All posts tagged: Mass

Why the Sacraments?

The sacraments confer and signify the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as efficacious signs of God’s grace.[1] Christ instituted the sacraments. Through them the Holy Spirit gathers the Church into Christ’s Body.[2] The sacraments reveal and restore our created nature as human beings who are related in love and made in the image and likeness of the Trinity.[3] Each sacrament echoes the Incarnation. God reveals his humility in the form of the sacraments, lowering himself into “corporeal and sensible” means to guide humanity toward “spiritual and intelligible” realities.[4] The body[5] is the inescapable site of the sacraments,[6] where Christ speaks in our tongue,[7] perfecting it,[8] so that we might learn to speak in his.[9] A sacrament communicates the Word of God ritually.[10] The reciprocal penetration of the Word and the sacrament hinges on the Church’s faith[11] in God’s unfailing promise of sacramental grace.[12] Fidelity to the divine Word is lived out in sacramental practice. In the sacrament, the Word promises the extension and perpetuation of Christ’s redemptive activity throughout salvation history.[13] Sacraments concretely extend …

Holy Thursday: When Love Enters a Cosmos Turned in on Itself

When pure love, divine love, agape, enters a world turned in on itself, a world whose operating system is self-love, closed off by fear from any other possibility, such pure love is neither fully received nor fully reciprocated. In such a fallen and rebellious cosmos, that pure love, divine love, encountering indifference, denial, and rejection, is not welcomed with humility and delight, but is refracted in suffering. Such pure love can be expressed fully in a sinful and contorted world only as sacrifice. For rational creatures whose will is wounded—that is, for us—real love, pure love, agape, will always involve some kind of dying. St. John tells us that as Jesus initiated his Last Supper with his disciples, he was fully aware of what he was doing, fully aware of what this meal anticipated and made sacramentally present, fully aware of it was going to cost him. Further, the Evangelist links this full knowledge with a fullness of love, the real impetus of his action, commenting that Jesus loved his own—and loved them perfectly, or …

Where Do Theology and Cognitive Psychology Intersect?

Both college educators and students are rushing to connect psychological, educational, and neuroscientific findings to learning outcomes. Students study psychological research such as C. Dweck’s academic growth mindset in order to develop their learning trajectories. Professors are immersed in a burgeoning market of academic pedagogy models that stress retention of information in addition to conventional assessment. Three influential examples include: Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, What the Best College Teachers Do, and Small Teaching.[1] These are indeed exciting developments. On the one hand, institutions of higher learning are challenging students as learners to cultivate integrative and appropriative methods for their own academic development and retention. On the other hand, faculty are ever lauded not only for the precise presentation of content, but also for fostering the critical and integrative skills that bridge collegiate learning into life and work. Concerning both, however, as any faculty or student will admit, these goals are much harder to actualize than to theorize. As researchers in the psychology and theology of memory, we wish to suggest how …

Vision for Young Adults: A Summer Retreat for 20- and 30-Somethings

The goal of Notre Dame Vision for Young Adults (YA) was simple. Bring together a group of individuals for a week of prayer, reflection, and rest. The idea was to set a simple schedule where people gather together to pray Morning and Evening Prayer and attend daily Mass together, to listen to and reflect about professionals living out their faith, and to delight in the company of others and the quiet of a summer on campus at Notre Dame. If I am totally honest, my expectations were pretty modest. Perhaps the modesty of my expectations was due to my doubt about the saints. One of the many spiritual pitfalls is treating the communion of saints as (and only as) historical Christian giants who have made it possible for me to consider the different roads that lead to Christ. Ignatius taught me to consider the experience of God; Francis led me to constant material critique; Blaise to be careful when eating chicken wings; and Cecilia to make music part of my prayer. The litany of the …

The Bread and Wine of Liturgical Evangelization

Not to put too much pressure on anyone, but after you read a few hundred pages of the Compendium on the New Evangelization and study Pope Francis’ encyclical letter The Joy of the Gospel, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that the popes are expecting us to bring about, with God’s help, a total transformation of culture worldwide. This renewal of all reality is to organically grow out of the personal relationships with Christ of lay disciples who put their faith into action in our vocations of work, family, and community life. This isn’t to say that the clergy and religious don’t have a role to play. A world evangelization mission requires a laity that is formed in accordance with the Gospel and the Catechism. Thus we will be able to “Observe, Judge, and Act” our way through the myriad situations of our shared lives. That won’t happen without the experience of sacraments and especially the Mass as moments of grace, holiness, and formation. Consider two of the Americans Pope Francis recommended to us during …

Liturgy and Evangelization: The Data and the Task

At a recent event sponsored by the Evangelical Catholic, Rev. Thomas Wray of the Office of Evangelization of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati began his homily at Mass with sobering statistics about those who are baptized as infants in Catholic churches: 15% do not make their First Communion. Of the 85% that are left, 42% do not receive the sacrament of Confirmation. We lose 80% of confirmandi after high school. Statistics presented by Sherry Weddell in her book Forming Intentional Disciples show that “Nones”—as in “I have no religion”—is the fastest growing “church” in the United States: 17% of the population is a None; 24% of 18- to 29-year-olds are Nones. Four times as many people leave the Catholic Church as join it as adults. Of those who leave the Catholic Church: 15% joined a Protestant church. Two-thirds of them say that their spiritual needs were not being met in the Catholic Church and they found a church they liked better. About one quarter cite the clergy sexual abuse scandal as the reason they left. The …

The Hospitality of God

Jesus has come into the world to throw a party. It’s a party unlike any other that’s been held. See, when I throw a party, I want to have the right people present. I want the key friends, who need to be impressed by my keen aesthetic sense. I want important people, who should be overwhelmed by my hospitality because then I’ll be invited to their house where I can meet other important people. Jesus’ party is different, because it embodies the hospitality of God: “‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor . . . when you are invited, go and take the lowest place’” (Lk 14:8, 10). Jesus notes that if indeed the bridegroom seeks to have you at the first place at the table, you’ll be invited. But don’t presume it. Be happy to be present at all. If the parable simply ended there, then it would be very good advice for attending a party; a way to avoid appearing …

The Mass for Millennials: The Homily

When I speak to young adults about why they have left the Church, they often say something about the homily. The preaching is boring. It’s unrelatable. It’s long. It’s like listening to insider baseball. It’s like a terrible essay with no organizational structure. While one would hope that our young adults would stick around, recognizing that the reality at the heart of the Mass is worth receiving even when the preaching is mediocre, perhaps these young adults are testifying to something important. Some young adults may be looking for entertainment in the homily. References to the latest music or films. Practical advice. But there is something about the dissatisfaction with preaching that suggests young adults know that the homily is meant to lead to an encounter with Christ. It is not an occasion for the priest to offer a seminar in historical-critical exegesis. It is not time to offer one’s disconnected thoughts on a papal encylical or apostolic exhortation or general cultural phenomenon. It is not the time for the priest to regale the assembly …

The Mass for Millennials: The Responsorial Psalm

Wedged between the First Reading and Second Reading at Sunday Mass (or between the First Reading and Gospel at daily Mass) is a small reading known as the Responsorial Psalm. If you attend Mass today, for example, you will hear: The Lord hears the cry of the poor I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be ever in my mouth. Taste and see how good the Lord is; Blessed the man who takes refuge in him. The Lord hears the cry of the poor. The LORD confronts the evildoers, To destroy remembrance of them from the earth. When the just cry out, the LORD hears them, And from all their distress he rescues them.  The Lord hears the cry of the poor. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; And those who are crushed in spirit he saves. Many are the troubles of the just man, But out of them all the LORD delivers him. The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Few would argue the beauty, power, and import …

The Mass for Millennials: The Liturgy of the Word

Remember. Sometimes, it takes the opening movements of the mass for my mind and heart catch up with my body. As I sing the opening song, sign myself with the Cross of Christ, and join the presider and community in prayer, I take a few deep breaths as I allow the rhythm of the liturgy to wash over me. Sitting down in the pew for the Liturgy of the Word, I enter into the practice of listening – to open up my ears, my heart, my soul – to receive the Word of God. Sometimes it takes more work to quiet the disjointed thoughts running through my mind and allow myself to be fully present to the presence of Christ in the Scriptures being proclaimed. Yet cultivating this practice of listening is essential for as we participate in the Liturgy of the Word, we encounter the story of God’s mercy and love proclaimed for us both in this moment and throughout all of salvation history. Life today can easily become fragmented and isolated. We sit …