All posts tagged: prayer

Mary’s Role in the Spiritual Life

Luke Donahue, a 2017 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, is now a postulant with the Congregation of Holy Cross. While at Notre Dame, Luke studied Theology and German with a minor in Medieval Studies. In the following interview, he speaks on his relationship with the Blessed Mother, generously sharing graced insights gathered from years of devotion. This post is part of the Notre Dame – My Mother series. Can you describe your relationship with Mary, and how it has changed over time? My relationship with Mary has definitely grown throughout my life. When I was a child, I prayed the Hail Mary most days, but it was kind of just another prayer. I appreciated Mary’s role as Mother of God, but I didn’t realize the extent to which she, as mother of all Christians, can have a personal relationship with us. I think the first time my family prayed the rosary together was after St. John Paul II passed away. He had really promoted the rosary, so my mother gathered us around the table …

Yes, Advent Is a Time of Asceticism

We all know that Advent means arrival and preparation. I would invite you to meditate with me about the prerequisites of the term and implications we hardly ever acknowledge. On November 8, the Church remembered Blessed Duns Scotus (d. 1308), one of the greatest thinkers she has ever produced. One of his key ideas was that God’s perfect intellect is mirrored in the limitless openness and receptivity of the human mind. For the Franciscan, such receptiveness was a sign of human dignity: humans receive those truths they cannot achieve by their own powers. This sounds complicated but leads to some simple conclusions: all true knowledge comes from an encounter and arises from the receptivity of our mind and heart (intellectus passibilis). If we apply Scotus’s insight to Advent, we might realize that our receptivity to the Incarnate Word is impeded by something in our lives and that perhaps we do not desire a real encounter with the real God but rather one with our self-constructed god. The root for this seems to lie at the …

Using Metaphors to Teach Prayer

Scriptures pulse with metaphorical phrases and images (“The Lord is my shepherd . . .”). Jesus’s description of the Kingdom of God is a metaphor. The National Directory for Catechesis [NDC] urges catechists to recognize and to apply metaphors in their teaching practices.[1] This is especially true in defining, encouraging, modeling, and practicing the art of prayer. The genius of defining prayer by metaphor is that it preserves prayer’s Mystery and intimacy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] uses a metaphor to define prayer by writing, “Prayer is the life of the new heart.”[2] For catechists to teach how prayer is both “life” and a “new heart,” students need to know how metaphors form and inform their prayer lives. First, metaphors shape our thought. Thinking in metaphors is part of our cognitive architecture and we form our world views through metaphors. They form pictures in our mind of how we live and how we act.[3] The power of “The Lord is my shepherd” (Ps 23:1) comes from the association with a loving, protective, and …

“Come, Holy Spirit”: The Vulnerable Bravery of Fr. Hesburgh’s Favorite Prayer

The late Fr. Ted Hesburgh, C.S.C., beloved former president of the University of Notre Dame, stated again and again in homilies and interviews that his favorite prayer was “Come, Holy Spirit.” He said: The Holy Spirit is the light and strength of my life, for which I am eternally grateful. My best daily prayer, apart from the Mass and breviary, continues to be simply, “Come, Holy Spirit.” No better prayer, no better results: much light and much strength. As the Church prepares to celebrate the feast of Pentecost, it strikes me that it might be worthwhile to think about what we’re asking when we pray “Come, Holy Spirit.” Such a short prayer seems to suggest an almost innocuous invocation—after all, the Holy Spirit is often shown in artwork as a kind and gentle dove. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Advocate, the Paraclete, and surely praying “Come, Holy Spirit” is a way to bring peace to the troubled heart. Yes, but. The Holy Spirit is also called “the finger of God”: the Holy Spirit …

Hitting the Lenten Reset Button

It’s hard to believe, but there are less than two weeks left of this Lenten season. I don’t know about you, but this Lent has been a struggle for me. It seems like every which way I turn, there’s something luring me to indulge instead of fast (I had a stressful day and I want to eat my feelings!), tempting me to slack off instead of pray (It’s so late/early and I’m so tired!), or enticing me to spend money on myself instead of give to those in need (I’ve done really well with fasting and prayer—I deserve to treat myself!). There is something hard-wired within human beings that runs away from the difficult and retreats into the comfortable familiar. There is also something equally innate that is all-too-eager to excuse one’s own failures, to overlook one’s own flaws (something that, oddly enough, seems all-too-eager to condemn the failures and flaws of others). We are masters of rationalization and justification, and Lent—the Church’s annual invitation (challenge) to look at ourselves with an honest eye—somehow turns …

5 Lenten Practices that Aren’t Giving Up Chocolate

With Ash Wednesday now come and gone, Catholics everywhere embark on their journey of Lenten disciplines. Lenten penitence can quickly begin to feel rote. While there is still great spiritual benefit in denying ourselves dessert or Netflix, sometimes we seek a more thoughtful or creative immersion into the three great practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Sometimes our imaginations need a jolt from the routine to help our bodies and soul enter into the Lenten spirit of preparation. Liturgically, baptized Christians undertake Lenten disciplines in preparation for the renewal of baptismal vows at the Easter Vigil. Christians enter Lent in order to re-enter our sacramental participation in the Paschal Mystery of salvation. Ideally, Lenten disciplines will baptize our imaginations, allowing us to approach the world with fresh eyes and refreshed charity. For anyone seeking different ways to practice Lent this year, here are five ideas that may provide a new approach to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. 1. Forgo music. Several friends have practiced variations on this theme. If you have a morning commute (by car, …

An image of Jesus Christ in blue and gold. He holds the Scriptures in his hands.

Lectio Divina with Middle Schoolers

Lectio Divina, or praying with Scripture, is one of my favorite forms of prayer. Taking time to read a passage of the Bible, meditate on what it might be saying for my own life, and responding in prayer to God has been an enjoyable and fruitful part of my spiritual practice since I was introduced to Lectio in high school. Perhaps because of the way I was taught to pray Lectio Divina, I have always been very quick to latch onto one word or phrase in the passage. Being taught how to meditate on Scripture as a high school student, this was a very helpful way to direct my thoughts and truly have a personal interaction with the text. Focusing on one word or phrase allowed me to make the passage personal, instead of just thinking about the most common interpretation. So, naturally, I emphasize this a lot while leading Lectio Divina in my classroom (at the start of class every Monday). When we get to the slide for step 2, “Meditate,” I read or …

Two Principles for Forming Catechists

At the beginning of Notre Dame’s academic year, I accompany seventy Notre Dame students as they prepare to serve as catechists in South Bend area parishes. Over the course of the year, these catechists will spend countless hours planning lessons and teaching the Catholic faith to students ranging in age from kindergarten through high school. Together, we carry out the work of the Notre Dame Catechist Academy, one of the ways that the Institute for Church Life renews the catechetical imagination of the Catholic Church. Most of my work consists of forming these students through workshops, preparing them to take over a classroom of their own. It is my goal to expand and stretch their imaginations, sharing principles that invite them to consider not only what it means to be a catechist, but also what catechesis might say about living as a faithful disciple in the world. I wish to share two of those principles here. Good catechesis creates space for prayerful encounters with God’s Word. Catechesis stands apart from other “academic” subjects in that, …

Prayer of the Heart: Solitude and Community

The late philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once said that religion is what one does with one’s solitude. There is a certain truth in that observation in that one encounters God by a personal reaching out if the encounter is a genuine one. At the same time, however, the solitary experience of faith hardly sums up the totality of the life of faith. It is true, as the New Testament teaches us, that Jesus frequently sought out quiet places, often before dawn, to pray alone. However, that solitary prayer must be seen against Jesus’ pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem, his visits to synagogues, his participation in prayer with his disciples, and the other observances incumbent upon a faithful Jew. The well-worn cliché “I am spiritual but not religious” can be understood as a preference for my spirituality as opposed to membership in a religion. The cliché is a testament to the American tendency to prize the power of individuality. That dichotomy, however, from the Christian perspective, is an insufficient one overly dependent on notions of …

Catechetical Spirituality: Sharing the Fruit of Contemplation

When we think of our title as catechists, we usually only consider it to be the name of the volunteer work that we do one or two nights a week at our parish. The rest of the week, we live out our vocations in our married lives, families, careers, and hobbies. However, what would it take for us to see ourselves as being called to be catechists? That, as lay catechetical ministers, our volunteer work with children and adults at our parish is also a vocation? Even though our main ministry as catechists may take place only once or twice a week, the call to be a catechist is something we are challenged to live out every single day of our life, even when we are not in a classroom with our students. Pope Francis echoes this important sentiment in his address to catechists in 2013: Catechesis is a vocation: ‘being’ a catechist, this is the vocation, not ‘working’ as a catechist. Be careful: I have not said to do the work of a catechist, …