All posts tagged: formation

Stretch of the Imagination: Creative Love at Notre Dame Vision

When I returned home from my first week at Notre Dame Vision as a junior in high school, my dad took me to Chik-Fil-A and asked me how the week was, and I proceeded to cry all over my cardboard container of chicken nuggets. I was utterly disappointed in my complete inability to describe with words just how much had taken place in my heart. And I was soon disappointed about how soggy my nuggets were, too. I think it is imperative that anyone reading this piece understands that the task of trying to select combinations of syllables to adequately express the work that unfolds at Vision, and what it means to me, is and has always been absolutely tear-inducing. I attended Vision as a rising junior in high school, and again as a rising senior. When I say, “I attended Vision,” what I essentially mean is: I found myself more aware of a God who loves creatively and eagerly, I found myself loved and listened to creatively by those around me, and I learned …

Nourishing the Imaginations of the Young Church

In seeking to capacitate young people for mature lives of faith, Notre Dame Vision offers an opportunity for young people and the adults who minister to them to encounter the fullness of Jesus Christ revealed in the Scriptures, the sacramental life, and in communion with the Body of Christ—the Church. Keynote speakers, small group discussions, prayer experiences, and personal reflection cultivate a vision of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who captivates their imaginations and calls them to respond with the witness of their lives. In the opening session of the week the high school students and adults who serve them gather together to hear Jesus, the Word, ask us: “Are you listening?” In the high school Vision program, the high school students and their college-age Mentors-in-Faith build communities focused on listening to the Word of God, to each other, and to ourselves. Meanwhile, the adult campus and youth ministers form community that fosters a disposition of receptivity to the Word, attentiveness to the workings of grace in our lives, and commitment to a renewal …

The All of It: Nourishing the Catholic Imagination through Echo’s Integrative Formation

“It is the starved imagination, not the well-nourished, that is afraid.” –E.M. Forster If we are to think of the Church as a field hospital, as Pope Francis has suggested, with “the mission to heal the wounds of the heart, to open doors, to free people, to say that God is good, God forgives all . . . God always waits for us” (Homily, Casa Santa Marta, 2.5.15), then those of us responsible for preparing ministers for this field hospital Church must place the nourishment of our students’ imaginations at the center of their and our work. It takes a great deal of courage and pastoral creativity to approach deep wounds, to open closed doors, to receive and speak rightly of God’s forgiveness and affection. In Echo, students engage simultaneously in various dimensions of the program—study, prayer, community, ministry, formation. But the key to a well-nourished Catholic imagination is not just being in Catholic places and doing and consuming Catholic things. Fragmented busyness might make us feel full but it often leaves us overfed and …

Metaphors in the Catechetical Imagination

Christ and his Church have always used metaphors to fashion and to articulate meaning, to express the inexpressible presence of God, and to communicate his truths,[1] such as “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:11, 14). The National Directory of Catechesis [NDC] has taken the lead in urging catechists to use metaphors. [2] The NDC advocates metaphors because Christ taught that way. So did the early Church. On their face, metaphors and similes compare one thing or idea with a seemingly different thing. But they are much more than fancy figures of speech. Examining how the Church has used metaphors can teach and transform how contemporary catechists do likewise. Why Metaphors are Made for Catechesis First, metaphors are fundamental, cognitive software through which we map our world, make decisions, and understand ourselves, others and God. We all naturally think and talk using metaphors. So does the Bible, Christ, and the Church. Metaphors (and similes) create associations between seemingly unrelated images, memories, and ideas; they form “maps” by which we understand life, express our thoughts, and …

Christian Education and Residence Life

I woke up one Friday morning to shouts and pounding at my door. It was just before 6am, and I leapt out of bed and stumbled across my apartment, opening the door to find two frantic women from Building Services. They informed me that a resident had gotten sick and clogged his sink, accidentally leaving the water running for hours: it had flooded his room and the entire hallway outside of it. “I’m not even on duty!” I remember thinking. Welcome to Spring Break 2016. We Christians have been living in community since the very beginning. The Acts of the Apostles describes the first community of Christian believers, telling us that they “were of one heart and soul, and no one said any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). Various forms of monasticism arose in the first four centuries, with St. Benedict of Nursia laying down his Rule around 530 AD. Today, we find scattered throughout the globe not only monasteries but parishes, schools, Small Christian Communities …

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd: Cultivating the Christian Imagination of the Child

Recently I was talking to a mother of two young children, who explained that she drops her youngest son off at childcare while she attends Mass because “he is too young to get anything out of it.” Implicit in her remark is the assumption that the child, particularly the young child, neither possesses within himself a hunger for God nor is capacitated for worship—that his age prevents him from meaningful participation in the liturgy. She primarily envisions worship in terms of utility. It exists in order for us to “get something.” Cast in therapeutic, moralistic, and individualist terms worship functions either to meet one’s subjective needs, to make one “feel good,” or to make one a generically “better person.” Such a view, both of the nature of the young child and of worship is deeply imprinted on the Catholic imagination in the United States. Children are seen as a distraction to adult worship—hence, the emergence of strategies to get kids out of Mass: “the cry room” and “children’s Liturgy of the Word.” In fact, there …

The Deacon’s Wife: Exploring Her Role in the Catholic Church

“How wonderful the bond . . . one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service!” (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], §1642) The identity of the wife of the permanent deacon exists in a uniquely uncharacterized, uncategorized reality. Examining both universal and national declarations and norms only validates the difficulty of finding any substantive (certainly, any consistent) theological understanding of this most particular relationship between Marriage and Holy Orders, wife and husband.[1] Indeed, while this most relevant dynamic has been addressed in part, it remains a lacuna within the theological tradition of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church. Whereas the husband in this marriage is ontologically changed by the sacrament of Holy Orders, which confers upon him “an imprint that cannot be removed and configures [him] to Christ, who made himself the ‘deacon’ or servant of all” (CCC §1570), the wife in this marriage does not in any capacity participate in this particular sacramental characterization. Even as husband and wife “are no longer two, but one flesh,” (Mt 19:6, …

Two Principles for Forming Catechists

At the beginning of Notre Dame’s academic year, I accompany seventy Notre Dame students as they prepare to serve as catechists in South Bend area parishes. Over the course of the year, these catechists will spend countless hours planning lessons and teaching the Catholic faith to students ranging in age from kindergarten through high school. Together, we carry out the work of the Notre Dame Catechist Academy, one of the ways that the Institute for Church Life renews the catechetical imagination of the Catholic Church. Most of my work consists of forming these students through workshops, preparing them to take over a classroom of their own. It is my goal to expand and stretch their imaginations, sharing principles that invite them to consider not only what it means to be a catechist, but also what catechesis might say about living as a faithful disciple in the world. I wish to share two of those principles here. Good catechesis creates space for prayerful encounters with God’s Word. Catechesis stands apart from other “academic” subjects in that, …

From Fear to Love: Preaching in these Troubling Times

“Are the shootings and the wars going to happen here, Mom?” The little girl asked her mother after hearing yet another violent news story. Nice, Paris, Turkey, Syria, Dallas, Minneapolis . . . and, unfortunately, the list goes on of places suffering the complexity and heartbreak of eruptions of often unpredictable violence. Where next? We may wonder, along with the little girl, when and how terror and violence will arrive even closer to where we live. Often, a first response to violence is fear. Sometimes fear leads to a desire for revenge, to building barriers, or even to a violent lashing out against the ones who have instilled the fear in the first place. Christian preaching has something different to say to the violence that exists near and far in the world. The Christian response to violence is rooted in the bedrock of our faith and the substance of all authentic Christian preaching—the Paschal Mystery. Jesus saw in his time at least as much violence and death as we see today, and we know that …

Encountering Christ, the Eternal Word

Within the Catholic high school, formation often becomes fragmented. Differences in staffing, resources, and approaches to ministry lead to a lack of integration among different dimensions of the spiritual life. Students study religion in class, go on retreats, celebrate Mass, and earn service hours, often overseen by different departments or staff members. Yet, “it’s all curriculum.” What happens on the athletic field, in conversations on retreat, during class sessions, in afterschool activities, or while in prayer all contribute to the development of young men and women of faith. This holistic vision of formation guided the restructuring of our campus ministry department at a Chicago high school. In restructuring, we made the decision to lay everything on the table and ask first: “How can we best serve the needs of our students? How can we focus on ministering to people rather than administering programs?” Our response was to move from two separate departments of Pastoral Ministry and Community Service to create the Department of Formation and Ministry. Guided by a Director, the rest of the staff …