Monsignor Charles Pope, a priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, had people on their feet Jan. 23 at the Rally for Life Mass inside the Verizon Center. His homily was a call to action for the estimated 17,000 teens who were ready to participate in the March for Life.

In case you missed it, here’s your chance to listen to his homily.

Ever since Mitt Romney ran to be the Republication nominee for U.S. President back in 2007 and 2008, people have been talking about whether his Mormon faith matters. Mormonism is a particular worry for Evangelical Christians, many of whom don’t believe that Mormonism is a Christian faith. It forced Romney to address his faith while on the campaign trail, including in this speech at the George H.W. Bush Library in Texas.

The issue of whether a presidential candidate’s faith matters has lingered for decades. When John F. Kennedy, a Catholic, became president, it was seen as a breakthrough for the mostly Protestant U.S. Now, the vice president is Catholic and both Rick Santorum, a Catholic, and Newt Gingrich, a convert to Catholicism, are in the running for the Republican nomination. Santorum even received support from evangelical leaders this week.

Romney’s faith has been danced around during this campaign, but was briefly the subject of debate when a prominent Evangelical minister and supporter of Texas Governor Rick Perry questioned Romney’s Christian credentials during late 2011.

While Romney was battling his own questions of faith in 2007 and 2008, current President Barack Obama faced relentless scrutiny from conservative pundits such as Sean Hannity, criticized then-candidate Obama’s longtime association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who made controversial comments about race and the U.S.

People began to wonder, and still do, if President Obama’s close friendship with Rev. Wright says something about his character.

Back to Romney.

Five U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican endorsed Romney this week, potentially putting aside some Catholic questions about a Mormon in the White House. Catholics, in practice, do not recognize a Mormon baptism.

“We the undersigned former U.S. Ambassadors to the Holy See — Thomas Melady, Ray Flynn, James Nicholson, Francis Rooney and Mary Ann Glendon — are united in our wholehearted support for the candidacy of Mitt Romney for the Presidency of the United States because of his commitment to and support of the values that we feel are critical in a national leader,” they wrote in a collective statement.

Continuing, they wrote: “Although our political affiliations are diverse, we recognize the importance of family and traditional values in American life. We also share the conviction that Governor Romney has the experience, vision and commitment to the common good that our country needs at this crucial moment in history.”

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ returned after his resurrection, this time to America. He preached, according to the Book of Mormon, to Native Americans long before missionaries came preaching Christianity. Those Native Americans were Nephites, who many Mormon scholars believe were descendants of people who had left Jerusalem.

This is the Book of Mormon’s account of Jesus’ appearance to them:

“Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14).

Most Christians across the world believe Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. Mormons believe that Jesus did come again already… to America.

And that, to me, is what’s interesting about Romney as a candidate.

A Mormon’s account of North American history is fundamentally different from that of most Christians, virtually every other faith and anyone else. In Mormon history, North America was the site of an appearance of Jesus Christ, which is no small thing. It differs from historians’ and archeologists’ own research.

Jesus came here to create his church and it was restored by, as Mormons see it, prophet Joseph Smith. America is an exceptional place because of this unique historical event, according to Mormons.

Of course, many people will point out that many Catholics in North America and beyond believe that the Blessed Virgin Mary has appeared in Mexico, Lourdes and Fatima. There are also several other unconfirmed sightings. That’s always worthy of discussion.

Romney isn’t running for Historian in Chief. He’s running to be President of the United States. The
land’s history is taught to children in classrooms across the country. Does it matter that Romney, as a Mormon, believes in a history that includes the assertion that Jesus Christ lived here and continued his teachings? That, without question, is different from the mainstream. Does he need to disavow it? No. Should he explain why these historical events are true if he believes them. Possibly.

Can a man be President of the United States if he views its history and origins vastly different than the average American? Again, it’s worthy of discussion.

During the Denver Broncos’ overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card game, Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards and a 31.6 yards per pass average.
Almost immediately, people went scrambling to post on Twitter and Facebook about how only Tebow could conjure the number that calls to mind Bible verse John 3:16.
For those unaware, the verse says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Ever since his college days, Tebow has been an outspoken proponent of his Christian faith. He has championed pro-life causes and told the story of how doctors recommended his mother abort him in the womb.
Some have derided him for his enthusiastic Christianity and “Tebowing” during games, saying he should cool it.
Even Jesus did in this Saturday Night Live skit a few weeks back.

Some of Tebow’s defenders say people are having a double standard and that athletes constantly “thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ” when they do something big in a game. As the SNL skit suggest, Jesus has been real busy helping people win football games for a couple of decades now.

And what if Tebow and the Broncos play the Ravens in the AFC Championship game? I’m not sure people are aware of it, but Baltimore is home to “God’s Linebacker,” Ray Lewis. Lewis is notorious, but rarely criticized, for invoking God as much as Tebow. When I was covering the Ravens for The Baltimore Examiner back in 2006 and 2007, Lewis would often make comments about God that kind of, sort of, made it sound like he knew God and the media didn’t. Often, we would bristle at his comments as we walked away from press conferences.

That’s Sports Illustrated’s Nov. 13, 2006 cover that examined how big of a role faith has played in Lewis’ life. Here’s how that story began.

The sinner is breaking a sweat now. He’s been telling his story for just over a minute, just enough time to start feeling it all again, and the reliving always brings rage. Called him liar, monster, abuser of women? Yes, the world did that. Called him killer? Yes, the world did, and does it still: He saw the poster in Cleveland in September, back of the end zone, with the drawing of a knife and the words asking how Ray Lewis can still be free. But here? Tonight? No. Or as he sometimes lets slip, “Hell, naw!” He’s got his people, a bobbing, loving, understanding sea of 2,000 black faces before him. He’s got his pastor, Jamal-Harrison Bryant, standing behind him, saying, “Talk, Ray, talk.” Tonight, indeed, Lewis has the Holy Spirit settling on him like never before. He grips the microphone in both hands, crouches ever so slightly, as if girding himself for the collision to come.

“God has done something in my life–and not just for me to see it,” Lewis says softly. Then his eyes flash, and he starts shouting, pointing. “God has done something in my life for ev-ery hat-er, ev-ery enemy…. ”

A noise–“whooooaaa!”–rises out of the rows at the Empowerment Temple in northwest Baltimore, like the roar of an ocean wave gathering itself to crest.

“… every person who said I wouldn’t walk or ever play again!”

Later, Lewis told the congregation about his struggles after being accused of murder in 2000. He went so far as to say he was “crucified.”

“The battle is: Am I O.K.?” Lewis is telling the crowd. “Even though I was persecuted, crucified…. Am I O.K.? Let me give you a quick read-back on me, Church. When I walk into another stadium, 52 other players walk in there with me, plus coaches–and all [the fans] do to them is boo.” He pauses, then grins. “Now, when Ray Lewis walks out there…” he says, but the whole room cuts in laughing, ready for the roundhouse to come. “Church? I’m going to tell you something about God, now…. When Mr. Lewis walks out, child, I hear everything from ‘Murderer,’ I hear everything from ‘N—–,’ I hear everything from ‘You shouldn’t be playing football!’ And when I break it all down, I know they’re talking about yesterday!”

Anyone’s that ever seen Ray Lewis’ entrance during home games at M&T Bank Stadium knows that it is electric.

One of the things that always fascinated me Lewis was that he was introduced in a special way in Baltimore. In those moments where he does that dance and the crowd goes wild, he’s as close to god-like as one professional athlete can be. Sports can do that. It can make you feel unstoppable.

With God at his side, Lewis does feel that way.

But, what happens if God’s co-pilot and God’s linebacker meet? Are they mere insignificant pawns in God’s interest in NFL football games? The reality is, each man might have God-given gifts, but neither wins because God wears blue and orange or purple and black. Although, you might get some disagreement from the people here in Baltimore.

I was over my in-laws house this past weekend when I saw a copy of Parade Magazine, which featured a cover story with Daniel Radcliffe, the utterly charming actor who grew up as the title character in the Harry Potter film series.
Radcliffe’s enthusiasm was infectious when he promoted the movies. It was a series that never got particularly religious, but would sprinkle aspects of Christianity throughout. Characters routinely celebrated Christmas, while Harry had a beloved godfather, Sirius Black.
But, faith has never been a big part of Radcliffe’s life, as you’ll see in the answer below to a question about it in the Parade profile. In fact, he says he doesn’t believe in God at all.

Parade: Your dad is a Protestant from Ulster and your mom is English and Jewish. Were you raised in a particular religion?
Radcliffe: “There was never [religious] faith in the house. I think of myself as being Jewish and Irish, despite the fact that I’m English. My dad believes in God, I think. I’m not sure if my mom does. I don’t. I have a problem with religion or anything that says, ‘We have all the answers,’ because there’s no such thing as ‘the answers.’ We’re complex. We change our minds on issues all the time. Religion leaves no room for human complexity.”

In some ways, you can’t blame the 20-something actor. He was raised without God and religion and, thus, has little understanding of those things. Religion, more than anything, ponders the complexity of life, rather than dismisses it. Religion’s question make us think about so many things bigger than ourselves. It’s disappointing to think that Radcliffe, appears as closed-minded as he makes religion sound.

For anyone who grew up during the late 1980s and early 1990s, it’s impossible to look at Oscar-nominated actor Mark Wahlberg and not think “Marky Mark.” It’s been a long, strange journey for Wahlberg, who was involved in drugs and violence as a teenager, became a rap sensation and then, oddly, one of Hollywood’s most popular actors.
He’s also a devout Catholic with a family he loves, according to this video interview with CBS. He also carries around a dictionary so he knows what the word “consubstantial” means.
It’s interesting to see an actor casually drop his Catholic knowledge and experience during a national interview. Even Marky Mark was impacted by the Missal translation changes.
In an interview with The Catholic Herald in 2010, Wahlberg offered this interesting insight into his life.

“Being a Catholic is the most important aspect of my life,” the A-list actor tells me firmly when we meet for tea in a posh hotel near his home in Beverly Hills. “The first thing I do when I start my day is, I get down on my hands and knees and give thanks to God. Whenever I go outside of my house, the first thing I do is stop at the church. The kids will be mad with me. ‘Daddy! It takes too long!’ I’m saying: ‘It’s only 10 minutes and this is something I really need to do.’ Because I do. If I can start my day out by saying my prayers and getting myself focused, then I know I’m doing the right thing. That 10 minutes helps me in every way throughout the day.”

Wahlberg stars in the R-rated “Contraband,” which opens in theaters this week.

Frequent Catholic Review photography contributor Bill McAllen contributed these two great videos from Aberdeen, which show the schoolchildren of St. Joan of Arc in Aberdeen celebrating the 600th birthday of St. Joan of Arc herself. Enjoy.

Yesterday I posted a video of Bonnie Block singing “O Holy Night” at the Camp GLOW Christmas party here in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The party was held for people with special needs in Maryland and was attended by more than 150 people. The people with special needs shared their love of music through Christmas songs. Here is just a taste of their joy. It puts the season in perspective.