Friday, August 19, 2011

Coming to Charlotte: Jesuit priest who's 'chaplain' of Colbert's satiric news show

The Rev. James Martin, who's brought a religious perspective to U.S. pop culture in recent years, will be in Charlotte on Oct. 1 to help St. Peter Catholic Church celebrate its 25th anniversary as a Jesuit-run parish.

(Full disclosure up front: I attend the uptown church, which was founded in 1851, making it the oldest Roman Catholic parish in Charlotte).

Martin, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1999, is probably the country's most famous Jesuit -- a worldwide Catholic religious order that was founded nearly 500 years ago by Ignatius of Loyola in Spain. The order's more formal name: The Society of Jesus.

Martin has turned up frequently on CNN, Fox and NPR, a self-deprecating but soulful talking head who's served up compassionate and sometimes funny commentary on everything from Lindsay Lohan dressing as Jesus for a fashion magazine to Mother Teresa's admitting the presence of doubt in her prayer life.

But Martin has made perhaps his biggest pop culture splash via his appearances on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." Host Stephen Colbert -- who grew up in an Irish Catholic family in South Carolina -- now introduces Father Martin as chaplain of the faux news show.

This month, Martin was back on Colbert's week-nightly satire to talk about God's job performance and poll numbers. Before becoming a priest, Martin graduated from the Wharton business school in Pennsylvania and worked in finance at General Electric.

Besides appearing on TV, Martin blogs for the Huffington Post and America, a Catholic magazine, and writes books -- including "My Life with the Saints" (2006) and "The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything" (2010).

USA Today profiled him last year. And St. Peter has more information on Martin's "Jesuit 25th Anniversary Lecture" on its Web site.