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It Was God

Paul knelt down, hid his face in his hands and made a desperate effort to collect his thoughts.

I am tired, tired, tired, God, of all the devious paths I have sought out for myself. And now I am here to ask Thee to open to me—to open Thyself to me.—But at the same time he knew that what he saw in his own soul was only a reflection—in a tiny and uneven mirror—of reality. In reality it was God who had pursued him, tracked him down and hunted him from one hiding place to another. It was God whom he could no longer escape. God stood before him and bade him open. “Behold, I stand at the gate and knock. If any man shall hear my voice and open to me the door, I will come in to him and will ‘sup with him, and he with me.”

—from The Burning Bush by Sigrid Undset, Book 1, Ch. 7

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The Need to Recover a Sense of Distinction

In Philadelphia I’m struck by how many women I now see on the street wearing the hijab or even the burqa. Some of my friends are annoyed by that kind of “in your face” Islam. But I understand it. The hijab and the burqa say two important things in a morally confused culture:  “I’m not sexually available,” and “I belong to a community different and separate from you and your obsessions.”

I have a long list of concerns with the content of Islam. But I admire the integrity of those Muslim women. And we need to help Catholics recover their own sense of distinction from the surrounding secular meltdown.

—from Remembering Who We Are and the Story We Belong To by Archbishop Charles Chaput, in an address given at the Bishop’s Symposium at the University of Notre Dame on October 19, 2016

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The Laws of Nature and Contentment

It must lead to the formation of a new and different human type, when a whole class is forced into migration, following its changing centres of employment, and family circles are constantly threatened with disruption, and people are continually being packed together with strangers. The tie of blood is no myth, but a stubborn biological fact. Men cannot be contented when they are not allowed to live according to the laws of nature, even if they know nothing about the law they are breaking. And it is a law of nature that men must be formed in close companionship with those to whom they owe the very type of their being, and when they are grown up, their conditions must be such that they can be left alone as much as they need—

—from The Burning Bush by Sigrid Undset, Book 1, Ch. 5 (Emphasis in bold is The Five Minute Catholic’s.)


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God, Shockingly Small

“I must go out into nature,” said Aaser, “If I am to find my God. He doesn’t submit to be shut up in a low, narrow church built by men.”

Paul thought it was rather nauseating to hear such things said. Besides, he had a vague suspicion that a God who submitted to confined in anything created, might just as well let himself be shut up in a church as in a universe. That he should prefer a big house to a little one was too human an idea. For this reason it was the thought of God in the sacrament that had first led him to surmise—maybe the Faith is not so impossible. If the Almighty voluntarily submits to be confined, then the Church’s explanation is the most reasonable one—he does it from love. But if God really cares for men so much that he desires to gain their love, he must make himself shockingly small—into an infant that a little girl can carry about on her arms, or a piece of bread that man can swallow.

—from The Burning Bush by Sigrid Undset, Book 1, Ch. 5

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The Freedom to Be an Amateur

Ruth said quietly:

“[…]Well, you know what father is like, terribly naive and emancipated and all that, and rather mad about artists. So when he had got it into his head that I had talents as an artist, because I drew nicely and correctly, he would hear nothing else but that I must devote myself entirely to art. Literally devote myself—

“Actually, you know, grandmother Randall for instance got a great deal more out of her accomplishments, when she made drawings of the houses they lived in and did water-colours of grandfather and their children or of baskets of flowers. She could afford to be an amateur—literally an amateur of all that she thought was pretty, for she played and sang too, and wrote the most enchanting letters. Not to mention their financial difficulties and that grandfather was not an easy man to live with and she had his parents in the house and had seven children and lost five of them while they were young. But she had the chance of using all her powers in the order which seemed natural to her, so no doubt she always felt free. So that both your mother and mine were able to grow up to maturity with sunshine all about them.—

“The most nonsensical thing of all, in my opinion, is that nowadays if a girl has ever so little talent, it must be commercialized. Either she’s fond of dancing or she sings nicely while she is washing up, or she can do pretty little water-colours of the house at home and the veranda with father reading the paper—then she must be trained. But if I’d been in the same position as grandmother Randall or as old Berret Andersstuen, I’m sure I should have turned out an amateur like them—and drawn and painted when I had and hour to spare, or sung while I was at work, and I would have sat and told stories while I was sewing and weaving, just like Berret—”

—from The Burning Bush by Sigrid Undset, Book 1, Ch. 4


  • Although the excerpt above doesn’t contain any specifically Catholic thought, it does come from a book by a Catholic author in which Catholicism is something that influences the actions of certain characters. It was this excerpt that I read in either this book or this book by Anthony Esolen that made me interested in reading The Burning Bush and it’s prequel, The Wild Orchid.


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Toddler Tantrums and Confession Or: How Many Times Have I Told You?

In disciplining my three-year-old, these words come out of my mouth: “How many times have I told you? That is not how we treat your brother.” And within the hour, I’ve said something unkind to their father because I was frustrated and didn’t get my way. When they get upset because their sibling has something they want I tell them, “Don’t worry about them, just worry about yourself,” and then find myself coveting my neighbor’s home. It’s hard being this on top of my spiritual game.


I see myself in them—the willful, wrong, and stubborn child of God that I am. There’s a reason God is our Father, and the Virgin Mary is our Mother. Adults still need authority, discipline, and guidance.

My children are not yet at the age of reason, so they aren’t as culpable as I am. But my inward reaction to the Cross is eerily similar to their outward reaction. I just have enough awareness of social cues to avoid jumping up and down, flapping my arms, shouting, “I don’t want to!” before thrashing about on the floor when faced with some unpleasantness. But on the inside that pretty much sums up my reaction. Maybe that’s why toddler tantrums are so appalling—we see what open rebellion looks like, and it’s not pretty.

I’m told it’s beneficial to have a regular confessor who knows your struggles, and has walked a ways down the spiritual road with you. But then you find yourself saying, “Here I am, with the same tired list of sins, the same faults, here for yet another confession.” And that is extremely humbling. To be there once again, asking for forgiveness, and yet again, promising to do better.


Yet no priest has ever heard my confession and said, “Are you serious? I’ve told you one thousand times not to do that!” […] The reality is that I have, in fact, been told a thousand times. Yet I’m still forgiven and given another chance to choose the good…

—from the blog post Motherhood: a glaring reminder of the greatness of God’s mercy by Denise Renner at The Motherlands

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This video speaks the truth, and it speaks the truth in a particularly Christian way. This is not to say that the song’s lyrics would make good instructional material for catechism class; rather, it is its theme that does the truth-telling. It depicts an accurate spiritual landscape upon which the human life plays out.

You can achieve the height of worldly glory and fame, and it won’t last, Johnny Cash tells us through this video. It’s an empire of dirt. And that is true. It makes us feel more human, because it’s an articulation of spiritual realities that only humans know about.

—from the blog post Johnny Cash’s Empire of Dirt and the Truths That Make us Human by Jennifer Fulwiler


Why I Threw Away My Bucket List by Jennifer Fulwiler