All posts tagged: liturgical imagination

Anointing of the Sick Confronts Human Finitude and Dependence

Anointing of the sick sanctifies the journeying disciple in his weakest moment, reinvigorating hope for healing and ushering in the kingdom of God. Anointing of the sick configures the ill to Christ’s passion, inaugurates the glorification of the body and spirit in the resurrection, and rejoins the marginalized into the Body of Christ. Anointing of the sick confronts human finitude and asserts our total dependence on God for healing. In the sacrament, God hears the cry of his people[1] and rushes towards them in their pain, revealing his nuptial love.[2] The grace of the sacrament strengthens the sick man in his obedience to God, inviting him to trust in God with his whole life[3] and surrender to healing on God’s terms.[4] Anointing of the sick calls the ill to freely unite himself to the passion and death of Christ[5] by living out the Paschal mystery through his particular suffering as a witness to the cross, with hope in the resurrection. Anointing bestows new meaning on suffering[6] without justifying the incoherence of evil. God recasts our …

The Importance of Geographic Stability for the Church

In documents such as Christus Dominus, Apostolicam Actuositatem, and Presbyterorum Ordinis, the Catholic Church discourages parochialism, emphasizing the importance of apostolic activity.[1] At the same time, Paul VI observes in Evangelii Nuntiandi that “legitimate attention to individual Churches cannot fail to enrich the Church.”[2] His words suggest a possibility that local focus might lead, not to insularity, but to goods that extend beyond the particular community, perhaps even to evangelization and apostolic endeavor. We will examine how the practice of geographic stability can impact a community’s ability to evangelize. Geographic stability is defined as maintaining individual physical proximity to a community sufficient to afford long-term embodied interaction. This essay focuses on the American Catholic parish context and argues that geographic stability fosters two supports for evangelization: strong priest-parishioner relationships and predictability. Drawing on the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, the Benedictine experience, and findings from a study of three parishes in the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana, this essay argues for a connection between stability and evangelization in two sections. The 1st section concerns this connection in terms of …

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 …

Can Catholicism’s Truth Be Known Beyond Its Walls?

Reflecting on the role of Christians in today’s American society, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln writes, “We know what it looks like when the Church forgets her holiness: Daily discipleship gives way to rote weekly churchgoing. Tough demands of the Gospel are ignored. Prayer, fasting, and penance are bypassed. Christ’s holy Church becomes indistinguishable from the world.”[1] In this brief statement, Conley summarizes what I take to be one of the central claims of Rod Dreher’s recent book, The Benedict Option. Pace those who associate him with a religious “self-separatism,”[2] the “option” proposes not a self-separatism, but a series of practices, habits, and distinctive cultural rituals that seek to provide a solution to the social fragmentation both within and outside of the boundaries of the Church, due to acedia and a rejection of the sacred.[3] Without wading into the merits of the specific arguments and narratives proposed in his important work, I will follow the lead of Nathaniel Peters, who argues that, if the Benedict Option is to succeed, it “needs to be guided by …

Technology Will Serve, but Whom?

This is an essay about technology, a subject that tends to polarize, with proponents too often dismissing the critics as “pessimistic” and the critics too often tending toward the apocalyptic. Part of the problem is that we need somehow to learn to speak about technology again. We need to do so in a nuanced manner which does justice to the complexity of our current situation. A part of the problem is that certain technologies are not devices we make use of on certain rare occasions but are, in some instances, something more akin to companions the loss of which would, for some, be quite literally catastrophic. The human species has always been homo faber but the integration of technology into our lives is such that it mediates almost every facet of our lives, and we can only expect this process to continue. What I want to do is suggest not simply that we have a technology “problem” on our hands (this is obvious) but that those who adhere to the Christian religion have particular problems …

I Will Not Leave You Orphans

Even as our days remain filled with many activities, we can still remain close to God, we can still “abide” with him (Jn 15:4).To remain with him we need to develop a habit of love: hospitality toward his coming in love throughout the day. Of course, we need to go to the Blessed Sacrament to pray, but we also need to learn how to receive his love throughout the course of a workday or during family commitments. In order to receive his love, we need to be affectively vulnerable toward him and become adept at noticing when he comes to us within these affective movements of love. How do we maintain our availability? Married couples will oftentimes fill their workplaces with photos or reminders of their spouse so that, throughout the day, they can emotionally connect with one another by glancing at these icons, even if only for a short moment. The heart in love wants to stay connected with the one it loves. God loves us and so he too wishes to initiate an …

Where Does the Ministry End and the Apostolate Begin?

Words Matter The words that we use connect to concepts, which, in turn, connect to the way we live our lives.[1] So, it is important to have clear and correct understanding of our words in order to promote right living. With all this in mind, I would like to explore two terms—ministry and apostolate—that we frequently encounter while working for the Church and how our understanding of these terms has pervasive effects on the work we do. For example, think of how we use 3D glasses. One can attempt to watch a 3D movie without 3D glasses, and the images will be blurry. One may, more or less, be able to make the images out, and even follow the movie, but clarity and detail will be lacking, critical elements may be missed, and the overall experience of the movie will be subpar. However, upon putting on the glasses the images become crystal-clear and show up in three-dimensional relief, and one will have a much better chance at experiencing the movie as intended. Just so, a …

Abp. Fulton Sheen’s Eucharistic Spirituality

Perhaps no other prelate in the history of the United States could rival the positive impact of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895 – 1979) upon the work of evangelization in the United States. A household name in Catholic and non-Christian households alike, Sheen authored approximately 70 books in his lifetime, and he captivated millions of Americans through his newspaper columns and broadcasts on radio and television in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s. It was not unusual for the mail he received to average 15,000 to 25,000 letters per day,[1] and it was estimated that thirty million people, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, tuned in to his programming each week.[2] His message was both simple and profound: Jesus Christ must be at the center of everything. To what can we attribute Sheen’s success in proclaiming the Gospel in his work toward revitalizing the religious landscape of the United States? The key to Sheen’s success was his profound Eucharistic spirituality. We will focus on two things: 1) providing an introduction to Sheen’s Eucharistic spirituality by demonstrating the central …

The Sacraments of Love and Death

Marriage Marriage exalts a husband and wife through the humble, transparent, and irrevocable gift of self[1] to the other, “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health.”[2] In marriage, the husband and wife pour out themselves to live for the salvation of one another in Christ, through the fidelity, continence, and permanence[3] of the Holy Spirit. The sacrament of marriage lifts the natural union[4] between man and woman into the divine love of the Paschal mystery, Christ and the Church,[5] and the Trinity. The transcendence of marriage originates in God’s act of creating man and woman[6]—in His bestowal of the vocation of complete companionship.[7] God fashioned Adam and Eve in His image and likeness, commissioning them a role in His creative work.[8] Marriage commemorates God’s faithfulness to humanity as expressed throughout salvation history[9] and fulfilled in Christ. Marriage impresses the “indelible character of God’s creative love”[10] and bears witness to the eschatological love of the communion of saints in Christ.[11] By His incarnation, Christ assumes and purifies human love, marking it with …

Dante and the Liturgical Formation of Desire

  On an allegorical level, the pilgrimage depicted in Dante’s Divine Comedy is an exploration of the landscape of the human soul. Our choices create the various kinds of existential hell, purgatory, and paradise experienced on this mortal coil. In Dante’s vision, our experiences of misery, our moments of conversion, and the blessings of bliss take place with attention to our concrete histories—with the persons, places, memories, and events that make up our complicated lives. It is difficult to remain a mere tourist-reader with Dante; we are enticed to become pilgrims and expose our tragic-comic lives to his “believable vision.”[1] As he guides us through his vision, Dante helps us think about liturgical participation, not as one option among many, but as a privileged site for the ordering of our loves—as the source and summit of our Christian lives. Dante masterfully illustrates that one of the central challenges of our lives is the arduous integration of eros and agape, of desire and self-giving love. While the power of eros promises self-transcendence through intoxicating intimations of …