All posts tagged: liturgy

Black Bodies, Kneeling, and the Liturgy

This essay should be understood as a preliminary[1] exegesis, reading the recent events surrounding the phenomenon of “taking a knee” at football games as texts, mining them for meaning. Why has the response of many Americans been so negative? And how might we, as liturgically formed Christians, apply a kind of hospitable imagination to our reading as we seek to live out a consistent and holistic ethic of life? They’re not only free to earn millions of dollars every year, but they’re also free from the worry of being shot in the head for taking the knee like they would be if they were in North Korea. —Commentator on Fox Cable News You think black Americans are free from the worry of being shot by agents of the state? That’s the whole thing that they’re protesting in the first place. —Trevor Noah, from the Daily Show Scapegoat Theory The renowned theorist René Girard posits an overarching theory of human culture that begins with what he calls mimetic desire. Human desires “are not innate or autonomous,” …

MacIntyre on What is Sinking Catholic Education

There is a university chapel in Washington State that always makes me think it could be easily converted into a low-key Starbucks café. It would not be the most architecturally interesting Starbucks, but it would do. It would make money. The university that houses the chapel is well-known for stressing its identity as formed by a brand name religious order, rather than being “Catholic.” I used to think this distinction was hyperbole, rather than actual practice. But then a friend told me that an acquaintance of his who is a recruiter for that very university tells its recruits that the university “is x, and not Catholic.”[1] I’ve withheld names because there is no reason to single out an institution when this pattern is all too familiar in Catholic universities.[2] I mention this because Tim O’Malley briefly proposed in “Letting the Imagination Out to Play” that the rejuvenation of the Catholic liturgical imagination will take place through Catholic institutions of higher education: Yes, of course, the Church needs to put aside money to this process. To …

Letting the Imagination Out to Play

Last weekend, I was in Philadelphia for the Society for Catholic Liturgy. This “multidisciplinary association of Catholic scholars” seeks to promote the “scholarly study and practical renewal of the Church’s liturgy.” The theologians, architects, philosophers, pastoral liturgists, and musicians of the Society range from advocates of the “reform of the reform” to those more sympathetic to Msgr. Francis Mannion’s “recatholicizing approach, one that “seeks a recovery of the sacred and numinous in liturgical expression which will act as a corrective to the sterility and rationalism of much modern liturgical experience.”[1] The Society brings together both those who prefer to celebrate the usus antiquor, the Latin Mass, as well as Novus Ordo Mass-goers who suspect that the low-Mass mentality of the pre-conciliar period has been canonized in the current ars celebrandi and aesthetics of the reformed liturgy. While attending this event, I often found myself returning to a passage from Artur Rosman’s last column on the retrieval of a Catholic imagination: Church life must once again become the heart of the Catholic imagination, but the onus of …

Liturgical Catechesis

Liturgical catechesis—the act of reorienting our lives in and by the liturgical act—is quite a hot topic in ministerial circles currently. Liturgical catechesis should allow the grace of God to work through the words, actions, and meaning of the liturgy in order to form our lives. It would thus transform us into little Christs to serve the Church and the world. What does this look like and how can it be achieved? This is not a new question. There are certainly many answers such as Timothy O’Malley’s books, Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples, and Fr. Randy Stice’s trilogy on a rites-based approach to the sacraments are just a few that come to mind. But as I was perusing the latest issue of Antiphon—the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy—Dr. James Pauley of Franciscan University made a simple yet weighty statement: “the testimony of real people . . . can give voice to what it looks like in their own life experience to live fr­­­om the grace of the sacrament.”[1] Christ’s disciples in the world …

The Single Most Important Thing I Noticed at the Fordham Catholic Imagination Conference

As I mentioned previously in the piece Things I Received at the Fordham Catholic Imagination Conference, at the end of April I was given the opportunity to attend the 2nd Catholic Imagination Conference at Fordham University. The notebook I carried with me from Indiana to New York City was my constant travel companion and confidante. Its pages are scrawled upon generously with every single little tidbit I could scavenge from the weekend. These notes are written in a very particular strain of my handwriting: not in my signature and presentable cursive reserved for thank-you notes, shopping lists, and even most of my lecture notes, but in my slanted, sideways, all-over-the-page chicken scratch that only comes out when I am absolutely desperate to cram ever little morsel of truth onto the page. For those of you who are curious about this conference: I would like nothing more than to sit down with you and show you each page of my notebook, tracing through each and every fascinating thing that I heard and saw. But, in the …

Editorial Musings: Restoring Sacramental Magic

This summer, I attended the biennial congress in Leuven, Belgium of Societas Liturgica, an ecumenical gathering of liturgical historians, theologians, and musicians from throughout the world. The congress’ theme was that of sacramentality. Rather than understand the sacramental through traditional categories (matter and form, substance and accidents), the various lectures of the congress sought to grasp the sacramentality of life itself, the manner in which God’s presence permeates history. This “sacramentality” of existence then should allow us to re-consider the nature of liturgical practice in post-modern, secular society. While sacramentality (the permeation of divine presence in human history) was held up as a virtue, magic remained a vice. The dismissal of sacramental magic is ubiquitous in modern (and even post-modern) works of sacramental theology. Louis-Marie Chauvet’s account of the sacramentality of existence—required reading for all those involved in liturgical theology—makes a habit of warning against a “magical” interpretation of the sacraments. A magical account of the sacraments would be one that does not concern itself with the intrinsic link between ethics and the sacraments. It …

The Supper of the Lamb

Today, I boarded a train from Leuven (where Societas Liturgica is meeting) for Ghent. After years of teaching the Mass to undergraduates, of inviting them to gaze with wonder upon the supper of the Lamb of Van Eyck, I couldn’t leave Belgium without seeing it. I arrived at St. Bavo’s Cathedral after a thirty minute walk from the train station. Escaping the rain, I walked into the cathedral and began to wander around with the rest of the tourists. We passed through the nave of the Church, the high altar, various side chapels, until we arrived at the chapel in the back of the church that housed the Ghent altarpiece. I paid my 4€ and joined the dozens of tourists to see the altarpiece. Each day from 12:00 PM until 1:00 PM, the altar piece is closed, showing the image of the Annunciation. I arrived in the chapel at 12:47 PM and began to pray the Angelus, joining myself with the Marian prayer of the Church. The prayer was uncomfortable. The tourists continued bumping into …

Echo Alumni Interviews: Michele Chronister

In celebration of the upcoming graduation of Echo 12 on Saturday July 29, Church Life will feature interviews with select Echo alumni. Today’s interview is with Michele Chronister, of Echo 6. Michele served as an Echo apprentice at the parish of St. Pius X in Granger, Indiana. Church Life caught up with Sophie on her current work, renewing the Catholic Imagination, and her reflections on her time in Echo Are you currently working in theological education and/or ministry? What is your current role? I actually have several part time jobs that allow me to continue my ministry while raising my young children. I work as the social media manager for the Archdiocese of St. Louis’s Office of Natural Family Planning. I love getting to work with people on the diocesan level, and getting a sense of the good work being done throughout the archdiocese. St. Louis is very blessed with a very active Office of Natural Family Planning, committed to the well-being of the women in St. Louis, and some of the staff members are …

“For the Life of the World”: Nourishing the Catholic Imagination for Liturgical Celebration

In the life of the Church, the liturgy, especially the Mass, is something of a lightning rod. Mass attendance (or lack thereof) is viewed as the basic litmus test for a parish’s vitality, and many programs and initiatives are undertaken at the parish and/or diocesan level for the purposes of either increasing the numbers of those who attend Mass regularly or making the Mass a more meaningful experience for those who already go. Why this emphasis on the liturgy, and particularly the Eucharistic celebration of Mass? At the surface level, it’s because the Mass is the central point of entry for most parishioners into the life of their church. If the Sunday Mass is poorly attended, it’s a safe bet that other parish programs like catechesis, youth and young adult ministry, and sacramental preparation are probably struggling as well. As goes the Sunday Mass, so goes the parish. At a deeper spiritual level, the Eucharistic liturgy is most often the central focus of parish ministry because it is in the liturgy that “the work of …

Editorial Musings: Nourishing the Imagination, Renewing the Church

As I write this week’s editorial musings, the McGrath Institute for Church Life is engaged in final preparations for our annual summer programming. We will welcome to the University of Notre Dame liturgical and sacramental catechists, facilitators of our online theological education program, youth and campus ministers, high school students, young adults, teachers of science and religion, priests from around the country, and master’s students preparing to work in ministry in the Church. Our summer programming functions as a kind of sacramental sign of the Institute’s mission in the Church. Through nourishing the Catholic imagination of those ministers with whom we partner, we seek to renew the life of the Church. The language of imagination and renewal has been chosen with great care. The imagination is not a matter of mere fancy, engaging in a “make-believe” world. The imagination is that capacity that we have as human beings to see the world anew through the images and narratives that nourish us. As James K.A. Smith writes about the formation of the imagination: . . . we …