Nutcracker ballet

Nutcracker Not-So-Sweet

During a recent eighth-grade trip to Chicago, chaperones and students of Notre Dame Academy in Toledo walked out of a performance of The Nutcracker after learning that lead characters would be portrayed in a gay marriage. This was a courageous and bold move—a correct application of Pope Francis’s well-publicized encouragement of young people “to make a mess” and his guidance in Amoris Laetitia that “there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

When activists take a traditional and beloved part of a Christmas celebration and attempt to co-opt it into a radical agenda which subverts the very nature of the family, a Catholic school is spot-on in saying, “not on my dime, and not on my time.” The chaperones—led by the academy’s dean—rightly used it as a teachable moment.

In fact, when heading up the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) called upon Catholics to conscientiously object to attacks on the family. As he wrote in his Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons, “The denial of the social and legal status of marriage to forms of cohabitation that are not and cannot be marital is not opposed to justice; on the contrary, justice requires it.”

That said, good for this group in taking a stand for social justice in the face of aggression and at great personal cost. Unfortunately, the story does not end here.

Continue reading at Crisis Magazine…

Virgin and Child with Saints Dominic and Thomas Aquinas

Resolved for New Year 2020: Teach the Faith

I love the six days between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The Son of God is with us! Now we get a short time to rev up our engines for the new year’s work of evangelization, as Christ commanded.

I propose three resolutions for the Year 2020, under a single theme of education. Why education? The confusion, irreverence, dissent, scandal and blasphemy that we find within the Church today—and the extraordinary challenges of secularism and sexual perversion in our culture—exhibit widespread embrace of falsehood. More than 2,000 years since Christ was born, too few people know the truth of God and his creation.

To help remedy this appalling situation, I pray that in 2020 the Church might finally break free of the dangerously limited notion of Catholic education as a particular system of schools accessed by a dwindling portion of young Catholics. Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of truly Catholic schools! But they are one means of Catholic education—a favored means during the last two centuries, yet never the only means. The need for educating Catholics in truth and devotion is what takes precedence. Some schools, sadly, have even forgotten essential aspects of their mission, while increasingly Catholics are turning to print, broadcast and online resources as well as lay-run schools, homeschooling and innovative hybrid school-and-home options.

Catholic education is the task of formation in faith, truth and reason, and it is the Church’s primary method of evangelization. It is for all of us! Learning is growth, and teaching is key to three of the Spiritual Works of Mercy: instructing the ignorant, counseling the sorrowful and admonishing the sinner. All three works are desperately needed today.

Every Catholic adult is called to self-educate. Today we have many outstanding publishers of books, videos, software, websites and more. We have faithful Catholic media like EWTN and the Register. We have new and renewed colleges that provide faithful online and in-person instruction grounded in authentic theology.

For children, Catholic education is a solemn duty of every Catholic parent. If a child cannot be taught in a faithful Catholic school or homeschool, then the parent must find other ways of forming the child in the truths of the faith—not only doctrine, but reverent prayer and sacrament. And not only religion, but the great insights of our faith into every other branch of knowledge, including history, science and literature. And not only knowledge, but the skills of reasoning and communication—those uniquely human abilities that resemble God’s wisdom and loving Word.

If a school or CCD program fails to do the job adequately or a secular school is the only option, then a parent must find or create other means of Catholic education. It is as essential as providing food and shelter.

So for 2020, let us resolve to teach the truth of God and his creation to a world suffering from ignorance.

Resolution 1: Teach the Holy Eucharist

The Pew Research study released in 2019 found that only 31% of self-professed U.S. Catholics—26% under the age of 40—believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. A more recent EWTN-RealClear poll found that 49% of Catholics who are registered to vote believe in the Real Presence. Both results are devastating!

If the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith, then clearly a top priority must be Catholic education for both young people and adults, by teaching sound doctrine and forming Catholics in reverent liturgy and adoration.

This begins with parents and educators. Catholic homeschoolers have demonstrated a notable commitment to both daily and Sunday Mass, preparation for Mass through frequent confession, and Eucharistic adoration. But this should not set them apart—surely Catholic schools and colleges could be encouraging the same, yet most regard the sacraments as personal obligations that are extraneous to the job of education. Catholic schools and colleges should consider adding more frequent Masses, including at least some in the Extraordinary Form, with sacred music. They should provide opportunities for Eucharistic adoration and confession. They should teach students about the Eucharistic miracles.

Parents with children in secular schools need to make an extra effort to work liturgy and prayer into their daily schedule, as well as instruction in Catholic doctrine. But if these are high priorities, then they can be done.

Adults, too, need to be able to explain the Church’s authentic theology of the Eucharist and share the truth with each other. We can no longer assume that even our fellow Catholics know the truth. We must find ways to integrate contemplation of the Eucharist into our daily lives and into group activities.

Through catechesis and exposing fellow Catholics to beautiful and reverent liturgy, we can return Catholic education to its roots and renew faith. We have seen the tragic results of watered-down instruction and lackluster worship. Now we must aim for something better.

Resolution 2: Teach chastity

As our culture keeps going further off the rails, it is all the more important that Catholics uphold virtue and teach and practice chastity. Our witness to chastity can, I hope, bring about a renewal of the culture. It will certainly help preserve us and our young Catholics from grave sin.

Even in Catholic high schools and colleges, the hook-up culture is well-documented and the rates of sexual activity and assault are alarming. These are associated with the mortal sins of contraception, sterilization and abortion, as well as an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases. Even before high school and throughout adolescence and adulthood, Catholics are faced with the temptation of online pornography and explicit sexuality and violence in movies and television shows.

Teaching chastity in a culture that is downstream from the Sexual Revolution is not easy, but it begins with simple practices and precautions within our Catholic homes, schools and colleges. Make an effort in 2020 to frequently speak the words “near occasion of sin,” an essential point of Christian ethics that seems to have been forgotten or even rejected by many Catholics today. Avoidance of temptation is the reason Catholics once chaperoned activities, dressed modestly, and associated dating with the seriousness of marriage—let’s do it again.

Some practical steps can be taken to build a home or school culture that projects an assumption of chastity. Members of the opposite sex should not be entertained in bedrooms or in any room with a closed door, and Catholic colleges could help set the example by restoring appropriate campus dorm policies. Monitor internet usage and filter pornography from Wi-Fi networks; again, some Catholic colleges are already leading the way.

Resolution 3: Put truth back into education

One factor in the decline of faith over recent decades is the declining respect for truth. When was the last time you heard someone state a proposition—an opinion or claim of some sort—and back it up with sound evidence and reasoning? It is rare, and I suspect that most people today are afraid to try.

Developing strong reasoning skills used to be central to a Catholic education, probably because we expected young people to cogently analyze great literature, explain history and learn difficult theological concepts as taught by Augustine and Aquinas. Today, schools tend to emphasize facts and figures, but young people often lack the wit and wisdom of their grandparents.

Moreover, most Catholics have had a secular education—many never setting foot in a Catholic school or college, others attending Catholic institutions that provided a rather secular program. Not only were they not well-formed in doctrine, prayer and sacrament, but they never gained the insights of our faith into every other study.

If a young Catholic is not formed in truth, then we have failed to educate. Providing a truly Catholic education and fostering skills of reasoning are difficult outside of a Catholic program, but they can be done with great effort by the parents. Immediately, however, we need lukewarm Catholic schools and colleges to step up and show the way—to present the ideal so others can follow. Everything that a Catholic school or college does should reflect its Catholic identity, from its hiring practices and human sexuality policies to its curriculum and library book choices.

In 2020, Catholics should resolve to no longer accept mediocre education. Together we should demand truly faithful education with classical approaches to learning and formation. Simply resolving to make truthful education a top priority, whatever our state in life, would help turn our gaze to God and his magnificent creation. It would refocus our lives to the perfection that God wills for us, by his grace and mercy.

Please pray throughout the next year for the intercession of St. John Henry Newman, himself a great educator and advocate for faithful Catholic education. His desire was that the Catholic laity would seek truth with vigor and hold to truth with devotion. May God grant such wisdom in us, and bless us all throughout the year.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Catholics Should Lead on Banning Porn

Like many Catholics, I was encouraged by U.S. lawmakers’ plea for better enforcement of obscenity laws against pornography. What I find troubling, however, is that few Catholic colleges are leading by example.

As even companies like Starbucks and Tumblr move to block pornography on their internet networks—a rather simple thing to do—it seems like common sense that Catholic colleges would also install porn filters to avoid streaming smut to their students. But at the University of Notre Dame, students are the ones begging for a filter, and still the administration is unwilling to take a simple step toward decency and respect.

By contrast, several of the faithful Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide block pornography on their Wi-Fi networks and go out of their way to encourage chastity on campus.

One of the arguments against such filters is that blocking porn would violate “free speech.” Social media has been abuzz with vigorous debate over the limits of government authority. But that has no relevance to a private college’s behavioral expectations, which are intended to form the character of young adults as much as they also protect the rights of those whose dignity and often safety are endangered by the sleazy porn industry.

College leaders also need to consider the health of their students. The severely damaging effects of pornography are well-documented by chastity advocates like Matt Fradd, a graduate of Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. His book The Porn Myth explains the psychological effects, addictive properties and devastating impact on relationships that pornography can cause.

A representative at the University of Notre Dame has argued that students should be “self-censors.” It is true that students have plenty of opportunities to access online porn outside of a college’s Wi-Fi network, and so they must learn responsibility. But a Catholic college sends an important message about the absolute impropriety of viewing porn by installing a filer—and a college that rejects filters and willingly provides access to porn sends a terrible message to students that it is not a serious concern.

Blocking porn sends a strong message about a Catholic college’s priorities and expectations for students. It says that the college condemns porn and encourages its students to stay far away from it. It tells students that the college cares enough for its students that it would never willingly sponsor a near occasion of sin, leading students into temptation.

Pornography is “not the sort of relationship” that students should be “looking for,” said President John Garvey, who happily agreed to restrict pornography access earlier this year at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. “We’re not going to lend our system to help them find it.”

If Catholic colleges are not willing to help protect students from something as damaging as porn, what concern do they show for the good of their students? What is the point of Catholic education at all, if there is no effort at formation and teaching students to live as God intended?

Catholic colleges market their bold mission statements and claims, but they need to walk the talk. They claim to offer education for the “mind and heart” and to prepare graduates to be “powerful forces for good in the world.” An easy start would be to block porn and work hard to create campus environments that promote virtue.

The souls of students must be the top concern for Catholic educators. Catholic colleges have a great responsibility in preparing students not only for this life, but also for God. I pray that college leaders muster the moral courage to stand against porn and lead the way for the rest of society.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Archbishop Sheen

Archbishop Sheen’s Idea of Education

This article by Patrick Reilly, President and Founder of The Cardinal Newman Society, was published at The National Catholic Register prior to the unexpected delay of Venerable Fulton Sheen’s beatification (originally planned for Dec. 21). Please continue to pray for his Cause for sainthood.

Education should teach us the “truth about man,” said Archbishop Fulton Sheen. A graduate of and longtime professor at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., before he was a television celebrity, Sheen should inspire Catholics to seek out authentic education.

For 23 years, Sheen taught courses such as “Philosophy of Religion” and “God and Society” at Catholic University, making frequent use of Caldwell Chapel on campus. After teaching, he moved into television and radio programs, reaching greater numbers—even until today—with his wisdom, wit and unparalleled teaching ability.

One of his former students, Father William Amann, said that Sheen’s strong faith was obvious in the classroom. “He was a very holy man and it came out certainly in the presentation of his class. His holiness was evident in his demeanor and the classes he gave, his belief in God, and his trust in the Lord.”

For Sheen, education was about training the “whole man—the intellect and will, not just the mind alone.” Related to the intellect, he described the educated person as one who will do three things: “seek truth,” have a “correlation of studies” and have “depth, particularly the deepening of mystery.”

For the first, Sheen urged that the “one basic truth we have to learn is the truth of our own existence.” He lamented that people live years of their lives without learning “why they are here, and where they are going.”

“When life is meaningless, it is very dull,” Sheen continued. “When you know the truth of life, then you are most free.”

On the second point, the correlation of studies refers to the idea that “there are certain subjects that ought to be regarded as essential, so that a man will be truly educated.” The tendency in education, Sheen explained, was to use the “shelf theory” and “take any course that you please.” This leads to a “disconnected and disjointed” understanding.

The “really educated man sees a relationship between various branches of knowledge,” said Sheen, urging against “overspecification” in universities. A well-rounded curriculum “will teach a man how to… know himself, know society, know his relationship to the universe, and above all, he will understand his relationship to God.”

Finally, a truly educated person will have a “philosophy of life that is solid” and will “deepen the mystery of things” rather than centering studies around various fads that come and go.

Sheen’s thoughts on education may sound lofty in our nation today, where many colleges, even Catholic ones, have become focused solely on job training. They lack the formation that Sheen insisted upon. Many colleges promote relativism, fail to provide a meaningful foundation in the liberal arts, and leave students empty and unprepared for life.

Sheen explains how a strong Catholic education can make life worth living. If families look carefully, they can find strong Catholic schools and colleges that are worthy of a saint.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

Study Science at a Faithful Catholic College

Catholic high school students often ask: can I study engineering, medicine or the other sciences at a faithful Catholic college?

Or, to put it another way: can a college that teaches theology and philosophy be good at teaching science?

St. John Paul II thought so! He urged Catholic colleges to address the most pressing needs of society in science and technology, teaching students to see how faith and reason “bear harmonious witness to the unity of all truth.”

Today, America’s most faithful Catholic colleges are embracing St. John Paul II’s vision by teaching the sciences from an authentically Catholic perspective, and several of the colleges have announced exciting new developments in recent months. Students pursuing degrees in health, engineering, nursing, chemistry and other science- and math-related fields would do well to consider the differences in studying at a faithful Catholic college.

“We believe faith, morality and ethics are just as important in the sciences as in every other part of our lives. They cannot be separated,” said Stephen Minnis, president of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.

The College recently opened a new 100,000-square-foot state of the art STEM building, the culmination of an impressive three-year project. Students and faculty expect that the new facility will open the door to involvement in even more major research projects. But unlike students at secular and many other Catholic colleges, Benedictine’s students do “not have to check their faith at the door of the science building,” says Minnis.

Students can find the best of both worlds in a faithful Catholic college. They can receive a solid liberal arts education while choosing majors like chemical, civil and mechanical engineering.

Franciscan University of Steubenville in Steubenville, Ohio, has also announced expansions to its science offerings in recent years. This fall, Franciscan unveiled a biochemistry degree as one of its new majors. Students benefit in every subject area from a strong faculty, which is 94% Catholic.

“In this age of technology, we are in dire need of more truly Catholic scientists and medical professionals who can clearly articulate the proper use of science and technology in society,” explains Dr. Daniel Kuebler, biology professor and dean of the School of Natural and Applied Sciences. “The type of integrated science education offered at Franciscan produces just these types of graduates.”

In an increasing secular society, many ethical questions are raised about how scientific knowledge should be used, says Kuebler. “Should we clone humans? Should we manipulate human embryos? Should we develop embryonic stem cell lines?”

“At Franciscan, students not only learn the cutting-edge science through our array of academic programs, but they are also trained in sound Catholic moral and ethical principles so that they can competently and confidently defend the dignity of human life,” he says.

“Too often people see science and faith as being at odds with each other,” Kuebler adds. “Nothing could be further from the truth for a Catholic.”

Catholic students also find integration of faith and science at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina. The college recently announced that Caromont, a local health care system, will be building a hospital adjacent to campus. The lease agreement with the Benedictine monastery will ensure that “nothing contrary to the Church’s teaching will be done at the hospital,” says Dr. Heather Ayala, chair of the college’s biology department.

Additionally, any “cooperative programs the college undertakes with Caromont will be degree-granting academic programs and thus under the control of the college,” Ayala continues.

The Benedictine mission of Belmont Abbey is a “central piece” in the development of new science and health related initiatives, Ayala says. Her biology department is known for its high placement rates for graduates into medical, dental and veterinary schools.

Ayala says she has “enjoyed being able to speak openly” about her faith with students and “have conversations both inside and outside of class” that integrate her Catholic faith with the life sciences.

The University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, recently was given permission by the family of St. Gianna Beretta Molla to rename its School of Health Sciences after her. Saint Gianna gave up her life to save her unborn baby.

The sacrifice of St. Gianna witnesses to “all that we hope to pass on to our students,” says Lauren Emmel, associate professor of physical therapy at the university. She believes that students must be educated about how “God works through our vocation for our sanctification and the sanctification of those we serve.”

The University of Mary offers a variety of majors in the health sciences including physical therapy and biomechanics. Its nursing is especially popular because of its high national ranking. Students are taught from a Catholic perspective and take two theology and two philosophy courses.

“Our commitment to teaching the sciences, especially the health sciences, begins with a witness to Truth personally. Students know integrity when they see it, so a personal commitment to the faith is important for any teacher in a Catholic institution,” explains Emmel.

“Without a recognition of the other as a person with dignity,” Emmel warns, “we begin treating diseases and discarding the less-than-desirable parts… One can imagine how this potentiates discarding entire classes of people, especially those who are dependent: children, elderly, the weak, the poor.”

But at the University of Mary, “our programs begin, as they ought, with a recognition of the dignity and sanctity of life,” she says. Professors try to help students “see, consider, and view people first, with all the dignity God has provided to them” and then only afterward to “address the weaknesses and impairments in a manner which is helpful and truly healing.”

Other faithful Catholic colleges recommended in The Newman Guide—including Ave Maria University, the Catholic University of America, the University of Dallas, the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Walsh University—offer various science majors that integrate faith and ethics. John Paul the Great University in Escondido, California, offers several technical programs related to new media and the arts. Catholic liberal arts colleges like Christendom College, Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts and Thomas More College of Liberal Arts also provide math and science education.

The Great Books education at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, and Northfield, Massachusetts, “requires knowledge of the principles of all the major disciplines, including math and science,” according to Dr. Thomas Kaiser, associate dean of the College in New England. Like Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming, which also emphasizes the Great Books, students get a rigorous foundation in Euclidian geometry, mathematical reasoning, scientific reasoning, natural science and philosophy.

“Having a philosophical overview of the principles and methods of the sciences is excellent preparation for specialization,” says Kaiser. “Those who specialize without this preparation may unknowingly accept philosophical presuppositions without any opportunity to critically assess them.”

Kaiser explains how, in our world today, “scientists have displaced the theologians and philosophers as the supposed wise men.” He laments that “many of them are atheists, and even those that aren’t think that there is no compatibility between faith and reason.”

“Of course, this never has been the position of the Church,” says Dr. Kaiser.

At secular colleges and even many secularized Catholic colleges, Catholic families will find science education that is completely divorced from faith. Fortunately, there are faithful Catholic colleges where students can prepare for careers in the sciences while being educated from an authentically Catholic perspective. It’s a wise choice, if wisdom is the objective.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

All-Night Dorm Visits at Notre Dame?

A group of students at the University of Notre Dame recently staged a sit-in to protest “parietals”: rules prohibiting students of the opposite sex from spending the night in each other’s dorm rooms. But ending one of the few remaining protections for chastity on a college campus is a terrible idea.

For years, Notre Dame students have made arguments against parietals, but this new effort is driven by students who claim that the University is too “heteronormative” and promotes “sexism and queerphobia” by limiting visitation from opposite-sex students.

Whatever the motivation, doing away with parietals would be a disaster. It would invite higher rates of sexual activity, sexual assault, contraception, STDs, pregnancy and abortion. It would invite mortal sin—a concern that many today think old-fashioned, but hopefully the priests and leaders at Notre Dame care deeply about such things.

Ironically, the protesters seem not to be targeting Notre Dame’s single-sex dorms. The university’s steadfast commitment to men’s and women’s dorms is admirable, given that most American colleges—including most Catholic ones—switched long ago to coed residences. Studies find that coed dorms have higher rates of drinking and sexual activity.

But still, loose rules allowing opposite-sex visitors to stay in bedrooms until late-night hours can quickly undermine the benefits of single-sex dorms, especially with regard to sexual activity. At Notre Dame, opposite-sex visitors can be in student bedrooms until midnight on weeknights and 2 a.m. on weekends. These are hours when students are more likely to be sexually active and under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

The protesters are right, then, to target parietals if they want to dramatically change campus culture. Notre Dame should reject their pleas.

Even more, Notre Dame should consider further limiting nighttime visitation and insisting on open doors when someone of the opposite sex is present. Even better, the university would provide sufficient meeting spaces for students in other buildings and end opposite-sex visitation to dorm rooms altogether.

What if Notre Dame’s politically correct leaders feel compelled to appease the misguided students who find parietals to be too “heteronormative?” There’s a simple answer: end all visitation to dorm rooms, by any student who does not live in the room, throughout the day. This has the added advantage of promoting chastity among even the homosexual students at Notre Dame.

Reducing Sexual Assault

College-aged females have the highest rates of sexual assault, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and Notre Dame has its share of such crimes.

Although studies show that most sexual assaults against college students take place off campus, about a third occur within student dorms. Reducing off-campus assaults is necessary but very difficult; reducing on-campus assaults could begin with simply reforming dorm visitation policies.

Studies show that two key factors are associated with sexual assault on campus: drinking and casual sex. When looking at the sexual assaults of college-aged females, one study found that 47% of victims perceived their attacker was drinking or using drugs. Additionally, the facts show that 78% of on-campus sexual assaults took place during what started as casual sexual encounters.

Also, a third factor seems to be the time of day. A study found that 52% of forced sexual assaults and 90% of assaults on incapacitated victims took place between midnight and 6 a.m. Most of the others occurred between 6 p.m. and midnight.

A survey of students at Notre Dame bears similar results to the national studies. In 2018, 7% of female students said they had experienced “non-consensual sexual intercourse” while studying at Notre Dame. Of the assaults that occurred during the last year, 58% were committed within residences on Notre Dame’s campus. And in nearly two-thirds of the incidents, the victim was familiar with the attacker prior to the day of the assault.

Is any of this surprising? Put unsupervised young adults in bedrooms, behind closed doors, in the evening or late at night, when they are more likely to be impaired by alcohol or drugs, and serious problems will result.

A Catholic college should be greatly concerned about the spiritual health of its students, as well as the epidemic of STDs and high rates of abortion among college-age Americans. But even a secular college that has no problem with premarital sex and abortion should see the obvious implications for sexual assault.

Not Just Notre Dame

When The Cardinal Newman Society looked at dorm visitation policies at Catholic colleges across the country, we were shocked to find that more than a quarter of residential Catholic colleges have no restriction on all-night opposite-sex visits. Most others are like Notre Dame, with weeknight visitation until midnight or later, and weekend visitation until 2 a.m. or later. Doors may remain closed.

This indicates that Catholic college leaders across the country are turning a blind eye to what is going on in dorms late at night. This needs to change, and Notre Dame could set a powerful example if it reformed its policies appropriately.

No policy change will completely change a campus culture, but stronger visitation policies could help prevent many sexual assaults and send a clear message about the college’s expectation of chastity among its students. Catholic college leaders should do all within their power to create safe and healthy environments on campus.

This is a golden opportunity for Notre Dame to stand up for Catholic values, and implementing a few common-sense measures could go a long way to help keep students safe.

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

New Book Offers Guidance on Living a Good Life

Preparing for life’s journey is the mission of every young person. But too often, education is focused on accumulating skills and knowledge without fully developing the virtues and ethics that lead to sainthood.

Vaclav Rajlich, a computer programming expert with a deep love for Christ, helps refocus priorities with his brief but valuable book, How to Live a Good Life Following New Testament Ethics. He provides a roadmap through daily decisions, intricate challenges, and even outright obstacles with the timeless guidance of Scripture.

This highly readable book makes a perfect gift for people of all ages – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, spouses, friends and colleagues. It is ideal for book circles, discussion groups, dinner clubs and beyond. And it is well-suited for high school and college students, perhaps for summer reading, new student orientation or a retreat program. 

Each chapter concludes with open-ended questions. In less than 150 pages, the reader discovers a roadmap for life – how to drive safely, understand the rules of the road, and arrive at the destination. Throughout the journey, the reader is called to make friends, share meaningful experiences, and achieve goals while keeping in mind the biggest goal: to live a holy and exemplary life.

Along the way, there will be obstacles – which the author knows well. Raised behind the Iron Curtain in Communist Czechoslovakia, Rajlich lived in near constant fear. He was always on guard and suspicious of those around him, never sure when his conversations were being recorded – an oppressive reality of Communist rule.

One day, the author met Pavel, who at about 30 years old was dying and bedridden with terminal cancer.  He could barely move and experienced endless pain. Astonishingly, he radiated inner peace. With a wink or slight wave, Pavel comforted all who visited him, causing Rajlich to wonder how such peace is possible. Though a dying young man, Pavel exhibited no anger or resentment, only a joy about life. Rajlich, although fearful about a future crushed by the Communist regime, gained perspective from the dying man who was wise beyond his years. Pavel was far advanced in living a good and holy life.

Not long after meeting Pavel, Rajlich escaped to America and became renowned in his field of computer science. When he retired four decades later, he published this powerful little book. 

One might reasonably ask, what business does a computer programmer and professor have writing a book about ethics? The answer may surprise you.

Early in his career, Professor Rajlich realized that conveying complex software concepts to undergraduate students requires distilling information to the essentials. The fundamentals provide a firm foundation. With the fundamentals in place, Rajlich’s students created programs that have changed the world for the better. Hundreds owe their careers to his wise and patient teaching. 

In his book, Professor Rajlich tackles the fundamentals in the moral life. At Page 7, he explains the “story of the rich young man” as “an abbreviated version of the entire New Testament ethics, a kind of executive summary,” which St. John Paul II highlighted in Splendor of Truth. Rajlich draws other inspirations from the Catechism and the Splendor of Truth to present a series of practical, heartwarming and commonsense lessons – a wonderful recipe for life.

Rajlich explains, “Ethics or moral philosophy… answers the questions: ‘What is the right act in these circumstances?’ and ‘What is the best way to live?’”  He equips the reader with a reassuring way of seeing and a practical way of doing. With precision and simplicity, he offers a handy mnemonic for remembering the four pillars of living a good life: the four Ps of Prohibitions, Prescriptions, Priorities and Providence. 

Prohibitions are nonnegotiable rules of the road, while prescriptions are recommendations for a safe and fulfilling journey.  Priorities involve making wise choices.  Providence is the recognition that certain matters are beyond our control; with faith, we experience peace by relying on God’s grace and mercy.  Taken together, these ways of pondering and proceeding enable sound daily decisions, resulting in peace of mind and heart.  Rajlich’s approach sheds light and instills hope and confidence.

In an age of instant messaging and countless choices, this little book offers a timeless message at the heart of Catholic education: a celebration of the splendor of truth, as we grow in knowledge and strive to be co-workers in the truth. Rooted in faith and reason, a proper formation advances the fullness of wisdom and the realization that we are all made for more, formed in the image and likeness of God. Setting the reader on the straight and narrow path, this profound “how to” book addresses life’s most important questions in a clear and reassuring manner. 

Like all dedicated teachers, Professor Rajlich makes the complex accessible. He offers a passport for living a good life and pursuing big goals. He addresses the false routes along the way and sheds light on how to proceed with peace, fortified by authentic freedom. As a kind and wise mentor, he presents sound advice.  He encourages the reader to prioritize and live with kindness and courage amid obligations to family, neighbors and communities. 

The human journey includes suffering and setbacks, but these can be opportunities to be light and leaven. We can all learn from Pavel. Every day, no matter how challenging, is a gift. How to Live a Good Life Following New Testament Ethics presents a sound approach to living with purpose and good cheer. 

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.

EWTN: Vatican Insider Interview, Part 2

In the second segment of an interview with Vatican Insider with Joan Lewis on EWTN Catholic Radio, Newman Society President Patrick Reilly and Joan Lewis discuss the work, outreach and challenges of The Cardinal Newman Society, the experience of attending Newman’s canonization in Rome, and the importance of Newman today.

Reilly explained that after decades of secularization, an exciting renewal in Catholic education is underway, through faithful Catholic institutions and innovative programs such as homeschooling, hybrid schools, and online academies.

Amidst these hopeful times, Reilly said there is still much work to do to help Catholic institutions fully embrace their Catholic identity. Speaking on the importance of Newman, Reilly explained that Newman was very prophetic and warned of a time when the Church would not only have to confront other ideas about God but a total rejection of God altogether, which is where we are today.

“It’s a real challenge, but [Newman] saw it and prepared us for it. I strongly encourage people to read Newman because I think he gives us tools that we can use to address this.”

EWTN: Vatican Insider Interview, Part 1

Newman Society President Patrick Reilly was recently hosted on Vatican Insider with Joan Lewis, on EWTN Catholic Radio. During this segment of the interview, they discussed a number of topics, including what inspired Reilly to begin The Cardinal Newman Society and why he chose Cardinal John Henry Newman as a patron for the organization.

Reilly discussed the timeliness of Newman’s canonization, especially in light of the Saint’s lifelong fight against liberalism in religion and the many challenges facing Catholic institutions today.  

Joan commented: “Few colleges today closely resemble his- and this is the title of something he wrote- ‘Idea of a University.’ If anything comes close to Newman’s vision today it would have to be those faithful Catholic colleges recommended in the Newman Guide… These are models for the renewal of Catholic education, largely according to Newman’s vision and their continued effort towards bringing his ideas to fruition are a blessing to the entire Church.”

Listen to the full recording below.

St. John Henry Newman’s Battle for the Church Continues

Three weeks ago, my family and a group of Cardinal Newman Society pilgrims were newly arrived in Rome — and what a contradiction we seemed!

The whole world was watching the Vatican, anxious to know whether the Amazon Synod would preserve or rupture Catholic tradition.

And yet there we were at the center of it all, full of joy and excitement, eager to celebrate the canonization of the great educator and convert, Cardinal John Henry Newman — much like the Americans who, 140 years earlier, had come to Rome to celebrate Newman’s elevation to cardinal and represent the jubilant Catholics back home.

Now we prepare for the Feast of All Saints, celebrating the greatest of all promises given by Jesus to believers, amid so much unbelief across the West.

While in Rome, I reflected on this irony with our pilgrims. I realized something very important: the timing of Newman’s canonization amid the ugly synod was just right, because Newman is just right for these times.

Specifically, it seems to me that Saint John Henry’s devotion to both teaching and defending truth, together with his beloved manner of “heart speaking to heart,” provide a powerful response to those who imagine that tending to the practicalities and particularities of pastoral care must be somehow opposed to upholding the timeless truths and traditions of our faith.

Some have even warned of schism over this error, but Newman’s example could help heal the rift — or if not, then at least the unassailable reason and precision of his many writings provide a mighty defense of doctrine. In this sense, our newly declared saint promises to be more a “doctor” of the Church than we might have anticipated.

Pope Francis has called the Church a “field hospital,” and today indeed there are many wounded — in part because of the Holy Father’s own inexplicable harshness toward those who would preserve ritual and reverence while embracing the reason that is married to faith. Today’s wounded also include young people — to whom Saint John Henry devoted his educational efforts — who have been greatly harmed by the lack of a strong Christian formation and by dissent, abuse and betrayal from within and without the Church.

After his conversion, Newman saw no conflict between his popularity as a pastor and his battle for truth. Despite being one of the Church’s greatest intellectuals and theologians, the Saint’s focus was always on the immediate concerns and controversies of the people under his care. His primary interest was the authentic formation of the souls right in front of him, always speaking heart to heart, always speaking truth. He was both a loving pastor and a champion of orthodoxy.

His life’s work, Newman said, was the fight against relativism — what he called “liberalism in religion.” He insisted on the unity of faith and reason, the intellect and morality, subjective and objective reality. He proposed faithful Catholic education, precisely because he wished to “reunite” the faculties of conscience and intellect that “man had put asunder” by original sin.

With this heart of an educator, Saint John Henry Newman was devoted to truth and to bringing others to the truth. That is what the word today so greatly needs!

Newman was also, at times, prophetic about the challenges we face today. Already in 19th century Europe, Newman saw the makings of what would be the “age of infidelity,” when the Church would be confronted by a culture unlike anything it had ever seen before: a culture that simply does not tolerate religious belief, except as a private matter. Newman also predicted increased scrutiny of Catholics by secularists, who eagerly seek evidence of hypocrisy. The sins of our priests, he predicted, would become a spectacle to the news media and disbelievers.

That’s surely where we are today — and yet, truly, Newman’s canonization was also a happy moment! One of the Church’s greatest intellectuals and a beloved convert is certainly in heaven. Saint John Henry Newman encourages and inspires the Church at a time when it is under sustained assault.

Sainthood itself refreshes our hope in the mercy of God and the promise of heaven. It is a great blessing to know that a dutiful and faithful man has received God’s great mercy and the reward of heaven.

By his canonization, Newman has become even more capable, by his example and because of our prayers for intercession, to help us once again follow the Kindly Light of Christ. Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us!

(This article is adapted from comments delivered in Rome on the day of Saint John Henry Newman’s canonization, Oct. 13, 2019.)

This article first appeared at The National Catholic Register.