Author: Timothy O'Malley

Editorial Musings: Does Evangelization Require Cultural Catholics?

This week at Church Life, we’re happy to publish an essay by one of our 2016 Liturgy Symposium presenters, Dr. Michael McCallion. Using the discipline of sociology, Dr. McCallion assesses the evangelization efforts of two parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit: one that uses a rational-intellectual approach to evangelization, while another focuses on an affective-volitional one. According to Dr. McCallion, the affective-volitional approach has generated more activities associated with the New Evangelization than the rational-intellectual one. Thus, the former approach seems better placed to renew ecclesial life in the present. Our editorial group spent some time discussing the findings of this article. While we were persuaded that an affective-volitional approach may be an essential catalyst in spurring activity within parish life, we also concluded that the article only measures the efficacy of evangelization at the level of the individual. That is, Dr. McCallion focuses primarily upon individual transformation that results in new forms of activity in parish life rather than the transformation of culture itself. The tendency to treat evangelization merely as an individual’s attraction to …

Editorial Musings: Does the Church Need the Arts?

Over the last week or so, Church Life has published a series of reviews on the Best Picture Nominees for the Oscars. You can read our reviewers’ takes on Lion,  La La Land, Arrival, Hidden Figures, Fences, and Manchester by the Sea with the rest to follow over the coming days (thanks to Carolyn Pirtle’s untiring work on these reviews). Our yearly reviews of the Oscars always makes us think about the role of the arts in Catholic life. And in our editorial meetings, we often come to the conclusion that there does seem to be a divorce between the arts and Catholic practice, which is deleterious to the life of the Church. New compositions in liturgical music tend to be more focused upon rallying the community around a specific series of beliefs of the composer (whose own musical training is lacking), often inattentive to artistic excellence. Churches and shopping malls continue to have more commonalities than differences, treated simply as gathering spaces in which beige walls and beige carpet cover over the sacred action of the Eucharist. The arts seem only …

Editorial Musings: Is Hypermasculinity a Problem?

This week, in honor of the Edith Stein Conference taking place at Notre Dame, Church Life is focusing on themes related to gender and human sexuality. A recent M.Div. graduate, China Weil, thinks about how to engage in pastoral ministry with those who use pornography. Drawing from the resources of the Christian iconographic tradition, she argues that we ought to form men and women to contemplate salutary images rather than those that lead us to exercise the pornographic gaze. In addition, we are featuring an interview with Kimberly Baker, Associate Professor of Church History at St. Meinrad School of Theology and Seminary, on a conference on Women in the Church held in the fall. And we have two articles dealing with parenting and fertility: one by Claire Fyrqvist on learning to practice (sometimes in difficult moments) the joy of parenting, another by Dr. Hanna Klaus on the problem of treating fertility as a disease rather than a gift and thus intrinsic to human sexuality. In our editorial meetings leading up to this issue, we determined that something that …

The Circumcision of Jesus and the Mother of God

A little over four years ago, I was in a hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana, awaiting the discharge of my newborn son. At birth, he had trouble breathing (a skill he would learn with ease in a day or two), and thus spent nearly five days surrounded by the whirl of hospital machinery intended to monitor his every breath, a group of top-notch nurses embodying caritas, and the overwhelming love of his ‘newborn’ parents. My son had not yet known the possibility of pain. Until his circumcision. He was taken from his hospital room for the brief procedure. Upon his arrival back, he cried and cried and cried. We were instructed to put ointment on the place of his recently removed foreskin (otherwise, the skin would stick to the diaper and cause a fresh wound). For weeks, every time I changed his diaper, I encountered a color red as blood—a wound that did not quickly disappear. I think of this moment in encountering the Gospel for the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. The Gospel speaks about …

Jared Dees

Jared Dees is founder of The Religion Teacher and author of Praying the Angelus (Ave Maria Press, 2017) and To Heal, Proclaim, and Teach: The Essential Guide to Ministry in Today’s Catholic Church (Ave Maria Press, 2016).

The Carnival of Corpus Christi

In late medieval culture, the feast of Corpus Christi was an occasion for a carnival-esque celebration. Plays were performed throughout the city, remembering the entirety of salvation history. Processions unfolded upon beds of roses, as prince and pauper alike praised the sacrament of the Eucharist. Why was this feast so important that it merited this degree of festivity? After all, in some ways, it’s strange to celebrate a feast for the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Isn’t every Sunday a celebration of Christ’s Body and Blood? Can we not feast upon God’s flesh and blood every day in our parish? Yet setting aside a feast for Corpus Christi enables us to meditate upon the sublime gift of the Eucharist. Already in the Old Testament, we see this sacrament prefigured in Melchizedek’s offering of bread and wine: “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who delivered your foes into your hand” (Gen 14:19–20). A sacrifice of thanksgiving for God’s victory over his enemies is offered …

Trinitarian Matters

After the joy of the Easter season, it may feel like a letdown to celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The proclamation that Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, seems more important than announcing the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father. The descent of the Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost, who go forth to breathe Jesus’ own spirit over creation, seems more vivifying than letting the world know that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Yet, as the Church teaches, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §261). How can something seemingly so abstract be so central to Christian faith? The readings for the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity open us up to the centrality of the Trinity in Christian life. In Proverbs, Christians see reference to the Word’s participation in the very act of creation. The wisdom of the Word was “beside him as …

Awaiting Pentecost

Most Catholics are at least vaguely aware that the Easter Vigil is a high point of the liturgical year. Yet, the Vigil of Pentecost rarely gets the same attention, despite having its own set of extended readings. If we read these texts for the Vigil of Pentecost, we discover that Pentecost is the fulfillment of Easter, not simply the end of the season. In the book of Genesis, we are invited to remember that sin which led to the disunity of the nations. In constructing the Tower at Babel, our forebears sought to ascend above the heavens, to rebel against God. They wanted to build a civilization apart from God, to glorify themselves. The Lord descends, seeing this act of rebellion, and “scattered them from there all over the earth, and they stopped building the city” (Gen 11:8). Those who once spoke one language, now speak many. And at the feast of Pentecost, when the Apostles begin to speak the languages of all the known world through the power of the Spirit, the disunity of …

King of the Cosmos

The feast of the Ascension is puzzling. The full presence of the risen Lord made available during the season of Easter is now interrupted by Christ ascending. The bodily presence of Jesus is no longer immediately available to the disciples. Yet, in both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles (describing the exact same event), the Apostles are not sorrowful about this absence. In Acts, they are told by the angels, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11). They are experiencing a hopeful bewilderment, waiting with wonder for what will happen next. In the Gospel of Luke, we hear what they do during this in-between time. They do not just sit around but as Christ ascends they worshipped him and “then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God” (Lk 24:52–53). Why do …

The Discerning Church

Jesus, in the Gospel of John, shows that he is the supremely masterful teacher. In the final hours before he goes to his death, Jesus speaks to his disciples. Unlike the mere human teacher, Christ comes to give vivifying words. Words that are the very presence of the Word made flesh: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23). To love Christ, even if we cannot see him before us, is to dwell in union with the Father. It to have God present among us. As the Church turns to celebrate the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost, we begin to contemplate this new presence. Christ will not dwell with us as he did with Peter, John, and James. But he will send to us, the scattered remnant of Israel, the Holy Spirit who “will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (Jn 14:26). In one sense, the Teacher leaves us, …