Robert Brehl is a writer in Port Credit, Ont.

Jesuit Father James (Jim) Martin is quickly becoming one of my favourite religious writers and orators. And the more I read of his works or watch his talks on TV and the Internet, the more impressed I become.

This American Jesuit thinks clearly, speaks and writes directly, and best of all, he is funny, although he has serious messages. (He is the official chaplain of Comedy Network’s The Colbert Report where he sometimes appears.) He is a populist who endeavours to make Catholicism ever more popular.

If you’re looking for summer reading, Fr. Martin has several best-selling books, including My Life With the Saints, A Jesuit Off-Broadway: Centre Stage with Jesus, Judas and Life’s Big Questions, and the Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything.

Doggone it if I’m going to play God

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They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks, and that may be so.

But there is something special about an old dog, and he (or she) can often teach an owner a thing or two. Puppies are adorable, but old dogs are like comfortable shoes that when slipped on can sometimes walk us to unexpected places.

(If you’re not a pet lover, I implore you to stop reading immediately and move onto something else in The Register. These meanderings from a sappy dog lover will only frustrate you.)

Pony up for a good memory at the Triple Crown

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Should the Canadian-owned racehorse I’ll Have Another pull off one of the rarest feats in sports next weekend and win the Triple Crown, I am sure it will evoke a memory of Holy Cross Elementary School in east-end Toronto and an affable nun who used to be the principal.

I’ll Have Another is the plucky thoroughbred owned by Windsor, Ont., native J. Paul Reddam and ridden by an underdog jockey named Mario Gutierrez, who earned his spurs at the racing outpost known as Hastings Park in Vancouver.

This golf lesson had nothing to do with my swing

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They say you can learn more about a person on the golf course than you can in a business meeting or a social setting. And I believe it.

Love it or hate it, golf has this magical quality of exposing fabrics of your personality very quickly to strangers. Sometimes these traits can be pleasant, or quirky, or annoying, or worse.

If you’re a golfer and have been paired with a stranger on the first tee, you know what I am talking about. From that first tee ball to the first green, before the first putt falls into the hole, often you can tell if it will be a long day or not. (Believe it or not, I have played golf with priests — an occupation not altogether unfamiliar with the game — who made for a long day and I knew it quickly! Most priests, however, are a delight to play with.)

The healing power of forgiveness

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The other day, I finished a terrific page-turner and then picked up the newspaper to read about the latest attacks on the Christian faith, this time in Saskatchewan. They were two seemingly unrelated things that really got me thinking, searching deep down.

The book is best-seller Unbroken written by Laura Hillenbrand about a courageous American airman during the Second World War. If you’ve not read it, pick it up because it’s difficult to put down. But let’s talk about Saskatchewan first.

What happened to the art of civil discourse?

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No doubt, some people will be offended by this column. Seems whatever is said about Catholicism offends someone these days. Even the most benign comment is challenged. Instead of listening to and discussing other points of view, there is a tendency to shout at those who see things differently.

Think I am exaggerating? Take a quick spin on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere and you’ll easily find the shouting, name-calling and misunderstandings. (Just Google “Catholic faith arguments” or “contraception” or “women priests” as starting points and then simply click away.)

Resurrecting age-old argument

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There has been much fuss recently about ancient burial boxes and whether the bones of Jesus remain here on Earth.

In March, an Israeli antiquities collector was acquitted of forgery charges concerning a Roman-era burial box inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” If genuine, the ossuary could be a direct link to Jesus and His family.

And next week, Vision TV will air The Jesus Discovery, a documentary by Toronto filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici that claims to cast new light on the Resurrection. It bills itself as: “Part archeological adventure, part biblical history, part forensic science, part theological controversy, The Jesus Discovery is a story that will carry around the world.”

Firings over crucifix a wake-up call

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The British government’s flagrant insult to the cross is more than a religious issue. Though it is clearly anti-Christian, it is yet another example of chipping away at Western society and the ideals that make it the envy of the world.

People from all over the world for years have flocked to Western democracies to experience freedom, raise families and live better lives. And, for the most part, the West has welcomed them with open arms. There has been discrimination, but in the larger scheme of things, rising tides lift all boats and as newcomers arrive, our society rises with them.

Don’t forget Christians caught in Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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To paraphrase Winston Churchill, when it comes to human rights violations and protecting religious freedoms, Israel is the worst country in the Middle East — except for all the rest.

Whitney Houston and the challenge of our 40s

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The death of singer Whitney Houston at age 48 set off an interesting discussion around the dinner table about the 40s decade. Why are the 40s so dangerous for some, especially the famous?

Think about all the great stars who’ve perished in their 40s: Judy Garland, Elvis Presley, John F. Kennedy, George Orwell, John Lennon, John Candy (who grew up in Holy Cross parish in Toronto) and so many more. Many, but not all, contributed to their early death through lifestyle choices.

Self-indulgence before Lent

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Faith and Las Vegas are an oxymoron. But these two seemingly paradoxical thoughts rattled around in my head as we walked down the busy, glittery Las Vegas strip the other day for the first time.

Sure, Sin City has different types of temples filled with moneychangers of a modern ilk. These temples are named Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, the Venetian, Bellagio and a host of others. And, sure, churches are hidden so far out of sight that you’d think illusionist David Copperfield made them disappear.