All posts tagged: reneedroden

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, …

And the Nominees Are . . . Hidden Figures

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 post contains no spoilers. Oh, I’ll tell you where to begin: Three Negro women chasing a white police officer down a highway in Hampton, Virginia in 1961. Ladies, that there is a God-ordained miracle! —Mary Jackson, Hidden Figures And with Mary Jackson’s tongue-in-cheek prophetic diagnosis, Hidden Figures revs into full, Technicolor life. A sepia-tinged prologue has identified the central protagonist among our three musketeers—Katherine Johnson—whose patched-together wire-rimmed glasses are two windows into the kaleidoscopic world which she inhabits. For Katherine, the world is knit together in geometric forms; tetrahedrons, triangles, and rhombi camouflage themselves in windowpanes. For Katherine, numbers are the backbone of nature, and she spends each day counting the vertebrae. Her eyes light up when a teacher asks her to solve a problem and hands her the chalk. He doesn’t simply hand her a blunt stub of chalk, he hands her a sharp sword of possibility, with which …

Imagining the Gospels

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us— we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 Jn 1:1–4) There are those beautiful, singular memories from childhood that sear into your brain, sticking with you for mysterious, inaccessible reasons. Some of them are quite insignificant, and when they roll around into the conscious forefront of my mind at odd occasions, I never cease to wonder at what odd chemistry of impressionability and emotional resonance has caused them to be burned into my memory. As I was studying for my Scripture class during last finals week, …

And the Nominees Are . . . Lion

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 post contains no spoilers. So they were there even before I had learnt them, but were not in my memory. . . . They were already in the memory, but so remote and pushed into the background, as if in most secret caverns, that unless they were dug out by someone drawing attention to them, perhaps I could not have thought of them. (Confessions Book X, 17) In book ten of his Confessions, St. Augustine writes of memory as a re-learning, a re-discovering. Deep in our memory there are visions of truth that we re-learn as life prompts their recall. Garth Davis’ Lion dives into the intimate quest of a human severed from his origins. How do the memories of who he once was and those who loved him reach through the rupture between them? And how must he respond once those memories reach him? Based on a true story, …

A bishop, St. Thomas Becket, against the backdrop of blue.

Thomas Becket and the Witness of Friendship

“I give my life To the Law of God above the Law of Man” —Murder in the Cathedral, T.S. Eliot[i] Thomas Becket, whose feast of martyrdom is observed today, is a highly celebrated figure of English Christianity, commemorated in painting, verse, and drama since his 12th century assassination. The story of Thomas Becket’s unlikely rise to Archbishop of Canterbury is chronicled in Peter Glenville’s film Becket (1964). Although it tells the story of Becket’s martyrdom, the heart of Glenville’s tale is Becket’s friendship with Henry; he frames the film with scenes of Henry II at Becket’s tomb, addressing his deceased friend. Becket sets up a medieval buddy movie, which is ruined by God. There is, of course, more to Thomas Becket’s story than simply his friendship with King Henry II. But the particular sacrifice of friendship, love, and loyalty that the film paints is a striking hue of Becket’s portrait, and a touching testament to the singular witness that friendship plays in the life of faith. The film starts with the puerile shenanigans of Becket …

Advent Eschatology

Oh I’d be waiting with quiet fasting, Anticipating A joy more lasting. —Madeleine L’Engle, “The Birth of Wonder” Advent—like Lent—is a liturgical period when we mark time according to what is still hidden. The Easter Hope is shrouded in sin and suffering, it has not yet broken open the world in Resurrection; the Christmas Hope of Christ’s glory is shrouded in the womb of the Virgin, it has not yet breached into the waking world of man. But Advent—unlike Lent—is not a season of penitential sorrow. Rather, Advent is a period of deep anticipation of the lasting joy that is coming into the world. To keep Advent is not to pretend, in a facile suspension of belief, that Christ has not been incarnated, that his great Nativity never occurred. Rather, to keep Advent is to walk in liturgical solidarity with all humanity’s forebears who lived in the pre-Incarnation world and to commemorate their anticipation of a Savior. As we walk with them along their journey of anticipation, we sense that we ourselves are a people …

A Dogma of Consent

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception is a doctrine that continually mystifies me. Each year as December 8th rolls around, I annually struggle to understand what exactly is so significant here that elevates this feast to a holy day of obligation. The meditations of last year never seem to have borne discoveries that adequately satisfy my questioning. What is so important that it merits mandatory Mass attendance? Why is this doctrine one that Pope Pius IX felt infallibly imperative to declare solemnly a dogma in 1854? Currently, a pressing topic in sexual ethics on college campuses is the term “consent.” There are seminars, talks, trainings, and various programs all centered on teaching undergraduates the importance and value of consent. The moral imperative of obtaining the consent of one’s sexual partner is impressed upon students as an avenue towards helping the students understand the gravity of a sexual encounter, and inviting the students to step into another person’s shoes, envisioning the encounter through the eyes of the other. Accordingly, students are taught to be mindful of …

Sacramental Sex?

Last month, Donna Freitas, author of the 2008 book Sex and the Soul, addressed residence hall staff and the campus community at Notre Dame in a talk entitled: “Catholicism and a Culture of Consent.” In the process of her research on sexuality and faith, Freitas conducted hundreds of interviews with students on a variety of college campuses.  Based on these interviews, Freitas compiled a working definition of the circumlocution often used to describe sexual encounters among college students: the hook-up. By Freitas’ definition, a “hookup” is: 1. Some sort of sexual intimacy: anything from a kiss to intercourse. 2. It is brief: five minutes, one night, and no promise or intention of continuance. 3. Finally, and most importantly, there is a lack of emotional investment. The ideal feelings for a hook-up would be a laconic nonchalance. She who shows the least interest wins. Because lack of caring about the other is part of hookup culture, in the midst of this self-absorbed quest to cease to care about the other person, the initiator might lose sight …

Jesus' body over Japanese characters

Silence and Decision 2016

At the end of Shusaku Endo’s beautifully grueling novel, Silence, the protagonist, Fr. Sebastião Rodrigues, faces a debilitating choice. Held captive by the Japanese government, Fr. Rodrigues’ is commanded to recant Christianity by stepping on the fumie, an icon of Christ’s face. If he resists this apostasy, he will condemn peasants, who have already renounced their faith, to continue their slow death in the gruesome “pit”. What would Jesus do? Endo’s novel is startling as it is bleak. Without any sugar-coating, Endo captures a singular reality of Christian life in Rodrigues’ anguished predicament. While we wish life would present us with clear choices, good and evil are intertwined too closely together in the world to be easily delineated. Fr. Rodrigues’ choices represent this truth, pushed to an extremity. If he refuses to apostatize, his inaction will cause him to participate in the suffering of innocents, condemning souls to death. If he tramples on the fumie, he will betray his beloved Christ, as Judas did. “If Christ were here,” another priest counsels Rodrigues, “certainly Christ would …

Brown confessional in gothic Church

A Trumpian Examination of Conscience

I have spent the past year and a half (Has it really been so long? O Lord, make haste to help us) coloring myself various hues of self-righteous indignation regarding the candidacy of Donald Trump. I spent most of 2015 laughing at it, blissful in my naïvéte, and most of 2016 sputtering with befuddled indignation. How could someone so embarrassingly puerile in demeanor and cringe-worthy be a viable candidate for our nation’s top governing office? I will draw on my best debate techniques and side-step that valid question, as I consider the character of Donald Trump. My eureka moment came during the most recent incendiary comment at the final presidential debate. Secretary Clinton spoke of how her Social Security payments would go up, and, in a little dig at Trump, she mentioned that his would too, “if he doesn’t find a way to get out of it.” A cheap shot; but fair play to her. Suddenly, Donald Trump’s voice slipped under Clinton’s soprano canter: “What a nasty woman.” Unexpectedly, I felt wells of empathy open …