All posts tagged: theology

The Notre-Dame Cathedral Fire Isn’t a Sign

Catholics love churches. Even when our architecture is less than excellent—this includes churches that also seem to look rather traditional—we nonetheless love them. We love them because in these places our babies were baptized; we married our spouses; we celebrated the Eucharist week after week, day after day, offering that sacrifice of praise that offers to humanity the hope that divine love alone saves. Yesterday we all, not Catholics only, gazed with absolute horror as we saw Notre-Dame de Paris nearly burn down. To a certain extent, popular media covered this out of a sense of nostalgia. This building, immortalized in our imaginations, would never exist precisely as it once did. We would never enter the dark, Gothic building again. We will never see the spire, even if a late addition, again. We will never see the cathedral’s wooden frame, the brilliant lattice work that brought us back to our medieval forebears. The landscape of Paris would once again be changed. No one, not one, would see the cityscape of Paris like we did–although the …

The Clear Message of Christus Vivit

On the feast of the Annunciation, Pope Francis signed his most recent Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit, a document addressed to young people and to the entire people of God. It is a response to the recent Synod on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment. The pope explains that he let himself “be inspired by the wealth of reflections and conversations that emerged from last year’s Synod,” (Christus Vivit, §4) and provides a summary of these proposals, but also offers a continuation of his vision for the kerygmatic[1] evangelization of the Church that he provides in his previous exhortations.[2] Particularly interesting is the title of this exhortation. While in previous exhortations Pope Francis has used the theme of joy as his starting place, in this letter, he gives the reason for our joy: “Christ is alive!” (CV, §1). With this title, he exemplifies his call for kerygmatic evangelization contained in the previous documents. The title of the document, Christus Vivit, highlights Pope Francis’s desire to have a Christocentric focus with his audience. Throughout the exhortation, …

Glimpsing Eternity Through Lent Melody

We enter into a more overtly sacred repertoire with music written in a more “classical” style, though the majority of the pieces included here were not written in the Classical era of Western music (c. 1750–1830), but in the 20th century. While many of these pieces were inspired by the liturgy, in particular the Mass, most of them would not have been heard in a liturgical context, though for today’s liturgies, some of the shorter sacred anthems such as Eli! Eli! and Mary Speaks certainly could be appropriate selections for the Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. These pieces of sacred music are meant to foster a rich devotional life—the time spent living the liturgy out in the context of daily life, the time outside of the liturgical celebration proper. For most lay people, the devotional life—which flows from and leads back to the liturgical life—encompasses the majority of life in general. Listening to this music in the morning while getting ready for work or for school, or in the evening while preparing dinner …

Integralism and the Logic of the Cross

I. Timothy Troutner’s Objections to Integralism Catholic integralism is the position that politics should be ordered to the common good of human life, both temporal and spiritual, and that temporal and spiritual authority ought therefore to have an ordered relation. As a consequence, it rejects modern liberal understandings of freedom. Timothy Troutner, in a recent article, strongly objects to the integralist position. Troutner argues that integralists in reacting to liberalism become liberalism’s mirror image. Liberalism, he claims, is understandable as a reaction to real errors in Christendom, and promoted, though in a distorted way, the precious Christian truths of the goodness of liberty and equality that Christendom had forgotten. In simply rejecting liberalism as a deception of the Anti-Christ, Troutner argues, integralists end up defending indefensible crimes of Christendom, and condemning important truths associated with liberalism. Integralists commit a fatal error, Troutner thinks, in attempting to attain spiritual ends by means of coercive, temporal power. In this, he suggests they play the role of the devil. Just as the devil tempted Christ in the desert …

A Knight in St. Patrick’s Purgatory

Each year St. Patrick’s Day falls during Lent and the question arises how should we observe his feast during the penitential season? If it falls on a Friday will there be special dispensations for corned beef? If you give up alcohol for Lent can you celebrate with a glass of whiskey on March 17th? St. Patrick’s Day festivities are a welcome break in the somber 40 days, but there is actually a connection between the popular saint and taking on surprisingly severe penance. In a medieval tale, a young knight named Owen journeys into a portal to the Otherworld to voluntarily take on an extreme penance to cleanse him of the sin of cruelty. The place of purgation he enters is called St. Patrick’s Purgatory, and the island of Lough Derg connected to the legend draws pilgrims even today. The first Old French version of the tale, the Espurgatoire seint Patriz (c. 1190) was penned by a 12th century authoress who calls herself Marie. Marie wrote popular stories of love and chivalry, fables, and possibly …

Political Theology’s Haunting of Contemporary Politics

Erik Peterson’s Thought Erik Peterson and Carl Schmitt had met as early as 1919 but became better acquainted in 1924 when Peterson took a Church History and New Testament chair at the University of Bonn. This was a period of development for Peterson’s thought and he would eventually cross the Tiber in 1930 at great personal expense. The road to Catholicism was not a short one for Peterson and his relationship with Schmitt was significant in multiple ways. They were friends who commonly shared ideas and spoke highly of each other. Not the least significant of these shared ideas was that in Peterson’s own study of the New Testament he discovered that it was rife with legal terms. Thus, according to Peterson’s astute biographer Barbra Nichtwieß, the friendship between Schmitt and Peterson led to certain parallel insights in their respective disciplines as well.[1] Both thinkers are apocalyptic, but whereas Schmitt’s apocalyptic identifies a particular political crisis and emphasizes the importance of political decision, Peterson’s focuses on the cosmic and revelatory transformation that has occurred through …

Celebrating 200 Years of Catholic Theology’s Oldest Journal

While scrambling to finish an article on German theology last month, I found myself rummaging for a quotation from the inaugural, 1819 issue of the Theologische Quartalschrift, the house journal for the Catholic faculty of theology in Tübingen. Then it struck me that the ThQ had turned two hundred, and I would be remiss if I could not find a way to fete this loyal and reliable companion. But is it decadent to care about a journal? American theologians are more likely to connect journals with prestige than with place. Few faculties properly house a journal. My own institution, Saint Louis University, housed Theology Digest from 1967–2010, but by the time I had arrived in 2007, few of the faculty published in, read, or even browsed it. The Digest seemed more an eccentric side project of one dedicated faculty member than a point of pride for the rest of us. Its loss was mostly felt in the journal swap that our library could no longer participate in. Nostalgia for journals is more likely to arise …

Catholicism’s Decisive Shift Toward Africa

To any astute observer of Catholic social history, it should be clear that today the largest “geographical exodus” has occurred since perhaps Apostolic times. These were the times when the Catholic Church’s center moved from Jerusalem to Rome, as recorded in Acts of the Apostles (Cf. Acts 1-28). The large geographical exodus that I am alluding to here is the relocation of the Catholic Church’s center from Europe to Africa. This is not to mention the Asian and Latin American Churches, which have become the modern-day equivalent to Constantinople and Alexandria. What makes this shift so interesting from the vantage of the West is that the geographical center has gone from the “First World” to the “Third World.” However, it also simultaneously appears that in today’s world, borders have become merely symbolic and arbitrary, pointing to nothing beyond themselves. At best, it seems that these borders are simply a relic of a colonial past in America, and an ancient cultivated narrative in Europe. Today’s world seems to be slowly converging into a “common home,” as …