All posts filed under: Editorials

Editorial Musings: Restoring Sacramental Magic

This summer, I attended the biennial congress in Leuven, Belgium of Societas Liturgica, an ecumenical gathering of liturgical historians, theologians, and musicians from throughout the world. The congress’ theme was that of sacramentality. Rather than understand the sacramental through traditional categories (matter and form, substance and accidents), the various lectures of the congress sought to grasp the sacramentality of life itself, the manner in which God’s presence permeates history. This “sacramentality” of existence then should allow us to re-consider the nature of liturgical practice in post-modern, secular society. While sacramentality (the permeation of divine presence in human history) was held up as a virtue, magic remained a vice. The dismissal of sacramental magic is ubiquitous in modern (and even post-modern) works of sacramental theology. Louis-Marie Chauvet’s account of the sacramentality of existence—required reading for all those involved in liturgical theology—makes a habit of warning against a “magical” interpretation of the sacraments. A magical account of the sacraments would be one that does not concern itself with the intrinsic link between ethics and the sacraments. It …

Formed in Wonder, Love, and Praise

If you were to survey members of a Roman Catholic congregation as they exited the church after Sunday Mass by asking what facet of the celebration made the greatest impact on them that day for good or for ill, odds are high that many of those surveyed (if not most) would name the liturgical music in their response. More than any other element (with perhaps the exception of preaching and the architecture of the church itself), liturgical music has the greatest capacity to shape how we celebrate the Sunday Mass week in and week out, season after season, year after year. Ask those same congregation members if they can remember the readings or a central point from the homily and it’s likely you won’t get an answer; ask them if they can remember one of the hymns and it’s likely you’ll get a serenade. Many parish communities view the music of its liturgies as a hallmark of their identity; many people seeking parish communities often site music as one of the reasons for or against …

Editorial Musings: Sacramental Formation in a Secular Age

In early 1950s Rome, two women—a biblical scholar and a Montessori-trained educator—began the great catechetical experiment known as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. In a way, Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi’s partnership is a kind of model for the mission of the McGrath Institute for Church Life, where we strive to nourish the Catholic imagination for the renewal of the Church. As a scholar of biblical languages steeped in ressourcement theology, Sofia Cavalletti never intended to tend souls in the garden of religious formation. Yet, through her unlikely collaboration with Gianna Gobbi, which spanned over half a century, she developed a method of catechesis rooted in the retrieval of the tradition that takes seriously the exigencies and dignity of children. They shared a commitment to the education of the whole person and an unwavering faith in the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ, which is unleashed in Scripture and Sacrament. Indeed, the catechetical method Cavalletti and Montessori developed serves as an icon of the kind of sacramental catechesis needed to nourish the imagination and …

Editorial Musings: Nourishing the Imagination, Renewing the Church

As I write this week’s editorial musings, the McGrath Institute for Church Life is engaged in final preparations for our annual summer programming. We will welcome to the University of Notre Dame liturgical and sacramental catechists, facilitators of our online theological education program, youth and campus ministers, high school students, young adults, teachers of science and religion, priests from around the country, and master’s students preparing to work in ministry in the Church. Our summer programming functions as a kind of sacramental sign of the Institute’s mission in the Church. Through nourishing the Catholic imagination of those ministers with whom we partner, we seek to renew the life of the Church. The language of imagination and renewal has been chosen with great care. The imagination is not a matter of mere fancy, engaging in a “make-believe” world. The imagination is that capacity that we have as human beings to see the world anew through the images and narratives that nourish us. As James K.A. Smith writes about the formation of the imagination: . . . we …

Editorial Musings: Motherhood and the Paschal Mystery

On the night my first child was born, when she finally came into the light and they placed her onto my stomach, that moment of first seeing her face, right in front of me, was a beautiful shock: her wide open grey-blue eyes looking straight into mine, her forehead creased with deep wrinkles. There she was. After nine months of trying to imagine and understand the reality of the life that was developing within me, there she was. I thought I had grasped, in the waiting, the fact that there was a little person inside my body. But when placed face-to-face with this brand new human, the distance between what I thought I’d understood and what was really true came to light along with her tiny body. The encounter with that face was a revelation of how much had been unknown, even if so anxiously anticipated and indeed physically felt—from the first flutters of movement to the discomfort of kicked ribs. A human person had grown inside of me, her reality—dimly perceived in a sonogram—now …

Editorial Musings: Can Liturgy Heal a Secular Age?

It is hard to describe the early twentieth century liturgical movement as one grounded in Augustinian realism. From its very beginning, it was presumed that attention to liturgical formation, whether that included liturgical reform or not, would result in the healing of individualism, secularization, racism, and all the social ills in modern society. Secularization, in particular, was to be counteracted through liturgical renewal and reform. Fr. Lambert Beauduin, often regarded as the founder of the liturgical movement, noted that renewed attention to liturgical formation would re-awaken Christian vigor in society: The piety of the Christian people, and hence their actions and life, are not grounded sufficiently in the fundamental truths that constitute the soul of the liturgy; that is, in the destiny of all things unto the glory of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; the necessary and universal contemplation of Jesus Christ; the central place of the Eucharistic Sacrifice in the Christian life . . . All these truths, which find expression in every liturgical act, are asleep in men’s souls; the …

Editorial Musings: Does Evangelization Require Cultural Catholics?

This week at Church Life, we’re happy to publish an essay by one of our 2016 Liturgy Symposium presenters, Dr. Michael McCallion. Using the discipline of sociology, Dr. McCallion assesses the evangelization efforts of two parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit: one that uses a rational-intellectual approach to evangelization, while another focuses on an affective-volitional one. According to Dr. McCallion, the affective-volitional approach has generated more activities associated with the New Evangelization than the rational-intellectual one. Thus, the former approach seems better placed to renew ecclesial life in the present. Our editorial group spent some time discussing the findings of this article. While we were persuaded that an affective-volitional approach may be an essential catalyst in spurring activity within parish life, we also concluded that the article only measures the efficacy of evangelization at the level of the individual. That is, Dr. McCallion focuses primarily upon individual transformation that results in new forms of activity in parish life rather than the transformation of culture itself. The tendency to treat evangelization merely as an individual’s attraction to …

Editorial Musings: Is Hypermasculinity a Problem?

This week, in honor of the Edith Stein Conference taking place at Notre Dame, Church Life is focusing on themes related to gender and human sexuality. A recent M.Div. graduate, China Weil, thinks about how to engage in pastoral ministry with those who use pornography. Drawing from the resources of the Christian iconographic tradition, she argues that we ought to form men and women to contemplate salutary images rather than those that lead us to exercise the pornographic gaze. In addition, we are featuring an interview with Kimberly Baker, Associate Professor of Church History at St. Meinrad School of Theology and Seminary, on a conference on Women in the Church held in the fall. And we have two articles dealing with parenting and fertility: one by Claire Fyrqvist on learning to practice (sometimes in difficult moments) the joy of parenting, another by Dr. Hanna Klaus on the problem of treating fertility as a disease rather than a gift and thus intrinsic to human sexuality. In our editorial meetings leading up to this issue, we determined that something that …

Gregorian Chant in Pastoral Ministry and Religious Education

What role does the Church’s treasury of sacred music play in contemporary pastoral ministry and religious education? How does one build a sacred music program of excellence which serves as an integral part of the sacred liturgy and is also effective both in drawing souls to Christ and forming people in the Catholic faith? St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie) in Yonkers, New York, is hosting a national conference March 10-11, 2017 which hopes to encourage discussion of answers to these and other questions. The conference will bring together clergy, seminarians, scholars, musicians, teachers, and Catholic school administrators to consider the place of Gregorian chant and excellent choral music in the life of the Catholic Church in America today. The conference seeks to inspire attendees with ideas for starting or continuing to develop sacred music programs of excellence in Catholic parishes and schools. The conference organizers also hope to encourage discussion about the vitality and necessity of beauty and sacred music in the catechesis and formation of Catholics, as well as in the evangelization of non-Catholics and …

Editorial Musings: Does a Catholic School Evangelize?

Over the next week, the American Church marks its annual commemoration of Catholic Schools Week. The theme in 2017 is Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service. And we here at Church Life will be marking this week through a variety of posts related to the theology and practice of Catholic education. Dr. Glenn B. Siniscalchi has contributed an essay that will guide our inquiry this week. He notes that magisterial documents describe Catholic higher education as an activity of evangelization. Yet, in a survey to leaders in Catholic higher education, it quickly became obvious to Dr. Siniscalchi that many see the category of evangelization through a lens of suspicion. To these academics, evangelization in Catholic higher education would mean to proselytize, to take away religious liberty, and to substitute indoctrination for intellectual inquiry. In essence, if evangelization is part of a Catholic university’s mission, it would (to these scholars) take away the vocation to be a University. We would have Catholic institutions that trade away excellence for religious identity and security. But, this is …