Russell Shaw

August 23, 2015
Why we need to pray for personal vocations, too
By Russell Shaw

In the prayer of the faithful said at Mass in my parish day after day we regularly ask God for “an increase of vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life.” Sometimes “lay ministry” gets added to the list.


When we pray for these things, I’m happy to join in the response—“Lord, hear our prayer”—because I share the hope that they increase. At the same, though, I feel a twinge of regret. Not for what the prayer says, mind you, but for what it leaves out.


If you...

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July 13, 2015
Complementarity in marriage
By Russell Shaw

Does Henry Higgins hold the key to settling the same-sex marriage debate? Not quite. But in the wake of the Supreme Court decision declaring a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, it’s well worth considering what Higgins has to tell us.

In “My Fair Lady” Professor Higgins sings a song called “Why Can’t a Woman Be Like a Man?”. It’s an amusing account of his misogyny. But by the end of the story, the professor has learned a great lesson: not only can’t women be like men—or men...

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June 27, 2015
Is spiritual direction just for nuns and clergy?
By Russell Shaw

Is spiritual direction intended only for a small elite group composed of clergy and nuns and a handful of laity with special vocations? Not really. Direction is for serious Christians generally, whether cleric, religious, or lay. But since that is seldom said these days, it needs explaining. Here goes.

Spiritual direction can be described many ways, but the best way is to emphasize its role in helping people see, accept, and live out God’s will in their lives. Speaking specifically of...

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The first and arguably most important thing to say about the Pew Research Center’s new overview of American religion is that it offers no grounds for either complacency or panic. What it does instead is invite—perhaps demand—that it be taken very seriously by responsible church people.
In its first “religious landscape” study in seven years, the Pew Center found membership dropping steeply in most Christian bodies except for Evangelicals, among whom the loss was much smaller. In...

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June 08, 2015
The Persecution Has Begun
By Russell Shaw

The persecution of the Catholic Church and other morally conservative religious bodies has begun in the United States. As predicted, it isn’t—thank God—bloody persecution like the persecution of Christians in many countries. But it’s real persecution  and likely to get worse.

This new persecution currently has two prongs.

One consists of pressuring individual religious believers to cooperate with public policies inimical to faith. The other prong is pressure targeted at religious...

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May 01, 2015
The Pope’s visit and same-sex marriage
By Russell Shaw

When Pope Francis comes to the United States in late September, chances are good that he will arrive in the middle of a bitter, highly politicized national debate on same-sex marriage and religious liberty.

That suggests several large questions for the papal visit. Should the Pope say anything about these high-voltage issues? Given the circumstances, how could he responsibly fail to do that? But if he does say something, what should it be?

Note that this trip will take place just three...

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April 02, 2015
The Devil is Real
By Russell Shaw

Is the devil real? Here is Msgr. Ronald Knox on that: “It is stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil, when he is the only explanation of it.”

Monsignor Knox, eminent British convert, author, retreat master and translator of the Bible, may have been indulging in irony.  But irony doesn’t change the fact that the devil and his demonic associates exist.

I came across the Knox quote in Manual for Spiritual Warfare, newly published by Tan Books and edited...

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March 09, 2015
Hope in secularized times
By Russell Shaw

A man I know was walking his dog when a neighbor woman approached him and inquired about his wife. Not having seen her out and about in quite some time, the lady wondered: Was she well?

“Not really,” the man said, going on to explain what that meant.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said when he finished. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Not really,” the man said again. “Except—say a prayer.”

The woman hesitated a split second, and he could see she was calculating. Then...

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February 20, 2015
The Catholic Church and same-sex marriage
By Russell Shaw

The likelihood that the Supreme Court next June will announce its discovery of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage raises an obvious question for the Catholic Church: What do we do now?

Two steps come to mind. First, press for strong legal protections for individuals and institutions conscientiously unable to cooperate with a legal regime that requires sweeping concessions to the LGBT agenda. Second, give serious thought to the possibility that the Church should quit serving as...

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February 06, 2015
The problem of unserious politics
By Russell Shaw

I try to take American politics seriously, I really do. Serious issues are at stake, after all. But sometimes, entirely too often in fact, the realities of American political discourse  make taking it seriously awfully hard. Considering the seriousness of what’s at stake, this may be what hearing Beethoven’s Ninth performed on the harmonica would  be like.

A while back Jeb Bush, speaking to a group in San Francisco, promised that if he runs for president next year, he will offer the...

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