All posts filed under: Blog Posts

What is the Catholic Worker Movement?

1. What is the Catholic Worker? What is its charism? The Catholic Worker is a lay movement that was started by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in the 1930’s in New York City. Dorothy was an anarchist journalist and a labor activist, and Peter was a working-class, itinerant philosopher. They met in the winter of 1932 and by May Day of the following year had put out the first issue of The Catholic Worker, a newspaper that addressed questions of labor, poverty, and nonviolence through the lenses of what we now think of as the Catholic social tradition. From there, they opened the first “house of hospitality,” welcoming the many people made homeless by the Depression in for a cup of coffee, a meal, and a place to stay. They developed a three-point program of houses of hospitality, round-table discussions, and “agronomic universities,” or farming communes where people could learn to grow their own food. Inspired by their example, other laypeople opened houses of hospitality or moved to farms in or near other cities. Today, …

Everything Looks Different After Priestly Ordination

Since my priestly ordination, one of my favorite liturgical texts has become the Office of Readings for Bl. Miguel Pro, the Mexican Jesuit martyred for clandestinely administering sacraments to persecuted Catholics. Cobbled together from letters written shortly before his arrest, the reading centers on Pro’s amazement at the change wrought in him by the priesthood. Pro writes to a friend, “Everything begins to look different [after ordination], everything is seen from another angle, everything is shaped by wider, more generous, more spiritual horizons. You will not be the same as before: something more is going to flood your soul and change it.”  But lest his friend expect an instantaneous and effortless transformation, Pro adds, “I did not notice this change until I found myself in touch with souls . . . God our Lord chose to use me as his instrument to do good.” The priesthood for Pro was like seed planted once for all in his heart, yet requiring ministerial contact to flower in his imagination. That this would be the case for Pro, …

What is the Community of Sant’Egidio?

1. What is Sant’Egidio? What is its charism? I often think that the Sant’Egidio Community is best understood through its founding, precisely because its founding was not really a founding. Nobody decided to create an organization, a rule, a structure. No, in Rome in 1968, at a time of great social ferment, a group of Catholic high school students began to gather together as friends in order to pray and to seek out and befriend the poorest of the poor. They did this regularly, grew in their ranks, and today you have a community of friends numbering tens of thousands and spanning nations and continents. This community has borne remarkable fruit, including friendship with the elderly and advocacy for the poor around the world, opposition to the death penalty, the combatting of AIDS in Africa, the mediation of numerous peace agreements in Africa and Latin America, and numerous other projects and causes. These “works,” though, all grow out of the community’s basic charisms of prayer, communicating the gospel, and friendship with the poor. Friendship comes …

Learning to Take the Pie

Air conditioning. Those two little words were at the forefront of my mind as I sat down to eat lunch last summer in a restaurant in hot and humid Memphis, Tennessee. I had been there for a little over a month, working at a women’s homeless shelter through Notre Dame’s Summer Service Learning Program. Joining me for lunch that day was my site partner, Elizabeth, along with two other women who were long-time volunteers at the shelter. Kathy and Sandy had treated us to a beautiful day of sight-seeing. We visited at least three or four museums, walked along the river soaking in the bright sun, and enjoyed peeking into little shops we passed along the way. This care-free day, roaming the streets of Memphis, was an unusual one for us. Up until that point, we spent most of our time on the grounds of the shelter, working with the religious sisters who lived there, and spending time with the women and children for whom the shelter was a temporary home. The shelter was really …

Humor in the Bible

We rightly approach Scripture with reverence and a certain solemn spiritual hunger. Therefore, we do not often think of these inspired texts as having any sort of humor or laughter in them. This is especially true if we are Fundamentalists, or, take every word of the Bible literally. Nonetheless, there are a number of Scripture passages that make me pause every time I hear or read them. These are in the Bible itself. They are not just the result of insufficient preparation on the part of the lector in regard to a particular text. One passage in particular comes to mind as an example of the latter: Luke 2:16.  The text may say, “The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger,” but the lector almost always proclaims instead that they “found Mary and Joseph and the baby, lying in the manger.” I will leave to your imagination how the “flaming brazier” of Genesis 15:17 comes across from some lectors. What I am considering is …

What Is Communion and Liberation?

1. What is Communion and Liberation (CL)? What is its charism? CL is a ecclesial movement in the Catholic Church, a community of people who have been changed by the encounter with Christ. It is named for the fact that only the Christian event, as lived in communion with one another, can bring about the liberation of the human person. Its founder, Fr. Luigi Giussani, began CL in Milan in the 1960s with his high school students; he taught them a method through which they could judge the experiences of their everyday life, and discover how faith was relevant to the most fundamental needs of their hearts. The movement summarizes its charism in three points (as seen here on the CL website): a) the proclamation that God has become man (and the wonder, reasonableness, and enthusiasm of this announcement): “The Word was made flesh and dwells among us”; b) the affirmation that this man, Jesus of Nazareth, dead and risen, is an event present in a sign of communion, that is, of the unity of …

Liturgical Catechesis

Liturgical catechesis—the act of reorienting our lives in and by the liturgical act—is quite a hot topic in ministerial circles currently. Liturgical catechesis should allow the grace of God to work through the words, actions, and meaning of the liturgy in order to form our lives. It would thus transform us into little Christs to serve the Church and the world. What does this look like and how can it be achieved? This is not a new question. There are certainly many answers such as Timothy O’Malley’s books, Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples, and Fr. Randy Stice’s trilogy on a rites-based approach to the sacraments are just a few that come to mind. But as I was perusing the latest issue of Antiphon—the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy—Dr. James Pauley of Franciscan University made a simple yet weighty statement: “the testimony of real people . . . can give voice to what it looks like in their own life experience to live fr­­­om the grace of the sacrament.”[1] Christ’s disciples in the world …

Madonna with Child.

One Story at a Time

Brandon Stanton, creator of the popular blog “Humans of New York,” does not tell your average success story. Brandon is not a trained journalist and never expected to own one of today’s most popular pieces of citizen journalism. No, drug use, poor grades, and a botched career in finance prompted a radical move across the country to become one of eight million New York City residents. His plan? To photograph 10,000 people on the streets of New York. He was jobless, penniless, and young. He was anonymous and inexperienced. He wasn’t even a very good photographer. These days, Humans of New York (HONY) is a worldwide phenomenon with over 17 million followers on Facebook, features stories from 20 countries and inspires fundraisers for refugees and research. The project has expanded, now incorporating a best-selling book and a brand new video series.  Brandon’s photos are simple portraits of a single person or group of people, often accompanied by a quote.  They are taken from the street relatively at random. His posts have been described as “unbiased,” …

Our Baptism in Ordinary Time

“Jesus answered, and said to him: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). We, the baptized, have been born anew. This can only sound routine if we have thoroughly domesticated our faith, but I am rather sure most of us have. With this new birth, we become capable not only of seeing the kingdom of God at the end of time, but even here and now in glimpses, the beginning of Christ’s coming reign. There is nothing “ordinary” about this, even if it rolls off the tongue like a jingle or a Social Security Number. The goal of parish life is to remind us of the startling nature of our Baptism every day. As Blessed Dom Columba Marmion would have us remember, we who are baptized would start each day at the 14th Station of the Cross, for we are buried with Christ in Baptism. There, nestled in the womb of Christ’s tomb, the rest of our day precedes as this …

Human Need in Game of Thrones and the Word of God

Keep this in mind, dear brothers and sisters. Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for a person’s anger does not fulfill God’s justice. Strip away all that is filthy, every vicious excess. Humbly welcome the word that has taken root in you, with its power to save you. Act on this word. If all you do is listen to it, you are deceiving yourselves. A person who listens to God’s word but does not put it into practice is like a man who looks into a mirror at the face he was born with: he looks at himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. There is, on the other hand, the man who peers into freedom’s ideal law and abides by it. He is no forgetful listener, but one who carries out the law in practice. Blest will this man be in whatever he does. (James 1:19–25) I’m a TV junkie. I confess it. I have been one for as long as I can …