know I am going to be confirmed in the Church in about a week, and probably most of those know that a baptismal or confirmation name is generally taken from a saint, reflecting the character, gifts, interests or aspirations of the confirming person. What is not so public is who I have chosen: Saul of Tarsus, also known as St Paul the Apostle.

I have toyed with various names: St Francis of Assisi, St Francis Xavier, St Augustine of Hippo, St Ignatius of Loyola, etc. Each reflected something that I find in myself or revere: il Poverello had an extraordinary love for people in need, for animals and for God’s creation. Francis Xavier was a brilliant missionary, and a brother Jesuit. Augustine of Hippo was a brilliant theologian without which Christianity would be a very different religion. Ignatius of Loyola is founder of the Jesuits, and gave the world the Spiritual Exercises, a powerful way of spirituality.

Even so, the Apostle Paul has touched me, transformed me, intrigued me and shared much more with me than any of these great saints. All the others have inspired me in some way, or are my companions in some manner, but Paul: far more. What follows is a ramble of why I am taking Paul as my confirmation saint.

My closeness to Paul started with reading about his conversion: I had always been a relatively militant atheist, then I became a theist and subsequently a Christian in quick succession. He had always been a Jew, a “Pharisee of Pharisees,” a persecutor of the Church of God, and extremely zealous for his beliefs. Our conversions both rested on the same single data point: this Jesus fellow, even though we both disliked him and his followers, had really been resurrected – this changed everything.

What this meant for us, both cholerics, was profound: I think cholerics have a tendency to take what is true and important and centre our lives around it to such an extent that it is somewhat uncomfortable for others. We take things too seriously, some say, or we get accusations of extremism. Cholerics have a temperament of intensity: we find it difficult to be lukewarm about things, which drives us in many cases to be extraordinary – the greatest saints, but also the worst sinners, seem to have a strongly choleric vein. In this concrete case, both Paul and I seem to view the facticity of the resurrection of Jesus as something which should either radically change one’s life, or be rejected – for us, there is no middle ground.

Of course, this can be dangerous. Like I said, great saints have been cholerics, and those of our temperament in the population have done enormous good – but at the same time, because of our drive we have also done a great deal of harm. Batman is portrayed as a choleric…but so is the Joker. Like a hot fire, it can be used to melt metal and produce the great metallurgical industry (arguably a good)…or to burn people in the form of napalm (evidently wrong).

Whatever our purpose, cholerics like Paul and I can often be distinguished by our passionate commitment. Now, I do not want to claim that Paul and I are on any similar standing with regards to holiness: clearly this apostle had matured far beyond me by the time he was writing his epistles. Then again, taking Paul’s age at his conversion to be 17, one of his earlier epistles[1] is already at least seventeen years later,[2] so he clearly has a head-start.  But even the differences between us (and there are many) in mind, we have taken implicit vows of obedience to Jesus Christ – it certainly seems counter-cultural for me to gladly say with him: “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” – yet I do. I remember a time where I could not have said it, but I would be someone quizzical if someone said that I should be Christian and not believe that.

Lifestyle attitudes for us tend to come from dogmatic commitment, and for Paul and I there is no doctrine more central than that of grace. Issues surrounding grace have traditionally been what divided Protestants and Catholics (although today there is a post-modern distaste towards institutions, such that less historically grounded Protestant groups find this the sticking point), and Paul is certainly known for being forceful on this issue. He can often been twisted to espouse a perverted form of grace that would put him at odds with Jesus’ teachings on salvation, or he can be taken to extremes such that deny his own words – even so, it is clear that Paul is the apostle of grace. For some clarity as to how sola Gratia has impacted me, see Time in the Evangelical Church.

Although Paul and I are both converts because of something we saw in the resurrection, although we both have strong views on the sufficiency of grace and marked commitment to following Jesus wherever that might take us, and although we share the same temperament, this does not make him unique: an encounter with Christ in a poor person also changed Francis of Assisi. In the sense that we have both been moved by Paul the Apostle and have become converts to the Catholic faith from elsewhere, perhaps Augustine of Hippo and I are more similar.

Yet the manner of approaching matters is similar for Paul and I also, starting even with our pet prides. His pet pride seems to be quite clearly his relationship to wealth: he is content with practically nothing, but even when he effectively has zero to his name, he is still not going to burden any of the churches he has founded. He is glad that people have given him gifts, but sees it more as the Gospel of grace taking root in people’s hearts over and beyond any material gain that he would have. I also am content with very little (although I must say, luxuries such as a computer and internet are ones I value highly – they are very useful in today’s world), and I take a certain pride in not costing much to run. I eat cheaply, I don’t get drinks outside my home, I wear clothes that are all from charity shops (with the exception of my shoes, underwear and socks), I always use my bike or public transport… It’s not the romantic poverty of St Francis – indeed, it’s not even a poverty that precludes material wealth. It only excludes attachment to material things.[3]

The way I am most like Paul, however, is not a personality or personal-history similarity, though. Not only do we see in the resurrection a source of trust in God, or a sign that this man really has heralded the way: we see in Jesus’ resurrection the future. In other words, there is an eschatological dimension to the resurrection which necessitates evangelism, which requires us to go out and proclaim the Word.

This eschatological and thus evangelistic dimension is something I and many of the recent Popes have seen (since at least Paul VI). Something which I admired in the Mass, even for a few months before I thought I could conceivably be Catholic, was that the sacred liturgy still remains, after almost 2000 years, deeply eschatological: for instance, we pray (like the psalms do) that God would not forget his People, neither those living nor those who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection. This echoes the worry of the Thessalonians, where Paul addressed the issue of people who died before the second coming (the “parousia”) – there is a sense in both the liturgy and in the first epistle to the Thessalonians that the end is coming, and even though some may have fallen asleep, all of us are living for that future hope that we have in the resurrection of the body. Of this, Christ is the first-fruits, a pointer to the coming time when the world will be set straight by God.

For these reasons, I will take Saul of Tarsus as my confirmation saint: the odd apostle, the practical apostle, the legendary apostle who shaped Christianity and spread it as one of the Church’s greatest evangelists. Interestingly, the reasons Paul is a role model for me are quite similar to the reasons God seems to call me to the Jesuits.

[1] To the Galatians – somewhere in the mid-fifties AD is when I would date it to. I think Philippians was probably his earliest epistle, although 1 Thessalonians might be.
[2] Three from his conversion to the first visit to Jerusalem [cf. Gal. 1:18], fourteen more until the Council of Jerusalem [cf. Gal 2:1], and he must be writing it sometime after that.
[3] This is the essence of the Jesuit vow of poverty – Jesuits are notoriously practically-minded.