Faith in challenging times – an interview with Father Matt Malone, S.J.


Claire Moore '22

Father Matt Malone, S.J. is the youngest Editor-in-Chief in history for America Magazine.

The King Street Chronicle conducted an exclusive interview with Father Matt Malone, S.J.,President and Editor-in-Chief of America Media, after he spoke to members of the Sacred Heart Greenwich community March 9.  Fr. Malone discussed his faith-based path that led him to combine journalism, politics, and religion into an interdisciplinary career.  Read the Q&A with junior Claire Moore, Opinions Editor, News Editor, and Podcast Editor, below.

What was your experience when you started as America Magazine’s youngest Editor-in-Chief in history?  How do feel your interdisciplinary career in politics, journalism, and religion prepared you for this role?

“I was the youngest Editor-in-Chief for America, but by the standard of the world, I wasn’t that young.  I think the reason why the Jesuits selected me was that America had been a print magazine for one hundred years, and it was very successful, but media has completely changed with the digital revolution, and so I think they wanted to have a younger person who was more versed in those technologies and digital platforms.  The cool thing was that I had abandoned politics and journalism to undergo ten years of religious training, so I thought I’d left media to become a priest, but the more I considered it, I was doing media work as a priest and that made it a very special experience.  I was well prepared because as a Jesuit, I stand at the edge of the Church and the world, trying to explain the Church to the world and vice versa, which is America’s main purpose.  My political knowledge helped me communicate things in a way that could be easily understood while motivating people to take action.  Another thing I learned through politics was listening to public opinion, how to craft a message that could be heard and effective, and how to bring people together in conversation, even if they disagreed with each other.  Those were all invaluable tools in my work on America magazine.”

What have you learned from studying in different countries?  How has having a global perspective impacted the way that you approach your writing and career? 

“In my time as a Jesuit, I spent two long periods abroad.  The first was in Guayana, a country in South America, and I spent half a year there working in the interior of the country in very remote villages.  It taught me that there were different ways of being Catholic in the world.  I had come from Boston, which is very heavily Catholic, but in Guayana, they didn’t have a lot of those resources, yet still had vibrant churches and Catholicism that incorporated their indigenous American-Indian culture into Catholicism, and so that was key to me to stretch my imagination of what constituted a Catholic Church.  The second place I lived abroad was London, and I spent a long three years there studying theology, particularly how faith and church interact with American politics.  It was really helpful to do that from a distance, because it allowed me to take a step back and see things in a bigger way and see a broader horizon.  That was a very useful lesson for me to understand how the way we see American politics and how the rest of the world does is very different.  It also helped me see the strengths and weaknesses of our culture around that.”

Father Malone speaks about America Magazine’s mission of bringing together faith and politics.  Courtesy of America Magazine

Sacred Heart Greenwich’s mission is based on five Goals and Criteria, one of them being “a personal and active faith in God.”  How can students uphold this religious value while balancing academic, athletic, and extracurricular commitments? 

“I know what it’s like to be in that situation; the busiest time in my life was in high school with all the activities and focus on the future.  It’s a lot of pressure and I appreciate that.  What I’ve learned in my own life in order to achieve this balance is to not think about praying or spending a few minutes talking with a priest or friend about my faith like another thing I have to do that day; it’s the thing that helps me balance all my other roles.  By taking the time to do that, it can center us; it gives us a sense of what’s ultimately important, the kind of people we want to be, instead of just the things we want to do.  I can remember that piece of my identity centers me and helps me bring stability to all the other areas of my life.  I would encourage you all to look for those places you can think or pray or talk about to find the freedom to bring balance to the rest of your life and activities.”

That central pillar of faith, that we’re loved as we are, gives us the freedom to do things…More specifically, the freedom to do all those things in a more deliberate way is because the love of God will not go away…

— Fr. Matt Malone, S.J.

How can students use faith to anchor them in the midst of uncertainty, such as the coronavirus pandemic and college admissions?  What helps you keep a balanced perspective?

“It can be hard when you’re young or even middle-aged to have a broader perspective, but I think the more you’re able to step back and think, I’m a human being, not just the sum of all things I’ve done or all the things I have, the more you realize that you are loved and cherished for who you are, before anything else.  That central pillar of faith, that we’re loved as we are, gives us the freedom to do things, to try things, and to enter into a difficult and challenging situation, like facing a global pandemic or figuring out what college you’re to go to or how to get there.  More specifically, the freedom to do all those things in a more deliberate way is because the love of God will not go away, and it will not change no matter the outcome.  If we’re not able to do something because of COVID-19, or we don’t get into the exact college we want, it won’t be the end of the world.  God will love us just as we are and whatever it is that happens, God will walk with us through that as well.” 

What advice do you have for Sacred Heart students who wish to fuse faith with their future careers?

“I would say that, first of all, whether working in a church-based ministry, or a non-profit, or Merrill Lynch, or an insurance company, or even a school teacher, you bring your faith to that regardless.  Our faith should help or inform everything that we do, and the way in which we bring our faith to work is going to change depending on what we choose for our occupation in life.  In making that choice, we are asking ourselves ‘where is God calling me?’  There is another way to ask the very same question, ‘what is it deep down inside that I desire?’  At the end of the day, there is no difference between what we most deeply desire and what God desires for us; they are basically the same question.  The passion we have in ourselves is given to us by God.  So cultivate a habit of asking that question, ‘what is it I most deeply value and was it an important factor in my career?'”

Featured Image by Claire Moore ’22