Matt Swaim is the co-host of the Son Rise Morning Show, heard Monday through Friday 6-8 am on hundreds of stations in the nationwide EWTN Catholic radio network. He is also the outreach manager for the Coming Home Network, an apostolate that helps non-Catholic Christians who desire to learn more about, and consider entrance into, the Catholic Church. He co-hosts a podcast, “On the Journey,” for that organization.
Paul and Bill talked with Matt largely about the challenges in understanding, and then catechizing and evangelizing about, the Real Presence of Christ’s body and blood, soul and divinity. It is this Eucharist, into which Catholics believe the bread and wine at Mass have been transubstantiated.
Bill also has gotten to know Matt by being interviewed on the Son Rise show, and the two share an interest in media criticism on communication about religion. More generally, they discuss communication which uses symbolic language and sometimes loses touch with important truths.
Matt has written a book that deals with these topics. Prayer in the Digital Age, was published by Ligouri Press in 2011. Bill has written a book on related topics. When Headlines Hurt: Do We Have a Prayer? was published in 2018.
The topics of the Eucharistic and symbolism vs. the Real Presence became especially timely this year when the US Conference of Catholic Bishops initiated a “National Eucharistic Revival.” The bishops were reacting, in part, to national survey findings that only about one-third of American Catholics believe the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Jesus Christ, rather than a symbol. Survey findings came from the Pew Research Center, and Bill wrote about those findings recently for The Tablet, the newspaper of the Diocese of Brooklyn, NY.
Matt made reference to the Latin maxim, Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. He also referred to the “milkshake duck” meme and how it ties in with digital media culture. This savvy media analyst also made references to The Dark Knight and to the Hollywood films constituting “the Marvel universe” of comic book superheroes.
- Paul and Bill spoke with Louis Albarran, associate professor of theology at Holy Cross College in Notre Dame, IN. Albarran holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Dayton, and he specializes in the connection of religion, culture, and the physicality of devotional practices, with a focus on the Latino Catholic culture.
- Albarran spoke of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, as told by the Aztec people in their own language. The name of this narrative is Nican Mopohua.
- Albarran spoke of the Dayton school of thought regarding the meaning of Catholic devotions for culture. He referred to Thank You, St. Jude, written by Robert Orsi. [Paul cannot help adding a reference to St. Jude by Brian Setzer.]
- Currently reading: Making Culture by Andy Crouch.
- The annual “Saints and Scholars” summer program for high school students on the Holy Cross College campus is directed by Albarran.
- Peter Kreeft and Christopher Baglow offer notable perspectives on the compatibility of science and religion.
- Holy Cross College’s Moreau College Initiative grants degrees to prisoners.
- William Cavanaugh wrote about the wars of religion and the rise of the nation-state. Peter Kreeft wrote a condensed Catholic catechism. Kenneth Miller wrote Finding Darwin’s God. Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World.
- Christopher Bell, president and executive director of Good Counsel Homes, is “on the frontline of the pro-life movement,” as The Catholic World Report wrote in a 2021 profile. Chris and TSSM co-host Bill Schmitt have been friends since their college years, when they were both studying journalism. Co-host Paul Giesting joined the two native Long Islanders for a discussion of Catholic values in the abortion debate shortly after the leak of a draft US Supreme Court decision which pointed toward a Court decision overruling Roe v Wade.
- In 1985, Bell co-founded Good Counsel with Father Benedict Groeschel, who was a much-loved voice in Catholic spirituality and media and a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
- Good Counsel operates four homes to provide basic necessities and steps toward a stable future for moms and their babies, unborn and recently born, in New York and New Jersey. The homes are a pro-life alternative available at no cost to mothers who choose to give birth rather than abort their babies.
- The trajectory of politics and policies in New York and New Jersey has been strongly pro-abortion. The differences in approaches among all the states are being highlighted more than ever in the context of the Supreme Court’s pending decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
As the emcee noted at a concert here in Lander, a Musical History Tour, the Renaissance--the period when Europe revived its intellectual life by re-evaluating the writings of the Hellenistic past--ends around the year 1600, give or take. By that time, the focus had shifted toward going beyond the ancients instead of merely revisiting their achievements. This shift in focus happened on a different schedule in different fields, to be certain. Music may have been well ahead of the ancients already in the high medieval period. The Scholastics, and indeed their Arabian predecessors, while firmly rooted in Aristotle and the Neoplatonists, were already progressing beyond those foundations in the thirteenth century. On the other hand, painting and sculpture may not have outstripped the Greeks and Romans until the nineteenth century.
In any case, the seventeenth century would be the one in which Greek mathematics and Aristotelian natural philosophy gave way precipitously to new approaches. Algebra, lurking in the background of Greek thought and poking its head above the canopy in Arabian and Italian mathematics, would finally spawn analytic geometry and calculus. The focus and methods of natural philosophy would shift in many ways, including the use of mathematics and a great increase in the number of people collecting observations and conducting experiments and discussing their results with others. The existing sciences of astronomy, mechanics, botany, and zoology would be transformed, and chemistry and geology would be born outright. Inventions like the telescope and microscope would begin to reveal unsuspected layers of richness in the universe.
-Bacon: bio and politics
-The Reformation had to attack Scholastic *theology* but the universities continued to be heavily Aristotelian
-Aristotle and the distinction between philosophy and science that would be inverted by the 19th century
-Aristotle's focus on deduction and Bacon's polemical critique of the syllogism: "The New Organon"
-The role of induction and statistical reasoning; Bacon's blind spot for mathematics and his tables
Image: Francis Bacon by Paul van Somer, courtesy Wikimedia (By Paul van Somer I - pl.pinterest.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19958108)
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers (deaconharold.com) is a Catholic deacon and public speaker. Bill and I had the privilege of interviewing him earlier this month.
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers is one of the most incisive and authentic Catholic speakers and authors who have arisen to serve the New Evangelization, including an outreach to the younger generations who hunger to combine secular reality and meaningful Church values.
Paul and Bill know Deacon Harold through our connections to the University of Notre Dame. But the Deacon’s reputation has spread internationally; as a scholar and a presenter nicknamed “the Dynamic Deacon,” he offers large groups from many backgrounds fresh resources for spiritual renewal, including the refreshment of male spirituality. This topic is masterfully addressed in his book, Behold the Man.
Deacon Harold has appeared frequently on the EWTN Catholic radio and television networks. Recently, he took part in a discussion on racism and Catholic responses in an episode of the “Franciscan University Presents” program.
A number of other books authored by Deacon Burke-Sivers over the years can be found here.
- Paul and Bill were privileged to talk with Father Robert Spitzer, SJ, the founding director of the Magis Center in Orange County, California.
- Father Spitzer’s biography includes service as the president of Gonzaga University and the authorship of numerous books about various aspects of theology, philosophy, spirituality, apologetics, happiness and the meaning of life, and much more.
- He has produced a huge collection of materials for online use. His main websites are the Magis Center site, com, and PurposefulUniverse.com. In this interview, he describes the sites and how our listeners can select and use materials that may be particularly helpful.
- We discuss the four levels of happiness, which represent an insightful roadmap for spiritual growth and movement toward a culture of life. His excellent book, Healing the Culture, gives a good grounding in this approach.
- Another area of special interest for Father Spitzer is the compatibility of appeals to science and faith—which is also a basis for this TSSM podcast series. In this interview he notes that younger scientists are statistically more likely to believe in God than scientists over age 40.
- Young people don’t know what’s going on in current science, in studies of near death experiences, scrutiny of the Shroud of Turin, and many other areas of research that contribute to religious faith. A good grounding for his work connecting science and faith in Jesus Christ is New Proofs for the Existence of God .
- Yet another area of deep interest for Fr. Spitzer is the need for a full appreciation of, and deep personal engagement with the summit of the Catholic faith, the Holy Eucharist. In this interview, he refers to the John 6:30-52 as a portion of Scripture that powerfully asserts the Catholic understanding of the Blessed Sacrament as the body and blood of Christ.
- You can see Fr. Spitzer on EWTN in his weekly series, “Father Spitzer’s Universe.”
David Seitz, OFS, is a long-time professed member of the Secular Franciscan Order who holds an M.A. in theology from Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. He has written a book, available on line, called Come Let Us Worship: Reflections on the Words and Prayers of the Mass. He produces podcasts, videos, blogs, and speaks publicly, offering reflection for spiritual growth based on the life and works of St. Francis of Assisi. Find him at tauministries.com and, on YouTube, look for his nickname, Franciscan Dave.
Bill, also a Secular Franciscan, recently appeared on Dave's podcast, and I spoke with Bill about that conversation regarding journalism and virtuous communication. We discuss whether missionaries and scientists are also journalists and the spiritual value of seeking and spreading truth. Be sure to find their original conversation at Dave's site.
- Welcome to this 130th episode of our podcast. Here’s a lively conversation between two geoscientists—testifying to the opportunities for Society of Catholic Scientists (SCS) members to enjoy discussions which are at once elevated by their personal values and grounded in their diverse, expert explorations of God’s creation.
- Paul spoke with Natasha Toghramadjian, a Ph.D. student in geophysics—and seismology in particular—at Harvard University. She performs wide-ranging research on earthquake dynamics and risks in California and around the world. She spent a year in Armenia on a US Fulbright research grant to design a study on future earthquakes there and the connection between risk preparedness and regional politics.
- Toghramadjian, a student member of the SCS, was a speaker at the 2021 national conference in Washington, DC. See the video of her talk here, at about the 7-hour, 19-minute mark. The talk was titled, “Earthquakes, their Consequences, and the Jesuit Pioneers of Seismology.”
- This podcast conversation included Toghramadjian’s mentions of the earthquake hazards in Oklahoma and the Newport-Inglewood Fault in California, considered more dangerous than the San Andreas Fault for the Los Angeles region. A note from Natasha: at one point just before the 16 minute mark, she said "40 meters" when she meant "40 miles onshore."
- She discussed with Paul the common but wrong view that we hold Christian beliefs despite natural evidence. Scientists use natural evidence, including the enduring laws of physics, chemistry, and biology, in their attempts to understand God’s creation more fully. The two agreed that science and religion are in harmony as paths for pursuing the truth amid great mystery.
- A “keeper” quote from Toghramadjian: “Every human you encounter is an imperfect representation of whatever they say they stand for. . . . It’s very easy to point to a bad example, a person, rather than point to the source material that we’re all trying to follow but we all inevitably fall short of because we’re fallen.”
Show notes prepared by TSSM co-host Bill Schmitt
Word on Fire will be holding a Faith and Science Summit August 9-12 (starting tomorrow!). It will feature at least nine speakers, including the SCS' own Jonathan Lunine and Karin Oberg.
Among the topics discussed will be
- The history of the Church and science, including a wealth of details that get glossed over by the "conflict hypothesis"
- Specific coverage of what went wrong between the Pope, cardinals, and Galileo, and why that's far from a typical example of how the Church treats scientists
- The counterexample of George LeMaitre
- Theological motivations *for* doing science from the perspective of the Christian faith
- Insights from science that have enriched our appreciation of creation, the physical universe, and our own human origins
- Catholic theology and speculation about the possibility of extraterrestrial life
Find out more at:
If you're a Word on Fire Institute member:
An intriguing interview with a business school professor from Paul's alma mater, Anjan Thakor of the Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School. The point of departure for this episode is Prof. Thakor's book of the same title written with Dr. Bob Quinn, and the book was launched as an analysis of why Dr. Quinn left a prestigious faculty position at the University of Michigan to go start a church in Australia.
The book and our interview discuss what seems as if it should be common sense: people perform better when they believe what they're doing has a higher purpose than extracting paychecks and profit. Yet this common sense observation is now counter to decades of economic orthodoxy, both in the "practical" world and in academia, which focus on evaluating ways for employers to control and coerce employees using the tools of the market system. And it's not entirely surprising, since in many ways human nature is always poised to devolve into this style of interaction. Listen in and, if you're anywhere near as intrigued by this work as I was, read their book for more.
- Thakor co-authored The Economics of Higher Purpose: Eight Counterintuitive Steps for Creating a Purpose-Driven Organization with Robert Quinn, business professor emeritus at the University of Michigan.
- Thakor referred to a University of Michigan study of call-center workers. They came away with a higher sense of purpose—and effectiveness—after talking with students who had received scholarships based on fund-raising efforts in which the workers were participating. If you change a worker’s mental map for seeing their job, this affects their performance.
- Authenticity requires a business leader’s believable commitment to—and passion about—the organization’s higher purpose, Prof. Thakor said. He also referred to insights from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks about the importance of societal and organizational motivation stemming from a sense of covenant, not merely contract. Covenant entails a sense of shared purpose.
- Noted business executive Bob Chapman says 88 percent of American workers say they want a sense of higher purpose but don’t feel it is integrated in their work life. Thakor said his own research shows that employees whose companies have a sense of purpose are more likely to describe a sense of purpose in their lives—a spillover effect.
- The commitment to purpose must be top-down. Then, it cascades through the organization if you help employees learn and absorb what it means for them and their job, Thakor said.
- Harvard Business Review had a special issue on the importance of a sense of purpose.