All posts tagged: Holy Spirit

Prayer Begins in Pointlessness and Stupidity

A friend of mine, a young mother, recently wrote me to ask me a question about prayer. Are not most of our prayers stupid and pointless? She recounted how she had locked her keys and children in the car, and found herself praying, “God, please may my husband be able come quickly so I can take care of the screaming baby.” But of course he did not come any quicker than the car and speed of traffic and nature of mobile bodies etc. determined. So why ask God about this at all? Is this not just useless chatter? How should one respond to such a question? Certainly, I think that there can be a great deal of stupidity in prayer. Prayer begins in pointlessness and stupidity, “for we do not know how to pray as we ought” (Rom 8:26). But prayer is a path, the stupidity and pointlessness can be a step toward a deeper kind of prayer.  Aquinas compares asking things of other human beings and praying to God (Compendium of Theology II,2). When we …

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 Must We Go to Church on Sunday?

Why does it matter if we go to church on Sunday rather than praying on our own? We can read the Bible at home, pray, and do good works without ever stepping foot in a church. Nevertheless, liturgy, especially the Eucharistic liturgy—the act of coming together as the Body of Christ to offer praise and prayer to God, to listen to his word, and to be nourished by Christ’s Body and Blood—is an essential aspect of our faith. Sacrosanctum concilium states quite clearly why the liturgy is central to our faith: Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons [and daughters] of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper (SC, §10). Liturgy creates a space for the …

Žižek Has a Lot to Say About Christ, but Should the Church Listen?

Slovenian philosopher and cultural theorist Slavoj Žižek has a lot to say about Jesus Christ, which might not appear terribly out of place in the present journal, especially during a month devoted to discussing the ecclesial imagination. It is his other qualifiers, however, that mark him an unlikely candidate. Žižek is perhaps one of the world’s most important leftist intellectuals, an ardent Marxist, resolute materialist, committed atheist, and, paradoxically, a “faithful Christian,” though Žižek himself will provide the terms for being the latter. My present intentions in writing about Žižek and his thinking about Jesus are pure, I hope, aiming only to pose the question whether or not Žižek deserves to blip the Catholic radar. Even the most casual of armchair theologians will be rightly wary enough of intellectual trends that announce themselves on the theological scene—“Finally, a new kind of Christianity!”—only to recede back into the ether, often leaving the less than faint impression that a good deal of time had been wasted and attention misdirected. The popularity of Slavoj Žižek in both academic …

“Come, Holy Spirit”: The Vulnerable Bravery of Fr. Hesburgh’s Favorite Prayer

The late Fr. Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C., beloved former president of the University of Notre Dame, stated again and again in homilies and interviews that his favorite prayer was “Come, Holy Spirit.” He said: The Holy Spirit is the light and strength of my life, for which I am eternally grateful. My best daily prayer, apart from the Mass and breviary, continues to be simply, “Come, Holy Spirit.” No better prayer, no better results: much light and much strength. As the Church prepares to celebrate the feast of Pentecost, it strikes me that it might be worthwhile to think about what we’re asking when we pray “Come, Holy Spirit.” Such a short prayer seems to suggest an almost innocuous invocation—after all, the Holy Spirit is often shown in artwork as a kind and gentle dove. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Advocate, the Paraclete, and surely praying “Come, Holy Spirit” is a way to bring peace to the troubled heart. Yes, but. The Holy Spirit is also called “the finger of God”: the Holy Spirit …

Marriage as Mission: The Implications of the Charism of Marriage

The role of the Holy Spirit in the nuptial union of a couple can be understood in light of the charism given to the couple by the Spirit. It is this gift that the couple is called to give back to the Church through participation in her mission. Grounded in the baptismal identity of all Christians, the charism of marriage implies that the baptismal vocation will be taken up in the nuptial and familial life of the couple. Practicing this form of participation in the mission of the Church includes the call to evangelize in real ways, concretely through the social doctrines of the Church. Thus, the charism of marriage should be considered in marriage formation as couples learn to foster their charism and discern its implications in their own lives. We can then consider: If marriage formation was approached as a fostering of charism, how might the identity and role of married persons and their families in the Church evolve? As the charism of marriage implies a mission in marriage, how might this new …

The Light in Darkness

Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well …

Trinitarian Matters

After the joy of the Easter season, it may feel like a letdown to celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. The proclamation that Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, seems more important than announcing the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father. The descent of the Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost, who go forth to breathe Jesus’ own spirit over creation, seems more vivifying than letting the world know that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Yet, as the Church teaches, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, §261). How can something seemingly so abstract be so central to Christian faith? The readings for the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity open us up to the centrality of the Trinity in Christian life. In Proverbs, Christians see reference to the Word’s participation in the very act of creation. The wisdom of the Word was “beside him as …

Pentecost for Preachers: The Mysticism of the Homiletic Moment

The Easter season provides busy homilists with a basketful of opportunities to preach and preach and preach. Now Pentecost is coming. What more is there to say? What more is there to give? And, some may ask, where does the strength come from to keep on giving? We turn to this year’s Pentecost Gospel reading from John to find out. Jesus breathes on his future preachers and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:19–23). In Greek, this “receive” is lambano—to take hold of, to carry away to use—a verb that pulsates with the expectation of response and action. This is not the passive “receive” of the shaking of hands as in a receiving line at a wedding. This is a breathing forth that calls for a “pick it up and do something with it” transformation. The burning fire of the preaching of Pentecost builds from this tender waft of Jesus’ air. The experience of the Spirit in the second chapter of Acts came to dried-up and disheartened disciples. What did they have left to give? …