Living a Life of Joyful Witness: An Interview with Editor and Syndicated Columnist Kathryn Lopez

This past fall, at the opening Mass of the Year of Faith in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI presented Kathryn Lopez with a message to women throughout the world.

This past fall, at the opening Mass of the Year of Faith in Rome,
Pope Benedict XVI presented Kathryn Lopez with a message to women throughout the world.

Over the last few years, I have had a few opportunities to interact with Kathryn Lopez as she has interviewed me about topics related to my books.  But the opinion I have formed about Kathryn is more heavily influenced by her outstanding writing and editing work for various publications and websites.  Kathryn is longtime editor and now editor-at-large of National Review Online and a nationally syndicated columnist who has been published by a wide variety of publications including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, First Things, the National Catholic Register, Patheos Catholic and Our Sunday Visitor. She is a director at Catholic Voices USA and speaks frequently on faith and public life on college campuses, and on radio and television.

As I read the daily input from this hard working journalist on issues important and relevant for all Catholics, I am drawn to her passion for truth.  She clearly loves Christ and our Catholic faith and is zealous about making sure the truth, and not the lies often spread by the mainstream media, is made available for discerning Catholics everywhere.

As she articulates in her answers to my questions, Kathryn believes all of us are called to give joyful witness and stand up for our faith.  We can no longer afford to be bystanders and a radical surrender to Christ from each of us is required.

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn, you are considered an authentic and candid Catholic voice in journalism.   Do you feel like a warrior on the front lines of the culture war?

“I certainly pray to be for real. Authenticity is the call of anyone claiming to be Christian. When we don’t seek always and unceasingly to live an integrated Catholic life of prayer and discipleship, we contribute to confusion and hurt and scandal and we help evil flourish. We’ve simply got to be honest, in what we do and say.”

“The warriors — in what is very much a spiritual battle for our minds and our souls as an individual and cultural matter — are every mother and father, every aunt and uncle, everyone who sacrifices and suffers to make sure that those who are most especially vulnerable in their lives, who they have a responsibility for and to, see that there is something better than what is much too often presented as the way to live. The front lines are schools and homes and bars and dorms and streets and hospitals.”

“In any writing and speaking I do, I hope to highlight some of the good out there, to let people know they are not alone in seeking the new counterculture: lives of joyful witness to the fullest freedom that is found in radical surrender to Christ.”

Where did your love of writing and reporting come from?  Is there a good story for our readers in this question?

“I would have never seen writing as a vocational option if I hadn’t started reading National Review in grade school. William F. Buckley Jr. was a relentless beacon of good writing and good sense. He surrounded himself by talent. And he was rigorous in his intellectual and spiritual pursuits. When he died, George Weigel, on NRO, called him one of the ‘top Catholic public intellectuals of the century.’ I don’t think people realized, even at the time, what a forum he gave to Catholic ideas, even as critiquing some choices a bishops’ conference might make here or there! It’s a real blessing to have spent some time with him in my early years at NR, and had some of my copy marked up by him!”

“I’m grateful for opportunities I have to communicate, and that gratitude increases as the world seems to get more uncertain and unfamiliar. People get encouraged, feel challenged, take action through stories and testimony, sometimes even when someone repeats herself week after week, trying to point to something good and beautiful.”

“The Holy Spirit is alive in us and that we have a responsibility to listen clearly and take dictation. This is the call. We are tabernacles and instruments of love, if we are receptive and attentive to discernment.”

What are a few of the issues affecting the Church today that keep you up at night?

“So many people are in such pain. They don’t know that they are not alone. When Pope Francis pleads with us to know God’s mercy, when Pope Benedict urges us — with a sense of urgency and mandate, to encounter Christ, and daily — these are manifestations of God’s constant pleading with us to enter into union with Him, to know the love of the Trinity, to know we are never left alone, never left unaided, and that we are loved more than we can ever imagine or even desire. Each one of us is. Anyone who knows how hard that can be to even begin to comprehend must ache for his brother, too, who doesn’t know, who doesn’t see. I think that’s a bit of the pope’s message from Lampedusa last week.”

“I worry that our priests don’t have the support they need, that we owe them for their sacrificial lives of service. Prayer cover, gratitude, and hospitality. The world may not know it, but we are blessed by some dynamic, holy priests. True saints. True fathers. The world knows about the filth. And Mass-attending Catholics can all too often be content to criticize a parish priest on his choice of music or a bishop for not being more politically assertive. Maybe first we should: A) Pray for them. B) Consider: Do we have courage in the public square? Do we show leadership in truth and love?”

“Do we pray for priests? Do we think of them? Do we offer to lend a hand, offer our expertise and service? Do we let them know there is a welcoming, grateful community of brothers and sisters around them? Do we help them tell the truth? Do we encourage them when they are courageous? Or do we whine? Do we take good and holy men for granted, and while knowing they suffer in the wake of the horrific sins, mistakes, and lapses of others unfaithful to their call, driving nails in the body of Christ?”

Do you think the majority of Catholics in our country are properly informed about the relevant issues facing the Church?  Why or why not?

“This is one of our biggest challenges, isn’t it? Poorly catechized Catholics.  A Church often scandalized and awash with the muck of the darkness of our culture. That’s why I am so excited about the Catholic Voices USA effort I’ve been helping with. So often the case for the Church is never heard in the public square — we shy away from making the case, from offering to explain what exactly it is the Church proposes on the most neuralgic of issues. Very often we simply lack confidence. But the invitation to the Sacraments is from God and in His love we must be His messengers.”

“Our time is short, what are we waiting for?”

Does this contribute to the large numbers of Catholics who continue to vote for politicians who stand against several aspects of Church teaching?

“Absolutely. Further, all too often, we can find ourselves happy to settle into ideological categories. Catholicism is not an ideology or party. Nor is it a nongovernmental organization, as Pope Francis has recently, memorably put it.”

“It is a tremendous scandal that the Democratic Party has become the reliable home of the abortion industry, given the number of Catholics who were leaders and members of the party while this was happening. (Archbishop Chaput has made this point well.)  I’m current reading Archbishop Gomez’s new book on immigration. In it, he makes the point that while there isn’t a one Catholic solution to the political challenges we face on immigration, Catholics cannot afford to be indifferent on the issue. We also cannot completely ignore the people who go to the 10:30 Spanish Mass. Parish communities that don’t give a care for the unfamiliar ones aren’t being Christian.”

“And the deepest wound on our national soul is abortion, legal for soon-to-be 41 years. What has each one of us done this week to make life seem a little more plausible to a desperate young single mother? To help support a couple who welcomed an unplanned child into the world? We have to think about these things while the media hails a woman in pink sneakers for trying to shut down protections for 20-plus-week-olds in Texas, as some of her supporters hail Satan. Do we support our neighbor’s marriage as we work on ours? Is it any wonder we’re a people who have no idea what marriage is anymore or what’s different and wonderful about men and women when even Catholics have lost the way in preaching and practice? Stop me before I get into a ‘Humane Vitae was right’ spiel!”

Isn’t part of the problem where people choose to get their news/information?  You make significant writing and editorial contributions to National Review, Patheos Catholic and Catholic Pulse, among other places – including mainstream, secular places like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.  What other resources do you recommend for Catholics seeking accurate news related to the Church?

“So much of the key to news consumption today is about the lens you choose. Does it clearly illuminate truth? Does the commentary educate and challenge? I am always trying to link to good lenses and clear my own! It’s something we’ve tried to do on NRO, including by having intelligent debates that people of good will are and should be having and we all try to see more clearly and make constructive contributions. There’s an urgency to this task as we each only have finite time here and we’re going to have to answer for whether or not we were good stewards of the gifts we’ve been given. Cue the parable of the talents?”

What is your take on the way Pope Francis is being interpreted by the mainstream media?

“It’s fascinating, isn’t it, to watch? That the Italian Vanity Fair even thought to call Elton John for comment – and he had admiring words for the pope! Of course, so many praising this Holy Father praise him with a focus on contrast. In Lumen Fidei, the letter to the Church and all the world issued by Pope Francis and so clearly chiefly written by Pope Benedict, you see the continuity. The Church exists to bring people to Christ, to the reality of our call to live a Trinitarian reality, in union with God the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. It changes everything. It transforms us. That’s what Pope Francis is about. I’m not sure that’s entirely penetrated yet, even among those who attend Mass on Sundays. But ‘wow,’ they say again and again — he’s sure drawing people in, and deeper.”

“Lumen Fidei is a remarkable document. And, dear heavens, was it jarring to wake up to that scene a few weeks ago now, of the two living popes, calling on St. Michael the Archangel and St. Joseph for assistance? Talk about spiritual warfare – those are the troops to bring in! And particularly at this time when we’ve made such a mess of the lives of men and women and who we are and are meant to be, with one another, for one another, blessed by and moving toward God together.”

“I was in Rome at the beginning of the Year of Faith, as the encyclical for the New Evangelization was beginning. One of the coolest sites was Cardinal Dolan answering American college kids’ questions over pizza. They were practical. They were real. They came from a place of love and longing — for God, to bring God to others. This is our moment in the Church to encounter Christ ourselves so that we might bring others to him through the way we live our lives.”

“Lumen Fidei was a snapshot of this papacy — reintroducing some basics, and pleading that we believe – and know and love what we believe. Benedict has been such a wonderful teacher. But he knew we weren’t fully hearing. He clearly prayed. And now Francis has the world’s attention. And with Lumen Fidei amplified the gifts of his brother, his predecessor, a master of catechesis. Will the world listen? We answer that by doing the spiritual equivalent of sitting up straighter: Pray. How was your holy hour today? How was my Examen last night? During the papal visit to Washington, D.C. a few years ago, Metro ads taken out by the archdiocese there quoted from Spe Salvi: ‘one who has hope lives differently.’ Do we? What’s keeping us from beginning now?”

One last question Kathryn.  With your hectic schedule, how do you fit prayer into your busy life?  

“That’s an easy one for me. My temptation can be to become a hermit and only pray!! But my schedule tends to keep that from happening.”

“I’m impressed — inspired by — what lengths some will go make sure they make the one Mass in their area, even with temperamental morning mouths to feed in the morning when there is that one Mass — or whatever the challenge. We make time for all sorts of things. The world needs more prayer. Let’s get it going!”

“One last point: I think if we know the secularization afoot, if we see the pain and suffering, if we see the practical atheism — especially in ourselves — we have a real responsibility to not only never let our praying knees get lazy, as one country song puts it, but to pray unceasingly, literally, giving every moment to the One who died for our eternal peace.”


Looking for a Catholic Speaker? Check out Randy’s speaker’s page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.

Randy Hain, Senior Editor and co-founder of The Integrated Catholic Life™, is the author of The Catholic Briefcase: Tools for Integrating Faith and Work which was released by Liguori Publications. The Catholic Briefcase was voted the Best Catholic Book of 2011 in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards.

Randy Hain’s exciting new book, Along the Way: Lessons for an Authentic Journey of Faith was  released by Liguori Publications in November, 2012. Along the Way was recently named Runner-Up in the About.com Catholicism Reader’s Choice Awards for Best Catholic Book of 2012. Learn more here. His third book, Something More: A Professional’s Pursuit of a Meaningful Life, was released in February, 2013. All of Randy Hain’s books can also be purchased at your local Catholic bookstore, Amazon or www.liguori.org.


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4 Comments

  1. “Catholicism is not an ideology or party.” This is where voting for candidates who support Catholic teaching becomes tricky. There is a fascinating article in Lifesite News right now where a very conservative Catholic writer is saying some very liberal sounding things. He is saying that multinational corporations are more of a threat to our religious freedom than governments – liberal or conservative. I agree with him that no matter who we elect – their voting decisions seem to be more influenced by lobbyists supported by multinational corporations than by the will of the people they supposedly represent. Here’s what Christopher Ferrara (hardly a liberal) says about multination corporations . . .”corporate personality exhibits the traits of a psychopath. Namely, [it is] singularly self-interested, lacking in empathy, irresponsible, manipulative, grandiose, unable to feel remorse, unable to accept responsibility for its actions, superficial in its relations with others and afflicted by a tendency to asocial behaviour. Please read this interview with Christopher Ferrara on Lifesite News. I’m not familiar with his other writing because I generally don’t read real conservative stuff, but in this article I think he’s hit the nail on the head. If liberals and conservatives can come together to face a common enemy – multinational corporations – we may have more political influence than we do now as a divided nation and a divided Church.

  2. As a conservative and a Catholic, I’m not familiar with Mr. Ferrara. He may be like many on the right, biforcated by the line of social and financial conservatism. I disagree about his thesis that multi-national corporations are the scourge of freedom and not overzealous governments.
    It is true that a corporation can be unfeeling but it is also true that a govt bureacracy, especially one which has agencies which are out of control, can be equally and many would argue, a greater threat to freedom.

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