After being raised in an atheist household, Jennifer converted to Catholicism five years ago. She's since become one of the Church's most eloquent evangelists and has shared her profound spiritual insights with thousands of people.
I recently sat down with Jennifer to discuss several topics including atheism, writing, blogging, and books.
Watch or download our interview below:
(And sorry for the occasional video hiccup! Our Skype connection dipped in and out a couple times during the chat.)
Download the mp3 here (11 minutes)
1:26- What advice do you have for people with atheist loved ones?
2:23 - Atheist conversions are not always intellectual
3:28 - What's the secret to writing so much?
3:57 - Three keys to writing more often
5:11 - What advice would you give to a beginning blogger?
5:29 - Two tips for successful blogging
6:58 - What are your top three life-changing books?
9:27 - Word association: scorpions
Here are the books mentioned during our interview:
- Jennifer's forthcoming memoir
- The Church and New Media by Brandon Vogt
- He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek
- Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To by Anthony DeStefano
- The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield
Q: What advice would you give to a mother whose son has embraced atheism?
That's a great question and I hear that question all the time. Every time I give a talk I hear tons of stories like this and so I know it's a big problem. I think the biggest thing I say to people in this situation is to not fall into the mindset that atheism is all about intellectual arguments, that these conversions—or de-conversions, in many cases—are always intellectual........The intellectual arguments are a much smaller part of it than we think they are, and the heart is involved much more than it seems on the surface.
Be sure to follower Jennifer through ConversionDiary.com, her blog at the National Catholic Register, and her pithy updates on Twitter.
If you liked this interview, check out my other discussions with people like Hallie Lord, Dawn Eden, Christopher West, Marc Barnes, and more. And be sure you don't miss future interviews by subscribing to The Thin Veil via feed reader or email.
What's your favorite part about Jennifer's writing?
What if your pastor stood up next Sunday and said he wanted to double the size of the parish within one year? That's exactly what happened at Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian Catholic parish in Washington DC, a predominantly African-American parish. Monsignor Charles Pope made that bold challenge last September and then got to work.
He trained forty parishioners to evangelize door-to-door, had another forty stay at the church and pray, and then asked forty more to cook meals for everyone upon their return. The whole program was a success. They visited more than 1,500 homes and drew many people back to the church.
Msgr. Pope is known for more than his parish work, though. His popular blog at the Archdiocese of Washington website is read across the world and his dynamic preaching inspires countless others.
Msgr. Pope recently sat down with me to talk about blogging, preaching, evangelization, and the unique experiences of serving in an African-American Catholic parish. Watch, stream, or download the interview below:
0:57 - As a priest, why is blogging so valuable?
2:05 - The main advantages of blogging
3:07 - Prayer and liturgical life in African-American communities
4:14 - Preaching in an African-American parish
6:15 - What advice would you give to homilists and speakers?
8:31 - Practical preaching and evangelizing
11:13 - How can parishes become more evangelistic?
13:45 - Obedience to Christ
Q: Why is blogging so valuable?
The main advantage is that people speak candidly. They share ideas. They feel free to share conversations among themselves and me. Of course the downside is that people can get a little harsh when we're not actually in person with somebody, and they sometimes write things that are harsh or more critical than necessary. But even that is rare.
Q: What is preaching like in an African-American Catholic community?
In the African-American tradition, a lot is expected from the preacher and that's really helped me grow in my preaching skills....The people show up on Sunday morning and I tell you what: they expect something to happen. They expect the Holy Spirit to show up. And sure enough he always does....Also, I'm never preaching alone. In the black tradition of preaching there's what's called "call and response". It's a really active participation by the folks in the congregation. Certainly I take the lead, but they're shouting out "Amens" or affirmations or head bows or the hands go up. There's a real interaction which assists me in knowing that I'm reaching or connecting.
"One great tragedy is how little many Catholics expect of their faith--and from their relationship with Jesus Christ...Many people put more faith in Tylenol than they do in the Eucharist." - Msgr. Charles Pope
UPDATE: John Norton, Editor at Our Sunday Visitor, shared some of his own reflections on Msgr. Pope's bold evangelistic efforts. Read them here!
Be sure to follow Msgr. Pope through the Archdiocese of Washington blog.
How do you think Catholics can become better evangelists?
If you aren't reading Seth Godin on a regular basis, you're really missing out. Seth is the quintessential guru. He has a personal blog, and writes over at The Domino Project, where every day he offers pithy insights on writing, art, marketing, and eBooks.
Seth likes to subvert conventional wisdom--like the belief that giving your product away is a bad move--which helps you to see the world through a new lens. His thoughts on "tribes", the pricing of eBooks, and viral marketing are truly paradigmatic. The best way to understand Seth is this: while some writers think outside the box, Seth asks, "what box?"
Today, he turns that whimsical worldview to publishing. His article titled "Advice for Authors" is interesting in and of itself, but it's especially helpful if you're thinking about writing a book. The self-publishing revolution is making that easier every day so take heed:
"I get a fair number of notes from well respected, intelligent people who are embarking on their first non-fiction book project. They tend to ask very similar questions, so I thought I’d go ahead and put down my five big ideas in one place to make it easier for everyone.
I guarantee you that you won’t agree with all of them, but, as they say, your mileage my vary.
1. Please understand that book publishing is an organized hobby, not a business.
The return on equity and return on time for authors and for publishers is horrendous. If you’re doing it for the money, you’re going to be disappointed.
On the other hand, a book gives you leverage to spread an idea and a brand far and wide. There’s a worldview that’s quite common that says that people who write books know what they are talking about and that a book confers some sort of authority.
2. The timeframe for the launch of books has gone from silly to unrealistic.
When the world moved more slowly, waiting more than a year for a book to come out was not great, but tolerable. Today, even though all other media has accelerated rapidly, books still take a year or more. You need to consider what the shelf life of your idea is."
Here are two new blogs that I've been reading with excited regularity (I've also listed some of my favorite posts on each):
The Journey: Almost Not Catholic (Brent Stubbs) - Brent's a fellow convert to Catholicism and uses his blog to share the reasons why he's Catholic. I recently had dinner with Brent and he was just as brilliant, funny, and enthusiastic as he is in the blogosphere. Besides working on a new book of edgy apologetics geared toward secular young adults, Brent is also scheduled to appear on EWTN's Journey Home television show in August.
- "The Assumption in the Bible"
- "Confession in the Bible: Four Replies to Four Theories"
- "Reason #5171 Why I'm Catholic"
- "The Saints and Church History"
The Catholic UNapologist (Patrick Vandapool) - Patrick's writings are in the same mold as those of another favorite writer of mine, Marc Barnes. Patrick is edgy, articulate, witty, and admirably Chestertonian. And the graphics on his blog are flat-out hilarious.
- "They Want to Eat Your Brains"
- "Icky Docetistic Residue"
- "How to Convert a Catholic to TRUE Christianity"
- "If They Didn't Love Us, They Wouldn't Hate Us"