All posts tagged: community

Lonergan’s Communal Novum Organon

For a certain generation of those who studied theology, Bernard Lonergan’s Method in Theology (1972) was a book that was constantly referenced. For my generation of theologians, when one mentions the text, it is all too often looked at askance. For many, Lonergan is neither fish nor fowl. For some, he is not sufficiently radical enough, considered too indebted to Tradition. To others, his thought is considered not sufficiently Thomistic, far too eclectic. And still, there are others who point to him as the one providing the blueprint for the philosophy behind a relativistic theology of pluralism with his development of the concept of historical consciousness. I have been asked if my interest in Lonergan is merely a historical curiosity, a desire to look into a period of time in Catholic theology that has since passed. I have been asked, continually in some circles, if Lonergan has really anything to offer in an all-too fractured theological world. My response to those who want to know specifically what Lonergan can offer theology today is to examine …

The Mass: Heart of the Church and Academia

One of the best expressions of “Catholic community” in Higher Education is the academic colloquium. Only recently, Pope Francis reminded a gathering of Italian teachers that a commitment to free association was a way of fostering “an open outlook towards the social and cultural horizon.”[1] Such opportunities for shared exploration of ideas are welcome reminders of the Church’s longstanding engagement with the cultural challenges encountered in the mission to evangelize. It could be argued that such events risk presenting an elitist face to both the world and the wider Church. At their best, however, they offer multiple opportunities for fruitful dialogue on how to address the challenges of relativism and materialism, which, according to Pope Benedict XVI, make up a contemporary “educational emergency.”[2] I had the privilege of recently organising one such colloquium at the University of Glasgow (founded in 1451 by Pope Nicholas V). Catholicism, Culture, Education (the title of the Colloquium) was an opportunity for an international audience of Catholic educators (mainly in third-level institutions) to share thoughts on how to energise their …

Medieval Rites and Contemporary Dying

Medieval Rites The scribes lived over 700 years ago, but their documents give us insight into the monastery’s practices when a brother became seriously ill: The leader of the community, the prior, came to the brother’s sickbed to hear his confession. The others gathered and processed to the infirmary with oil for anointing, incense, the communion host, a cross, and candles. They assembled in the room, singing antiphons and psalms as their sick brother was anointed. The gathered brothers sang songs of petition, using words from the Gospels: “Lord, come down to heal my son before he dies,” and songs of hope: “Jesus said to him, Go, your son lives.”[1] After the anointing, the brothers arranged a schedule so that at least one person remained always at his bedside. Prayers were said for him at the daily public Mass. If the brother did not regain strength, but instead seemed to be nearing the end of his life, the entire community gathered again. In their brother’s presence, they sang a litany, naming members of the heavenly …

Salvation Cannot Occur in Isolation

One of the most striking aspects of Pope Francis’s ministry is his constant insistence that “the Church must step outside herself,” and foster a “culture of encounter” with others.[1] The essential insight of this mission is the recognition that others “all have something in common with us: they are images of God, they are children of God.”[2] Pope Francis’s theological focus on dialogue and encounter presents a hermeneutic for interpreting and realizing the vision of the Church set out by the Second Vatican Council. In this regard, he is indebted to the theologians who preceded and shaped the Council, especially those who emphasized a return to the early Christian sources, a movement known as Ressourcement. Although he rarely utilizes direct quotations, Pope Francis’s words reflect the language and ethos of the ressourcement theologians. In particular, several key concepts and themes from the work of Henri de Lubac, a fellow Jesuit and explicitly recognized as a significant influence by Pope Francis, consistently reoccur in the pope’s theology.[3] According to de Lubac, humanity’s vocation is essentially communal. …

School as Personalist Community

Education is power. I’ve heard this many times, and I don’t disagree. However, our educational system is in crisis. Our diocesan schools are in crisis, and the solutions coming from the top don’t really seem to be helping. Parish schools continue to close. Test scores don’t actually measure the health of a school or the quality of the learning taking place there. More parents are seeking other options, choosing to homeschool or find alternative models. There is less and less faith in institutional schools, and as families pull out, the sense of community in these institutions falters. As a parent, I totally get it. I too find it difficult to trust the education of my children to a large scale operation that often seems bureaucratic and distant. I like to think outside the box, something many “old-school” schools aren’t comfortable with. I would like to offer, however, that the solution is perhaps simpler than a complete overhaul of the system. I would like to offer that a school can become a place of joyful learning …

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 …

Notre Dame Vision: Reality Imagined

Reality ignites our imaginations more than possibility does. We can imagine amazing things but only when we first look at what is real and in front of us. Reality reveals possibility, and that is what Notre Dame Vision did to me. My mom is indefatigably resourceful. She looked up opportunities I never would have bothered to find. My junior year of high school, she found a retreat at Notre Dame and sent me the website’s promotional video. Being a high school boy, I watched it while inhaling dinner. I was sold. I was less sold on Notre Dame the institution. My college search had been unexciting. Though I was going to Vision, one thing was certain: Notre Dame was not Catholic enough. Two days at Vision ended that illusion and Vision turned out to be pivotal for my faith. That summer poured gasoline all over the flame I’d received at Confirmation that year. It introduced me to the prayer attributed to St. Teresa of Ávila, “Christ has no body now but yours,” a prayer that …

“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 …

A Vision of Heaven: Dorm Community as Christian Community

How good it is and how pleasant when kindred dwell as one. —Psalm 133:1 A wise priest once held up for me, as an image of spiritual maturity, the Gospel story of the Visitation. Luke narrates the story of Mary running to Elizabeth immediately following Mary’s own visitation by an angel. Told by the angel that Elizabeth is with child, Mary goes to visit Elizabeth. Why? In the story of Mary’s annunciation, the angel announces to Mary her startling new vocation, and immediately follows that with the magnificent work that has been done in Elizabeth by God. Elizabeth’s bearing a child in her old age is given to Mary as a miraculous sign of grace. Rather than running to Elizabeth to announce her own monumental good news, as one might expect, Mary goes to Elizabeth to delight in Elizabeth’s good news. Mary, the model of all discipleship, models for us a radical call to rejoice in the other. But Elizabeth’s response to Mary elevates the scene to a still more excellent image. Elizabeth cries out: …

Vision for Young Adults: A Summer Retreat for 20- and 30-Somethings

The goal of Notre Dame Vision for Young Adults (YA) was simple. Bring together a group of individuals for a week of prayer, reflection, and rest. The idea was to set a simple schedule where people gather together to pray Morning and Evening Prayer and attend daily Mass together, to listen to and reflect about professionals living out their faith, and to delight in the company of others and the quiet of a summer on campus at Notre Dame. If I am totally honest, my expectations were pretty modest. Perhaps the modesty of my expectations was due to my doubt about the saints. One of the many spiritual pitfalls is treating the communion of saints as (and only as) historical Christian giants who have made it possible for me to consider the different roads that lead to Christ. Ignatius taught me to consider the experience of God; Francis led me to constant material critique; Blaise to be careful when eating chicken wings; and Cecilia to make music part of my prayer. The litany of the …