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James Martin, SJ :
16 article(s)

James Martin SJ is the culture editor of America magazine the national Catholic Weekly published by the Jesuits. He is the author of numerous books including My Life with the Saints and The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything but is perhaps best known as "chaplain" to The Colbert Report due to his frequent appearances on the show.
October 26th, 2012
What does All Saints Day have to do with Halloween?

Father James Martin, SJ, author of My Life with the Saints, talks about the connection between Halloween (October 31) and All Saints Day (November 1). Fr. Martin answers FAQs such as:

  • How saints get made?
  • What is a patron saint?
  • Is praying to the saints considered idolatry?

In addition he discusses the lives of three of his favorite saints, Francis of Assisi, Therese of Liseaux and Isaac Jogues.

March 11th, 2010
Making the case for moving beyond your own personal God

Everybody seems to be spiritual these days — from your college roommate, to the person in the office cubicle next to yours, to every other celebrity interviewed. But if “spiritual” is fashionable, “religious” is unfashionable. This is usually expressed as follow: “I’m spiritual but just not religious.” It’s even referred to by the acronym SBNR.
The thinking goes like this: being “religious” means abiding by arcane rules and hidebound dogmas, and being the tool of an oppressive institution that doesn’t allow you to think for yourself. (Which would have surprised many thinking believers, like St. Thomas Aquinas, Moses Maimonides,…

November 4th, 2009

Editor’s Note:  For an answer this week, BustedHalo® turns to America Magazine and Fr. James Martin for his take on Anglicans and Catholics: …

August 8th, 2009

They might not have been the ones carrying Jesus to full term but Catholic belief is that Joachim and Anne–the traditional names given to Mary’s parents–were holy people in their right.  (They are, by the way, the patron saints of grandparents.)   We don’t know much about them, if anything at all, other than they must have been devout Jewish parents.  And holiness need not mean doing anything as extraordinary as Mary did–holiness makes its home in humanity.  Moreover, holiness in the Gospels often includes imperfections, too–think of St. Peter, who denied Jesus, and St. Thomas, who doubted him.  Anyway, when it comes to the saints, Joachim and Anne are…

March 12th, 2009
A mixed-media guide to the afterlife

“None of us are perfect but all of us are on a journey toward God” is one of the ways we use to explain what the name Busted Halo® means. Given our name it is no surprise that people often ask us:

“Since I’m not perfect, how can I get into heaven?”

Heaven is defined by the Catholic Church as “a perfect life with the Holy Trinity” and “ultimate end and fulfillment of our deepest human longings.”

But most of us feel we fall short of deserving to be in full union with God. While all of us sin, though, most of us don’t sin in such a grave way that we cut ourselves off completely from God. And even if we do commit grave sins, many of us seek reconciliation with God throughout our lives.

So, if heaven is this state of perfection… and one dies while being far from perfect… how can one enter heaven? The answer, Father James Martin, SJ, tells us, is purgatory. So just what the hell is purgatory?…

February 11th, 2009
...on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

On February 11, 1858, Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes ( January 7, 1844 – April 16, 1879) was gathering firewood when she had a vision of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near town. This was her first of 18 visions.
The miraculous healing power of Lourdes water, from a spring in the grotto, led to its and Bernadette’s recognition. Lourdes has become a place of mass pilgrimage for Catholics — with an estimated 200 million visitors to the shrine since 1860.
To commemorate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes we are offering readers this clip on St. Bernadette featuring commentary from James Martin, SJ.  The video is courtesy of Loyola Productions taken from their new DVD “Who Cares about the Saints?”…

December 29th, 2008
(1918-2008)

Avery Cardinal Dulles, SJ, who died at 90 on December 12, was the scion of a legendary family (his father, John Foster Dulles, was Secretary of State); one of the most famous American converts to Catholicism (his conversion came after reading philosophy at Harvard and then, memorably, spying a tree in springtime bloom); and widely considered to be the “dean” of Catholic theologians in the United States, respected by both traditionalists and progressives. His Eminence, Avery Cardinal Dulles to the world, however, was to many Jesuits, “Avery,” and he took himself none too seriously, as befits a serious man.
Funny stories abound about the Jesuit, made all the more amusing for the man’s…

December 12th, 2008
Before "Doubt" the Oscar winner found the spirit on stage in an "unwieldy" Jesus

With the much-anticipated release of Doubt, Philip Seymour Hoffman is once again receiving the kind of critical kudos reserved for actors who are generally tagged as the ‘best of their generation.’ His portrayal of Fr. Flynn, in John Patrick Shanley’s film version of his Pulitzer Prize and Tony winning play, has already garnered Hoffman a Golden Globe nomination. This is not the first time the Oscar-winning actor has dealt with difficult religious topics in his work however. In his new book, A Jesuit Off-Broadway, James Martin, S.J.—who served as a theological consultant to Doubt…—recounts his experiences as a consultant to the debut production in 2005 of the off-Broadway play “The

December 10th, 2008
Forty years after his death, Thomas Merton still causes controversy

Forty years ago today, Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk and perhaps the most popular American Catholic writer in history, stepped out of a bathroom shower during a visit to Bangkok. Slipping on the wet floor, he grabbed a poorly wired fan for support and was electrocuted. For many years, Merton had unsuccessfully sought permission from his superiors to travel outside his monastery in Bardstown, Kentucky. A few months after a new abbot was elected in early 1968, he assented to Merton’s request to attend an interfaith conference that December in Thailand. En route he met the Dalai Lama, who called him a “Catholic geshe…,” or spiritual master.
Merton enjoyed paradoxes, and spoke of himself, like

September 11th, 2008
Wacky women or the first feminists? Three books to help you decide for yourself.

At the end of August, an Italian priest was forced to scuttle his plans for an online beauty pageant for nuns, because it had been, in his words, “deliberately misinterpreted.” Father Antonio Rungi, from a town near Naples, noted that he had already received numerous requests from nuns to take part in his “Sister Italia 2008” contest, which was supposed to show off the “chaste, inner beauty” of sisters.
Needless to say, this story was picked up by hundreds of otherwise respectable media outlets.
How come? Because nuns are wacky.
Or, more accurately, pop culture and the mainstream media leads us to believe they are.
Nuns are silly (Sally Field cruising the skies in her modest-but-aerodynamic habit…

August 27th, 2008
Three suggestions for when you get back from the beach

Uh oh. Summer’s almost over and you haven’t finished Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain like you said were going to? Haven’t gotten around to The Duty of Delight, Dorothy Day’s journals? Never made it through Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth?
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Those are all great books, but they’re kind of…long. Merton’s is 496 pages. Day’s is—egad!—700 pages. And B16’s is only 400.
At some point you should definitely read each of those books. But for now, maybe you would do better with a few books that are more, um, pithy. So here are three short books, each of which can be polished off in a few hours.
The first is Cathleen Falsani’s Sin Boldly…. It’s terrific. Falsani,

January 10th, 2008
Behar's bad "View" on Saints

Whoopi Goldberg is a great comedian. So is Joy Behar. But, as it turns out, they’re not great theologians. On the daytime talk show “The View” this past Wednesday, the conversation turned, somewhat improbably, to the saints. What happened next would burn up the wires of the Catholic blogosphere for the next few days.
First, Ms. Goldberg said that Catholics pray to statues, and so therefore we were praying to idols. Well, not exactly. Catholics don’t pray to statues, any more than you think that a photo on your desk of your dog actually is your dog. And when we do pray to a saint to ask for their prayers, it’s the same as asking a friend to pray for us. But that’s a popular misconception,…

February 7th, 2007
The painfully amusing genius of HBO's "Extras"

Andy Millman is the patron saint of resentment. The perpetually put-upon actor has love handles but no love life, recently landed a role in a sitcom that has been generously described as a “sh*tcom,” and retains the professional services of the worst talent agent in the United Kingdom. Yet in the hands of Ricky Gervais, the star and co-creator of the HBO series “Extras,” (Sunday nights on HBO at 10pm) Andy Millman’s unending misery is comic delight.
“Extras,” which centers on the awful travails of Millman’s bizarre career, is the funniest and cleverest show on TV. Now in its second season, it is yet another reason to buy a subscription to HBO. (In addition to…

December 30th, 2006
The Only American Woman Invited to Participate at Vatican II

On August 24, in the motherhouse of the Sisters of Loretto, in Nerinx, Kentucky, one of the towering leaders of the Catholic church died. She was 98. Though Mary Luke Tobin, S.L., led a life described by superlatives, she may best be remembered as one of only 15 women, and the only American woman, to be invited to participate in the Second Vatican Council.
In article published in the Nov. 1, 1986 issue of America, the Catholic weekly, Sister Tobin noted that at the close of the second session of Vatican II, Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens of Belgium pointedly asked his fellow bishops this question: “Why are we even discussing the reality of the church when half the church is not even represented here?”
That query,…

February 18th, 2005
or Saint Jude, the sock drawer and me

When I was very young, I spied an advertisement in a magazine for a statue of Saint Jude. I can’t begin to imagine which magazine this might have been, since my parents weren’t in the habit of leaving Catholic publications lying around the house, but, apparently, the photo of the statue was sufficiently appealing to convince me to drop $3.50 in an envelope.
Truth be told, I also can’t imagine what led me to focus my childish desires on Saint Jude and spend in excess of three weeks’ allowance on a plastic statue rather than, say, another Archie comic book. My only other obsession at that time, as I recall, was a green pup tent I had spotted in the Sears catalogue, but this too was thrown over in favor…

October 2nd, 2004
The Worst Homily Ever

Would you believe that a priest actually preached about the dangers of contraception to a group of nursing home residents?
Not long ago a member of my Jesuit community recalled that back in the 1960s, he and his pals initiated an informal survey designed to answer the following question: What was the worst homily or sermon ever preached?
The Survey Says!
When he announced this wholly diversionary contest to various friends, responses poured in, as he said, “from around the globe.” There were fruits from a variety of sources: priests, women religious, theology students, lay preachers and the like.
My first reaction was that this would be a nearly impossible category to judge. Wouldn’t one…

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