In the March 2nd issue of America Magazine, Jim McDermott wrote a piece on podcasts, marveling at the success of podcasts like Serial and StartUp. Looking at these phenomena, he wrote “they reveal the great potential of podcasts to tell stories that are deep and meaty, individual and profound. That potential should make us Catholics take note.” Indeed, many Catholics have taken note, producing excellent and interesting podcasts that are worth your time. With all the time I spend commuting, I listen to a lot of spiritually enriching shows.
Are you trying to get into the world of podcasts to see what’s out there? Are you interested in podcasts that have a Catholic connection? Then here I offer, more or less in order but with no claim to scientific or other forms of objectivity, seven podcasts I recommend considering (along with some specific episode recommendations). My criteria were pretty simple: all of these are available through iTunes, which is the most comprehensive podcast service, and all feature Catholics speaking about faith, spirituality, and religion (although for a few of them, the host and/or guests are not always Catholic).
Without question I think this is currently the best Catholic podcast out there. Produced weekly by Professors John J. O’Keefe and Wendy M. Wright of Creighton University, Catholic Comments episodes run 15-20 minutes in length and consistently feature interesting interviews with academics, ministers, artists, missionaries, and many others. The conversation is accessible and insightful, and I have learned a great deal from listening. Moreover, their almost ten year backlog of episodes is rich in topics ranging from the liturgy of the hours to Jesuit Refugee Services, the Da Vinci Code to the martyrdom of Oscar Romero.
They Lived in Hovels but Built Cathedrals: the Construction of the Cathedral of Milan (12/8/14)
Thomas O’Meara on Vatican II (12/31/12)
Archbishop Oscar Romero: A Disciple Who Revealed the Glory of God (9/24/12)
Any episode featuring Eileen Burke Sullivan as the guest
If you’re interested in spiritually insightful podcasts, you probably already listen to On Being. Hosted by Peabody Award winner Krista Tippett, the podcast aims to “open up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live?” The interviewees include theologians and ministers, but also politicians, scientists, musicians, and people from all walks of life. The hour long episodes featured in depth conversations about the interviewees spiritual background and how that may have influenced their life’s work. Tippett is an immensely insightful conversationalist, and I have been deeply enriched by the wide variety of conversations to which this podcast has made me privy.
God in All Things
Created by former Jesuit Andy Otto, God in All Things is a wonderful way to learn about Ignatian spirituality. Produced weekly, most episodes are 4-8 minute meditations that endeavor to help the listener find the presence of God in one’s everyday life. The podcast also occasionally runs reflection series, including the recent “Purple Rain” series this past Lent, “Discerning Advent” last December, and last summer’s 10 week “Desires of the Heart” series on introducing Ignatian spirituality. Through its mixture of spoken word, music, and sound effects, this podcast has frequently provided a nice meditative moment during my commute to work.
The Church in the 21st Century Center
As a graduate of Boston College’s graduate program in theology, I have seen firsthand many of the excellent programs the C21 Center puts on. After I moved to Florida, I was grateful that so many of these programs were available in podcast form. The episodes vary widely in format, including the “Agape Latte” presentations that are oriented towards undergraduate students as well as the major speakers (like Cardinal Kasper) who come to campus for talks.
Agape Latte: Blessed. Broken. Shared. [featuring Margaret Nuzzolese] (2/11/15)
The Poor: What Did Jesus Preach? What Does the Church Teach? [featuring Fr. Kenneth Himes] (9/23/14)
The Message of Mercy and Its Importance Today [featuring Cardinal Kasper] (5/1/14)
“Astonished by Love: Storytelling and the Sacramental Imagination [featuring Alice McDermott] (4/30/14)
Women in Preaching
With the stated goal of bringing forward the best sermons “by women, for everyone,” Women in Preaching features an ecumenical roster of women following the revised common lectionary. Episodes run a variety of lengths, with each one including a sermon on that weekend’s readings. More recent episodes have also included interviews with the preachers, focusing on questions about their experiences as women in ministry and their process of crafting a sermon. Additionally, the website features transcripts of the sermons on the podcast. Several of the regular preachers are Catholic women who rarely have other opportunities to preach. For myself, I have found their perspectives deeply enriching, and recommend this to anyone who is interested in hearing high quality preaching.
Episode 20: Annie Selak on John 3:16 (3/14/15)
Episode 5: Rosemary Othmer Pesko for November 2, 2014 on Psalm 23 (11/1/14)
Episode 4: Paige Cargioli for Oct 26, 2014 on Matt 22:34-46 (10/21/14)
God and the Quad
Based at Brescia University in Owensboro, KY, God and the Quad features Professor Stuart Squires interviewing his undergraduate students about their experiences of religion in college. The conversations look at the students’ spiritual backgrounds, their religious practices, how their college classes and community have shaped their experience of being religious, and their understanding of vocation. The podcast often does an insightful job of precisely what Jim McDermott asked for: providing meaty, in depth looks at stories of faith. That the subjects of the conversation are college age students makes it especially interesting for those of us teaching this generation.
Patrick Clouse (3/19/15)
Logan Cecil (1/21/15)
Kelsey Fox (1/17/15)
The America Magazine Podcast
This podcast has gone through a few different iterations in the last few years. As America Magazine has morphed into American Media, the production quality on their podcast has certainly improved (due to the relationship with the Catholic Channel on Sirius/XM). Most of their recent episodes are excerpted from the longer weekly show on Sirius/XM; these episodes are hosted by Kerry Weber and Fr. Matt Malone. These episodes often feature really excellent guests, but they are taken from a live radio show, meaning the podcast also features audience members calling in. What is particularly frustrating about these episodes is that sometimes the beginning of the Sirius/XM episode has been cut off, meaning we join the podcast in progress. As a result, these episodes (all marked “America This Week”) often feel unnecessarily disjoint. Episodes not featuring “America This Week” in the title are recorded outside of the Sirius/XM show, and often feel much more like complete podcast episodes.
The Ethics of Water – America This Week [featuring Christiana Peppard] (2/12/15)
Romero as Martyr – America This Week [featuring Kevin Clarke] (1/14/15)
Spiritual Genius of Saint Francis (12/17/14)
Do you have any favorite Catholic podcasts? Other episodes of the podcasts listed here that you would recommend? Let me know in the comments below!
BONUS: SPOILER EDITION
While some of my podcast research comes out of my regular commuting, it also served a deeper purpose of teaching me about podcasting. And one of the fruits of that research is Daily Theology is launching its own podcast next week! The Daily Theology Podcast will endeavor to feature regular conversations with theologians about the craft and vocation of theology. We hope you will give it a listen and give us feedback on what you think!
Full disclosure: Paige Cargioli, who produces the Women in Preaching podcast, is my wife.