All posts filed under: Blog Posts

MacIntyre on What is Sinking Catholic Education

There is a university chapel in Washington State that always makes me think it could be easily converted into a low-key Starbucks café. It would not be the most architecturally interesting Starbucks, but it would do. It would make money. The university that houses the chapel is well-known for stressing its identity as formed by a brand name religious order, rather than being “Catholic.” I used to think this distinction was hyperbole, rather than actual practice. But then a friend told me that an acquaintance of his who is a recruiter for that very university tells its recruits that the university “is x, and not Catholic.”[1] I’ve withheld names because there is no reason to single out an institution when this pattern is all too familiar in Catholic universities.[2] I mention this because Tim O’Malley briefly proposed in “Letting the Imagination Out to Play” that the rejuvenation of the Catholic liturgical imagination will take place through Catholic institutions of higher education: Yes, of course, the Church needs to put aside money to this process. To …

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 …

Reading Recommendations from the Catholic Imagination Conference

I would like to wrap up my reflections about Fordham’s Catholic Imagination Conference, which are part of Church Life Journal’s discussion of what the “Catholic imagination” is, with the following anecdote: I raised my hand during the conference panel about Catholic poets. I asked the three panelists if they had any advice for a young poet. The group reached a strong consensus with, “Just read everything.” Members of the audience warmly chuckled and affirmed the clear earnestness of this command. As I begin living out this advice I offer the following list of reading recommendations so that those who were not able to attend the conference themselves may read along the weekend’s trains of thought. This list includes works written by the panelists themselves, works that serve as examples of the Catholic imagination at work, and works often referenced in speeches and readings that clearly have served as wellsprings for the imagination. Spill Simmer Falter Wither, by Sara Baume Imago Dei: Poems from Christianity and Literature, by Jill Baumgaertner Diary of a Country Priest, by Georges …

The Good of Communal Life

Note: For two years in the Echo program, one commits to living in Christian community with anywhere from two to five others, drawn together by serving the Church, praying together frequently throughout the workweek, and spending one evening each week specifically dedicated to growing in knowing each other and building a common life together. I sat at my community’s small dining room table with my heart overflowing in gratitude. The events of that evening gave me occasion to pause and consider the ways that I have been blessed to live in an intentional faith community with Sean, Shaughn, and Stephanie. With a plastic tiara on my head, toy scepter in my right hand, and a still-novel engagement ring on my left hand, I realized that my community had planned an evening to celebrate my recent engagement within our home.  They had known of the soon-to-be engagement for months, and kept the secret; now, reunited in our community apartment, they wanted to share in this life-changing joy. In two years of living together, my fellow apprentices …

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 …