pope-francis2This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 1 January 2017 to 18 January 2017.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Letters

Papal Tweets

  • “May charity and nonviolence govern how we treat each other.” @Pontifex 5 January 2017
  • “Like the Magi, may we also journey and be attentive, untiring and courageous on the path to find the invisible God who was born among us.” @Pontifex 6 January 2017
  • “Let us remember our Christian brothers and sisters of the East, Catholics and Orthodox, who are celebrating Christmas today.” @Pontifex 7 January 2017
  • “Let us ask the Virgin Mary to help us follow Christ on the way of faith and charity, the path set out by our Baptism.” @Pontifex 8 January 2017
  • “There can be no true peace if everyone claims always and exclusively his or her own rights, without caring for the good of others.” @Pontifex 9 January 2017
  • “My hope is that our countries and their peoples may find increased opportunities to work together in building true peace.” @Pontifex 10 January 2017
  • “Everyone can help bring about a culture of mercy, in which no one looks at another with indifference.” @Pontifex 11 January 2017
  • “Young migrants, especially when unaccompanied, are especially defenceless. Let everyone offer them a helping hand.” @Pontifex 12 January 2017
  • “Children forced to flee, especially if fleeing alone, are most defenceless and vulnerable. Let’s pray for them and help them. @M_RSectionhttps://twitter.com/Pontifex/status/819887976016531456” @Pontifex 13 January 2017
  • “Unscrupulous exploitation harms young girls and boys who are trafficked and enslaved. May God bless all those who set them free. @M_RSection” @Pontifex 14 January 2017
  • “May the Holy Family watch over all child migrants and accompany the vulnerable and the voiceless on their journey. @M_RSection” @Pontifex 15 January 2017
  • “There can never be true peace as long as a single human being is violated in his or her personal identity.” @Pontifex 16 January 2017
  • “Peace is an “active virtue”, one that calls for the engagement and cooperation of each individual and society as a whole.” @Pontifex 17 January 2017
  • “From the intimacy of our faith in Jesus Christ comes our need to be united in Him.” @Pontifex 18 January 2017

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 6 December 10 November 2016 to 4 January 2017.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Letters

Messages

Prayers

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The love of God, which can look into the heart of each person and see the deepest desire hidden there, must take primacy over all else.” @Pontifex 15 December 2016
  • “Forgiveness is the most visible sign of the Father’s love, which Jesus sought to reveal by his entire life” @Pontifex 16 December 2016
  • “I thank you all for your kindness. Please do not forget to pray for me.” @Pontifex 17 December 2016
  • “Our joy comes from the confidence we have that the Lord is close to us with his tenderness, mercy, forgiveness and love.” @Pontifex 18 December 2016
  • “I express my solidarity with migrants around the world and thank all those who help them: welcoming others means welcoming God in person!” @Pontifex 18 December 2016
  • “Nothing of what a repentant sinner places before God’s mercy can be excluded from the embrace of his forgiveness.” @Pontifex 19 December 2016
  • “Mercy is the concrete action of God’s love that, by forgiving, transforms and changes our lives.” @Pontifex 20 December 2016
  • “Mercy gives rise to joy, because our hearts are opened to the hope of a new life.” @Pontifex 21 December 2016
  • “The birthday of Jesus, who took on the burden of our human weakness, is drawing closer.” @Pontifex 22 December 2016
  • “The Lord becomes man to journey with us in our everyday lives.” @Pontifex 23 December 2016
  • “Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too, with eyes full of amazement and wonder, gaze upon the Child Jesus, the Son of God.” @Pontifex 24 December 2016
  • “Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation!” @Pontifex 25 December 2016
  • “On today’s Feast of Saint Stephen let us remember the martyrs of today and yesterday. May we overcome evil with good and hatred with love.” @Pontifex 26 December 2016
  • “Christmas has above all a taste of hope because, for all the darkness in our lives, God’s light shines forth.” @Pontifex 27 December 2016
  • “God, who is in love with us, draws us to himself with his tenderness, by being born poor and frail in our midst, as one of us.” @Pontifex 28 December 2016
  • “Let us be touched by the tenderness that saves. Let us draw close to God who draws close to us. Let us pause to gaze upon the crib.” @Pontifex 29 December 2016
  • “Holy Family of Nazareth, help us all to recognize the sacred nature of the family and its beauty in God’s plan for humanity.” @Pontifex 30 December 2016
  • “As we end this year, let us remember the days, weeks and months we have lived in order to give thanks and offer everything to the Lord.” @Pontifex 31 December 2016
  • “Let us entrust the new year to Mary, Mother of God, so that peace and mercy may grow throughout the world.” @Pontifex 1 January 2017
  • “At the beginning of this New Year, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to the world’s peoples and nations.” @Pontifex 2 January 2017
  • “May nonviolence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions.” @Pontifex 3 January 2017
  • “To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.” @Pontifex 4 January 2017

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me-l-shirtIf you follow me on Facebook, you may have seen that I’ve recently been chronicling my weight loss journey there, and there’s been a lot of news to report! (The picture is one of me now that I can fit into a shirt that just has an L on the label–no X or XX.)

A few months ago, at the suggestion of my physician, I began to practice intermittent fasting, and it’s really accelerated my weight loss. At the time of writing, I’ve lost 29 lbs 38 lbs (it may be more by the time you read this), it’s produced other health benefits (including improved sleep and energy), and it’s been surprisingly easy (very little hunger at all).

I plan to do a blog series about my experience in the new year, but folks on Facebook have been asking a lot of questions, so I thought I’d jot down a few notes here until I can launch the series.

 

You’re really fasting?

Yes.

 

Really?

Yes.

 

Are you hungry all the time?

Not at all. I was surprised at how little hunger I’ve had. I had some for the first few days after I altered my eating pattern, but they went away quickly.

I called a friend who does a lot of fasting, and he said his experience is that hunger is largely a matter of habit. When your body is used to getting a new influx of calories, that’s when it sends the “It’s time to eat now” hunger signal. If you ignore that signal when it comes, it will re-set to the new normal and stop sending you the hunger signal at the old times.

I later asked my doctor about this, and she said it has also been the experience of her patients who have tried intermittent fasting.

 

What do you do when hunger does come?

I may drink non-caloric beverages to fill up my stomach (water, tea, coffee, no-calorie sodas with stevia [a natural, non-caloric sweetener]).

I also just ignore it, because hunger isn’t a constant. It comes in waves, and my experience has been that if I ignore it for 20 minutes, it will go away on its own.

Really, though, I’ve been amazed at how little hunger there has been.

 

Jimmy, I’m concerned for you. This sounds unsafe.

Thank you for your concern, but please don’t worry.

First, my doctor was the one who recommended it.

Second, I’m doing it under a doctor’s care, so all the right things are being monitored.

Third, it’s actually very safe (see below.) Fasting is actually a normal part of human experience. We’re designed for it. It’s just not part of our culture (which is a big part of our culture’s problem with weight management and various health issues).

Fourth, in case of problems, fasting is the easiest thing in the world to stop (also see below).

 

Won’t fasting slow down your metabolism?

Not if you’re doing it right. Calorie restriction will slow down your metabolism, but calorie restriction and fasting are two different things, and the body responds to them differently.

If you reduce the number of calories you eat at each meal but you continue to eat 3-7 times a day then your body will think food is in short supply, but that you do have a supply of it. In that case, your body will adjust your metabolism to the supply it thinks you have. You will get sluggish, irritable, and may feel colder than you otherwise would.

But if you stop the calories, your body will think you don’t have a food supply and that it needs to start burning fat, which is what the fat is there for.

Your body doesn’t know that we aren’t still living in caveman days, so if you aren’t putting new calories in, it think that your food supply has run out and that you need to go kill a bison or something.

It therefore does things to help you be a better bison hunter, like keeping your metabolism revved up.

 

Won’t fasting cause you to burn muscle instead of fat?

No. We can show that people who are fasting aren’t burning muscle because when the body burns protein (the stuff muscle is made of), there is a byproduct known as urea. When people are eating normally, they have substantial levels of urea in their blood from the protein they eat. But when they start fasting, the levels of urea in their blood plummet, showing that they are not burning protein–either from food (which they aren’t consuming) or from muscle.

See this video for more info on that.

Bottom line: You need muscle to go hunt bison, so your body burns the fat and preserves the muscle. The purpose of the fat is to be burned as fuel, so that’s why the body burns it. The purpose of muscle is to help you catch bison, so the body leaves it alone. It will only turn to burning muscle if you’ve used up all your fat and it has no other choice.

 

Won’t fasting make you mentally fuzzy or give you headaches?

No. You need mental clarity to hunt bison, so your body has an incentive to keep you clear headed. Giving you less clarity or headaches would interfere with a successful bison kill, so your body won’t do that to you.

Or that’s been my experience. If you are used to consuming something (e.g., coffee) that will cause headaches if you stop, and if you then suddenly stop, then you may get headaches. However, it’s not the lack of calories that’s causing the headache. It’s the lack of the specific thing that’s causing the headache.

Also, since coffee is a no-calorie beverage, you can have it when you fast! (Just don’t add cream or sugar.) So you can avoid the problem.

People generally report more mental clarity when fasting, not less, which makes sense if your body is preparing you to go kill bison.

 

Isn’t fasting unsafe?

For the vast majority of people, no. See previous answers.

Also, billions of people fast, at least occasionally. Catholics, Jews, and Muslims all practice intermittent fasting.

And we’re built for fasting. Our bodies are made to put on fat in times of plenty so they can use it for fuel when the food runs out. That’s why it’s there in the first place. Feasts and fasts are normal parts of human experience, historically speaking, and our bodies are built to handle them.

However, there are some medical conditions in which people either should not fast or should do so under a doctor’s care. This is particularly the case when you are on medications that you may need less of when you fast. For example, diabetics are likely to need less insulin, people who take blood pressure meds are likely to need smaller doses. If you don’t adjust your dosages, your blood sugar or blood pressure might go too low. Therefore, consult your doctor.

However, needing less of these medications is actually a good thing. It means your health is improving! Yay!

More info on these conditions in the resources recommended below.

 

So what kind of fasting are you doing?

Currently I am eating one meal a day with no snacks.

The one meal I eat is not calorie-counted, but it’s obviously way less than what I would eat during the course of an ordinary day of eating.

It’s also usually low carb/high fat, though I don’t have to be as strict about that as normal.

I eat it in the evening, but you can do it whenever in the day would suit you.

I also stay hydrated and take my normal vitamins/nutritional supplements.

 

How is eating a meal a day fasting?

It’s an intermittent fast–meaning that I do take some food on a regular basis (in my case, currently once per day).

It’s not a long-term, unbroken fast.

 

Are long-term, unbroken fasts dangerous?

Well, you will eventually need new calories, but people can go for much longer than they suppose and be perfectly healthy on a fast.

Some individuals literally fast for weeks or months.

The longest fast on record was a Scottish gentleman who–under his doctor’s care–only took water and vitamins for 382 days (no food for more than a year!) and was fine. He also went from over 400 lbs to under 200 lbs, which was the point.

 

I’m interested in fasting, but I’m afraid to start all at once. Is there a way to work into this easily and gradually?

You bet! That’s what I did. I took it in stages:

  • I started with a low carb/high fat diet so that, without the carbs, I wouldn’t have the insulin spikes and the resulting hunger they cause (this is why people are famously hungry an hour after eating Chinese food: the high carbs lead to high blood sugar, that leads to insulin release, that leads to a blood sugar crash, and that leads to hunger to get the blood sugar back up)
  • Then I cut out all snacks, so I was eating only three meals a day.
  • When hunger did come, I would drink non-caloric beverages or just ignore it since I knew it would shortly go away on its own (see above).
  • Then I dropped breakfast (the idea it’s the most important meal of the day is not true, which is why so many people find it easy to skip).
  • Once I was used to eating two meals a day (lunch and a late dinner), I started moving lunch later and later in the afternoon, to narrow the window in which I was eating and extend the period each day in which I was fasting.
  • Once “lunch” was within a few hours of dinner, I dropped “lunch.”

This stepwise approach was so successful for me that, the day I first went to one meal, I wasn’t even hungry at dinner time. But it was when I had determined to eat, so I did.

 

I don’t think I could do low carb. Would that stop me from fasting?

No. Fasting is just not eating, so you can do fasting no matter what diet you normally prefer.

 

What if I encounter problems fasting?

I love the way the book I recommend below puts it:

What happens if you do get hungry or don’t feel good while intermittent fasting? Ummmm, hello, McFly? You eat something! This isn’t rocket science, people (The Complete Guide to Fasting, p. 21).

 

What are some of the benefits of fasting?

They include:

  • Weight loss
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Lower insulin resistance
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower inflammation
  • It may provide added protection against cancer
  • Greater mental acuity
  • You don’t spend as much money on food
  • You don’t spend as much time procuring, preparing, and consuming food
  • You get the chance to practice self-discipline

More info on some of these here.

In my case, I also found my sleep improved (which is noteworthy, because I’m a lifelong insomniac).

 

If we’re built for fasting and if it has all these benefits, why don’t we hear about it more?

Several reasons. Among them:

  • Big Food has zero interest in not selling you food. It spends enormous amounts of money in advertising trying to get you to buy stuff to eat.
  • Therefore, when its “eat all day by adopting a grazing strategy of three full meals plus three or more snacks” causes people to gain weight and have health problems, it’s solution is not going to be “don’t eat.” It’s going to be “eat something different” (e.g., expensive diet products or the latest fad’s “superfood”).
  • Big Pharma has zero interest in not selling you drugs and medical procedures. Therefore, if you’re suffering from obesity and medical problems, their solution is not going to be fasting but “what kind of drugs or medical procedures can we sell you to address or manage these?”

As the result of economic incentives like these, fasting has virtually disappeared from our culture, though it used to be the norm. Fortunately, it’s being rediscovered, and studies are backing up its health benefits.

 

Where can I get more information about fasting?

I recommend this book: The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting by Jason Fung, MD, and Jimmy Moore.

I also recommend this video as an introduction:

For more detail, check out Dr. Fung’s epic, six-part series on the science of fasting here on his YouTube channel.

And here’s a web page you can read: Intermittent Fasting–Questions and Answers.

 

Are you recommend that I fast?

As part of your religious duties on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (assuming you’re Catholic), yes–unless you have a medical reason not to.

Otherwise, no, I’m not making recommendations here. I’m explaining what my experience with fasting has been and answer common questions people have asked me.

If you think fasting might be for you, great! It’s certainly helped me! But, as noted above, be sure to check with your doctor, particularly if you have medical conditions requiring things like insulin or blood pressure meds.

God bless you, and stay positive in the combox, folks!

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francis-window

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 6 December 2016 to 14 December 2016.

 

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The Church does not grow through proselytism, but by attraction.” @Pontifex 6 December 2016
  • “Let us learn from the Blessed Mother how to have a humble heart capable of receiving God’s gifts.” @Pontifex 8 December 2016
  • “Let us pray for all the victims of genocide and work together so that this crime never happens again in the world.” @Pontifex 9 December 2016
  • “Let us all work decisively so that no one is excluded from the effective recognition of their fundamental human rights.” @Pontifex 10 December 2016
  • “May Advent be a time of hope. We go to encounter the Lord who comes to encounter us.” @Pontifex 11 December 2016
  • “On this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, let us entrust to her the American peoples and the mission of the Church on that continent.” @Pontifex 12 December 2016
  • “Today I would like each of us to reflect on his and her own past and the gifts received from the Lord.” @Pontifex 13 December 2016
  • “Now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace.” @Pontifex 14 December 2016

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Pope_Francis_3_on_papal_flight_from_Africa_to_Italy_Nov_30_2015_Credit_Martha_Calderon_CNA_11_30_15This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 27 October to 6 December 2016.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Motu Proprio

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Today we remember Blessed Charles de Foucauld who said, faith calls us to see Jesus in every human being.” @Pontifex 1 December 2016
  • “I call on all people of goodwill to take action against human trafficking and new forms of slavery.” @Pontifex 2 December 2016
  • “We are all called to go out as missionaries and bring the message of God’s love to every person in every area of life.” @Pontifex 3 December 2016
  • “Advent is a time to prepare our hearts to receive Christ, our Saviour and hope.” @Pontifex 4 December 2016
  • “Jesus teaches us always to go to the essentials and to take on our own mission with responsibility.” @Pontifex 5 December 2016
  • “Jesus gives meaning to my life here on earth and hope for the life to come.” @Pontifex 6 December 2016

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Pope_Francis_3_on_papal_flight_from_Africa_to_Italy_Nov_30_2015_Credit_Martha_Calderon_CNA_11_30_15This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 10 November 2016 to 30 November 2016.

Angelus

General Audiences

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “So many women are overwhelmed with the burdens of life and the drama of violence! The Lord wants them to be free and their dignity respected” @Pontifex 25 November 2016
  • “With the close of the Jubilee, we look ahead at how to continue to experience with joy, fidelity and enthusiasm the richness of God’s mercy.” @Pontifex 26 November 2016
  • “Advent is a time when we journey towards Jesus and his Kingdom of justice and peace.” @Pontifex 27 November 2016
  • “Mercy is not a parenthesis in the life of the Church; it constitutes her very existence, making tangible the profound truths of the Gospel.” @Pontifex 28 November 2016
  • “Jesus calls us to be bearers of joy and consolation as his merciful witnesses.” @Pontifex 29 November 2016
  • “On this feast of Saint Andrew, with fraternal affection I am close to Patriarch Bartholomew and pray for him and the Church entrusted to him” @Pontifex 30 November 2016

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popr-francis-teachingThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 5 November 2016 to 24 November 2016.

Angelus

Apostolic Letter

General Audiences

Homilies

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “It is not enough to experience God’s mercy in one’s life; whoever receives it must also become a sign and instrument for others.” @Pontifex 17 November 2016
  • “If you want a heart full of love, be merciful!” @Pontifex 18 November 2016
  • “God’s mercy toward us is linked to our mercy toward our neighbour.” @Pontifex 19 November 2016
  • “May the Jubilee of Mercy, which concludes today, continue to bear fruit in the hearts and works of believers.” @Pontifex 20 November 2016
  • “Today we close the Holy Door thanking God for having granted us this extraordinary time of grace.” @Pontifex 20 November 2016
  • “May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the Kingdom of God is already present in our midst!” @Pontifex 20 November 2016
  • “We entrust the life of the Church, all humanity, and the entire cosmos to the Lord, asking him to pour out his mercy upon us.” @Pontifex 20 November 2016
  • “Let us remember with gratitude the cloistered and monastic religious who pray for the Church and the world.” @Pontifex 21 November 2016
  • “How much I desire that the years to come will be full of mercy, so that every person can experience the goodness and tenderness of God!” @Pontifex 22 November 2016
  • “May the Holy Spirit help us to be patient when enduring, and to be humble and simple when advising.” @Pontifex 23 November 2016
  • “We have to break out of ourselves to encounter others. If we don’t, even we Christians can suffer from division.” @Pontifex 24 November 2016

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popefrancis

This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 27 October 2016 to 16 November 2016.

Angelus

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “We should never forget about beauty, which humanity needs so much!” @Pontifex 10 November 2016
  • “Dear Friends, never forget that in our encounter with people in need we meet Jesus himself.” @Pontifex 11 November 2016
  • “I am before the Holy Door and I ask: “Lord, help me to thrust open the door of my heart!”.” @Pontifex 12 November 2016
  • “If you want to find God, seek him where he is hidden: in the neediest, the sick, the hungry, the imprisoned.” @Pontifex 13 November 2016
  • “In a world which has been damaged by the virus of indifference, the works of mercy are the best antidote.” @Pontifex 14 November 2016
  • “If every one of us, every day, does a work of mercy, there will be a revolution in the world!” @Pontifex 15 November 2016
  • “We don’t have to go far or come up with grand projects to be charitable. Often the people closest to us could use our help.” @Pontifex 16 November 2016

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popr-francis-teachingThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 27 September 2016 to 9 November 2016.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Let us try always to be united with Jesus, following him especially on the way of the cross.” @Pontifex 20 October 2016
  • “The sick, the poor, as well as the unborn, are all made in the image of God and worthy of the highest respect.” @Pontifex 21 October 2016
  • ““Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ!” – Saint John Paul II, 22 October 1978” @Pontifex 22 October 2016
  • “We are disciples, but also missionaries, bringing Christ wherever he asks us to be present.” @Pontifex 23 October 2016
  • “Today there is an urgent need for politics and economics to be centered on the service of life.” @Pontifex 25 October 2016
  • “Love is a patient effort by persons who dedicate themselves to listening and drawing closer to others.” @Pontifex 26 October 2016
  • “The logic behind charity is to be willing to give up everything so that unity and love prevail.” @Pontifex 27 October 2016
  • “Let us pray for our brothers and sisters who encounter discrimination and pay a personal price for their fidelity to the Gospel.” @Pontifex 28 October 2016
  • “Let us abbandon a language of condemnation and embrace one of mercy.” @Pontifex 29 October 2016
  • “I ask you to please pray that my journey to Sweden might contribute to the unity of all Christians.” @Pontifex 30 October 2016
  • “Let us ask the Lord that his word, source of light and life, may help Christians be ever more united.” @Pontifex 31 October 2016
  • “Christian unity is a priority, because we realize that much more unites us than separates us.” @Pontifex 31 October 2016
  • “The saints have found the secret of authentic happiness, which lies deep within the soul and has its source in the love of God.” @Pontifex 1 November 2016
  • “The Father watches over us, and his gaze of love inspires us to purify our past and to journey towards unity.” @Pontifex 1 November 2016
  • “With faith we visit the graves of our loved ones, where we can also pray for those who no one remembers.” @Pontifex 2 November 2016
  • “Christian life is a journey, but not a sorrowful journey; it is joyful.” @Pontifex 3 November 2016
  • “Let us be moved by God’s watchful gaze. The one thing he desires is for us to abide like living branches in his Son Jesus.” @Pontifex 4 November 2016
  • “Forgiveness is the essence of the love which can understand mistakes and mend them.” @Pontifex 5 November 2016
  • “No cell is so isolated that it is shut to the Lord. His love reaches everywhere. I pray that each one may open his heart to this love.” @Pontifex 6 November 2016
  • “Prophecy is saying that there is something truer, more beautiful, greater, of greater good to which we are all called.” @Pontifex 7 November 2016
  • “May we make God’s merciful love ever more evident in our world through dialogue, mutual acceptance and fraternal cooperation.” @Pontifex 9 November 2016

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jackchick2_1Anti-Catholic comic book writer/artist Jack Chick passed away on Sunday, October 23, 2016.

Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.

As far as I know, I’m the only Catholic apologist ever to meet him.

Below is an account of that meeting, originally published in the March, 2004 issue of This Rock (now Catholic Answers Magazine).

For decades the cartoon tracts of Jack T. Chick have fascinated and horrified. Their pages contain the most extreme, paranoid conspiracy theories imaginable. Among other things, Chick publications will tell you that:

  • the Catholic Church keeps “the name of every Protestant church member in the world” in a “big computer” in the Vatican for use in future persecutions (see his tract My Name . . . In the Vatican? );
  • through the Jesuits, the Vatican runs an extensive conspiracy that includes the Illuminati, the Council on Foreign Relations, international bankers, the Mafia, the Club of Rome, the Masons, and the New Age movement, among others (Four Horsemen);
  • the Catholic conspiracy also includes creating venomously anti-Catholic movements such as Communism, the Ku Klux Klan, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, and Islam (The Big BetrayalThe Godfathers: Alberto Part ThreeThe Force: Alberto Part FourThe Prophet: Alberto Part Six).

Chick’s material is weirdly compelling. It is amateurish, lurid, ham-fisted, and viciously hateful at times. But it is intense, and something about that intensity makes people want to read it. His tracts generate a kind of bizarre fascination. Since he first began publishing them, Chick has distributed over half a billion, making him the most published comic book author in the world.

Yet little is known of him. The seventy-nine-year-old Chick is a recluse. His office does not give tours, he never allows his photo to be taken, and he never, ever gives interviews. Little is known about him beyond what is revealed in the biography on his web site, www.chick.com.

Recently Chick has ventured out of the world of comic book publishing to produce a feature-length movie entitled The Light of the World. I received an unexpected invitation to the premier of the movie. Writing movie reviews is a hobby of mine, and the camp value alone of a Chick film would make it worth reviewing, so I made the trek to the premier—and got more than I imagined I would.

The Light of the World premiered in Ontario, California, where Chick Publications is based. The site was an old auditorium that would have been dazzling in the 1940s and that still boasted an impressive main theater. As I approached it an hour before the screening was scheduled to begin, a small group of people, including a number of elderly men, was out front.

Could one of these men be Jack Chick? I wondered, then answered my own question: probably not. No doubt he’d seen the completed film, and with his reclusive tendencies he wasn’t likely to show up.

Still, I kept an eye out, particularly for an elderly man with a young Asian woman. (After the death of his wife a few years ago, Chick married an Asian woman much younger than himself.)

In the foyer of the auditorium, representatives of Chick Publications had tables set up where copies of the film were on sale on VHS and DVD. One table was cash only, one check only, and one credit card only. Having a copy of the film would let me get exact quotes for a critique of the film, but I didn’t really want to give my credit card or checking account number to a bunch of conspiracy theorists. I approached the cash only table.

Once I had the copy in hand, I began to contemplate the fact that I had just driven two hours to get to the theater, the screening wouldn’t even begin for another hour, and it would be almost midnight before I got back home to San Diego. The thought of driving back and watching the DVD in the comfort of my own living room was attractive, and I was on the verge of heading home when I decided to take one more look around to see if I could spot Chick.

I was sitting in the back row, so I had a good view of the theater. Nobody looked like an obvious candidate to be Chick. The folks in the front row were too young. I couldn’t see an elderly man with Asian wife. There was an elderly guy sitting alone on the far side of my row, talking with a few people in the aisle. I heard one of them say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.”

I took a closer look at him. He had white hair, glasses, and was wearing a white dress shirt and dark slacks. He had a fancy gold wristwatch (a Rolex?)—the kind that you could afford if you’d sold half a billion tracts.

If it were Chick, what would I say to him? The apologist in me would have loved to debate him theologically. Part of me would want to ask him futile questions like “You don’t really believe all that stuff you publish, do you?” But I decided that, if it was Chick, the most charitable thing I could do was simply be nice to him and chat.

Moving a few seats closer to him, I heard him tell the people, “We got started about forty years ago . . .” Doing some quick math in my head, I realized that was when Chick Publications began.

I moved to the seat next to him (well, technically, next to his jacket, which was draped on th seat next to him), and, when the well-wishers moved on, I said, “Excuse me, sir. Are you Jack Chick?”

“I am,” he replied, smiling warmly. “What’s your name?”

“Jimmy Akin,” I replied. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.”

We shook hands, and he asked me, “What do you do?”

“I’m an evangelist.”

His face brightened. “Praise God!” But then his eyes studied me a moment. Wearing a Stetson, cowboy boots, faded blue jeans, and a Texas belt buckle, I didn’t look like the typical suit-and-tie evangelist from Chick’s Fundamentalist world.

“I’ve read a lot of your comic tracts,” I said as he settled back into his seat.

“We have plans for a lot more,” he replied.

“You’re going to be doing a lot after the film?”

“Yes,” he smiled. “That’s in their hands now,” he said, referring to the Light of the World Project, which has hopes to translate the film into a thousand languages. “There were times when I thought we would never be finished with it.”

“I understand you’ve been working on it for ten years.”

“Fifteen,” he corrected. “I think it will help a lot of pastors. It should get a lot of people sold—uh, saved.”

Was that a Freudian slip? Given Chick’s tendency to devote publication after publication to the sensationalist claims of men who were later exposed as religious con men, there has been some question of whether he really believes his own publications. Some have suggested he is simply in it for the money.

Another group of well-wishers came by to greet him, and while they did I fished out a pen and a tract promoting the film that I had been given at the door. When he turned back to me, I asked for his autograph.

He laughed heartily, as if he wasn’t used to giving autographs. I handed him the tract and pen, and he looked around for a hard surface to sign it.

“Here, use this,” I said, handing him my Light of the World DVD.

He signed and handed the articles back to me. His signature matched the version I had seen printed in his publications.

Originally, Chick did all the art for his tracts, but in 1972 he began working with a then unknown artist. Fans noticed the difference immediately. Since the artist never signed his name, and since his style was much more realistic than Chick’s, fans speculated for years who “the good artist” was. In 1980, Chick revealed that the other artist was an African-American named Fred Carter, whom Chick claimed was shy and did not wish to have his name on his work.

“The artist who does the comic books . . .” I began, blanking on the gentleman’s name.

“Fred Carter,” Chick said. “He’s a pastor. I’m really hoping he’s going to be here tonight.”

Cool, I thought. Maybe I could meet him, too. 

“I really like his work,” I said. “He has a wonderful technique.”

“Yes, he does.”

“I practiced for a long time to be a comic book artist. I really like the way he uses Zip-A-Tone,” I said, referring to a technique comic book artists uses to create detailed textures in their work.

Chick agreed.

“Have you ever used any other artists, or has it just been the two of you?”

“No, just the two of us,” he said.

Score! I thought. One more rumor about Chick disconfirmed.

“Are you affiliated with any church?” Chick asked me.

“Catholic,” I replied. Chick’s eyes widened.

“Oh? You have a Catholic background?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I love Catholics,” he assured me.

“Uh-huh,” I said, already familiar with the I-love-Catholics-that’s-why-I-attack-their-faith routine used by countless Fundamentalists.

“Well. A Catholic evangelist!” Chick mused. “Are you a Jesuit?”

It was my turn to laugh. If Jack didn’t believe his comics’ paranoid conspiracy theories about Jesuits, he was acting as though he did.

“No, I’m just a layman. I’m not even a priest. I’m not an anything,” I said, hoping to reassure him that I wasn’t a sinister Vatican agent. Perhaps a brief profession of faith might help. “We have our differences,” I told him, “but we both worship God—and his Son, Jesus.”

Chick made what was probably best read as a pleasant but non-committal acknowledgement.

“I’m sure the Pope will have seen this movie by next week,” he said.

“Really?”

“Oh, yes. I’m sure it’ll be going out on a plane. They have all my stuff at the Vatican.”

“I see.”

Since he’d signed a tract for me on the back of my Light of the World DVD, he might think that my copy was the very one that would be sent to the Pope.

“I’m one of the few who stands up against Rome,” Jack continued. “That all started years ago when I met Alberto. Do you know about Alberto?”

“Yes,” I said.

Alberto Rivera’s conspiracy theories are the subjects of many of Chick’s comics and tracts. Rivera claimed to be an ex-Jesuit sent to infiltrate and destroy Protestant churches for the Vatican. He was later exposed as a fraud by Protestant publications and groups such as Christianity TodayCornerstone magazine, and the Christian Research Institute. He also was wanted by the law for writing bad checks and credit card theft, among other financial improprieties. Chick’s persistence in publishing Rivera led to his leaving the Christian Booksellers Association. Rivera died in 1997 of colon cancer.

“Alberto was murdered, you know,” Jack informed me.

“Well, I understand that he had cancer, but beyond that I’m not aware of anything,” I replied.

“Oh, yes, he was murdered.” Jack said an ex-member of the Irish Republican Army had told him of two poisons, one of which causes cancer. “And that was what they gave him.”

“I see.”

More well-wishers said hello to Jack. While they chatted I tried to think how I might be able to get a tour of Chick Publications itself. These are seldom granted, and I knew my chances were next to nil, but I had to ask. When Chick turned back to me I said, “I’m sorry, but I have to ask: Do y’all ever give tours of your place? I’d love to see where you work.”

“No, I’m afraid not,” he said.

I paused for a minute trying to think if there was a good way to ask for an exception.

“Sorry,” he smiled, knowing what I was thinking. “We have to draw the line somewhere. I don’t let my picture be taken. I’m on too many hit lists.”

“Uh-huh?”

“Yes, we get death threats every week . . . from the Muslims.”

“Yeah, we get them, too,” I said, thinking of the periodic threats we get at Catholic Answers from various groups, though not Muslims in particular.

“Really?” he said. “I wouldn’t have thought you would.” This would be a natural assumption for Chick if he believes his own propaganda about the Catholic Church starting and then later manipulating Islam. “Do you still draw a lot?”

“No, not anymore. These days I’m mostly just a writer.”

This seemed to tickle Chick’s fancy.

“Really?” he chuckled at an unstated irony, perhaps thinking of his own evolution from being a writer and illustrator to being principally a writer. “Where do you work?” he asked.

“In San Diego.” I realized immediately this probably wasn’t what he was asking. “At Catholic Answers,” I said.

Jack laughed uproariously.

“You know of us?” I asked.

” O-o-o-h, yes,” he said mirthfully.

Over the years Catholic Answers has conducted a number of campaigns to educate people about the paranoid anti-Catholicism in Chick’s tracts. We have sent out hundreds of thousands of pieces of educational material. No doubt some made their way to Chick’s desk. I thought of telling him that I am the author of the latest special report critiquing his work, but decided it might spoil the moment.

More well-wishers came by, and Chick informed me that his wife would soon arrive and that she would be sitting in the chair between us, where his jacket rested. I was very interested to see what she looked like. By this point, I was considering staying for the movie. Being able to say that I watched the world premier of Jack Chick’s movie sitting next to him and his wife would make it worth staying.

“I figured I’d be approached tonight,” Chick confided.

“Really? I didn’t know you were going to be here,” I said, unable to think of a way of convincing him that I wasn’t a secret agent sent to “approach” him for some evil purpose.

It was occurring to me that, despite his friendliness, Chick might well be uncomfortable with my presence—especially if he really were the paranoid conspiracy nut he appears to be. He probably was not looking forward to watching the film with a presumed Jesuit agent sitting by his side. Things were quite amicable between us, but it came as little surprise when a final group of people showed up in the aisle and Chick asked politely if I could move so that they could take the seats next to him. One in the group was his wife. Not as young as I had supposed from press accounts, but quite pretty.

“Of course,” I said as graciously as I could, and we stood up to part.

“We’re in the war,” Chick said. “I’m sure we’ll be hearing from you in the future.”

“I’m sure,” I said, nodding and smiling warmly. “It’s been a pleasure to meet you, sir,” I said, extending my hand again. Jack shook it and smiled, and that was the end of our encounter.

On the way out I saw a smartly dressed African-American man walking up the far aisle, and I suspected that he might be Fred Carter. As I approached to find out, a thin, poorly groomed man threw his arms around him and cried, “Fred! I’m so happy to see you!”

When the thin man released him, I walked up and said, “Excuse me, sir. Are you Fred Carter?”

He acknowledged that he was, and I shook his hand, saying “I’m pleased to meet you. I really like your artwork. You have an excellent technique.”

He expressed his appreciation, but I wasn’t able to strike up a conversation because the thin man suddenly became interested in me, introduced himself, and started asking about a book on St. Paul that I was carrying. Carter departed for the foyer.

As I drove home, I reflected on my meeting with the king of Fundamentalist kitsch. Chick came across as a kind, gentle old man. He was nothing but polite. He smiled. He laughed. Unlike the characters in his comic books, he didn’t say “Haw! Haw!” when he laughed. From meeting him one would never suspect him to be the most infamous broadcaster of hate and paranoia in the Christian comic book world.

Chick noted that “we’re in the war.” The only experiences I could compare meeting him to are strange wartime incidents I’ve read about where soldiers of opposing sides are able to put down their weapons and share a moment of humanity. Like when Yankees and Confederates stopped shooting at each other long enough to trade coffee and tobacco. Or when German and British soldiers climbed out of their World War I foxholes to exchange Christmas greetings.

I wondered what Chick thought of our meeting. Maybe nothing, but maybe his conspiracy-prone mind would cause it to assume larger-than-life proportions. He had read me as a potential Vatican agent making some kind of hostile “approach” to him. Maybe he would think that there was a cancer-causing poison on my palm when we shook hands.

Given Chick’s tendency to sometimes include real people in his comics—even as minor, unnamed characters—he might even record the incident. If you’re ever reading a Chick comic and see a young, bearded Jesuit agent dressed like a cowboy, it’ll probably be me.

I only hope Fred Carter does the art.

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