All posts filed under: Articles

Notre Dame Football Premium Upgrades and Trash Removal

For half a dozen Saturdays every fall, the University crafts a magnificent story. The Notre Dame Football Weekend for many Irish fans means a break from work, plenty of food, time spent with family and friends and the pleasant exhaustion that accompanies hand-clapping, hoarse-yelling, heart-twisting victories. It’s a sensational event. It’s a well-developed story. But there are others who tell the story differently. This is the first installment of The Magnificat Project. “Experience the call to greatness.” An advertisement for premium seating at Campus Crossroads offers insight into an elevated gameday experience—literally.[1] Extending from the upper floors of the Duncan Student Center and Corbett Family Hall, these seats look down over the field and stadium bowl. Duncan and Corbett are two of three buildings in the Campus Crossroads Project, which made its debut this year—the product of more than $400 million dollars and 3 million hours of labor. Each with nine successively impressive floors, these building tower over much of campus[2] and provide classroom, study, recreation, and rehearsal space. The project was funded in part …

Can You Square the Feeding of the 5,000 with Science?

We read the story of the feeding of the five thousand in all four Gospels. In John’s Gospel, it is immediately followed by the Bread of Life Discourse, in which Jesus lays out clearly the doctrine of the Eucharist. His teaching is quite clear: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink” (John 6: 53-55). From the reaction of the disciples (“This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” [6:60]) and Jesus’s response to them (“Does this offend you?” [6:61]), we know that Jesus means what he says—otherwise his teaching would not be so hard to accept. The placement of the feeding of the five thousand in all four Gospels, and directly before the Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel, suggests that there …

The Blessing of Marital Monotony

To be entirely romantic a thing must be irrevocable. —G.K. Chesterton W hen I am shopping for an anniversary card, I am almost always drawn to the cheesy ones that feature elderly couples on the front. You know the type: An aged man and woman seated on a park bench and leaning into one another, or maybe it is a B&W shot from behind as the pair stroll side by side down a country lane. I have been buying cards like that for Nancy since we were first married—maybe even before we were married if memory serves—because I have always believed they capture something essential about the Catholic nuptial vocation. Namely this: That the absolute core of sacramental marriage is the vow. “Growing old together” is not just a heartwarming Hallmark sentiment. It is the very foundation of a sanctifying, and thus successful, marriage commitment. Note that I did not say anything about “happy” marriage, although unqualified permanence certainly makes such happiness possible. If either party to a marital union reserves the right, either openly …

Jazz: A Foretaste of Eternal Life

Throughout Scripture, there are more than 1,000 references to all things musical—songs, singing, instruments, and the like. These passages identify music as a beautifully appropriate way to praise God not only here on earth, but also in the eternal joy of heaven. As a lifelong musician, I’ve always been especially comforted by the reassurance that, whatever else life in heaven is like, music will definitely be a part of it. More recently, as a composer, I’ve often found myself wondering what exactly this music will sound like. Some Scripture passages seem to imply a capella (unaccompanied vocal) music, for example, “I thank you, LORD, with all my heart; in the presence of the angels to you I sing” (Ps 138:1). On the other hand, Isaiah tells us that “we will sing to stringed instruments in the house of the LORD all the days of our life” (Is 38:20). That sounds appealing; who doesn’t love a good string quartet? The psalmist goes several instruments further in his final song of praise: Hallelujah! Praise God in his …

Handing Over to Satan

People, afflicted with an incomprehensible distress, Were throwing off their clothes on the piazzas so that nakedness might call For judgment. But in vain they were longing after horror, pity, and anger. —Czeslaw Milosz, “Oeconomia Divina,” New and Collected Poems The human mind can get used to anything, and can see whatever it decides to see, if it is tired enough, and motivated enough to leave things lay. I remember waking up at the crack of dawn to go play summer basketball as a high-schooler. In the pinched-cheek light, we dragged our heavy legs into some 90’s transport device, and stared blankly, sleepily out the window across the street. My buddy, who had spent the night with us to set out on the early trip, had his eyes fall on his SUV across the way. “Look at that,” he said, “some crazy dog is sleeping on the hood of my car.” Through the sliver of our puffy eyelids, our gaze rested on the seemingly slumbering canine, and for what seemed like anywhere between 15 minutes …

Christ’s Story Runs Deeper: The Sanctified Imagination

In his collection of “diagnostic essays,” The Message in the Bottle, Walker Percy reflects on the particular idiosyncrasies of the modern milieu, offering a prognosis for the malaise that manifests itself in pervasive cultural symptoms of dis-ease and dissatisfaction. In one essay, “The Loss of the Creature,” Percy perceptively identifies the modern human as having been reduced to “a consumer of a prepared experience.”[1] Essentially, in a society of mass-produced goods and televised reality, consumers have begun to hunger for authenticity. The human being wants “to certify their experience as genuine.”[2] The modern creature hungers to know herself as a “sovereign wayfarer”[3] forging her own path of exploration and discovery, rather than a shopper selecting predetermined experiences. Percy’s sense of the crisis of the modern person to find a genuine experience resonates particularly in terms of the social narratives in which human beings live. Cultural narratives control our imaginations and our actions, and these narratives can so tangibly shape the life we lead and the person we become. Our lives are determined by many narratives …

The Cure for a Throwaway Culture

Fr. Julián Carrón, leader of the Communion and Liberation movement, has a familiar refrain when asked about the Holy Father, “If you don’t think Pope Francis is the cure, you don’t grasp the disease.” The disease, already well-advanced in the developed West, is the “throwaway culture.” Francis describes those of us who have it as slaves to mentality “in which everything has a price, everything can be bought, everything is negotiable. This way of thinking has room only for a select few, while it discards all those who are unproductive.” The inherent, irreducible value of inefficient human beings who are a net burden is ignored or even actively rejected by a throwaway culture which finds such value inconvenient. Francis obviously has direct killing as a primary concern here, but is also worried about the structural violence present in how we order ourselves. Francis insists that a commandment like Thou Shalt Not Kill applies very clearly to our “economy of exclusion.” In the Pope’s view, this economy “kills.” And the kind of exclusion with which Francis …

Black Bodies, Kneeling, and the Liturgy

This essay should be understood as a preliminary[1] exegesis, reading the recent events surrounding the phenomenon of “taking a knee” at football games as texts, mining them for meaning. Why has the response of many Americans been so negative? And how might we, as liturgically formed Christians, apply a kind of hospitable imagination to our reading as we seek to live out a consistent and holistic ethic of life? They’re not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they’re also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking the knee like they would be if they were in North Korea. —Commentator on Fox Cable News You think black Americans are free from the worry of being shot by agents of the state? That’s the whole thing that they’re protesting in the first place. —Trevor Noah, from the Daily Show Scapegoat Theory The renowned theorist René Girard posits an overarching theory of human culture that begins with what he calls mimetic desire. Human desires “are not innate or autonomous,” …

Human Dignity Was a Rarity Before Christianity

In my theological writings over the past twenty years, I have often (some might say tediously often) returned to two episodes from the gospels that never quite lose their power to startle me: that of Peter weeping in the early light of dawn over the realization that, contrary to his fervent protestations of the night just past, he has denied Christ before the world; and that of Christ’s confrontation with Pilate (especially as recounted in John’s gospel). After so much time, one might reasonably expect that the fascination would wane, or at least cease to have the quality of surprise. But nothing of the sort. Recently, as I was preparing my own translation of the New Testament for Yale University Press, I found myself drawn to both episodes yet again, with the same old familiar feeling that they contain something at once momentous and uncanny, something somehow out of place and out of time. Something is happening in these passages, homely as they may seem, that never happened before. We speak today very easily, if …

Ancient Israel’s Law of Defending the Weak

The command to remember is a common refrain in Deuteronomy (eg. Dt 5:15; 7:18 et al.).[1] What the Law requires of Israel is in some sense an extension of what God himself has done for her. The memory of that favor underscores Israel’s responsibility to do the same. This is nowhere more true, perhaps, than in the care for the vulnerable. “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge; but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this” (Dt 24:17-18). Israel is to identify with the weak and to extend what she herself has received. “You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (cf. Ex 22:21; 23:9; Lev 19:33-34; Dt 10:19; 23:7). This reception and extension of mercy is expressed beautifully in the life of Ruth, a Moabite and the widow …