All posts tagged: carolynpirtle

“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 …

Beauty, Music, and “The Weight of Glory”

Driving home yesterday, I happened to hear a performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E-Minor, Op. 64 on Michiana’s 24-hour classical music station 90.7 FM (the greatest gift our local airwaves have to offer). If you’ve never encountered this piece before, do your soul a favor: take half an hour, turn off all notifications on your phone, click below, and simply listen. If you don’t have that kind of time right now, just take eight minutes and listen to the second movement. Even though the entire work is written such that the movements are to be performed without the traditional breaks in between, you can still gain a sense for the beauty of the whole by listening to this one part. For me, this second movement contains some of the most sublimely beautiful music ever written. It’s not about the technical components of the music—its rhythm and meter and chromaticism and instrumentation—something much deeper is at work here. There’s something about the way this piece is constructed: in its moments of tension and release, of sweetness and …

May Crowning: Honoring Our Queen and Our Mother

A long-standing tradition in the Church has been to adorn a statue or image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with flowers at the beginning of May, a month dedicated to her honor. I have vivid memories of the May Crowning at my grade school, when all of the students were invited to bring flowers from home that would then be put into vases and carried in procession to the front of the church, where a large statue of Our Lady was prominently placed. If you were lucky, you were the one chosen to carry the vase in the procession as your class representative. If you were super lucky, you were the one chosen to carry the circlet of flowers and crown Mary at the culmination of the service. Here at Our Lady’s University, the McGrath Institute for Church Life brought back the tradition of the Marian Procession and May Crowning last year, an event that will take place once again this year on Sunday, May 7 at 1pm, beginning at the Grotto of Our Lady …

Celebrating the Easter Season, Part 4: Food

We fast for the forty days of Lent. It stands to reason that we should find ways to feast for the entire fifty days of the Easter season. Most people are pretty adept at enjoying the extravaganza of Easter Sunday with chocolates, jelly beans, even Peeps (which, as my grandmother taught me, are really only good for Peep Jousting), but what happens after the inevitable stomachache and the ensuing sadness that the Easter baskets are empty? How can we truly keep the Easter feast for fifty days? We can BAKE. As my lifelong love of creating delicious treats has been reignited of late by my being introduced to the joys of The Great British Baking Show (watch and revel—you’ll thank me later), it seems to me that baking is a fairly simple way for people to continue their celebration of the Easter for the entire season. By baking something once each week, you can sustain a sense of joy and newness throughout Easter, and if you’re concerned about your waistline, you can use this as an …

Cruciform Beauty: Icon and Pattern of Self-Giving Love

Of the many images that have found artistic expression in Christianity, the Crucifixion of Jesus is perhaps the most powerful. Representations of the Annunciation, the Nativity, or the Madonna and Child have the capacity to inspire awe-filled contemplation of the Incarnation; however, few images in these categories can utterly arrest the gaze of the viewer in the same manner as the image of Jesus on the Cross. The image of the Crucifixion in all its awful glory invites and even demands the viewer to pause for a moment to consider the weight of human sin and the depths of divine love that fastened the God-man to the Cross. It is the paradox of the Cross—the mystery that the Son of God dies so that we might have life and remains glorious as God even in his horrific death as man—that has inspired artists for centuries, and each artist in his or her own way must grapple with how they will portray this pivotal moment in human history: does one emphasize the unimaginable physical sufferings of …

Hitting the Lenten Reset Button

It’s hard to believe, but there are less than two weeks left of this Lenten season. I don’t know about you, but this Lent has been a struggle for me. It seems like every which way I turn, there’s something luring me to indulge instead of fast (I had a stressful day and I want to eat my feelings!), tempting me to slack off instead of pray (It’s so late/early and I’m so tired!), or enticing me to spend money on myself instead of give to those in need (I’ve done really well with fasting and prayer—I deserve to treat myself!). There is something hard-wired within human beings that runs away from the difficult and retreats into the comfortable familiar. There is also something equally innate that is all-too-eager to excuse one’s own failures, to overlook one’s own flaws (something that, oddly enough, seems all-too-eager to condemn the failures and flaws of others). We are masters of rationalization and justification, and Lent—the Church’s annual invitation (challenge) to look at ourselves with an honest eye—somehow turns …

Sailing the Unknown Ocean: Vocation and Pilgrimage in Moana

This past week saw the DVD release of the latest addition to the canon of Disney animated films: Moana. Not since The Lion King has a Disney film presented such rich thematic content: Moana is a beautiful depiction of the link between the discovery of one’s vocational identity and the pilgrimage that results from that discovery. Its imagery and language contain deep scriptural resonances that make it arguably the most theological Disney film to date. From the opening moments of the film, the audience is invited to “put out into deep water,” if you will, as the narrator begins the story not with the traditional phrase “Once upon a time,” but with the words “In the beginning.” What unfolds is a creation narrative of sorts: the world is at harmony and all is well until the demigod Maui steals the heart of the island goddess Te Fiti, which holds within it the power to create. As a result, darkness enters the cosmos, gradually spreading a deadly blight throughout the lands and seas. Those with even …

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 . . . Manchester By the Sea

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. Caveat: this review contains spoilers. When life is defined by the worst mistake you’ve ever made, how do you go on living? Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan poses this heart-wrenching question and several others like it in Manchester By the Sea, the story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), an isolated janitor living in Boston who must return to his hometown after his beloved brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) passes away unexpectedly, and, even more unexpectedly, names Lee the legal guardian of sixteen-year-old Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Joe’s only son and Lee’s only nephew. When Lee learns that Joe has not only named him Patrick’s guardian but has also provided funds for him to return to Manchester permanently, he recoils, making every attempt to find another way to provide for his nephew’s care. At first, this seems like the reaction of a selfish, irresponsible man who doesn’t want to be saddled with the burden of an unexpected, …

And the Nominees Are . . . La La Land

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. I grew up on movie musicals. The Wizard of Oz. Singin’ in the Rain. The Sound of Music. The Music Man. Some of my earliest memories are of watching these iconic films and singing along. As I grew up and started performing in musicals myself, I discovered other greats like An American in Paris and West Side Story, and more recently, I’ve reveled in modern movie musicals like Newsies and Once and Enchanted as well as film adaptations of Broadway shows like Chicago and Into the Woods. So when I heard about La La Land, I was instantly intrigued. The buzz lauded it as a glorious throwback to the glittering extravaganzas filmed in Technicolor and Cinemascope, as writer-director Damien Chazelle’s effort to create an homage, really a valentine, to the Golden Age of the movie musical. And visually, he succeeds, literally with flying colors—the gorgeously saturated …