This Year's Book on Catholic Blogs

Just thought some readers might want to know, this is the Golden Jubilee of this column – number 50!

The 2005 Catholic Blog Awards at cybercatholics.com/cba2005 probably doesn’t list your blog. Why? Because it has only 60 Nominees. You probably didn’t even know it existed, until now. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get in the running next year. Nominations for next years awards will be between January 30th and February 3rd, 2006. Voting will be held the week of February 6th to February 10th, 2006. I might even enter "A Monk’s Letter" blog at http://brothercraig.tblog.com by Brother Craig here at the monastery to see how he does!

This year there were 19 different blog categories such as "Most Informative Blog," "Most Humorous Blog," etc. It was hosted by CyberCatholics.com, a site created by Joshua LeBlanc and Chris Decker on December 8th, 2000 while they were studying in the seminary together. Their mission was to put into practice the call of Pope John Paul II to a new evangelization and they decided to use the Internet to do it.

Now I know some of you have no idea about what a blog is all about. That is because according to a January blog study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project (a non-profit initiative to examine the social impact of the Internet), 62% of online Americans do not know what a blog is. It is essentially a web-based diary. Unlike the hidden diaries of old, these diaries can be read by anyone. And people can make comments about a particular entry in one’s diary.

In spite of the online majority being ignorant of blogs, blog readership shot up by 58% in 2004 to bring the total blog readers to 32 million. Much of the attention to blogs in 2004 focused on those that covered political campaigns and media. So at least some of the blog readership growth is attributable to political blogs. 12% of these readers have posted comments or other material on blogs. 7% of U.S. adults have created a blog – that’s 8 million people! But what type of people have done this: young, male, well educated, middle class, broadband Internet veterans. Blog readers tend to be a little more mainstream than blog creators.

Weblogs Inc. founder Jason McCabe Calacanis says that only approximately 1% or 1 million blogs are updated regularly. This means that the vast majority of them are dead. Brother Craig here at the monastery started "A Monk’s Letter" blog on the free service tBlog at tblog.com. At first he did post blogs regularly but then got busy with other things and since then hasn’t paid much attention to it. He does hope to get back to it. This maybe a similar experience of other blog creators. Also, some blogs revolve around hot topics of the day. Once those topics pass out of the mainstream media, the blog interest dies as well. CyberCatholics.com offers free blogs to priests, religious and seminarians. If you want to start a blog you can find both free and paid hosting services at lights.com/weblogs/hosting.html with a description of the hosting service.

Going back to our 2005 Catholic Blog Award sites, A Saintly Salmagundi: Various ruminations on Catholicism, satire, esoterica, hagiography, nuttiness, culture, etc. by Fr. Bryce Sibley at http://britius.stblogs.org was top of the blog chart in 4 categories. They are: Most Humorous, Most Bizarre, Best Blog by a Man, Best Blog by a Priest or Religious. He also came in second for the Best Overall Blog. Fr. Bryce graduated from the North American College in Rome and was ordained to the priesthood in 2000. He is currently the pastor of St. Joseph Church in the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana. From looking at his archive list, Fr. Bryce has been doing his blog since February of 2003. In looking at a couple of days of recent posts by Fr. Bryce, his blog mostly consists of his opinion on recent events in Catholic news. However, he also gives some reflections on Catholic topics. For instance, he has a series of reflections on the Holy Eucharist. He updates his blog sometimes daily, sometimes every other day.

The runner up blog in the 2005 Catholic Blog Awards with 3 first place awards, Most Informative Blog, Best Overall Blog and Best Blog by a Woman, is "Open Book" by Amy Welborn at http://amywelborn.typepad.com. In the "About Amy Welborn" section of her blog she has a humorous quote describing herself, "She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick." If reminds me of a statement made by a priest in a homily I heard, "I want to be a martyr but I don’t want to go through the martyrdom!" So who is Amy Welborn? She is married with 3 boys and a girl living in northern Indiana and is the same age as me. She has a B.A. in honors history and an M.A. in Church history. She has taught theology in Catholic high schools in Virginia and Florida, was a Director of Religious Education in a parish for four years, and has been writing for the Catholic press on and off for the past eleven years and published some books. Amy tells us why she chose "Open Book" for the title of her blog, "Because with a blog, that’s where your life is. Because we’re surrounded by them here: both those we’re reading and those we’re writing. Because of the one open Book that roots me." Amy updates her blog daily. According to her archives, she has been blogging since May, 2004. Amy posts and reacts to various news items and articles of interest to Catholics.

Like message boards and chat areas, Catholic bloggers will probably want to screen those commenting on their blog. Amy reminds her commentors on February 15, 2005 about what type of behavior will get them banned from posting comments: abuse of other commentors, meaningless trollisms, and overly aggressive posters (one individual commented on her blogs on average 50 times a day!) And, of course, Amy was accused of only allowing posters who agree with her. She sites several examples to show this is not true. Having a diary that is an "Open Book" does have some drawbacks…

Since March is a month dedicated to St. Joseph I would like to see what we can find out on the web about this hidden but great Saint.

Certainly the place to start is to read Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation "On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church" at vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_15081989_redemptoris-custos_en.html.

During the month of St. Joseph it would be good to pray a Novena of St. Joseph. Another popular devotion is called the Seven Joys and Sorrows of St. Joseph. The Oblates of St. Joseph have these prayers and others. They also tell you about St. Joseph in Scripture, in the Liturgy, in Apocrypha, in Magisterial Teachings, in the Church Fathers and in Art at osjoseph.org/stjoseph/.

"Women for Faith & Family" have a St. Joseph prayers and devotions page at wf-f.org/stjoseph.html. You might want to check out their "Family activities for Saint Joseph’s Day." Perhaps you might be interested in making "Saint Joseph’s Rice Fritters!"

The Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico has a spiral staircase in it that seems to have been built by St. Joseph himself. Don’t believe me? See the pictures and read the story at newmexicoet.com/loretto_chapel_photos.htm.

St. Joseph is the Patron of a Happy Death. Blessed Louis Guanella began the Pious Union of St. Joseph. To become a member, one only needs to pray daily for the dying. The Pious Union recommends the following prayer: "O St. Joseph, foster Father of Jesus Christ and true spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, pray for us and for the dying of this day (night)." You can learn more about the Pious Union and their bimonthly publication at piousunionofstjoseph.org.

St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal in Montreal, Canada is the largest shrine dedicated to St. Joseph in the world! Blessed Brother André Bessette, a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, had a great devotion to St. Joseph – and look what came of it! Learn more about this Brother and the Shrine at saint-joseph.org.

Brother John Raymond welcomes
e-mail at john@aplusconsultingnow.com.

He is author of Catholics on the Internet: 2000-2001,
Webmaster of www.monkofadoration.org