Walther, who is a journalist, along with his friend William Borman (friends call him Billy), founded The Lamp magazine in the United States this past year with similar goals in mind: “A magazine that was sort of witty and urbane, in a way that was not shrill or grating to read, that tried to speak to the full range of what the Church teaches,” Walther said.
“We're operating under the assumption that anything that is good, true and beautiful falls within the purview of what should be in a good Catholic magazine,” he said.
Borman added that it is not a carbon-copy of the original Lamp magazine, which was “basically a working class daily magazine,” with a penchant for “scientific articles, almost like a Popular Science.”
But the use of similar aesthetics, along with an equally-broad idea of what kinds of topics qualify as Catholic, gives the magazine “a throwback flavor. A little picture of the oil lamp burning on the cover is the same picture (as the original), with a slight modern twist,” Borman said.
Some Catholics may protest that such a truly Catholic magazine already exists. There are, after all, several periodicals in the United States that label themselves as Catholic magazines.
But Walther and Borman would argue that it does not already exist. Not in the way they envision.
“(T)here really is no such thing, in an otherwise pretty wide and diverse landscape of Catholic media in the English-speaking world, something that is actually a magazine, as opposed to a website or a newswire or what-have-you, that is orthodox, without naming any names,” Walther said.
That’s what The Lamp hopes to be. A magazine faithful to the magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church that covers all manner of things from a Catholic point of view.
It will cover politics - though only broader political ideas, and not so much the “shrill horse-race” of particular elections. It will cover goings-on in the Church, but not in the way of "Can you believe this bishop did this? Oh my goodness," Walther said. No pope-bashing, and no ultramontanism either.
So what kinds of stories is the new Lamp magazine interested in?
(Story cotinues below)
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“We wanted something that would also tell people interesting (we hope), and at times encouraging or moving stories about parts of Catholic life that are ordinary, but also, not talked about very much. Things like the history of rural parish churches, or the lives of someone like the man in the first issue who served several decades of an unjust prison sentence.”
The latter is told in the first issue of The Lamp, in which author Brandon McGinley tells the story of Jeff Cristina, who served a 40 year sentence for a wrongful conviction of murder as a juvenile. Cristina, nominally Catholic when his sentence began, returned to the sacraments and brought many others with him during his years behind bars.
“The story had been on my desk for a while and I didn't have a home for it,” McGinley told CNA. But when Walther and Borman, friends of McGinley’s, started The Lamp, “they were really kind to offer it a home.”
McGinley is a Catholic speaker, and author of “The Prodigal Church” as well as a contributing editor to Plough Quarterly. Like the founders of The Lamp, McGinley believes that the magazine is filling a previously empty niche in Catholic media - a niche for longform journalism that is “broad both in the kind of content, the topics that they cover, and in terms of the specific points of view that they're bringing in (while) still being faithfully and integrally and genuinely Catholic.”
“And it's fun,” McGinley added. “In the opening section, the ‘feuilleton’ (a French word for the opening section of a magazine with short, light literature), Matthew is just hilarious. They have fun with this, it's not joyless.”
As an example, one of the sample articles on The Lamp’s website is “The Bull Against Open Letters” (or, The Open Letter Against Open Letters), which the author declares are the “most revolting, foul, noxious, poisonous, blasphemous, vicious, wicked, deceitful, covinous, Brummagem, catch-penny Pamphlets...offensive to to men, women, holy priests, deacons, sub-deacons, porters, lectors, exorcists, acolytes, virgins, wives, sons, daughters, suckling babes, lawyers, practitioners after physick, and others, we hereby declare anathema these selfsame base cullions, rascals, apes, dogs, shoes, &c. who have addressed themselves to the baptized under the supposed appellation of ‘Open Letters.’”