Editor’s Note: Matthew Chicoine interviewed Mike Tenney via phone call on November 2, 2022. Some of the questions have been rearranged and edited to provide the best reader experience without losing any integrity of the answers given.
What inspired you to begin Pop Culture Catechism?
I have found since I was in high school I have had a gift explaining the faith to others in an understandable way. I spent 14 years in Catholic schools teaching theology. Developments in my wife’s career and having kids helped to lead me toward this path. This podcast seems to be a natural use of my talents and experiences. It seems like a perfect nexus of my skills, passions, and experiences.
Describe your Catholic journey (so far).
I’m a cradle Catholic but had an reawakening through youth group in high school. I also discerned the priesthood and went on some mission trips. I also served with the Capuchin Volunteer Corp immediately after college. Every few years, I have had these amazing spiritual highs.
What have been joys you experienced with this podcast?
The biggest joy is all the people who have reached out to me. Especially those who aren’t faithful Catholics. I’ve had a few friends who I lost touch with and who I have since rekindled a friendship with. Now I’m getting to be a religion teacher for my friends and family.
Students have reached out. My target audience is my former students.
What have been some obstacles you encountered?
Finding good guests has been one of the toughest challenges. It is tough to align with relevant topic and on people’s minds, or a piece of art that speaks to it, and there’s also guest who’s knowledgeable and passionate about it.
Who is your favorite musical artist?
I have an eclectic taste but alternative rock is my home base. Some of my favorite musical artists include: U2, Dave Matthews Band, Maroon 5, Paramore, Jimmy Eat World, Counting Crows, and Elevation Worship.
How important is Saint Teresa of Avila to you and your faith life?
I discovered Saint Teresa through a book about Saint John of the Cross. My mother-in-law was named Teresa. And I discovered her through Saint Ignatius. The two key concepts is finding these rooms inside yourself and what a castle for. It’s a place of protection and the king lives there.
This is the real life origin story of how The Simple Catholic began:
My name is Matthew and I have run The Simple Catholic blog since 2015. It was a fruit born out the suffering from losing my unborn son Jeremiah (miscarriage). Writing was a healing balm for my heart, mind, and soul.
I earned my Master’s degree in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and had teaching experiences. Personal and family circumstances caused me to leave teaching but the desire to help others learn about Jesus and His Church remained. The blog blossomed into a mission: to inform others about the Catholic faith and show how joy can be found in daily life (even in the suffering).
Finding Strength in My Differences
I was diagnosed with ADHD as a kid and it is one of my “super-powers” as it allows me to make connections between seemingly unconnected things.
I have had to learn over the years my neurodivergent mind wasn’t a weakness but it can be a strength. Through the help of my wife (a special education teachers) and my four kids along with the Holy Spirit I have been able to learn how to harness my differences and quirkiness with my passion for Catholicism.
In this picture, I celebrated my paper football victory over my oldest son: 60-24. 😀😂
The Healing Power of Humor
Humor is a big part of my life. It acts as a stabilizing force during the times my depression and anxiety flare up.
My favorite show is The Office (a great way to get me attention in the sea of emails I receive is to make a reference to this show). Threat Level Midnight or A.A.R.M are my favorite episodes.
I also enjoy reading (no less than 8 books simultaneously). I’m a literary omnivore but I do tend to enjoy theology, sci-fi, and comic books more than others.
I am also an avid football fan and love tossing the frisbee around.
Because of my ADHD I tend to enjoy lots of other things too:
Watching bees carry pollen
Looking at the moon
Drinking Dr. Pepper, Coffee, and Bai Teas (not together)
Listening to Bon Jovi
Reading anything Marvel
Playing board games
Reading about board games
Watching video about board games
Talking about board games
Making Seinfeld and The Office references on an almost daily basis
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I played a lot of board games often with my siblings and cousins growing up. So many incredible memories formed.
One of my favorite games I played with my brother was Stratego.
Yesterday, I finally introduced my kids to this amazing strategy game. I rented it from the library with the original intent to play with Noah. He wasn’t interested at the time so I started a game with Amelia.
She had fun and during the second game I let Josiah move some of the pieces. He was quick to understand the concept of the Miner being able to defuse the bombs and the Scouts being able to move farther than the others pieces.
Avila enjoyed taking my pieces off the board. I had to prevent her from taking my flag piece several times. 😆😆😆
Board-gaming is one of my favorite hobbies and I’m thankful to have been able to forge more memories with my kids playing this “new” game with them!
Editor’s Note: Here’ a letter I wrote to my unborn son Jeremiah who left this life on All Soul’s Day 2014.
Words will never fully describe the yearning I have to see you again in heavenly bliss. I will try my best with this letter. Life was tough in the months ensuing your death. While pain set in quickly for your mother, I remained aloof from the suffering—for a time—eventually I broke down and trembled at our sudden and inexplicable loss. Though I never blamed God, our Father, for taking you away from us, I did question the good in the situation.
To be honest, I have not fully recovered from our tragedy of you passing from this life to the next, ironically on All Souls’ Day. The pain does get a little bit less each day. Your mother and I were at a crossroads on a cool summer night. You were supposed to be born in June 2015. All around us people we knew were having babies and we were only reminded of our pain and thinking what might have been. I prayed out to God “I just want something good to happen in my life!” Weeks later we discovered your mother was pregnant. Despite this amazing news, we were cautious and often thought of losing you months earlier.
Half-way through the pregnancy we learned that we were having another baby boy and we settled on a name—Josiah. Later we learned that this name means “healer”. I do not think that was a coincidence. I firmly believe God answered our prayers and used you as a powerful intercessor to keep your brother Josiah safe throughout the pregnancy.
Grief is Love that Endures
Thank you for the gift you have provided your family! I’m grateful to have heard your heartbeat before we lost you. That memory gives my daily strength and every milestone Josiah has I think of you. I ask for continually help and intercession in your union with our Heavenly Father.
Your siblings and your mother deeply miss you. We hope to be united with your after our pilgrim journey in this life is completed.
With great love and gratitude,
P.S. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you” –Jeremiah 1:5 (New American Bible)