All posts tagged: jessicakeating

St. Francis of Assisi: Icon of the Hospitable Imagination

In the First Life of Saint Francis, Thomas of Celano (c. 1185–1265), relates a detail about the seraphic saint that could easily pass by a reader’s attention as simply a charming embellishment adorning the life of St. Francis. The saint of Assisi was so transformed by the burning fire of God’s love that he even saw the dignity of worms: “Even for worms he [Francis] had a warm love,” writes Celano, “since he had read this text about the Savior: I am a worm and not a man. That is why he used to pick them up from the road and put them in a safe place so that they would not be crushed by the footsteps of passersby.”[1] We live in a culture obsessed with individualism, efficiency, consumerism, and power. It is a culture which effectively erodes what it means to be human, a culture in which statements about the uselessness and stupidity of human dignity can go unchecked and unchallenged. It is a culture in which political parties and market analytics decide whose …

Artificial Wombs and the Intellectual Tasks of Building Cultures of Life

When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI met with artists in the Sistine chapel in 2009, he noted that “an essential function of genuine beauty, as emphasized by Plato, is that it gives man a healthy ‘shock,’ it draws him out of himself, wrenches him away from resignation and from being content with the humdrum.”[1] Artists are often among the first social commentators, who like the saints, see the depths of reality with piercing acuity. In the shadow of the Industrial Revolution, surrealist artists perceived the “unintended consequence” of mass production: alienation and fragmentation. Artists, like Rene Magritte, intuited the coming dissolution of human intimacy. “The Lovers” (1934) depicts a man and woman turned toward one another in an intimate embrace, and against the grey background their faces are shrouded in cloth. They kiss but their lips never touch and their eyes never meet. The viewer is “shocked” so to speak. Their kiss is a non-kiss, their embrace a non-embrace. Their intimacy is a simulacrum of intimacy, set against the dark sky—or is it smoke? The same …

St. Maximillian Kolbe and the War Against Indifference

More than one concentration camp survivor has remarked that one would need the pen of Dante to describe the horrors that afflicted the “great army of unknown and unrecorded victims.”[1] Hell is that abyss that skews vision and slurs speech. It shreds human community by erasing all marks of personal identity by eviscerating of all bonds of human communion—trust, mercy, and love. During Mass celebrated at Auschwitz on June 7, 1979, John Paul II described the concentration camp as a “place, which was built for the negation of faith—faith in God and faith in man—and to trample radically not only on love but on all signs of human dignity, a place built on hatred and on contempt for man in the name of a crazed ideology. A place built on cruelty.”[2] A place “characterized by man’s fury and scorn for man, in which man was cut down to the level of a robot, a state worse than slavery.”[3] This was an era in which “the human person was degraded, humiliated, and despised. In this poisoned …

Editorial Musings: Sacramental Formation in a Secular Age

In early 1950s Rome, two women—a biblical scholar and a Montessori-trained educator—began the great catechetical experiment known as Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. In a way, Sofia Cavalletti and Gianna Gobbi’s partnership is a kind of model for the mission of the McGrath Institute for Church Life, where we strive to nourish the Catholic imagination for the renewal of the Church. As a scholar of biblical languages steeped in ressourcement theology, Sofia Cavalletti never intended to tend souls in the garden of religious formation. Yet, through her unlikely collaboration with Gianna Gobbi, which spanned over half a century, she developed a method of catechesis rooted in the retrieval of the tradition that takes seriously the exigencies and dignity of children. They shared a commitment to the education of the whole person and an unwavering faith in the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ, which is unleashed in Scripture and Sacrament. Indeed, the catechetical method Cavalletti and Montessori developed serves as an icon of the kind of sacramental catechesis needed to nourish the imagination and …

Time and America’s Pastime: Baseball with My Dad

Moments before the opening pitch of a Giants-Cardinals doubleheader at the Polo Grounds in the summer of 1934, my dad remembers Jerome “Dizzy” Dean strutting up and down the length of the Giants dugout. The scrappy Cardinals ace taunted the opposition, repeating, “You guys ain’t got a chance. Nah, you ain’t got a chance today. You know why? ‘Cause Dean’s pitchin’. Yeah, that’s right. Dean’s pitchin’. . . . Dizzy and Daffy.” My dad was three. Baseball was in my father’s bones before he knew he had bones. And so it is for me because it was for him. Like a treasured family heirloom, baseball has been passed down in our family from one generation to the next. I arrived in the late-middle innings of my father’s life—that long, sleepy stretch between the bottom of the fourth and the top of the seventh. By the time I was two years old, baseball had definitively revealed that I was the family’s lone southpaw, much to my grandmother’s dismay (and distress). This had been a matter of …

The Love of the Hound of Heaven

One morning sometime in the middle of August about ten years ago, I lay awake on an uncomfortable bed in my bedroom, which was tucked above the stairs in the Cottage, one of the volunteer houses at Red Cloud Indian School where I was preparing to start my second year of teaching. I hadn’t been able to sleep the previous night, so at about 4am, I decided to watch the sun rise over the ancient hills of Pine Ridge. Throwing on a sweatshirt, I plodded past the elementary school playground, past the green dinosaur, and up a hill to the cemetery. My feet were damp with dew and dust as I took a seat in the far corner of the cemetery, next to Chief Red Cloud’s grave. There I watched the sun come up over Manderson Hill and a full moon set over the buttes out toward Chadron Road. For a single suspended moment they faced each other, as though speaking the strange, secret language of the dawn, an earnestly joyful exchange of light. For …

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 …

Debunking Abortion Myths: Part 3

In just over a week, hundreds of thousands of Americans will gather on the National Mall to protest the their country’s abortion policy, which ranks among the most permissive in the world. As abortion rates reach their lowest levels since the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade and its lesser known sister case Doe v. Bolton, political acrimony and vitriol reach new levels. In fact, our political rhetoric often gives the impression that Americans are deeply divided on abortion, and it appears that political lobbies and large corporate bodies are willing to create, cultivate, and inflame these perceptions in the hope that these false and subversive narratives will, through the exertion of power, money, and influence, divide Americans into pre-fabricated consumer camps. It’s easier to get funding, to market ideas, to get elected, and to stay in power when the public see every neighbor not as a human being, but as an ally or enemy, as a friend or foe. Our political rhetoric creates the impression of polarization. The most recent example of …

Debunking Abortion Myths: Part 2

Political rhetoric often gives the impression that Americans’ views on abortion may be neatly categorized along ideological, generation, and gender lines. However, this ethereal narrative blurs and even obscures the on-the-ground reality: Americans’ views on abortion are far more complex than our prevailing political narratives are usually willing to admit. A Salon article entitled “How to Argue with Your Relatives About Abortion: A Few Arguments that Won’t Work with Pro-Lifers and Some that Might” by Shawna Kay Rodenberg (introduced in the first post of this series) gives advice on how to successfully argue with your Aunt Cheryl about abortion over the family dinner table. Ms. Rodenberg ascribes to the myth that millennials are overwhelmingly pro-choice. This generational argument is a common abortion myth, one that is called into serious question when we take a closer look at polling data. In fact, we find a much more complex picture, one that reveals that the generation gap may actually run in the other direction, that is, Aunt Cheryl is more likely to be pro-choice than her millennial …

Debunking Abortion Myths: Part 1

In just over two weeks several hundred thousand women, men, and children will converge at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for the 44th annual March for Life. The March for Life is the world’s largest annual civil rights and social justice protest. Founded by pro-life activist Nellie Grey, the March for Life has been taken place every year since 1974, to protest the Supreme Court’s 7–2 decision in Roe v. Wade, and the less well known sister case, Doe v. Bolton. Since the court’s 1973 decision, it is estimated that upwards of 59 million Americans have died as a result of abortion. Public discourse about abortion is polemic, vitriolic, and largely unproductive. It also fails to reflect the realities on the ground, as a December Salon article by Shawna Kay Rodenberg demonstrated. Her proposed guidelines on how to argue with one’s pro-life relatives about abortion betrayed many common assumptions people have about abortion and about what it means to be pro-life. Yet, Ms. Rodenberg is certainly not the first person—and will not be the …