All posts tagged: prayer

The Mysterious Miriam of Nazareth

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and several verses later the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This seismic shift in the orientation of creation, this cataclysmic re-location of the logos into the corruptible world of mortality took place not in a hermetically-sealed scientific laboratory or in the archetypes of myth, but in the flesh-and-blood of a human person. And the person’s name was Mary. When imagining Incarnation—in both our intellectual and pious imaginaries—we too often recite a story something like this: notional God theoretically unites to abstract human nature. The story is more like a mathematical formula. 1 + 1 = 2, and Incarnation remains simply a more subtle cosmic algebraic formula in which 1+1 = 1. But this is not what it is to be or to take up flesh. To become a human person means to be born: a physical, messy, risky business. To be born means to be thrown into the world drama in a specific time (e.g., 1991, …

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 …

Why Must We Go to Church on Sunday?

Why does it matter if we go to church on Sunday rather than praying on our own? We can read the Bible at home, pray, and do good works without ever stepping foot in a church. Nevertheless, liturgy, especially the Eucharistic liturgy—the act of coming together as the Body of Christ to offer praise and prayer to God, to listen to his word, and to be nourished by Christ’s Body and Blood—is an essential aspect of our faith. Sacrosanctum concilium states quite clearly why the liturgy is central to our faith: Nevertheless the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons [and daughters] of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper (SC, §10). Liturgy creates a space for the …

The Pornification of Desire

It was nearing the end of my sophomore year. I had a pretty similar life to everyone around me. I’d wake up in the morning way too early than what was healthy so I could get to my 7:30 AM class at my school 30 minutes away. My dad would usually have eggs and bacon ready for me by the time I was out of the shower and my mom always made me a smoothie that tasted exactly how it looked, like slop. I finished up classes for the day, and then came my favorite part of the day, hockey practice. Earlier in the year, I made it onto my school’s hockey team which was the hockey team of my dreams. Playing hockey was the one thing that got me through the school day because I never felt more free than when I was skating. The cold air against my face while my feet glided across a smooth surface of ice. It was all great except for one problem. I was suffering through an abdominal …

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, …