All posts filed under: Articles

Catechesis Through Love

My parish embodies a probably not uncommon reality in the shifting demographic and identity of American Catholicism. As I arrived at my parish a year and a half ago, our Director of Religious Education and her assistants were in dialogue about a rising number of high school students, specifically from the Spanish-speaking community, who were out of step with their sacrament preparation. At sixteen or seventeen years old, many had only received their first Eucharist a few years ago, and with Quinceñera expectations hurrying parents to the Religious Ed office by the dozens, these kids needed to be confirmed. “So what do we do?” asked our DRE. “Put them in Confirmation prep classes with a bunch of seventh graders?” Deciding that approach wouldn’t be particularly fruitful, we envisioned a class specifically for these high school students, to effectively catch them up on whatever catechesis they’d missed, fill the gaps in their knowledge, and get them ready to be fully initiated into the Church. So I offered to take on the class, found a brilliant co-catechist …

A Chair and a Half

Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, he who in his great mercy gave us a new birth; a birth unto hope which draws its life from the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; a birth to an imperishable inheritance, incapable of fading or defilement, which is kept in heaven for you who are guarded with God’s power through faith; a birth to salvation which stands ready to be revealed in the last days. As any good preacher does, I paid my due diligence and researched the history of 1 Peter for this occasion. It was clear to me that this reading for today was the blessing prefacing a longer teaching; but when was it written and to whom? That’s when I came across this explanation from a commentary: “[We] suggest [an authorship] . . . after the death of Peter and Paul, perhaps A.D. 70–90. The author would be a disciple of Peter in Rome, representing a Petrine group that served as a bridge between Palestinian origins of Christianity …

The Bread and Wine of Liturgical Evangelization

Not to put too much pressure on anyone, but after you read a few hundred pages of the Compendium on the New Evangelization and study Pope Francis’ encyclical letter The Joy of the Gospel, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the popes are expecting us to bring about, with God’s help, a total transformation of culture worldwide. This renewal of all reality is to organically grow out of the personal relationships with Christ of lay disciples who put their faith into action in our vocations of work, family, and community life. This isn’t to say that the clergy and religious don’t have a role to play. A world evangelization mission requires a laity that is formed in accordance with the Gospel and the Catechism. Thus we will be able to “Observe, Judge, and Act” our way through the myriad situations of our shared lives. That won’t happen without the experience of sacraments and especially the Mass as moments of grace, holiness, and formation. Consider two of the Americans Pope Francis recommended to us during …

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 …

The Light By Which We See: The Problem of Promise and Identity

Editors’ Note: This post is an excerpt from the beginning of the first chapter of DeLorenzo’s new book Witness: Learning to Tell the Story of Grace That Illumine Our Lives, published by and reprinted with the permission of Ave Maria Press, and currently available on their website. If someone were to call you by name and ask, “Who are you?” how would you respond? It is an unsettling question because having to say one thing about the whole of your existence is daunting. Each of us knows a lot about ourselves while, at the same time, most of us also know that there is a lot about ourselves that we do not understand. To define yourself in one way comes at the expense of defining yourself in other ways, and no one likes to be limited. Even more disturbing is the occasional realization that “I may not really know myself at all.” This problem of identity exists for each of us, no less for those who claim to be disciples. And it was precisely this …

Religion and the Arts: Wheelbarrows, Boots, and the Breath of Life

so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens –William Carlos Williams, “XXII”[1] Excuse me? “so much” depends upon a red wheelbarrow? What’s so vital in a garden tool? And be clear: what depends upon this red wheelbarrow? Some larger elided narrative? The safety of the white chickens? What a strange poem; indeed, what a strange sentence. Yet, a simple poem, child-like even. And one which contentedly—if not playfully—eludes “explanation.” The wheelbarrow is simply there in space and time: a random and remote yet unrepeatable moment, as thin and ephemeral as the glaze of rainwater, and localized only by a spare preposition—“beside” the white chickens. And still, we wait in suspense, so much of ourselves now dependent upon the enigmatically and charmingly resistant meaning of sixteen words. And yes—we can speculate—the form of the poem bears heavily on the content of the poem, speaks elegantly to our dependence upon language, word by word, to make sense of anything in this world. But again, what a strange poem if …

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 …

An Interview with Kimberly Baker: “Women of the Church” Conference

Dr. Kimberly Baker, associate professor of church history at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, was the co-chair of the organizational team for the “Women of the Church: Strength of the Past. Hope for Tomorrow” leadership conference last fall, hosted by the Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana, in partnership with St. Meinrad. The conference drew over 250 people, both women and men, and caught the attention of Pope Francis, who sent a letter of blessing to the conference. The program featured three keynote speakers: Carolyn Woo, Kathleen Sprows Cummings, and Mary Catherine Hilkert, OP. There were also ten breakout sessions facilitated by leaders such as Ed Hahnenberg, Vanessa White, Ann Garrido, and others. A unique feature of the conference was a Saturday afternoon moderated conversation with Archbishop Joseph Tobin, then of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and Bishop Charles Thompson of the Diocese of Evansville. The conference guests had an opportunity to submit questions in advance. Then, Baker moderated a conversation with the bishops about many of the themes and concerns raised in those questions. …

Fertility is Not a Disease

Managing a couple’s fertility to regulate their family size does not require removing said fertility from the woman’s or the man’s body. This is not primarily a religious issue. Some years ago a psychologist from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who had no religious affiliation came to me for instruction in the Billings Ovulation Method of natural family planning. She had already used mechanical and hormonal contraceptives, but, responding to a comment I had made at an NIH meeting, she decided to seek a natural method. After using the method for three months she told me, “This method is so different—now I can be all there, now I am not holding anything back.” The contrast between contraception and fertility acceptance methods has never been explained more simply. Today, hormonal contraceptives and sterilization are marketed aggressively and exclusively. While the physical side effects of contraceptive steroids on every organ system have been described in the medical literature, the personal, social, and spiritual effects of contraceptive steroid hormones, in fact of any blocking of the total …