The following is an excerpt from an address by Pope Benedict XVI to Catholic…
Untangling the Catholic Web
When I first discovered Catholic websites — a few years after converting — it was like a fire was ignited underneath me.
It didn’t take me long after that to jump in with both hands on my keyboard. I started blogging and, not long after, I began contributing to other sites. I found myself devouring the wisdom and insight, the humor and sorrow, and, best of all, the window into other Catholics’ lives. Thanks to the Catholic Internet, the fact that I literally live in the middle of a cornfield didn’t mean I was the only Catholic around.
Thanks to the Catholic world online, I could find other Catholics who not only shared my state in life, but also my enthusiasm for the Faith. It became a special kind of community.
Chances are you’re no stranger to the Internet and that you have some favorite Catholic sites, too. I’ve found, though, through my work both locally in our small parish — and through nationally speaking and writing — that many Catholics just don’t know what’s out there. The world of Catholic content on the Internet is an ocean, not a stream, and like the ocean, it has many hidden depths.
So let’s dive in, shall we?
Sarah Reinhard writes at SnoringScholar.com and is the author of “A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy” (Ava Maria Press, $14.95) and “Catholic Family Fun” (Pauline Books and Media, $11.95).
Indispensable Catholic Websites
There is no shortage of Catholic websites. In fact, even if you spent all day wading through just the Catholic Internet, you still couldn’t see it all. Part of that is due to the abundance of information out there, and part is due to the fact that in the last five years especially, more people, apostolates and organizations have taken the time to craft really great websites.
These websites are what I consider indispensable. Whether you’re looking for news or information about the Faith, trying to clarify what the Church teaches or to understand some difficult concept, these sites aren’t those you bookmark, they’re the ones you just know.
On the home page is a handy way to find all the recent writings, activity and news relating to Pope Francis. You can check out photos and follow his current and upcoming activities.
Do a bit more clicking and you can find just about any encyclical, papal writing or Church document you could want to read. The site’s been overhauled recently, and while it’s not perfect, it’s better than it was — and there’s no denying the usefulness and opportunity that’s here!
I once had a project where I had to dig through some of the content on the EWTN website. I thought it would be quickly done, but that’s because I vastly underestimated the amount of content that’s there.
Yes, there’s the media linkage you’d expect to the TV and radio programming and the tireless news work they conduct. But there also are subsites on faith that could take you the rest of the year to plumb, including devotions, a document library and a dozen mini-sites that are beautiful, educational and awesome.
They also have a subsite dedicated to kids, with games, prayers and TV programs.
This isn’t an optional site for me. It’s a bit of everything: the Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica in its complete text, writings of the Fathers of the Church, the Bible, a library of Church documents that still makes me swoon, and my favorite part, if I’m honest: content curation.
Kevin Knight, founder, editor and webmaster, must read faster than I can imagine, because every day there’s a collection of links from around the Internet (sometimes not just Catholic). There’s no doubt that Knight’s work at New Advent is having an impact in the here-and-now.
Have you ever wished you could look up a reference in the catechism or find all the places where a certain phrase was mentioned? Have you ever struggled to remember where you read something or wondered what the catechism has to say about a topic?
Go-To Catholic Sites
Though I like a good movie as much as the next gal, I’m not up on what’s hot and what’s not — or, more importantly, what’s good and what’s not. That’s where film critic Steven Greydanus comes in. Not only is he Catholic, but he must watch movies all day long. And then he writes about them, rates them and lets you know what he thinks. It’s a source I trust and a way to discover gems, too.
One of the first things I did when I got my iPod seven years ago was start subscribing to almost all of the shows available through the SQPN network. There are shows for everyone, they’re done professionally, and they’re all free. This remains one of the best resources I know of for Catholic content.
When it comes to “getting the best Catholic web address,” I think it’s safe to say Catholic Answers won. The founders of the site haven’t stopped just with a cool URL, though; they’re working tirelessly to help us all know how to explain and defend our faith by teaching usto better understand it.
In addition to news and commentary, you’ll find liturgical readings, links, history, resources and even reviews of Catholic websites. It’s a site well-done and one worth visiting often.
Staying on Top of the Catholic News
Finding out what’s going on in the Catholic world is sometimes a little tricky if you’re relying on mainstream media. Thankfully, Catholic news sources have jumped into the online world and are savvy, relevant and worth following.
The Vatican’s official news network.
This is compiled by the USCCB and is full of great links and information.
Not just news to read, there’s also video. You won’t be bored, and you don’t have to watch the video if you’re more inclined to read.
Opinions You Can Trust
Here a blog, there a blog, everywhere a blog … and yes, I’m guilty of blogging, too. (And no, I’m not listing mine.) There are far more blogs than there is space in my word count, and while I considered pitching a piece just on Catholic blogging, I can’t help but think that if you can only read five blogs, these are among the best.
Deacon Greg Kandra is a pro, and he saves me from having to read other sites. His blogging is equal parts interesting links and insightful commentary.
Jennifer Fulwiler writes about conversion, life with small children and, if the season’s right, scorpions. Her posts are always entertaining, unfailingly penetrating and usually worth sharing at least twice.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan blogs, and he blogs well. Reading his blog makes me appreciate the image of bishops as shepherds.
Susan Windley-Daoust has been making me laugh for years. She writes in her site description, “Think The Onion written by someone who loves the Catholic Church.”
Julie Davis has been blogging since the early days, and she’s as down-to-earth now as she was then. Her blogging includes links to other sites of interest, book reviews, movie comments and art. Yes, art. I visit her site often and always leave with a smile.
Apolo-What? Keep on Learning the Faith
Two-thousand years of information and history about the Catholic faith — how’s a person to keep up? Enter the fine folks who make teaching the rest of us their life’s work. They call it apologetics, and I’m glad they do it.
What’s not to love about Jimmy Akin? He wears a cowboy hat, has a beard and can explain the Faith in ways that even someone who’s slow to accept things can understand. (I speak of myself there.) He has weekly roundups, such as The Weekly Francis, as well as a Secret Information Club, which may be the most entertaining marketing scheme I’ve ever seen done so well.
This is aimed at a younger audience, but I think that just makes it more entertaining for the old fogies like me who follow along. If all you do is listen to the “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday” podcast or watch the “Beyond Words” video podcast, you’ll see what I mean. I’ve grown in my faith just from taking in Mark Hart’s reflections on the upcoming weekend readings. The teaching component of the content on the website is attractive and well done.
Founder Lisa Mladinich has pulled together two dozen catechists who post daily on topics of interest to parents and catechists and, really, anyone who wants to know their faith.
It’s all about Catholic education, from grade school to college and beyond. How do you apply Catholic principles to educational needs? Here’s a site to show you how it’s done.
A Bouqet of Good Faith Writing
These are the sites you can get lost in — I mean, for hours. You’ll get done reading one brilliant piece and notice another, then another …
There is no other one-stop-shop for Catholic blogs like what managing editor Elizabeth Scalia has put together in the Catholic Channel at Patheos. You have priests and religious sisters, moms and dads, commentators and newshounds, critics and world travelers, normal people and quirky writers. It’s truly a little bit of everything, and it’s a buffet of good writing.
Founded by Randy Hain and Deacon Mike Bickerstaff, this is an e-magazine that focuses on integrating faith, family and work. It features timely articles, quotes from the saints, questions and answers and blogs.
Not a dull moment here. It bills itself as “the social network of the New Evangelization Generation.” They’re on fire for their faith and that makes them fun to read — period.
This may be the only place you’ll find new Catholic poetry, though I haven’t researched that exhaustively. It’s hard to categorize how I feel about Catholic Lane: there’s plenty of news and commentary, but there’s also unique content from an interesting group of writers. I never get bored here.
It’s a lot of everything, from daily readings to saints of the day to apologetics. There’s a daily catechism feature, a variety of prayers and commentary.
“Take a stand,” urge the folks behind Catholic Stand. And the columns here do — without a doubt. This is reading that will make you think (and maybe squirm).
Spend Time with God in Prayer
A few of the sites I’ve listed already have great prayer resources. And, don’t get me wrong, I use them. These two sites, though, are unique in that their primary focus is prayer.
Aside from the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Church. On this site, you can opt to just read the prayers, or you can listen to the audio and follow along. It’s available free online and as a podcast. The apps associated with it are excellent and, while not free, are well worth the investment.
Not only is this a lovely website, but it’s also a complete prayer experience. You can select whether you want to pray in real time with a “worldwide rosary” or on your own. You can also share your intentions.
Fun for the Whole Family
Catholics are family-oriented, and I’d be remiss not to include sites that foster family life.
Founded by popular speaker and writer Lisa Hendey, the site is almost a portal of things Catholic. There are daily features such as Daily Gospel Reflections, Tech Talk and Book Notes. Each Sunday, there are new Gospel activities. Each week there’s a giveaway of great Catholic resources. There are book club discussions and posts, a weekly Small Success link-up for moms to encourage one another and at least a half-dozen new columns a day from various contributors.
“Catholic moms rock when it comes to building community. We men … not so good.” And according to their “about” page, that’s what Catholic Dads is out to do. The topics range from masculinity to finances and include reviews, family life and culture concerns.
Who said raising Catholic kids was boring? As someone who’s decidedly craft-challenged, I appreciate Lacy Rabideau’s sunny instructions and her plethora of ideas. She makes it easy to smile about sharing the Faith with my kids.
Some people, I have decided, must not sleep, and Monica McConkey is one of them. How else do you explain the way she transforms things like egg cartons into a liturgical feast day celebration centerpiece, complete with a prayer service and a pseudo-bingo game on top? Well, OK, I’m exaggerating, but only slightly. Equipping Catholic Families shares plenty of ways to involve your whole family in actively being Catholic.