All posts tagged: McGrath Institute for Church Life

Beauty Already Has Saved the World

Editorial Note: This essay was originally delivered as a presentation at “Illuminating the Incarnation: A Musical Meditation on The Saint John’s Bible,” a multi-disciplinary concert sponsored by the McGrath Institute for Church Life, directed by Carmen-Helena Téllez of Sacred Music at Notre Dame, and performed on September 24, 2017 at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center at the University of Notre Dame. St. Paul concludes his letter to the Philippians with an exhortation: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. This is what we come here today to do: to place ourselves in the presence of something lovely, something excellent, something beautiful. Yet, this afternoon’s concert is not something that is merely meant to entertain us. This afternoon’s concert, like all great art, is something that is meant to transform us. We’ve come here to experience the beauty of Scripture in all of its truth, purity, …

Madonna with Child.

One Story at a Time

Brandon Stanton, creator of the popular blog “Humans of New York,” does not tell your average success story. Brandon is not a trained journalist and never expected to own one of today’s most popular pieces of citizen journalism. No, drug use, poor grades, and a botched career in finance prompted a radical move across the country to become one of eight million New York City residents. His plan? To photograph 10,000 people on the streets of New York. He was jobless, penniless, and young. He was anonymous and inexperienced. He wasn’t even a very good photographer. These days, Humans of New York (HONY) is a worldwide phenomenon with over 17 million followers on Facebook, features stories from 20 countries and inspires fundraisers for refugees and research. The project has expanded, now incorporating a best-selling book and a brand new video series.  Brandon’s photos are simple portraits of a single person or group of people, often accompanied by a quote.  They are taken from the street relatively at random. His posts have been described as “unbiased,” …

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 …

Priestly Renewal at Notre Dame

While John Paul II is perhaps best known for his role in the collapse of the Communist bloc in Eastern Europe or for what is popularly referred to as the “Theology of the Body,” the case can be made that his Apostolic Exhortation of 1992, Pastores Dabo Vobis, has in fact affected the lives of most Catholics throughout the world in even more significant ways.  For in that document, the now sainted Holy Father laid out a vision for the formation (note, not merely education) of priests, and this radically revamped the way seminaries prepare men for ordained service.  He spoke of formation not merely in terms of theological education (what might be called intellectual formation) but also in terms of spiritual, pastoral, and human formation.  This in turn reshaped the way seminaries function and work to prepare men for ordained ministry.  This past December, the Congregation for the Clergy issued a new Ratio Fundamentalis, or basic schema, for the formation of priests.  It too speaks very much of the training of priests in terms …

Notre Dame Vision and the Art of Accompaniment

As an undergraduate student imagining what life after college might hold, I joked more than once about wanting to be a professional Notre Dame Vision Mentor-in-Faith. Besides all of the laughter and play that came with the job, I discovered that walking with the high school participants made me come alive. The participants’ unique stories of struggle and joy inspired me, and their impressionability in such a broken world motivated me to pray hard for them and for myself as their Mentor-in-Faith. I hoped to find a way of life after college that might spur me to holiness in the way that being a small group leader did. During my first Vision summer in 2010, a dear friend and Holy Cross seminarian invited some Mentors-in-Faith to wash dishes at Our Lady of the Road, a drop-in center run by the Catholic Worker that offers breakfast, laundry, and showers to anyone who might walk through the doors. I fell in love with the people there and discerned to move into the Catholic Worker house of hospitality …

Notre Dame Vision: Reality Imagined

Reality ignites our imaginations more than possibility does. We can imagine amazing things but only when we first look at what is real and in front of us. Reality reveals possibility, and that is what Notre Dame Vision did to me. My mom is indefatigably resourceful. She looked up opportunities I never would have bothered to find. My junior year of high school, she found a retreat at Notre Dame and sent me the website’s promotional video. Being a high school boy, I watched it while inhaling dinner. I was sold. I was less sold on Notre Dame the institution. My college search had been unexciting. Though I was going to Vision, one thing was certain: Notre Dame was not Catholic enough. Two days at Vision ended that illusion and Vision turned out to be pivotal for my faith. That summer poured gasoline all over the flame I’d received at Confirmation that year. It introduced me to the prayer attributed to St. Teresa of Ávila, “Christ has no body now but yours,” a prayer that …

Stretch of the Imagination: Creative Love at Notre Dame Vision

When I returned home from my first week at Notre Dame Vision as a junior in high school, my dad took me to Chik-Fil-A and asked me how the week was, and I proceeded to cry all over my cardboard container of chicken nuggets. I was utterly disappointed in my complete inability to describe with words just how much had taken place in my heart. And I was soon disappointed about how soggy my nuggets were, too. I think it is imperative that anyone reading this piece understands that the task of trying to select combinations of syllables to adequately express the work that unfolds at Vision, and what it means to me, is and has always been absolutely tear-inducing. I attended Vision as a rising junior in high school, and again as a rising senior. When I say, “I attended Vision,” what I essentially mean is: I found myself more aware of a God who loves creatively and eagerly, I found myself loved and listened to creatively by those around me, and I learned …

Nourishing the Imagination: Science & Religion

As anyone reading this article is likely to know already, the McGrath Institute for Church Life is dedicated to nourishing the Catholic imagination and renewing the Church. The past three years of my work in the MICL have made the claim that we are in fact serving the Church in this way very easy to believe. Yet, what has escaped my attention until fairly recently is the fundamentally biological nature of the metaphor of nourishment. To nourish is a particular function, more interior and deliberate than merely to feed. To nourish assumes an understanding of nutrition and digestion, as well as organicity, ecology, that is, it assumes a whole biology, and a dynamic and integrated one at that. In his 1844 Handbuch der Physiologie des Menschen, Johannes Peter Müller, an eminent German physiologist and comparative anatomist, made a then startling claim about the nature of nutrition and its relationship to human physiology. He claimed, quite simply, that “nutrition is not an object of microscopial research.” Müller saw in the standard fare of the physiological science …

“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 …

Nourishing the Imaginations of the Young Church

In seeking to capacitate young people for mature lives of faith, Notre Dame Vision offers an opportunity for young people and the adults who minister to them to encounter the fullness of Jesus Christ revealed in the Scriptures, the sacramental life, and in communion with the Body of Christ—the Church. Keynote speakers, small group discussions, prayer experiences, and personal reflection cultivate a vision of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who captivates their imaginations and calls them to respond with the witness of their lives. In the opening session of the week the high school students and adults who serve them gather together to hear Jesus, the Word, ask us: “Are you listening?” In the high school Vision program, the high school students and their college-age Mentors-in-Faith build communities focused on listening to the Word of God, to each other, and to ourselves. Meanwhile, the adult campus and youth ministers form community that fosters a disposition of receptivity to the Word, attentiveness to the workings of grace in our lives, and commitment to a renewal …