Author: Timothy O'Malley

Editorial Musings: Can We Get Lent Wrong?

And pray to God to have mercy upon us And pray that I may forget These matters that with myself I too much discuss Too much explain Because I do not hope to turn again Let these words answer For what is done, not to be done again May the judgement not be too heavy upon us Because these wings are no longer wings to fly But merely vans to beat the air The air which is now thoroughly small and dry Smaller and dryer than the will Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still. Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death Pray for us now and at the hour of our death (T.S. Eliot, Ash Wednesday I). The season of mercy has arrived. And with the coming of Holy Lent, the public proclamations exhorting us to penitential practice. This week, Church Life features a series of posts on how to take up this posture of penance in the Christian life. Katherine Infantine, a graduate …

New Orleans and the Catholic Imagination

As I woke up this morning in northern Indiana, I felt deeply sad. Some might assume that it is the perma-cloud that has reasserted its wintry authority over South Bend. Some would tell me that it’s the pile of papers that must be graded over the next three days. Both are wrong. It’s because today is Mardi Gras, and I’m not in New Orleans. When I tell people that I love New Orleans especially around Mardi Gras, a number of assumptions are made about me as a person. People imagine me as the kind of person who likes to wander drunkenly down Bourbon St., my feet immersed in some unidentified liquid, while my body brushes against a crowd of half-clothed human beings. They think to themselves how can a Catholic theologian, who is supposed to be piously engaged in theological education and research, enjoy this kind of debauchery? In fact, any Catholic who has spent significant time in New Orleans knows that my imagined interlocutor has misunderstood how ingrained the Catholic imagination is within the city of New Orleans. Yes, whenever …

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 …

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 …