All posts filed under: Blog Posts

The Supper of the Lamb

Today, I boarded a train from Leuven (where Societas Liturgica is meeting) for Ghent. After years of teaching the Mass to undergraduates, of inviting them to gaze with wonder upon the supper of the Lamb of Van Eyck, I couldn’t leave Belgium without seeing it. I arrived at St. Bavo’s Cathedral after a thirty minute walk from the train station. Escaping the rain, I walked into the cathedral and began to wander around with the rest of the tourists. We passed through the nave of the Church, the high altar, various side chapels, until we arrived at the chapel in the back of the church that housed the Ghent altarpiece. I paid my 4€ and joined the dozens of tourists to see the altarpiece. Each day from 12:00 PM until 1:00 PM, the altar piece is closed, showing the image of the Annunciation. I arrived in the chapel at 12:47 PM and began to pray the Angelus, joining myself with the Marian prayer of the Church. The prayer was uncomfortable. The tourists continued bumping into …

Learning to Behold

Our efforts to keep up with such a fast-paced world can result in a real poverty of presence – presence to one another, presence to ourselves, and presence to God. We are tempted to live in an idealistic future, in the days of our past, or in the world of technology that promises to make us happier than the here and now. Our memories, hopes, and dreams are not balanced by a sobering awareness of our present state. A poverty of presence manifests itself in our homes, in our social circles, in our spiritual life, etc., and it can hinder the way in which we bear witness to Christ in our everyday lives. Scripture gives us a simple instruction to help us be present: to behold (e.g. John 1:29, 19:26-27; Luke 1:38; Matthew 28:20; Revelation 21:5). Learning to behold another in our midst teaches us to slow down, to listen, to be with, to really hold another’s joys and sorrows as our own. Pope Francis reflects: “Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the …

Celebrating Easter, Part 6: The Redemption of Farming

Organic-biodynamic farming, though it possesses many practical benefits—such as raw milk, fresh vegetables, fresh meats and eggs—has always been for me a kind of sacred activity. This sacredness resides in one undeniable fact: the Blood of Christ saturated the earth on Golgotha. This is not some minor, locally interesting detail. Rather, it is a supernatural event of the highest importance for the entire planet, and, indeed, for the cosmos. He makes all things new. When I work the land, I am mindful that this soil has been redeemed along with all of Creation by Christ’s Blood. This is not some piece of abstract doctrine for me, but a scientific truth. However, this is a truth I must not fully understand: if I did, I’m afraid I’d be too awestruck to do anything. Nevertheless, his Blood saturated the soil and its power still enlivens it. My job, as I see it, is simply to help the vegetables and forage crops I plant find access to that power. This care implies tending: planning, planting, weeding, composting. In …

“Come, Holy Spirit”: The Vulnerable Bravery of Fr. Hesburgh’s Favorite Prayer

The late Fr. Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C., beloved former president of the University of Notre Dame, stated again and again in homilies and interviews that his favorite prayer was “Come, Holy Spirit.” He said: The Holy Spirit is the light and strength of my life, for which I am eternally grateful. My best daily prayer, apart from the Mass and breviary, continues to be simply, “Come, Holy Spirit.” No better prayer, no better results: much light and much strength. As the Church prepares to celebrate the feast of Pentecost, it strikes me that it might be worthwhile to think about what we’re asking when we pray “Come, Holy Spirit.” Such a short prayer seems to suggest an almost innocuous invocation—after all, the Holy Spirit is often shown in artwork as a kind and gentle dove. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Advocate, the Paraclete, and surely praying “Come, Holy Spirit” is a way to bring peace to the troubled heart. Yes, but. The Holy Spirit is also called “the finger of God”: the Holy Spirit …

“Parks and Recreation”: Icon of Community

Over the past several months, I’ve been rewatching NBC’s comedy series Parks and Recreation, which is, in my opinion, one of the most quietly wonderful shows ever to be on television. Having seen every episode at least once now, I think I’ve figured out what made the show work so well (or, more accurately, what made it work so well once its writers figured out what they wanted it to be). Parks and Rec works because its characters are better together than they would be alone. Fans of the show undoubtedly recognize themselves in one or more of the characters (I’ve been cast as Leslie Knope by multiple friends, and I’ve cast my own friends as Ron Swansons, Donna Meagles, even April Ludgates), and it is this recognition that also serves as a reminder that we are made better human beings by the other people in our lives than we could ever become on our own. Leslie’s overachieving drive and relentless enthusiasm needs to be tempered by Ron’s taciturnity, Ben’s pragmatism, and Ann’s steadiness. On the …

Mother’s Day Quotations: A Bouquet from Church Life

In honor of this upcoming Mother’s Day, as well as the ongoing month of Mary, we’ve rounded up a list of highlights on motherhood from Church Life Journal’s pages. We offer the list below as a “bouquet” of quotations offering insight from our authors reflecting on the spirituality of motherhood. Click through at each citation for the full article.  No one will know if a mother does the dishes with her heart raised to God in gratitude, or if she patiently reads to her child who wants to hear the same story over and over again, or if she deals gently with the rebellious teenager. No one will know if she responds with sweetness or bitterness to the inevitable disruptions and perturbations of family life that are decided in a split second’s movement of the heart, but she will know, and she makes her choice, and it is upon these innumerable hidden habits and choices that her growth in holiness hangs. —Allison Ciraulo, “Motherhood as a Path to Sainthood” All of us who bear children have …

Motherhood in Perspective

One fall afternoon, I was trying to get my two small children ready to go for a walk around the block, and every little preparatory step (socks, shoes, coats, etc.) was taking what seemed an eternity to accomplish. My well of patience had run dry, my inner dialogue had gone bitter, and I was ready to scream. My three-year-old daughter and I were grating on each other and my 18-month-old son was unhappy and clingy. It felt ridiculous to let these little things get to me so much, but it also seemed futile to deny that they had built up to the point of overriding my composure. “It’s the little things—they are a big deal,” I thought defeatedly. Eventually we made it outside. It was one of the first times my son was walking with us instead of riding in the stroller. He toddled along in an alternate rhythm of almost running, then steadying himself in stumbling, slower steps. As we walked, a strong gust of autumn wind rushed noisily through the trees and pushed at …

stained glass window

Stories of Grace: Episode 15

“If I sit in the side aisle of the Basilica, I can see clearly the stained glass window I eyed suspiciously years ago, a window I can now trust like an old friend: each little piece, fit into place slowly and creatively, as light shines steadily through.” Visit here to listen to Notre Dame senior Madeline Lewis tell the story of finding the grace to trust the intricacy at play in her life. Subscribe to the free Stories of Grace podcast on iTunes U and receive automatic notifications when a new story is published. The full text of Madeline’s reflection is below. Fathom For almost three years now, I have been the proud owner of an imaginary dog. Or, co-owner, I should say. Let me explain: at the beginning of my sophomore year, in late August, on the first day of class, I met a boy with a backpack that I really liked. It was a burnt-orange colored backpack, with a tiny plush gorilla keychain hanging off of one of the front zippers. What a nice backpack, …

Celebrating the Easter Season, Part 5: Young Adults

Over the past couple of years, I’ve struggled with the transition from Lent to Easter.  I think it’s because I spend more time thinking about living into Lent than the season of Easter.  After all, Easter’s not a celebration that lasts just for a day–but fifty. But the day itself is pretty cool. The smells, the bells..the weather…if I’m lucky.  It feels like a fresh start.  But a few weeks into the season, I’ve already found myself returning to ‘normal.’ At 26, my normal is filled with more bad habits than I would like to admit.  I’m busy; I overcommit; I use technology more than I should. But I trust Easter’s message, that old ways are dead and new life reigns.  This can’t just be an intellectual exercise, but something that is lived.  Here’s three ideas about how to do it. Cultivate practices of gratitude During Easter, we are able to see Jesus for who he really is–the one who has redeemed humanity.  Under the light of his truth, we are invited to celebrate and …

My Beloved Son: The Baptism of Walter Congrove

My son Walt was baptized almost a year and a half ago. His older brother Harry was chrismated with him, and then they made their first Communion together. It was a very busy day. We had friends, family, and two sets of godparents coming in and we had to have food and cake enough for them and the whole parish. The preparations were steady and occasionally frantic, with some unplanned emergencies along the way. When it was all over, it dawned on me that I hadn’t taken a single picture. I didn’t have a picture of the boys inside the church, in front of the font, with their godparents, with us, or with the priest. I had run from one place to another the whole time and I failed even to think of handing over our camera to anybody else who might have been able to take some pictures. I have regretted these lost and missing photographs ever since, but the experience etched some unforgettable images in my memory. Because Walt was to be immersed, …