I wish I could be present at the celebration of America Magazine’s 100th Anniversary tomorrow in New York.  It was about two years ago that I was invited to participate in the blog “The Good Word,” and I have enjoyed the opportunity that I was given by Tim Reidy and the magazine as a whole. I had wished to be a part of the celebration, but I am teaching this weekend for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. My wife would have preferred New York.  I have only a little history in the Catholic Church, 9 years to be exact, but I know that the Jesuits can cause consternation among some, mostly of my ilk, who would be described as “conservative” on many issues, though I prefer simply to be described as a “Christian.” This designation indicates to me the many ways in which those of us who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ continue to attempt to live out the Gospel by applying it to our daily lives and our culture. It is a part of a great mystery of being a follower of Jesus Christ.

In a different way, the Catholic Church was simply a mystery to me when I attended St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, as I soon became aware of groups, orders, and cultural and political divisions within the Church that made it even more, not less, mysterious to me.  When I became a student at McMaster University, I began to study with Ben F. Meyer, who was no longer a Jesuit, but who made me aware of the order, particularly through his faith, erudition and personal grace. It would be hard to find a better representative. So, when years later my wife and I entered the Church in Winnipeg, we did so at St. Ignatius Church, happily located two blocks from our home. It was a delight to walk to RCIA on Tuesday nights and be taught by Fr. Eric Jensen, S.J. I have only fondness for my personal encounters with the Jesuits.

I have even more now since I have been a contributor to the blog. Some of my friends avoid my entries at America because, well, because, it’s America Magazine. Yet, no one at America Magazine has said a word to me about a particular stance I should take on any issue or any passage. What has marked my time here has been trust, respect and kindness. There was no test of my religious or political bona fides, even though when I read political commentary at America Magazine my face sometimes blanches – I am so not on the Obama wagon (but I write for the “Good Word” so I will say nothing else) – yet what I like about this magazine is its genuine attempt to breach cultural and political divides with the Gospel truth. This attitude strikes me as Christian and as Catholic. I appreciate having an opportunity to participate in this ongoing conversation about making the faith of the Church real and present for readers. I appreciate America Magazine for walking the walk of reaching out to people of all sorts by giving me a voice in their online magazine. It has been a blast for me, and I hope I will continue to participate for many more years. Congratulations to America Magazine and all those associated with it on the first 100 years of making the Gospel known and loved. As for the next 100 years (and beyond), the First Reading for April 18, 2009, Saturday in the Octave of Easter, states,

So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4:18-20)

I know America Magazine will continue to make known the Gospel, “for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard”.

John W. Martens