PROVIDENCE — The idea that he would one day be honored by the Church for expressing through his writings a strong defense of the Catholic faith would have been foreign for Justin Katz, who grew up an only child in a “very secular…nominally agnostic,” New Jersey household.
“Despite a deep sense of and longing for meaning (for God), I wound up an atheist,” he says.
Looking for meaning in his life Katz dropped out after studying for a year at Carnegie Mellon University. He went to work selling fish off a truck in New Jersey with dreams of becoming a rock star.
Frustrated at not hitting enough of the high notes in his quest for stardom over the next two years, he decided to return to college.
His life’s journey brought him to the Ocean State, where he was able to balance classes at the University of Rhode Island with work on the docks at Galilee. His previous employer in the Garden State had connections here, guaranteeing him work.
It was here that he met his wife, Kim, who along with his mother-in-law, made it clear that Rhode Island is where they would stay and eventually begin to raise a family.
Still a non-believer, he took a job copy editing high tech market research. But the dryness of the work and tediousness of his long daily commute led him to a point of introspection as he plumbed the depths of his crisis of spirituality.
This time, however, something was different.
“I had the direction, inspiration or clue of my wife’s Catholic faith and that finally led me in the right direction,” Katz says.
“I’d been writing mainly fiction and poetry, although my reasoning, mixed with my contrarian nature, no doubt, had been moving me to the right, politically and culturally.”
As he began to translate his thoughts into print on issues such as same-sex marriage he began to attract attention of readers, catching a break on the early wave being surfed by bloggers.
He began publishing in National Review and local papers, including the Providence Journal and Rhode Island Catholic, as well as online blogs.
The 9/11 attacks served to further direct his writings toward social and political commentary, and around 2004 he started the “Anchor Rising” blog with some other local conservatives who did not like the direction their state was headed in.
“Lacking faith, I used to consider recognition — and the stroking of vanity — to be the evidence that a connection had been made,” he says. “As I’ve grown in faith, my challenge has been to change that perspective so that Truth is my focus and the sort of success that can contribute to vanity is an unavoidable danger more than a reward. The audience is always God, and He’ll bring the Truth where it needs to go.”
Katz currently serves as research director of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity and as managing editor of OceanStateCurrent.com.
Justin and Kim have raised their four children at St. Christopher Parish in Tiverton where they are very active in in several ministries: he is a lector and extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, she is also a minister of holy Communion and a faith formation teacher who organizes the children’s liturgy during Mass.
In nominating Katz for the Lumen Gentium award in the category of Communications it was noted: “Justin stands by his Catholic roots and is not afraid to defend the Church in the public eye. He should be applauded for his continued and steadfast defense of the Church and her teachings.”
Katz says that being honored with the award makes him feel as if he has to redouble his efforts to deserve it.
“While I have written quite a bit that has been explicitly Catholic, I’ve tended to see my vocation as a more subtle evangelism,” he says. “In our place and time, many people are entirely unmoored from our Christian roots, and the secular culture has taught them to be suspicious of the religious presentation. Articulating the beautiful logic and practical wisdom of a worldview rooted in Catholic belief and tradition can be the force of revelation in such an environment.”
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