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Some Decent (and free) Theology Sources for People on the Go


No time to read Summa Theologica? Having a tough time refreshing your spiritual life with new material? Bored, Catholic, and in front of a computer? Tired of this election season and looking for a way to help yourself escape for a while? Starving for some good thought-provoking material that also revitalizes the soul? Well, it is a good thing you found this post because I have got some ideas for you! Audiobooks, podcasts, articles, etc about all things good and Catholic? You name it, I've found a free (and legal) way of getting them!

I'll start with my favorite New Evangelization heavy-hitter...


I cannot say enough great things about Bishop Barron. I have an intellectual crush on him and when I was fortunate enough to meet him last year, I could not contain myself. I fangirled to the point of embarrassment as I heaped on the praise for his work, which was incredibly useful in terms of lunchroom apologetics and enabling me to make sense of the tough theological questions I've encountered over the years. Bishop Barron explains everything eloquently from a Catholic as well as secular perspective manner. He gives you the history, the science, the biography, word origins, etc. whenever he explains scripture and can pack a lot of information into a 15-minute Word on Fire podcast. His homilies are definitely worth more investigation if you haven't yet become a Barronite Catholic. There's also videos, lectures, podcasts, and a lot of other good stuff. 
One of my favorite theologians of all time.

The New York Public Library (or your own public library)

I love the library and consider libraries to be one of the pillars of a good society. An informed and educated population is a good population and one that is less likely to be taken advantage of and less likely to be swayed by yellow journalism parading as fact (*cough* aka most of mainstream media during election years *cough*). I am a huge proponent of audiobooks and have downloaded many over the years and they have been instrumental in refreshing my brain when it was drowning in monotonous tasks and endless scientific journal articles over the years. Libraries also have digital books that you can easily transfer to an e-reader or phone. In my experience, the selection of Catholic books tends to be limited. However, I have managed to read/listen to the books of the Bible as well as works by Pope Francis, Scott Hahn, C.S. Lewis, G.K.Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and quite a few others over the years. And one great thing about libraries is that they save you a small fortune if you, like me, love audiobooks. Holy moly, audiobooks can be expensive!

Librivox is a great resource for free public domain audiobooks. This site is a labor of love, where volunteers record and upload public domain books that you can then download and listen to at your leisure.What kinds of books can you find here? Well, one that comes to mind is George MacDonald's Phantastes. I don't think George MacDonald can ever get enough credit for influencing greats such as C.S.Lewis or Tolkien...and his writing is wonderful. You can also find G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown series among many, many others. Seriously, if you ever get bored, just start searching for classics. The two caveats I have with this particular source is that available works are limited to older material with expired copyrights (alas, very little to no works by Tolkien or C.S. Lewis) and that some audiobook narrators aren't that great (all respect to them for their pro bono work, but some voices/breathing patterns/etc. just make it difficult for me to listen to some files). There are some duplicate recordings up if you don't like the way a particular audiobook rendition sounds, but I wouldn't bank on it for every work you may want to read.

Facebook

If you haven't already started following me on Facebook, here's your chance to like. Shameless plug aside, Facebook has been a great source for me in my efforts to stay up to date on all things good and Catholic. I follow a number of Catholic writers, blogs, missions, orders, religious figures, etc. on Facebook and it is refreshing to see their posts among the countless tirades for or against *enter candidate/party/cause here*. I also get to stay up to date on events going on elsewhere in the world. More importantly, if you follow the right people and groups, you can sometimes get your Catholic news before the networks get to it. That being said, you can actually read transcripts of Pope Francis's in-flight interviews before the networks put a spin on them. I can't really list all my favorites, but can give you a few good wild cards to follow such as Catholic Engineers, The American Chesterton Society, and The Catholic Gentleman

I know you've probably found some of these sources yourself before, but consider taking a look at anything I've mentioned that you haven't yet explored in depth. With a bit of time and effort, you can find something for your brain (and soul) to nibble on as you wait in traffic, enjoy some quiet time, walk you dog, jog at the gym...and keep yourself from drowning in what has to be one of the worst election seasons I've ever experience. Oy Vey. November 8th cannot come and go soon enough. 

Pax Vobiscum

The Path to Vocation

Years ago, I had a conversation with the Fool in which we discussed our vocation. She described the path she had been put on and was able to identify the moments in her life that formed her and set her off on the direction of her vocation. At the time I was having this conversation I was in the middle of the PhD years, a dark and dreary 6-year period full of brains, bouts of impostor syndrome, and endless hours working on a project that appeared to have no end in sight. I thought about her words as I wondered how much of my time was actually being invested towards some kind of vocation. I mean, how can slicing hundreds of brains (at 3-5 hours per brain) contribute towards any kind of spiritual growth?

Since depositing my dissertation last month and accepting a job offer, I've had quite a bit of time to think in the last few weeks. I've also had time to read some of the books I've kept putting off, waiting for the day when I would have time to read them. One of these books, a very quick and beautiful read, is Gift and Mystery by Saint John Paul the Great. In this book, he discusses the events that influenced the maturation of his vocation for the priesthood. The stone quarry and the water purification facility are mentioned as two seminaries. He even goes so far as to clarify that these were not pre-seminaries, but true seminaries where his decision to enter the priesthood matured and where he learned the value of work and the dignity of physical laborers who were used to heavy work. He grew to understand their living situations and worth, remembering their needs and value later as a priest, Bishop, and even as Pope.

He talked about the "deep but quiet religiosity" of these workers and "their great wisdom of life." I could not help but recall the faith of my own parents, two blue collar workers that somehow instilled the faith in children in their own humble, quiet way. Their faith was present in every pain they felt as a result of long hours in construction or in the assembly line. Their faith was present as they shared their faith with coworkers who, in turn, shared their own faiths. My mom brought God's love to coworkers who struggled as she did, but faced struggles that she herself was fortunate enough to not experience. Then there's my dad who, as a construction worker, spent long days on his own meditating on matters of the faith as he waited for concrete to harden. This same man, a construction worker, was more than happy to discuss matters of the faith over lunch with friends, family, and any Jehovah's witness who had the good fortune to knock on our door as our family sat down for lunch. My parents were not priests, but their deep but quiet religiosity did enable them to evangelize (sans theology degree) and effectively bring God's love to others.

From what I've read in St. JPII's memoir, people like my parents appear to have influenced this Catholic great. Hard-working (and most likely poor) people showed him a culture of kindness, friendship, and faith that shaped him and ultimately allowed his vocation for priesthood to mature. The ability of Saint John Paul the Great to learn the unique needs of these hardworking people of faith certainly influenced his life as a priest and, in turn, influenced his role as the successor of Peter. I can't even begin to imagine how many programs, words, conversions, and missions were ultimately influenced by the years St. JPII spent as a laborer and the relationships he had with fellow laborers.

Saint Lucy
(latest Saint to be drawn now that I am back in art mode)
During my time as a brain-slicing PhD student/peasant, I didn't get to see much daylight during my time in the lab. Even so, when I really think about it, I did have some very illuminating conversations with coworkers that were atheist, Muslim, agnostic, Jewish, you-name-it over the years. I may never know if these conversations had any long-reaching impact, but I am a firm believer in "the economy of Grace." At face value, I have learned some lessons from coworkers over the years (atheists especially) as to how I can be a better Catholic. I am nowhere near the great evangelist that St. Paul was, but hope that my words, actions, and examples, may have helped others in the formation of their own vocations. If not, I hope that I have at least had a positive influence in their lives and that the Holy Spirit has managed to find some use for me in these last 6 years as I soldiered on through one of the bleakest periods of my life.

Pax Vobiscum