All posts filed under: Articles

“For the Life of the World”: Nourishing the Catholic Imagination for Liturgical Celebration

In the life of the Church, the liturgy, especially the Mass, is something of a lightning rod. Mass attendance (or lack thereof) is viewed as the basic litmus test for a parish’s vitality, and many programs and initiatives are undertaken at the parish and/or diocesan level for the purposes of either increasing the numbers of those who attend Mass regularly or making the Mass a more meaningful experience for those who already go. Why this emphasis on the liturgy, and particularly the Eucharistic celebration of Mass? At the surface level, it’s because the Mass is the central point of entry for most parishioners into the life of their church. If the Sunday Mass is poorly attended, it’s a safe bet that other parish programs like catechesis, youth and young adult ministry, and sacramental preparation are probably struggling as well. As goes the Sunday Mass, so goes the parish. At a deeper spiritual level, the Eucharistic liturgy is most often the central focus of parish ministry because it is in the liturgy that “the work of …

Nourishing the Imaginations of the Young Church

In seeking to capacitate young people for mature lives of faith, Notre Dame Vision offers an opportunity for young people and the adults who minister to them to encounter the fullness of Jesus Christ revealed in the Scriptures, the sacramental life, and in communion with the Body of Christ—the Church. Keynote speakers, small group discussions, prayer experiences, and personal reflection cultivate a vision of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who captivates their imaginations and calls them to respond with the witness of their lives. In the opening session of the week the high school students and adults who serve them gather together to hear Jesus, the Word, ask us: “Are you listening?” In the high school Vision program, the high school students and their college-age Mentors-in-Faith build communities focused on listening to the Word of God, to each other, and to ourselves. Meanwhile, the adult campus and youth ministers form community that fosters a disposition of receptivity to the Word, attentiveness to the workings of grace in our lives, and commitment to a renewal …

The All of It: Nourishing the Catholic Imagination through Echo’s Integrative Formation

“It is the starved imagination, not the well-nourished, that is afraid.” –E.M. Forster If we are to think of the Church as a field hospital, as Pope Francis has suggested, with “the mission to heal the wounds of the heart, to open doors, to free people, to say that God is good, God forgives all . . . God always waits for us” (Homily, Casa Santa Marta, 2.5.15), then those of us responsible for preparing ministers for this field hospital Church must place the nourishment of our students’ imaginations at the center of their and our work. It takes a great deal of courage and pastoral creativity to approach deep wounds, to open closed doors, to receive and speak rightly of God’s forgiveness and affection. In Echo, students engage simultaneously in various dimensions of the program—study, prayer, community, ministry, formation. But the key to a well-nourished Catholic imagination is not just being in Catholic places and doing and consuming Catholic things. Fragmented busyness might make us feel full but it often leaves us overfed and …

Our Lady, Doer of Knots

At the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I spent six months living in Argentina as volunteers at a hospice house. The hospice was run by a religious community with whom we were connected, and welcomed terminally ill men and women, particularly from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Over the course of our time at the hospice we had the privilege of walking with more than 30 guests during their final weeks and days of life, caring for their bodily and spiritual needs, and on occasion accompanying them over the final threshold into eternal life. One guest in particular made a lasting impression on us. Elena was a real firecracker; like all the hospice guests her disease was terminal, but unlike many other guests she still had an intense zest for life and lived for a number of months in the house. My husband bonded with her over their shared appreciation of a meal that was brought to the table “bien calentito” (piping hot), and we spent many an afternoon swapping stories, telling jokes, and working …

God Reigns Over the Nations

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. Alleluia! Christ is Risen! In our daily lectionary, we are pointed to the incredible depth and range of the human experience that we find in the Psalms. We really do have something for the whole spectrum of the human experience in the Psalter. Today, in Psalm 47, we get the biblical manual for what to do on the day that your resurrected Lord and Saviour begins rising up from the surface of the earth until he is taken from your sight on a cloud: “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” “God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.” Admittedly, the account in the Acts of the Apostles is not actually descriptive of the heavenly musical ensemble at this precise moment. And just in case you were confused about what to do at having witnessed this incredible event, the psalmist knowingly added in “sing praises …

Embracing Parish Life: Step 4—Getting Involved

Editors’ Note: This is the final article in a series that seeks to make parish life more accessible to Catholic young adults. To learn more, see: Embracing Parish Life: Step 1—Choosing a Parish, Embracing Parish Life: Step 2—Registering at a Parish, and Embracing Parish Life: Step 3—Tithing. In thinking about writing this series for young adults on embracing parish life, I began by informally surveying young adult Catholics in my social networks. The 85 people who responded to my Google survey represent an atypical sampling of Millennials (my social networks are exceptionally Catholic-y): 80% attend Mass at least weekly, 80% are registered at their parishes, and 83.5% donate to their parishes at least occasionally. And, yet, only 55.3% of these respondents can definitively say that they feel like they are part of their parish communities. We go to Mass, we’re registered, we donate, but we don’t feel like we belong. What are we missing? In reviewing my [not particularly scientific] data, I found it interesting to look at the differences between those who are involved in their …

Embracing Parish Life: Step 3—Tithing

Editors’ Note: This is the third article in a series that seeks to make parish life more accessible to Catholic young adults. To learn more, see Embracing Parish Life: Step 1—Choosing a Parish and Embracing Parish Life: Step 2—Registering at a Parish. I love budgeting. It might be a slight obsession. My friends and coworkers can attest to my willingness to tell anyone and everyone how wonderful and important it is to budget. The first expense category on our monthly budget is “Giving,” which includes two separate items: giving to our local parish and giving to a charity or cause (we choose something different each month). I share this not to gloat but to share our strategy; if giving wasn’t the first thing on our budget, we’d easily find other ways to spend our money. In Deuteronomy, God tells the Israelites to give the “first fruits” of the harvest (Dt 26:2), or, in other words, to offer some of their crops to God before they take any for themselves. In God’s infinite wisdom, he knew that I could …

Metaphors in the Catechetical Imagination

Christ and his Church have always used metaphors to fashion and to articulate meaning, to express the inexpressible presence of God, and to communicate his truths,[1] such as “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11, 14). The National Directory of Catechesis [NDC] has taken the lead in urging catechists to use metaphors. [2] The NDC advocates metaphors because Christ taught that way. So did the early Church. On their face, metaphors and similes compare one thing or idea with a seemingly different thing. But they are much more than fancy figures of speech. Examining how the Church has used metaphors can teach and transform how contemporary catechists do likewise. Why Metaphors are Made for Catechesis First, metaphors are fundamental, cognitive software through which we map our world, make decisions, and understand ourselves, others and God. We all naturally think and talk using metaphors. So does the Bible, Christ, and the Church. Metaphors (and similes) create associations between seemingly unrelated images, memories, and ideas; they form “maps” by which we understand life, express our thoughts, and …

“You can eat with us”: On Poverty and Community

Twenty years ago, I asked Paul, the tall, burly, blunt, and opinionated leader of the Catholic soup kitchen, if I could take my youth group to serve dinner. “Nope!” he barked. Startled, I squeaked out, “Um, why?” “I used to do exit interviews of high school kids after serving, and one kid said what all the other kids thought: ‘It’s good to serve someone I’m better than.’ You can eat with us. Your kids can come down, a couple at a time.” Paul, in his blunt way, echoed the eloquence of St. Vincent de Paul: You will find out that Charity is a heavy burden to carry, heavier than the kettle of soup and the full basket. But you will keep your gentleness and your smile. It is not enough to give soup and bread. This the rich can do. You are the servant of the poor, always smiling and good-humored. They are your masters, terribly sensitive and exacting masters you will see. And the uglier and the dirtier they will be, the more unjust …

Embracing Parish Life: Step 2—Registering at a Parish

Editors’ Note: This is the second article in a series that seeks to make parish life more accessible to Catholic young adults. To learn more, see Embracing Parish Life: Step 1—Choosing a Parish. Throughout my 20s and into my early 30s there have been some “defining moments” that have made me feel like I’m slowly but surely reaching adulthood. Getting my car’s oil changed, purchasing and cooking a Thanksgiving turkey, and planting tulip bulbs and various other flowers in my yard are just a few of those moments. Registering at my parish is another. I found that something about registering at a parish and receiving my offertory envelopes in the mail each month made me feel more grown up. Maybe my “cradle Catholic” upbringing has something to do with it. Regardless, registering at a parish is an important step for any Catholic young adult. But, you might be asking yourself, I can go to Mass at any parish without registering, so what’s the difference? Why register? For starters, registering is helpful for the parish. Every …