All posts tagged: redemption

Salvation: More Than a Cliché?

Redemption is a key word of the Christian faith; it is also one of the Christian words that has been most emptied of meaning: even for believers, it is difficult to discover another reality behind it. When they compare the drudgery of their daily lives, its battles, anxieties, and uncertainties, with the Christian Good News, often it seems to them almost impossible to acknowledge this redemption as something real. Furthermore, the words in which the faith tradition speaks here—atonement, vicarious substitution, sacrifice—have become obscure; all that verbiage produces no true connection with the experiences and insights of human existence today. It has been more than fifty years now since Josef Wittig, the Catholic theologian from Breslau, formulated this feeling in a way that, because of its artlessness and frankness, was felt by many to be a true liberation. At that time, he recounted how as schoolchildren they had received an explanation of the doctrine of redemption and had learned to sing the song, “Getröst, getröst, wir sind erlöst” (“Comforted, comforted, we are redeemed”)—but this pious …

Active Love Is a Harsh and Fearful Thing

In the second grade, my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I replied with what I saw as the two most appealing occupations—I would either become a veterinarian or a saint. While many Catholic parents’ eyes might begin to brim with tears at such a declaration, my knowing mother asked a prescient follow-up question. Do you know that you have to die before being canonized a saint? With the swift and definitive logic of an eight-year old, I promptly concluded that sainthood was not the professional trajectory for me. I set my sights instead on a future concerned with animal health. The subsequent parental encouragement that everyone was called to sainthood over their lifetime, no matter their job, did not sway my decision. If I could not get the credit for being a saint, what was the point? This story makes great Catholic cocktail party fodder. Everyone smiles and chuckles at my former precociousness. I feel great satisfaction in having a good anecdote in my back pocket for just …

Witness of the Holy Fool

Dostoevsky’s task as a novelist is to portray the self-sacrifice of the holy fool in such a way that readers will recognize its beauty and want to participate in it. —Harriet Murov The moment I knew that grad school was getting to me was the moment that I found myself deeply identifying with the manic-depressive protagonist of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov. Throughout the novel, Raskolnikov’s troubled state of soul manifests itself in long, circular interior diatribes and labyrinthine monologues, clearly the entrails of a mind coming unhinged. Raskolnikov is no idiot. He is a sharp and intelligent young man. The modern intellectual milieu that he inhabits, however, is a world devoid of Christ, and accordingly, Raskolnikov’s ability to make sense of the world has begun to break down. In trying to make sense of the world on the terms of his reason and his self alone, Raskolnikov has lost his mind. His intelligence, without the guide of charity or faith, leads him to a hellish despair and emptiness. It has led him to a …

New Orleans and the Catholic Imagination

As I woke up this morning in northern Indiana, I felt deeply sad. Some might assume that it is the perma-cloud that has reasserted its wintry authority over South Bend. Some would tell me that it’s the pile of papers that must be graded over the next three days. Both are wrong. It’s because today is Mardi Gras, and I’m not in New Orleans. When I tell people that I love New Orleans especially around Mardi Gras, a number of assumptions are made about me as a person. People imagine me as the kind of person who likes to wander drunkenly down Bourbon St., my feet immersed in some unidentified liquid, while my body brushes against a crowd of half-clothed human beings. They think to themselves how can a Catholic theologian, who is supposed to be piously engaged in theological education and research, enjoy this kind of debauchery? In fact, any Catholic who has spent significant time in New Orleans knows that my imagined interlocutor has misunderstood how ingrained the Catholic imagination is within the city of New Orleans. Yes, whenever …

And the Nominees Are . . . Hell or High Water

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. This review contains no spoilers. The best stories take us to new places and in doing so give a better understanding of ourselves. They persuade us to sympathize with the heroes—their struggles crush us—while sharing their ire for the dirty, no-good louts presented against them. Great plots challenge, intrigue, enchant, and ultimately force us to come to decide: What am I to do—who am I to be—in light of what’s happening here? Good stories end happily ever after but great ones leave us thirsting for more. This year’s Best Picture nominee Hell or High Water is a great one. Set in present-day West Texas, we meet cowboys, Comanches, and Texas Rangers in a desert expanse peppered with depressing “Fast Cash” billboards and flashing casino lights. The film tells of two brothers, Tanner and Toby Howard (played by Ben Foster and Chris Pine, respectively), who resort to robbing Texas Midland Banks in order …

To Stay on Target: The Immaculate Conception

On Thursday, March 25, 1858, standing in the Grotto of Massabielle, Lourdes, Our Lady identified herself as the Immaculate Conception. This self-revelation, four years after the proclamation of the dogma of this mystery of our faith, belongs to the core of her message to St. Bernadette and is unique compared to other apparitions. As the Immaculate Conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary resembles and proclaims God’s authentic, i.e. immaculate, concept of the human person created in his image and likeness. To say it differently: in Mary’s person radiates forth the authentic blueprint that God designed for each of his children. It follows that she is the ideal exception and we are the unfortunate rule of God’s wish for us! The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception celebrated on December 8 honors Our Lady as the personification of the re-created order in Christ. Having been pre-redeemed and fully redeemed, Mary’s spiritual wealth constitutes that dimension of her being which is veiled to the outside and transcends time and matter. In its depth it is fully known only to God. …

The New Jerusalem

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen. I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. (Is 1:25–26) You have to set your square large enough that all your livestock can fit inside it. You start by pacing off the perimeter. Put some rocks or some large stones where you want the corners, your front gate and maybe an extra portal or two on the side or the back. You have to see in your mind if it’s a big enough area. And then you walk around it, again and again, kicking the dirt out of the way until you’ve made a deep enough groove. Then, after you’ve walked the miles around what will be your house you’re going to need some water. Not …