September 10-16, 2006 Issue of National Catholic Register
Have you ever seen the vocations poster that asked, "What does a priest do the other six days of the week?"
The poster came with a hypothetical priest's weekly schedule that didn't, in my opinion, show much action. It contained fewer "things to do" in a week than my calendar shows in a day.
It certainly didn't reflect the life of my priest, who fields more phone calls and attends more meetings than the town mayor. But if priests do have that much free time, it's a good thing. In leisure, a person finds inspiration - and truth, goodness and beauty.
Given a little bit more leisure time, a priest might translate those things into dynamite homilies, good confessional advice, solid catechetical materials.
And great blog posts.
Many priests are indeed blogging. St. Blog's Parish Directory (stblogsparish.com) alone lists more than 70 blogs by clergy [Editor: now more than 190], alphabetically, from A to Z (Zadok the Roman - zadokromanus.blogspot.com).
Is it unbecoming for a priest to do something as mundane as blogging?
I don't think so. I think of their posts as printed homilies, just pithier. Besides, if Thomas Merton could take an oath of silence as a Trappist monk, then speak volumes (and volumes) through his books, why shouldn't a priest be allowed a little platform?
So which ones do I recommend? That's a tough one, but I've narrowed it down to my Top Ten.
A word of caution: This is just my opinion. Many intelligent people would disagree with my rankings or protest my omission of their favorites. Still, I am confident readers will enjoy a visit to all these priestly blogs:
10. The Orthometer, by Father Erik Richtsteig (orthometer.blogspot.com). I haven't frequented this one a lot, but Father Richtsteig adds fresh content regularly, he's humorous and, with a tagline like "Orthometer n. A device for determining orthodoxy," how could I leave him out of the Top Ten?
9. Shouts in the Piazza, by Father Guy Selvester (shoutsinthepiazza.blogspot.com). I like blogs that emphasize a niche, and this is one of them. If you want to know more about Catholic heraldry (ecclesiastical coats of arms and stuff), this is the site, but Father Selvester also writes engagingly on a variety of other subjects.
8. Thrown Back, by Father Rob Johansen (thrownback.blogspot.com). All right, I admit it: This is a "homer" pick. Father Johansen is (to my knowledge) the only priest blogger in my diocese. But I'm not the only one who thinks highly of him. In fact, during the Terri Schiavo scandal, he provided some of the best commentary and analysis in the blogosphere - as well as in more traditional media outlets. I would rank Father Johansen higher, but he simply doesn't add fresh content frequently enough. When he does, though, it's excellent.
7. Bonfire of the Vanities, by Father Martin Fox (frmartinfox.blogspot.com). This is a lesser-known blog, but I've been tracking it for a few months now. Readers will find daily updates on religious news and good commentary.
6. Father Jonathan Morris at Fox News (foxnews.com/index.html#blogs). This one would rank higher, but it's not really a blog. Fox News calls it a blog, but Legionary Father Jonathan is really a Fox News columnist, just one among many, and he writes twice a week. Still, it's worth a weekly visit.
5. Piece of the Puzzle, by "Father Joe" (fatherjoe.wordpress.com). One of the oldest blogs in the sphere, this one offers a legion of interesting links (including an army of clergy blog links), along with humor, pictures and lists of facts. A solid No. 5.
4. Roman Miscellany, by Father Nicholas Schofield (romanmiscellany.blogspot.com). This is my effort to be global. Father Schofield writes from London. I'm sure there are some good French and Italian priest bloggers, but the heck if I can read what they're writing. As for English-speaking bloggers, the vast bulk of them come from the United States, but Schofield represents the other side of the pond well.
3. Dappled Things, by Father Jim Tucker (donjim.blogspot.com). Many think Father Tucker should be Numero Uno. He, after all, won the 2006 Catholic Blog Award for Best Blog by a Priest or Religious. Readers will find an interesting and eclectic assortment of posts. If you like posts about music, Dappled Things is not to be missed.
2. What Does the Prayer Really Say?, by Father John Zuhlsdorf (wdtprs.com/blog). Michael Aquilina at The Way of the Fathers (fathersofthechurch.com) turned me on to Father Zuhlsdorf. It might be the most cerebral blog on this list, but it's not dull. Go here when you want intellectual stimulation. I have ranked him No. 2, even though he has been blogging less than a year. A blogger this good deserves encouragement.
1. Catholic Ragemonkey (ragemonkey.blogspot.com). Ragemonkey, featuring Father Shane Tharp and Father Stephen Hamilton, won the 2006 Catholic Blog Award for Best Group Blog, and deservedly so. Readers will find a mix of posts on different topics, plus the name "ragemonkey" (defined as "that voice that encourages and strengthens you to hold fast in the fight") is great.
Monthly Blog Pick
Ask a regular blogger about blog problems and he or she will mention the need to add fresh content regularly. Blogging studies show that a typical blog must be updated almost every day in order to attract meaningful traffic. That becomes a drain after a while.
But there's one guy who single-handedly maintains two blogs and adds fresh content regularly: Terrance Nelson. He's the man behind Abbey Roads (abbey-roads.blogspot.com) and Rome-ing Catholics (rome-ingcatholics.blogspot.com). He does a good job of keeping both current. I visit them almost every weekday, and I'm rarely disappointed for clicking over.
Abbey Roads is an eclectic blog. Readers will find posts on pop culture, socio-political affairs and church events, with commentary from a spiritual angle. Nelson says the topics range from priestly reprimands to "how young men can remain chaste in a sexualized culture, with a few oddball things thrown in, such as my stance on pregnant women who wear tight tops in public with their belly exposed."
I find Nelson's candor refreshing. I suspect most Register readers will, too.
Rome-ing Catholics is narrower. It focuses on saints, feast days and Catholic products. It's somewhat serious, but I appreciate its contemplative pace.
Until next month, may your mouse stay warm in the cool days of Autumn.
Eric Scheske blogs at The Daily Eudemon (ericscheske.com/blog).