Category Archives: Faith & Reason

Religious practice of Americans fall

The practice of religion is falling according to the Pew Research Center on religion and public life. Experience tells us by looking at the Mass attendance and participation in religious education programs that many people no longer consider official religious practices essential to their life of “faith.” Sherry Weddell, as other researchers have said, has said that the fastest growing religious denomination is the USA are the “nones” –those people who check the box saying they are spiritual but not religious.

While Pew research is interesting, it does not cover the entire story of a person’s journey in faith. The caution I would propose is whether a person believes in the need of having a savior. Many people, I contend, don’t think they need to be saved. Their conception of salvation, heaven, sin, grace, sanctity is now very much a private affair, these people isolate themselves from other members of the Church. In the USA, as in other countries, the need and desire fora religious community is waning.

On one level I can see why people don’t want to be a part of a religious community: their priest/minister no longer really cares for them and their spiritual life, the priest/minister is a gossip, the priest/minister doesn’t preach well, know the ritual well, and the sacred music is poor, the priest/minister has little concern for the poor, the needy, sick, etc. The teaching of the faith is grossly watered down with no ideal to strive for and to live within (the journey of faith is flat).

In short, our pastoral ministers have become very narcissistic and self-serving. I know several priests who are in trouble in their ministry: they do not attend to their spiritual life, they do not read literature or spiritual topics, they are lazy and watch tons of TV. One can see why over the centuries many of the saints have proposed a new way of living, acting and working for the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the administration of the sacraments. The Latin phrase comes comes to mind: the Church always needs reform. Our ecclesiastical reform movements have generated great beauty and intense of love for the Church and for humanity. We’ve had saints like Benedict, Ambrose, Augustine, Bernard, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, Francis, Angela Merici, Ignatius of Loyola, Charles Borromeo, John Paul II, Luigi Giussani and countless others who have pointed a new way.

But all the blame can’t be placed on the ministers. Our Christian Faith requires a personal engagement, a personal bringing together of faith, reason, and living concretely in the community of the family and the secular world. You have to show up, you have engage your heart, mind and body. You have to be willing to be honest, and to be with others and to allow our spiritual life to be changed by Christ Jesus.

The Pew report is here.

Pray for the Church and ALL her members.

René Noël Théophile Girard, RIP

Rene GirardRené Noël Théophile Girard died today. Girard (1923-2015), the Andrew B. Hammond Professor of French Language, Literature and Civilization at Stanford, was arguably one of the best known French (American) intellectuals whose academic work was mainly in history, literary criticism, philosophy and anthropology. I was introduced to his work in my study of Liturgy viz. the role of sacred, an understanding of imitation, the use of language, an understanding of violence and sacrifice, the place of sacred myth, and the like. He was a formidable thinker.

Professor Girard was honored by several institutions of higher studies and various cultural groups, but I suspect an honor of deep appreciation was his election in 2005 into the French Academy. In French they say, he was an “Immortel Académie Française.”

Artur Rossman writes about René Girard here.

May God give rest and mercy to this man of learning and faith.

Georges Lemaître remembered at birthday

Lemaitre and EinsteinToday is the birthday of Father Georges Lemaître, born in 1894 in Charleroi, Belgium.

Father Lemaître studied civil engineering at the Catholic University of Louvain before serving in the Belgian army during World War I. After the war he trained to become a priest and a cosmologist. He succeeded in both endeavors. He is a great witness to work of faith and reason and faith and science.

In 1923, he was ordained a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Malines. He was a secular a priest and not a Jesuit as some assume. Father received his PhD in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1960 Saint John XXIII bestowed the title of Monsignor on Lemaître. Also in 1960, Lemaître became the presidentof the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences.

A biographer writes: In 1927 he published his most famous paper, “A Homogeneous Universe of Constant Mass and Growing Radius Accounting for the Radial Velocity of Extragalactic Nebulae,” in which he applied Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity to the entire universe. According to Lemaître’s analysis, the universe was in a state of constant expansion, having begun at a specific point in time. Two years later, Edwin Hubble published his observations of distant galaxies that supported the idea. Although Lemaître remained a devout Catholic, he opposed efforts to link the creation and expansion of the universe to divine action.”

“He successfully persuaded Pope Pius XII to refrain from making proclamations about cosmology. Lemaître died on 20 June 1966, two years after the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation provided experimental evidence in favor of his bold idea.”

Monsignor died at the age of 71 on June 20, 1966 in Leuven, Belgium.

Clergy we’ve put our confidence in…

Some sectors of the Church’s leadership is trying to understand the pastoral care of people by wrestling with how to minister without being connected with lavish and flagrant lifestyles. We are still not finished with the sexual abuse perpetuated by clergy as new cases still surface; there’s been the lack of transparency with regard to finances, the abuse of pastoral and personal authority and now we dealing with bishops and other priests living “high on the hog.” Think of the real or imagine problems of the bishop of Limburg of last year, but now we have the archbishop of Atlanta coming clean about his insensitivities regarding a good use of real estate following the criticisms of the archbishop of Newark spending outrageously on his future retirement home. It remains to be seen what some newly installed bishops will do with their episcopal palaces supported by diocesan monies (Hartford, Bridgeport, Albany, Chicago, et al).

Clearly, Pope Francis’ perceived simpler living arrangements is causing a much needed review of current practices. His insistence on a simpler approach is better received by the laity than the clergy. Is this real issue? Some sneer at the Pope standing in the coffee line, meeting people at the front door, and talking with common person (read: riffraff). But  the questioning of lifestyle didn’t start with Pope Francis; the desire for the clergy, high and low, to live in a simple manner, can be pointed to in recent memory to Pope John Paul II and carried on by Pope Benedict XVI, and to many, many saints.

So, it’s no surprise that Catholics in the USA, and in some other places have been questioning the clergy’s use of their pastoral authority, their use of money –the church’s and their own, and the clergy’s ability to be chaste, their use of alcohol, their good relationship with men and women (so many seem to hate women) and the their ability to be true spiritual fathers. Catholics are exhausted by having to rehearse with the higher clergy that over-the-top attitudes on just about everything concerning the Church militant is tiresome and resulting in departures from the parish. It is no exaggeration to say that the faithful have been offended by clericalism, the arrogance of the clergy who preach one thing and do another, clergy who live and act like members of royalty and who lacked the virtue chastity (i.e., not been sexually continent –this problem is in addition to the criminal behavior of sexual abuse of minors).

What we have are zombie priests. Men ordained to the order of priest but have little concern for their own soul, their intellect, the care of souls (especially the people they don’t particularly like), who can’t celebrate rites or preach very well and who prefer to watch soap operas and drink. Is the priesthood promised us by Christ? made know by the saints? taught by the Magisterium? NO. We need a new Saint John Vianney for substantive renewal.

70th anniversary of the martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

BonhoefferToday, is the 70th anniversary of the martyrdom of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Feb. 4, 1906-April 9, 1945). This Polish born Lutheran pastor was hanged for his adherence to Jesus Christ by the Nazi party.

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil:  God will not hold us guiltless.  Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

A recent biography by Charles Marsh, Strange Gloryis, by many reports, a fine introduction to this Christian witness.

Pastor Bonhoeffer’s witness urge me to be a more prophetic disciples of the Lord. May we ask for the grace to be convicted because of our very ALIVE Christianity!

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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