George P. Matysek Jr. has been a member of the Catholic Review staff since 1997, serving as a staff writer, senior staff writer, assistant managing editor and now web editor.

A graduate of Our Lady of Mount Carmel High School in Essex, George holds a bachelor's degree in history and writing from what is now Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore and a master's degree in history from UMBC.

A winner of more than 50 regional, national and international journalism awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C Press Association, the Catholic Press Association, Associated Church Press and National Right to Life, George has reported from Guyana, Guatemala, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary.

Happily married and living in Rodgers Forge, George is the proud father of two daughters. 

Reach George at gmatysek@CatholicReview.org and follow him on Twitter @ReviewMatysek

 

 

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I have know Sister Anthony and her family all of my life. Like Sr. Anthony, the whole family is truly God loving people. Happy 100 Sr. Anthony and may God continue to bless you. Love you. Pearl

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Happy birthday Sister Anthony from your great niece Lauren. The undated photo is Sr. Anthony with her mother and 9 of her siblings.

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The Narthex

Remembering a friend

Christopher Gaul died Oct. 18, 2012. (CR file photo)

Kneeling in the small parking garage at Catholic Review headquarters about a decade ago, Christopher Gaul and I went to work changing a flat tire on his small sports utility vehicle. Gaul, my former managing editor, confidently wielded an iron wrench to unloosen lug nuts while I waited to help him remove the damaged tire.

After a few minutes, my keen journalistic powers of observation kicked in.

“Ummm, Chris,” I said, unable to contain a laugh. “You’re changing the tire that’s not flat.”

The metallic clank of a dropped tool echoed in the garage before Chris looked at me with a bemused smile. He was soon laughing with me at our automotive incompetence.

“Shut up,” Chris said in an urbane British accent. “You are not to tell anyone of this.”

Christopher Gaul was one of the great characters in the history of the Baltimore press.

Suave, intelligent, driven, funny and ambitious, Chris was a fixture at the Catholic Review from 1995 to 2005. He served in a variety of award-winning roles including senior correspondent, managing editor, associate editor and host of television and radio programs.

It will be a year Oct. 18 since Chris lost a nearly yearlong battle with lung cancer. His distinguished journalism career included stints as a reporter for The Sun and The Evening Sun, an investigative reporter and documentary film producer for WJZ-TV, and a medical reporter for WBAL-TV.

Raised in the Church of England, Chris became a Catholic as a teen a few years after his mother joined the church in the late 1940s. Gaul’s godfather was William E. Barrett, a Catholic writer whose novels include “The Left Hand of God.”

Chris long ago told me he was attracted to the romance of the Catholic Church – stories of fantastic saints and martyrs, a theology that ran deep, and liturgy that inspired awe. I always had the sense that he was on a spiritual journey – sometimes stumbling, but always staying the course.

Chris was one of my greatest mentors. I learned more from reading his eloquent prose and sitting next to him at the Catholic Review than I did in any writing course. More than that, he became a friend.

Several times a year, I visited Chris and his wife, Pam, at their Essex home not too far from where I grew up. Sometimes we enjoyed a cookout or took in a football game. On his last Christmas Eve, I joined Chris’ family for a dinner that featured his famous Yorkshire pudding. Another time, ushering in a new year, I watched the husband-and-wife team dance with their beloved Weimaraner show dogs at the stroke of midnight.

As Chris neared the end of his life, he began giving things away. He had already given me a copy of the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible (which he steadfastly described as the most eloquent Catholic translation), an icon of St. Paul and a St. George medal from France that I wore until it broke free of its chain and was lost.

In those last months, Chris also gave me spiritual books and a bag of “holy dirt” he collected while on pilgrimage to one of his favorite shrines in Santa Fe.

Fulfilling a longtime dream, Chris received special permission to make his definitive promises as a lay member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites just months before he died – even though he had not completed formation.

The day before Chris lost his battle with cancer, I visited him one final time. As a wet cloth perched on his forehead, Chris rested in bed while his beloved canines lingered nearby. On the wall hung a framed copy of Jean-Francois Millet's familiar painting of peasants pausing in a field for the Angelus – a retirement gift from The Catholic Review editorial department in honor of the tradition Chris started at the newspaper of praying the Angelus every day at noon.

Soft classical music hung in the air as I thanked Chris for being such a good friend and mentor. Within hours, he was gone.

Christopher Gaul enjoys his retirement party with some of the people he mentored:
George P. Matysek Jr., Rachel Richmond and Jennifer Williams.

I often wonder what Chris would make of the changes that have taken place in the church since his death – the stunning and humble retirement of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of the Argentine Pope Francis.

I suspect he would be intrigued by our new pope’s emphasis on mercy, since one of Chris’ favorite prayers was a soul-searching one he borrowed from the Orthodox: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

He would be pleased, I think, to know that some of the people he mentored at The Catholic Review are using the skills he honed in them to cover these exciting times with a sense of fairness, balance and perhaps even some of his style.

Yes, Chris is gone. His legacy is not.

Rest in peace, friend.

October 17, 2013 04:39
By George Matysek


Bethlehem Brawl: So much for 'peace on Earth, goodwill toward men'

Clerics brawl with broomsticks at the site where Jesus is believed to have been born. (BBC image)

Two days after the world celebrated the birth of the Prince of Peace, things weren't so peaceful at the Bethlehem church built on what is believed to be the site of Jesus' nativity.

Brandishing brooms, 100 black-robed Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics fought one another inside the Basilica of the Nativity after a dispute broke out during the cleaning of the church. Palestinian police broke up the fray.

Tensions have long been high at the 1,700-year-old church, as different Christian denominations continually squabble over the administration of the holy site.

The BBC has the story, along with the sad video here.

 

 

December 29, 2011 08:50
By George Matysek


Cardinal McCarrick talks Christmas and politics

Retired Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick recently sat down with David Gregory of Meet the Press to talk Christmas and politics. The cardinal noted that Christmas comes to "remind us that there is a God and this is a God who loves us."  He also asserted that the more a voter understands about the issues, the more he or she will understand a candidate.

"We have to say," Cardinal McCarrick said, "'What is that man teaching - what is that woman teaching? How will it affect me, how will it affect my family, how will it affect my country?'"

Check out the extended interview here.

December 22, 2011 10:51
By George Matysek


Archbishop O'Brien, Bishop Malooly extend Christmas messages

Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien has an audio Christmas message here and Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly (former Baltimore auxiliary bishop) has a video Christmas message here.

December 23, 2010 07:05
By George Matysek


Sister Wendy speaks

Ever since she appeared in a BBC documentary on the National Gallery 19 years ago, Sister Wendy Beckett has taken the art world by storm. A familiar face on PBS, the surprisingly straight-talking contemplative nun is well-known for her unique insights into art and art history. 

Sister Wendy is the author of more than 25 books, including one on the Nativity containing more than 40 paintings that illustrate events leading up to and including the birth of Jesus. The book also highlights moments from Christ's life, death and resurrection.

The Telegraph has an interesting Q&A with the 80-year-old nun.

Some snips:

Solitary life: This is the greatest imaginable bliss. It wasn’t only that I wanted a contemplative life; I needed it. I am one of those inadequate people who can’t sustain the level of prayer and self-sacrifice that religious life asks, unless I have hours alone with God. But I am not totally alone. Once a day the sister who looks after me brings my post and gives me any messages. If there are practical matters to be seen to (I am a sadly impractical woman), she solves them. The day is surely coming when age and infirmity will make it impossible to live alone. I don’t worry about this because it’s all part of God’s plan.

Television career: Nuns have to earn their living and I earned mine by doing medieval Latin translation. But I became unwell and asked the Mother Prioress if I could look at art until I felt better. Then I realised there are no livings to be earned by merely looking, so I decided to write a book, which drew the attention of the BBC. This is how my television career began.

Christmas: My Christmas is a deeply privileged one and I spend it in silence marvelling at God’s goodness. I don’t put up decorations, wrap presents or attend a Christmas dinner (though I delight in giving and receiving cards). The high point is the high point of every day – attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist. This sacrament is Christmas in essence: God giving Himself, us receiving Him and being changed.

Read more here.

December 22, 2010 12:12
By George Matysek


Mercy's new hospital proclaims Christmas message

Mercy Medical Center's impressive new hospital tower in downtown Baltimore is all set to open tomorrow, Dec. 19.  Amid the fanfare, hospital leaders have added a nice Christmas touch that hearkens back to the days when Mercy's "old tower" first opened nearly five decades ago.
Back when the 1963 building was the new kid on the block, Mercy employees placed stencils in the lighted windows of patient rooms -- spelling out "A CHILD IS BORN" on the side of the tower.

If you take a close look near the top of today's $400 million Mary Catherine Bunting Center, you'll see that Mercy has posted the same lighted message.  

Very cool idea, Mercy!   

Then...

Baltimore News-Post Photo/Courtesy Mercy Medical Center

 
 And now...
 

Mercy Medical Center Photo/Kevin Parks

December 18, 2010 08:57
By George Matysek


Here's a digital take on the Nativity

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkHNNPM7pJA&feature=player_embedded#!]

December 15, 2010 06:49
By George Matysek


It's Christmas in Bawlmer, hon!

No Charm City Christmas is complete without this classic!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74INc6WwqYg&feature=related]

December 03, 2010 10:38
By George Matysek


Send the pope a Christmas message

When you're sending your Christmas cards this year, don't forget the pope.

A website sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications has a link where users can write a Christmas message or share a photo with the Holy Father.  The greetings will also be shared at the Pope2You website.

What would you say to the pope this Christmas season?

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12/10/2010 - Update: Lots of folks are taking a look at this post!  Be sure to visit www.catholicreview.org/matysekblog for similar posts.

December 02, 2010 04:36
By George Matysek


Hallelujah Chorus Fail

Handel's Messiah is always big this time of the year and choirs around the archdiocese are probably working on "For Unto Us a Child is Born" and the "Hallelujah Chorus" for Christmas.

Here's what can happen when the organist accidentally hits the transpose button at a most unfortunate moment.

By the way, Ed Polochick and The Concert of Artists of Baltimore will perform a much better version next Friday at the Meyerhoff in Baltimore. Their performances are outstanding.  You won't want to miss it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DBAoWr-imY]

November 28, 2010 12:13
By George Matysek

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