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After years of hearing other people rave about their favorite podcasts, I finally started to listen to more of them over the last year. Podcasts can be a great way to educate yourself as well as entertain yourself, and I've discovered a few podcasts that are worth listening to. Here are three of my current favorites.

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img_7041 Pints with Aquinas ~ Screenshot ©2016 Christine Johnson

"Welcome to Pints with Aquinas. This is the show where you and I pull up a barstool next to the Angelic Doctor and discuss theology and philosophy." Each episode of Matt Fradd's podcast begins with these two simple sentences before he delves into discussing modern questions through the lens of Saint Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologicae. In his first episode, he asks the natural question to start things off. "Who are you, St. Thomas?" From there, he delves into a variety of topics ranging from faith, sacraments, and purgatory to sexual dreams (are they sinful?), the bombing of Hiroshima, why women can't be priests, and even "Are you cool if I get hammered drunk?" The podcast titles are always in the form of a question (which goes well with the Summa, which is presented in a Q&A format).

I'm a Lay Dominican, and I love St. Thomas Aquinas, but trying to read his Summa (or even summaries of it) stretches my brain. It's not good bedside reading, to be honest; you'll need all of your faculties to really understand it. While the Angelic Doctor deemed it all "straw" after seeing a vision of Heaven, I feel like a stupid donkey who can't figure out how to ingest the straw properly. Matt Fradd's podcast makes the philosophy and theology of Aquinas accessible to anyone; he quotes Aquinas liberally and explains it as he goes. To make the application of the Summa even more easily seen, Fradd adds more modern examples to Aquinas' own lessons. It's easy enough to follow along, even while doing dishes, folding laundry, cooking dinner, or cleaning your family room. Plus, the average length of each podcast is only about 20 minutes, which means you can get through it in one sitting pretty easily, which makes it even better for digesting the information he presents.

The Jennifer Fulwiler Show ~ Screenshot ©2016 Christine Johnson The Jennifer Fulwiler Show ~ Screenshot ©2016 Christine Johnson

"Your source for pop culture and the spiritual life. Your friend Jen, joining you here…" I think just about everyone in the Catholic online world knows who Jennifer Fulwiler is. I've been reading her blog since the days before she converted, and we've followed each other on social media for years now. Her radio show is really cool, which I can only tell you because of this podcast. Even if you don't have Sirius/XM Radio, you can still catch highlights of her show each week. As she says at the beginning of every show, she discusses pop culture and the faith, often drawing interesting lessons on the faith from that pop culture.

As Catholics, we're supposed to be in the world, but not of it, and I think Jen walks that line well. She constantly finds interesting, funny, and sometimes plain ol' bizarre stories from around the world to share. As a matter of fact, as I finished listening to Matt Fradd's podcast on whether or not sexual dreams are sinful, I looked at my phone to see that Jen's most recent podcast was entitled "Sex festivals and tooth fairies," which I thought was the funniest juxtaposition I'd seen in my podcasts app in a while. On the other hand, she also talks about family matters through a Catholic lens, and has a weekly feature called "Jen's Jukebox," where callers discuss secular music that inspires them. Jen is always entertaining and insightful, no matter what topics she discusses in a given week.

Girlfriends: Know Your Worth, Find Your Joy ~ Screenshot ©2016 Christine Johnson Girlfriends: Know Your Worth, Find Your Joy ~ Screenshot ©2016 Christine Johnson

"Hello, and welcome to Girlfriends. I'm Danielle Bean. I'm a wife and a mom, and I'm on a mission to help you know your worth as a woman so you can find peace, joy, and balance in family living. So what are we waiting for? Let's get started!" Danielle Bean's hour-long podcast feels like sitting down for coffee with a friend and talking about the stuff that comes up in your life as a wife and mother. Each week, she has a topic to discuss ("Are you too busy?", "5 Ways to Stop Worrying", "Kids & Chores"), and then spends the last 15 minutes talking to a guest. The guest segment is interesting because Danielle asks the same five questions of each guest, and it's neat to hear the different answers people have. I have to admit that I was behind the curve on Danielle's awesome podcast until she asked me to be a guest and answer The Five Questions (if you're interested in hearing it, it's the "Kids & Chores" episode), but I've been listening to it ever since that invitation, and have really loved every episode.

After years of looking up to Danielle for her work in Catholic media, it's fun to listen to her as a girlfriend and mentor. (She has great advice on her topics.) She always keeps it real, which is great because no one really has it all together, and we need to know that we're not alone! (I have a real love for the Catholic women who let their flaws show and don't try to put on a perfect public persona!)

Are you a podcast junkie? What are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!


Text and images ©2016, Christine Johnson