Summary of today’s show: As a young Catholic emerging from his 20-years-of-Catholic-school bubble for the first time, Matt Weber realized at Harvard that wanted to wear his faith on his sleeve with authenticity, rather than hiding it because it’s not cool. The Church has been through a rough period and Matt believes it’s time to bring humor and levity back in how we live and share our faith, which is just what he does in his new book, “Fearing the Stigmata”. Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell talk with Matt about his journey to becoming comfortable with being a Catholic in public.
Listen to the show:
Watch the show via live video streaming or a recording later: BostonCatholicLive.com
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell
Today’s guest(s): Matt Weber
Links from today’s show:
- Matt Weber’s website
- Fearing the Stigmata: Humorously Holy Stories of a Young Catholic’s Search for a Culturally Relevant Faith
Today’s topics: Matt Weber’s new book, “Fearing the Stigmata”
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show and noted that this is the end of the liturgical year and Advent makes the beginning of the next year. Fr. Mark O’Connell noted that it’s been one year since we started using the new translation of the Roman Missal and commented on how he still stumbles a bit sometimes. Scot asked Fr. Mark about a new painting of Mother Teresa that he has hanging in his office. A local artist, Edwina Caci, painted it for him at his commission. Scot said it’s a fitting reminder of how we should look to Mother Teresa as an example.
Scot said today’s guest is Matt Weber, a contributor to CatholicTV, especially on the Clearvoice program. He has a new book called “Fearing the Stigmata.”
2nd segment: Scot also noted that Matt works at Harvard. Matt said he just arrived in the studio after being made late by traffic. Scot noted that Matt is called the Andy Rooney of CatholicTV. They talked about how Matt was late for his first meeting at CatholicTV with Fr. Reed, but it still led to a fruitful ministry. Scot said the book came out of an editor at Loyola Press seeing CatholicTV. He noted that Matt’s mom and older sister also have published books. His mother works in the Diocese of Springfield and his sister is an editor at America magazine. Matt said Loyola Press asked him to turn much of his material from his CatholicTV segments into a book.
Scot said Matt walks readers through his journey become comfortable with being a Catholic in public. He asked about the name. Matt said he had proposed eight or nine options, but they liked the first one, “Fearing the Stigmata.” He remember seeing a picture of St. Francis when he was a child and being astonished at the image. He asked how St. Francis ended up that way and his teacher told him it was because St. Francis was a good Catholic and he decided he didn’t want to be a good Catholic. He was born on the feast of St. Francis in St. Francis Hospital and his parents named him Matthew.
Scot asked Matt how many people he knows have told him they didn’t know what stigmata is. Matt said he was in Catholic school for 20 years and never considered that stigmata wasn’t normal. He talks in the book about how left the Catholic bubble for Harvard and how difficult it was to wear his faith on his sleeve. He said the book focuses on the good parts of the faith, what’s fun and holy.
Fr. Mark said it’s a common experience for young people away from their family for the first time and they are challenged whether they are Catholic. Matt talked about getting questions from his non-Catholic friends about living his Catholic faith, including some crazy questions, but the one that got him most was “Why are you still Catholic?”, which he’d never been asked before. And this book is the answer to that. Scot said it’s a common experience for young Catholics serious about their faith to be challenged on why they may not be seeking secular success.
Matt said in the book that we as a Catholic family have lost the ability to laugh at ourselves because of the events of the past 10 years because that humor itself could be a really big tool as we evangelize others. He said we could call this period in Boston the humorous reconstruction.
Matt said his philosophy about sharing his faith is showing, not telling. Showing how he lives his life and how it works for him. The way he expresses it best is through the art of storytelling and he purposefully keeps them to two minutes to grab short attention spans. He said he kept the book short on purpose so it would be read by people who don’t have a lot of time.
Scot said the art of good storytelling helps people see the faith. He asked Matt what makes a good story? Matt said raw authenticity. He doesn’t pretend to be a theologian or biblical scholar, but he’s willing to share all elements of his faith and put his heart on his sleeve. This is living the faith and as close to how it happened. A good story is short, funny, and has some kind of call to action and inspires you to do more.
Fr. Mark talked about a story he read in an English newspaper about a church in which no one, especially young people, came to visit. But then a young couple started coming in regularly during the day and sitting in the same place. It turned out they were recharging their phones. He asked Matt what he would say to young adults about their faith. Matt said going to church at college, both Providence College and Boston College, was awesome and the priests there spoke to them directly about their own particular concerns. But when you leave these Catholic bubbles, you need to find a community again, a community to volunteer, to share, to bond with, to be part of. Matt said he spoke recently in Indianapolis at a parish doing doing beer and pizza nights on Saturday nights for them to come visit. Matt said the Church loses single people between 25 and 35. The Church almost doesn’t know what to do with them.
Scot said it’s the non-praying activities where we’re losing them because we don’t have the parish-centered Catholic culture like we used to have. He said there’s always joint expectations that don’t make sense. The Church thinks we need more Matt Webers doing all the work, but there’s a lot of 29-year-olds thinking why doesn’t that pastor serving every age group doesn’t do more. Everybody demographic thinks the Church could be doing more for them and because this group isn’t as needy (e.g. certain sacraments or other things from the pastor) as other groups, they get overlooked.
Matt spoke to people his age who are listening and told them to begin by thinking about prayer and think about how it connects with the faith they grew up in. He said he’d taken to heart the notion that he wasn’t supposed to talk about religion in public, but he found that if you bring up religion in your peer groups you’ll be surprised at what results. He found that once he told others he was Catholic, the other Catholics came out of the woodwork and non-Catholics were willing to talk about religion.
Scot said we’ve been bullied and we self-censor ourselves. He said if there’s a theme to the book it’s Matt becoming more comfortable being Catholic in public. Matt went from being a Harvard student who was Catholic to a Catholic studying at Harvard. That nuance in his identity brought about big changes. Matt said he went to Harvard’s Graduate School of Education because he wanted to eventually work for Sesame Street. But he started to ask himself about his mission in life and became mission-oriented and religious literacy became very important to him. Scot said it’s neat that Harvard was open to allowing him to pursue this identity-driven mission. Matt said Harvard has come a long way from its anti-Catholic roots, but society in general has become indifferent to all religion.
Fr. Mark said the book is excellent and would make a great Christmas present, especially for young adults. He asked Matt about a 22-year-old who had a wonderful experience of campus ministry and goes back to their parish. Do they try to start a young adult ministry or do they find another parish. Matt said they should take a wait and see attitude, think about why young Catholics aren’t coming. Are they going to a nearby parish? Matt talked about a story in his book about a new priest who came to his family’s parish and how his family sized him up on what kind of priest he would be, with all the funny criteria they use to judge.
3rd segment: Scot said one of the chapters he liked was the one about sleeping in and not going to Mass and instead going to a Brazilian Portuguese Mass nearby. He related what it was like to go to a Mass he didn’t understand the language, but how rich and experience it was. Matt said the Church is a big tent and whatever the language it is the same zeal of the people, the same sacrament of Christ, and the same ritual. He got so much more out of the experience than he’d had in his own language. He’d had the same experience while living for time in Poland. Fr. Mark said you experience the universality of the Church so much in Rome. Matt said he went to Rome with his dad after graduation and he felt spiritually home there in St. Peter’s Square with all the different colors of clothing and skin and expressions of spirituality and faith.
Scot said many young people say they’re spiritual but not religious. Matt says being religious is just as cool as being spiritual. He said they throw the baby out with the bathwater. People think Catholic guilt follows you everywhere and there’s so much you can’t do. But what about all the good stuff, like feeling awesome after confession or being able to receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ everyday. The news doesn’t report planes that land, but planes that crash and this book is a report of a nonstop flight cross-country in which there’s no turbulence, great legroom and free drinks.
Matt said writing everything down was for him about why his faith is important was a massive introspection on his life and everything he’s done. He suggests people can do a little version of that in reflecting on their own faith and life. Matt said he was nervous about all he shared, but decided to put everything out there. Hopefully in all that authenticity there will be something for people to relate to. Many of his non-Catholic friends found the book meaningful.
Matt said one thing he would change would be the crazy suit he wore on the cover. It came from a gift of clothes given to him by a pair of octogenarian twins from church who decided Matt was the same size as their deceased brother.
Scot said this book can help the reader to share the every day stories of the faith to invite others to reflect more on their faith. Matt said parishes and other groups will invite him to come in and talk about his book and then lead a discussion about living the Catholic faith today. Contact him via his website.
4th segment: Now as we do every week at this time, we will consider the Mass readings for this Sunday, specifically the Gospel reading.
- First Reading for the First Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2012 (Jeremiah 33:14-16)
The days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will fulfill the promise
I made to the house of Israel and Judah.
In those days, in that time,
I will raise up for David a just shoot ;
he shall do what is right and just in the land.
In those days Judah shall be safe
and Jerusalem shall dwell secure;
this is what they shall call her:
“The LORD our justice.”
- Gospel for the First Sunday of Advent, December 2, 2012 (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars,
and on earth nations will be in dismay,
perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.
People will die of fright
in anticipation of what is coming upon the world,
for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
And then they will see the Son of Man
coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
But when these signs begin to happen,
stand erect and raise your heads
because your redemption is at hand.
“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy
from carousing and drunkenness
and the anxieties of daily life,
and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.
For that day will assault everyone
who lives on the face of the earth.
Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength
to escape the tribulations that are imminent
and to stand before the Son of Man.”
Scot said Advent means “coming.” There is the coming of Christ in Bethlehem, the second coming is the one at the end of time, and the third is Christ coming into our hearts. We hope when Christ comes, we are ready. Matt said Advent is his favorite time of the year and getting ready for the birth of Christ. Scot said it strikes him that Advent begins with the Second Coming, not the infancy narratives. Fr. Mark said the message of the Gospel is similar to Matt’s message: pay attention to the things around you, be strong in your faith because God is with you.
Scot said the greatest story ever told is the God sending his Son to the people who have been waiting thousands of years. God fulfills his promises. It’s important as Advent prepares us to focus on what’s most important about the Christmas story. Matt said the image of the newborn Jesus and how he went through so much that we go through in our lives. We are all connected in our humanity through Jesus in his humanity.
Scot said this is a good time during the Church’s new year to make some spiritual resolutions in our lives, like a regular prayer life, praying as a family, going to daily Mass, or whatever it is that will help us to go deeper.