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Deacon James Keating, director of theological formation at the Institute for Priestly Formation, discusses the Eucharist, mysticism and holiness, topics of his new “Discerning Hearts” podcast series, with host and founder Kris McGregor in her home recording studio Feb. 5. DANIKA LANG/STAFF

Archbishop discusses fundamental aspects of faith in new podcasts

Why does God matter? Why do the sacraments matter? Why does prayer matter?

Discerning Hearts, a nonprofit online apostolate dedicated to evangelization and spiritual formation, seeks to answer these questions among others in Archbishop George J. Lucas’ latest podcast series “Why It Matters,” said founder Kris McGregor. 

 In the series, Archbishop Lucas joins host McGregor to address fundamental aspects of the faith and their importance for Catholics. All episodes are available at the Discerning Hearts website, www.discerninghearts.com.  

“We started with ‘Why does religion matter?’ Well actually, ‘Why does God matter?’ Then why religion, then why Christianity,” she said. “You start with the basic fundamental importance and then how that tree grows into all other areas of our life.” 

In his podcast, the archbishop addresses a wide range of topics including why baptism, confirmation, the priesthood and prayer matter. He also discusses Pope Francis’ encyclical “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”) and the clerical abuse crisis. 

Archbishop Lucas’ response to Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò’s public letter last September on Pope Francis’ alleged cover-up of the sexual abuses committed by now ex-cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick was perhaps the most poignant of his podcasts, said McGregor.

He addressed the issue head on and brought the truth to light, she said. It was an important moment for the people of the archdiocese, and people all around the world, who heard him speak. 

In addition to Archbishop Lucas, Discerning Hearts features the contributions of other notable Catholic scholars from across the country as well as those native to the Omaha archdiocese. Among the show’s most popular podcasts are those from Father Timothy Gallagher, OMV, a published author on Ignatian spirituality; Anthony Lilles, expert on the Carmelite doctors of the church; and Father Mauritius Wilde, OSB, prior of Christ the King Priory in Schuyler.   

Discerning Hearts podcasts are currently available in more than 230 countries. The only things listeners need are a podcast-playing device  such as a smartphone or computer with an internet connection. 

The website features more than 3,000 audio programs and receives more than 12,000 page visits per day. That does not include the 200,000 users who access the podcasts through the free Discerning Hearts app available on the iTunes and Google Play stores, she said. 

“That’s the nature of the internet. When our Lord said to cast a net out, I don’t think even the apostles could have appreciated that God ultimately would provide this incredible ‘net’ that would cover the entire world,” she said. 

For 2019, McGregor will feature new interviewees as well as new installments from old favorites. Father Taylor Leffler, associate pastor of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Omaha, will be doing a series on the life and writings of Flannery O’Connor. Beth Hewett, a public speaker on grief and bereavement, will have a series on “The Nature and Response to Grief.” And Abbott Primate Gregory Polan, OSB, and other international professors of the Benedictine Pontifical University of Rome, will offer teachings on prayer, sacred Scripture, the Sacred Liturgy, the writings of the desert fathers and the nature of beauty.  

Returning to Discerning Hearts with new content are Lilles, with new series on St. Teresa of Avila’s “Interior Castle” and the teachings of St. Angela of Foligno, and Father Gallagher on the spiritual teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux, said McGregor. 

The apostolate hopes to continue expanding its offerings via podcasting but also to expand its programming to live video streaming on YouTube and other video streaming outlets. To reach an even broader audience, it also hopes to eventually have podcasts translated into Spanish, she said. 

Discerning Hearts wishes to be open to whatever God wants it to explore and offer, said McGregor. “We are only limited by funding and time in the day.”

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