ROME, Italy – Yan Xu is an artist from the central China city of Wuhan. What she drew one day would change her life.

Published in International

ROME – In two long interviews with Jesuit publications, director Martin Scorsese described his new film Silence as a major stage in his pilgrimage of faith, a pilgrimage that included flunking out of the minor seminary, investigating other religions and recognizing that the Catholic Church was his home.

Published in Movie News

TORONTO – Canadian author David Adams Richards seems unafraid to include issues like the existence of evil, sin and redemption in his extensive body of work.

Published in Canada

All eyes are on Poland as the city of Krakow explodes into celebration for the 2016 International World Youth Day.

Published in World Youth Day 2016

WASHINGTON – Is there a Catholic vote in the United States? Well, yes. Kind of. Voting patterns show Catholics vote much like the rest of America, with minor swings one way or the other, depending on the candidate and the state.

Published in International

Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It by Jennifer Fulwiler (Ignatius Press, hardcover, 248 pages, $25.95).

When God answered Jennifer Fulwiler’s prayers, she was upset. It was just another confirmation for the former, self-proclaimed militant atheist that God does in fact exist.

Published in Book News

On Oct. 7 Dr. Edward Norman was received into the Roman Catholic Church at Our Lady of Walsingham in England. In itself, this might not seem remarkable, only another former Anglican to take advantage of the door so generously opened by Pope Benedict XVI in his November 2009 invitation Angicanorum Coetibus. But when you learn who Norman is, his late conversion is remarkable indeed.

Born in London in 1938, Norman was educated at Selwyn College, Cambridge. His specialty was church history, which he went on to teach for two decades, much of that time as Dean of Peterhouse College, Cambridge. In 1978 he was chosen to deliver the BBC’s Reith lectures on the theme: “Christianity and the World.” In addition to academic appointments and honours, Norman served as a priest, dean and chancellor of York Minster. It was not uncommon to hear his name discussed as a potential Archbishop of Canterbury. He is the author of more than 20 theological books.

As the title suggests, Norman’s 2004 book Anglican Difficulties: A New Syllabus of Errors was a scathing indictment of modern Anglicanism. It provided clear evidence of how uncomfortable Norman had become in the Church of England. When it was published, he told an interviewer: “There is a big hole at the centre of Anglicanism — authority. I don’t think it’s a Church; it’s more of a religious society.”

As an insider, Norman knew how the Church of England functioned and he pulled no punches. Of General Synod, he wrote: “Every disagreement, in seemingly every board and committee, proceeds by avoidance of principled debate.

Ordinary moral cowardice is represented as wise judgment, equivocation in the construction of compromise formulae is second nature to our leaders.”

Is the situation different or better in the Anglican Church of Canada? Based on my three-plus Anglican decades, I would say no — although my view is that of a parishioner since I never aspired to any ecclesiastical office. This is not to say that there are not fine people and committed Christians within the Anglican Church. There are. But they tend to be in the pews and they are repeatedly let down, in my experience, by the ostensible leadership. In any case, the primary occupation of a Canadian Anglican bishop today is arranging the closing of churches. The rate of decline is such that the lights should go off in the last standing Anglican church in just a few decades.

Despite his criticism of the Church of England, Norman remained in the Church for eight years after the publication of Anglican Difficulties. It can hardly be imagined or overstated how difficult a decision it must be for a minister or priest to abandon the denomination in which he was ordained and to which he has dedicated his life.

What was the final catalyst for Norman? From the outside, who can know? Even the convert often finds it difficult to express all the subtleties, the twists and turns, of his pilgrimage. What he told the Catholic Herald at the time of his conversion was this:

“The Church of England provides a masterclass in equivocation; it also, however, is the residence of very many good and faithful Christian people who deserve respect — for their perseverance in so many incoherent spiritual adventures. To leave their company is a wrench; to adhere to the Catholic faith is to join the encompassing presence of a universal body of believers in whose guardianship are the materials of authentic spiritual understanding . . . I have immense gratitude.”

Norman is the latest in a long, distinguished line of converts: men like G.K. Chesterton, Ronald Knox, Graham Greene and Malcolm Muggeridge. His conversion is further proof that even amidst the dark seas of postmodernism, St. Peter’s barque still searches out and rescues the drowning.

That doughty old warrior, Hilaire Belloc, wrote to a friend that the Catholic Church was like a landfall, at first glimpsed hazily and only through the mist:

“…but the nearer it is seen, the more it is real … The metaphor is not that men fall in love with it: the metaphor is that they discover home.”

Welcome home, Edward Norman.

Published in Guest Columns

Ottawa - There are no windows in the Catholic chaplaincy office at Carleton University. The small and simple room holds a desk, a couch, one or two holy garments and an array of other materials used to rouse student interest in the word of God. The chaplaincy is underground in one of the concrete tunnels that connect the buildings on campus.

“I think the university chaplaincy was neglected for many years,” said Fr. Tim McCauley, Carleton’s chaplain.

In its early years, the chaplaincy lacked the funding and the student interest to justify any increase to its finances. When the Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) established itself on campus in 1996, its mission was barely welcome among the students.

“This has been a really tough campus,” said Kristin Konieczny, the team leader for CCO at Carleton.

But things have changed. Now many of the CCO’s events host more than 120 students. Konieczny has used a variety of methods — from surveys to cupcakes — to get the students talking about a topic that so many are hesitant to discuss: their faith.

“There aren’t many people who are courageous enough to start the conversation,” Konieczny said. “It’s kind of a taboo topic.”

But this unspoken discomfort is only one of the challenges to the faith of many university students. McCauley said there is a subtle persecution of Catholicism brought on by secularization.

Three outspoken Catholics and University of Ottawa students have seen this first-hand. Though they said their faith never wavered, it has taken one or two intellectual jabs. Tess Mc Manus, a 20-year-old theatre student, saw a multiple choice question on one of her philosophy tests with only one correct answer: “there is no God.” Although the purpose of the question, regardless of content, was to test students’ reasoning skills, it didn’t sit right with her. For Mc Manus, it was like the answer was poking fun at the faithful. 

Caitlin McCann, a third-year history student, said a lot of people feel comfortable mocking Catholicism because that’s what the media do so often.

While both students were also quick to point out that universities are usually very tolerant places, there seems to be an underlying resistance that they want to arm themselves against.

“What am I supposed to say when a professor with a PhD comes up to me and says there is no God?” Mc Manus asked in frustration.

Even without a firm answer, one student always made a point of defending his position. Brendan Mc Manus, Tess’s older brother and a 22-year-old graduate from the University of Ottawa, said that a lot of his classmates actually appreciated how he stood up for his religion. He said this was especially true of his Muslim friends.

“Although we were of different religions, we had a mutual respect for each other,” he said. “We understood the commonalities we had.”

The majority of challenges that face Catholic university students aren’t unique to Catholicism. Muslims, Jews and Hindus share in a similar university experience with many of the same religious difficulties. But for some, it also means a newfound enthusiasm.

Ehsanul Khan, a fourth-year electrical engineering student, seemed eager to share his spiritual journey with anyone interested enough to wait with him outside the small prayer room in Carleton’s university centre.

“When I came (to university) it made me stronger in my faith than when I was back home,” said Khan, who hails from Bangladesh. “When you’re back home, you just do what you’re told to do. You don’t get much time to think for yourself.”

After exploring a few different religions, he said he found that Islam was the only religion for him. He added it gave him the ability to sort out which things are important in his life.

With the help of a few tasty treats and a gentle push from the people at the CCO, many Catholic students are beginning to do it too.

As the interview with McCauley wrapped up, people began crowding into the chaplain’s office. “Do you need help setting up for Mass?” they asked him. McCauley replied, “Well, I don’t want to do it myself….” 

(Bronca, 21, is a fourth-year journalism student at Carleton University in Ottawa.)

Published in Youth Speak News
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