All posts tagged: formation

Amor Ergo Sum: Sacramental Personhood

  It wasn’t until I was older that I came to appreciate the caricature of society that was presented in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Augustus Gloop is the first to go, loving chocolate so much that, rather than him drinking the chocolate, it “drinks” him as he falls into the river of chocolate. Then comes Violet Beauregarde, chewing any gum she can find and turning into a violet blueberry after eating one of Wonka’s new gums. Then Veruca Salt’s insatiable desire for the golden egg and other things lead her to end up where all the bad eggs go. Finally Mike Teevee ends up being what he loves the most, “on” TV. In short, all of these characters were identified by what they loved (chocolate, gum, possessions, and television). These character traits, which were so fundamental to their identity, were also the things that were, ironically, their downfall. Luckily, it is not always the case that the things we love will have a detrimental effect on us, but this caricature points to an …

Why Would Young People Want to Remain Catholic?

“This was like the synod for the American Church.” This remark came from one of the more than 20 bishops[1] during a closing conversation for the Cultures of Formation conference hosted by the McGrath Institute for Church Life and cosponsored by the USCCB committee on doctrine. It was a breathtaking three days. Some 550 registered participants and a few hundred more unregistered attendees considered the profound issues, the pressing needs, and the most ambitious hopes for what Pope Francis has asked the whole Church to focus its attention: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” While those of us who were in attendance will be unpacking what we heard and discussed for months and years to come, those who were not able to attend can sign-up for free follow-up resources, including a forthcoming digital conference, on the conference webpage. Since a comprehensive rundown of the whole conference would likely require at least an entire book if not a multivolume series, I would like to offer six initial reflections both to remind those of us who …

Single Life Is More Fundamental for Christianity than both Married and Religious Life

The question of single life and its place within the Church has once again become significant of late. Not only are men and women marrying later in life, but many people are finding that quite virtuous pursuits of career or service have not allotted them the time to invest in finding a partner. Online dating options alone cannot overcome the loneliness that is structured into the economic and social autonomy of most adults. Various youth and church groups, while well intentioned, are seriously ill-equipped to address all the challenges of singlehood. The complexity and challenges of the larger cultural and social matrix is important to keep in mind when considering any understanding of the single life. Here, the challenges of modernity assert themselves rather aggressively for our context is characterized in particular by forgetting. This seems an outlandish claim in a world saturated with information. But if we understand this correctly, it means that modernity is particularly skilled at forgetting the ideas, people, events, and history that shape its current perspective and reality. In the …

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, …