All posts filed under: Blog Posts

Stories of Grace: Episode 13

“I think that, if we’re lucky in this life, we’ll get to come across perhaps three or four really really good ponds.” Visit here to listen to Notre Dame senior Madeline Lewis tell the story of finding the grace to sit with things for long whiles. Subscribe to the free Stories of Grace podcast on iTunes U and receive automatic notifications when a new story is published. Read the full text of Madeline’s reflection below. Really good ponds I think that, if we’re lucky in this life, we’ll get to come across perhaps three or four really really good ponds. This story begins with one such pond: a koi pond at Balboa Park in San Diego. This particularly good pond was something that I happened upon while ambling around the park one sunny June afternoon in the company of someone I dearly love. We weren’t alone in thinking it the perfect day to take advantage of such a treasure: there were dog-walkers and stroller-pushers, families and friends, couples old and young. Loveliness seemed to flutter all …

Globalized Secularity: An American-British Problem

Editor’s Note: This week, the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy and the editor of Church Life is visiting the United Kingdom to give a series of talks on liturgy and secularization. He is also beginning an inter-disciplinary research project related to this topic. He will be blogging about his trip over the next seven days.  Grace Davie, the British sociologist of religion, has often noted the exceptional quality of Europe’s secularity. Because of her work, it is impossible today to speak about a single experience of the secular. In Britain, according to Davie, secularity is best understood as a vicarious religion. No matter how little belief that one might have, it is viewed positively that there is a vicar in town (along with a cathedral church), who can tend to the needs of people who require such things. It’s good that the Church exists to carry out the rites of passage necessary for maintaining social order. Secularity in the United States, of course, is different than this. Much of this has to do …

Westminster Cathedral and the Secular

Editor’s Note: This week, the director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy and the editor of Church Life is visiting the United Kingdom to give a series of talks on liturgy and secularization. He is also beginning an inter-disciplinary research project related to this topic. He will be blogging about his trip over the next seven days.  After a rather dreadful travel delay, I arrived in London early Sunday morning. When my cross-examination by British custom agents was complete (an inquiry in which I had to emphasize that I liked my job and was not trying to secure a rogue faculty position in the UK), I found my way to my hotel in central London. Checked in and no longer smelling like I had been on a plane for 10 hours, it was time to get to Mass at Westminster Cathedral for the 2nd Sunday of Lent. From my hotel, I wandered down toward Buckingham Palace. Since it was nearing noon, the streets were full of tourists longing to get a sight of the queen …

The Rosary: Back to the Basics

I became aware early in the year that the task of catechizing their children overwhelmed the parents of my students. They walked into my room and felt out of their depth. They were perfectly at ease criticizing the approach of the new Social Studies teacher but walked on pins and needles asking me about my curriculum. One interaction at parent-teacher conferences summed this up: a couple sat in front of me, clearly trying to find out more about the Religion class’s content than their son’s performance. “You know,” said dad, “this is really important. This class is why we come here.” After an uncomfortable pause he added, “So what are you guys talking about in Religion?” He knew it was important that they learned about their faith, he just had no idea what that looked like. This conundrum of invested but confused parents popped up again when I decided to do a day on the Rosary. It was actually our second Rosary day, and this time I told the students to bring in a rosary …

5 Lenten Practices that Aren’t Giving Up Chocolate

With Ash Wednesday now come and gone, Catholics everywhere embark on their journey of Lenten disciplines. Lenten penitence can quickly begin to feel rote. While there is still great spiritual benefit in denying ourselves dessert or Netflix, sometimes we seek a more thoughtful or creative immersion into the three great practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Sometimes our imaginations need a jolt from the routine to help our bodies and soul enter into the Lenten spirit of preparation. Liturgically, baptized Christians undertake Lenten disciplines in preparation for the renewal of baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil. Christians enter Lent in order to re-enter our sacramental participation in the Paschal Mystery of salvation. Ideally, Lenten disciplines will baptize our imaginations, allowing us to approach the world with fresh eyes and refreshed charity. For anyone seeking different ways to practice Lent this year, here are five ideas that may provide a new approach to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 1. Forgo music. Several friends have practiced variations on this theme. If you have a morning commute (by car, …

Stories of Grace: Episode 12

“It’s a messy business, drowning in God’s love and grace.” Visit here to listen to senior John Lee tell the story of encountering the humbling grace of God in the breaking of the bread. Subscribe to the free Stories of Grace podcast on iTunes U and receive automatic notifications when a new story is published. Read the full text of John’s reflection below. Humility After Pride On the 29th morning of October in the year 1994, my mother lost her favorite rosary when she flung it across the hospital room, and broke my father’s hand as she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. They named him John after John the Baptist, because like Elizabeth, my mother had given birth to her first child later in life. They brought him back home to love and cherish forever. Growing up as a cradle-Catholic, I thrived within my Catholic bubble. I absorbed everything in my religion classes, and I loved the stories in the Bible. However, my family and I lived in Los Angeles, and trying to keep …

Blessed Basil Moreau and Keeping Lent

1) What does the spirituality of Bl. Basil Moreau offer for the Christian looking to keep Lent? The spirituality of Basil Moreau offers a bold, vivid, and practical program for the renewal and reordering of one’s life on the journey of discipleship. The Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, like the Christian life itself, are ultimately aimed at re-integrating and renewing our memory, intellect, and will in conformity with Jesus Christ. The Spiritual Exercises offer us a plan for such renewal. Like the Exercises of St. Ignatius, they are a sort of itinerary of conversion. Basil encourages the exercitant (the one making the exercises) to “put off the old self” and to “put on the new self” of Christ. The centerpiece of Basil’s spirituality is this conformity to Christ, and conformity to his Paschal Mystery in particular: a project that begins in baptism and ends only in resurrection (Gawrych & Grove, eds., Basil Moreau: Essential Writings: 45). Christianity, for Moreau, is nothing more and nothing less than Christ’s life reproduced in each Christian. Thus …

And the Nominees Are . . . Moonlight

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. This post contains no spoilers. A while back, I wrote an essay for Church Life Journal in which I argued that, before a theology of women or a theology of men can be articulated, what is needed is a theology of empathy, in which both women and men learn to encounter the other as an extension of the self, to enter into the experience of the other—without losing the essential qualities of the self—in order to better understand the other, and in the process, come to a better understanding of the self. I remember thinking at the time that a theology of empathy had implications beyond gender relations, that this was something essential for all human relationships—that empathy could serve as a foundation for dialogue between people of different races, religions, political affiliations, socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels, sexual orientations, even ages. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come …

And the Nominees Are . . . Hell or High Water

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. This review contains no spoilers. The best stories take us to new places and in doing so give a better understanding of ourselves. They persuade us to sympathize with the heroes—their struggles crush us—while sharing their ire for the dirty, no-good louts presented against them. Great plots challenge, intrigue, enchant, and ultimately force us to come to decide: What am I to do—who am I to be—in light of what’s happening here? Good stories end happily ever after but great ones leave us thirsting for more. This year’s Best Picture nominee Hell or High Water is a great one. Set in present-day West Texas, we meet cowboys, Comanches, and Texas Rangers in a desert expanse peppered with depressing “Fast Cash” billboards and flashing casino lights. The film tells of two brothers, Tanner and Toby Howard (played by Ben Foster and Chris Pine, respectively), who resort to robbing Texas Midland Banks in order …

And the Nominees Are . . . Hacksaw Ridge

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. This post contains no spoilers. Walking out of the theater after seeing Hacksaw Ridge, my senses were on high alert. Sitting through the graphic, suspense-filled battle scenes of this based-on-a-true-story war movie left me waiting for an enemy soldier (or, more realistically, a car or pedestrian) to jump out in front of us on the drive home. Luckily my less-fazed husband was driving and we made it home safely. I left feeling slightly traumatized by the battle scenes, but I can appreciate what Mel Gibson was trying to do with his realistic portrayal of the horrors of war Desmond Doss faced. In a press conference, Gibson described his intentions in directing these violent scenes for the movie: [The realistic portrayal of the Battle of Okinawa] highlights what it means for a man with conviction and faith to go into a situation that is a hell on earth, that reduces most men …