All posts tagged: theology

The Saint for a Troubled Church

With so many issues troubling the Church and world at large, it can often be a difficult to get a grasp on these problems and identify practical solutions. But there is a Saint who faced similar challenges in his own time who can help us realize the grace and peace that God has given us. Saint Bonaventure joined the Franciscan order and was an academic by training, but he was also a great preacher and confessor. Recognized as a man of wisdom and talent, at the age of 36, he was elevated to the post of Minister General of the Order, a position he held for nearly 17 years, before being named Cardinal. One of the Doctors of the Church, Bonaventure is an remarkable spiritual master and theologian, but also a fantastic administrator and leader, who can help us chart a path that both clings to the Gospel ideals of Jesus, but also recognizes the importance of moving in the direction of the current times of the world. He is a great exemplar for us …

The TOP 25 Church Life Journal Reads of 2017

Church Life Journal is back from its Christmas hibernation. We promise that plenty of reading adventures await you on these pages in 2018. But before that starts in full force, take a meditative glance back at Church Life Journal’s most popular posts of 2017. The rankings are based on pageviews. The titles of the pieces are linked, just in case you missed these pieces, or, would like to revisit them. A Happy 2018 to you and yours! Human Dignity Was a Rarity Before Christianity by David Bentley Hart Editorial Musings: The Charism of Infertility by Timothy O’Malley The Perfect Family is an Idol by Anna Keating The Sex Life of Joseph and Mary by John Cavadini Life After Life After Death by Timothy Kelleher 97 Aphorisms Adduced from the Thought of Benedict XVI by Cyril O’Regan Catechesis of the Good Shepherd: Cultivating the Christian Imagination of the Child by Jessica Keating Black Bodies, Kneeling, and the Liturgy by Eric Styles Single Life Is More Fundamental for Christianity than both Married and Religious Life by Michael …

97 Aphorisms Adduced from the Thought of Benedict XVI

1.     Faith is a Contact Sport. 2.     Christianity cannot be a gift to the world if it comes with empty hands. 3.     God sometimes finds it necessary to rough the passer. 4.     Societies and their gods are naturally violent and our only hope is God—the biblical God, beyond all societies and gods, who is Peace itself. 5.     To be free is not only to have avoided the coercion of others, but also the compulsion of the idols of one’s world and society and above all the compulsion and idol that is yourself. 6.     The peace that passeth understanding is neither brought about by nor guaranteed by us. We are cooperative agents in a process and a goal that transcends us. 7.     Conscience is the inconvenience of listening to the clear voice of God rather than the noise of the rabble or the static of the self. 8.     Christianity does not exercise the option for justice because it is made up of good people. It exercises the option because God insists on nothing less. 9.     Love …

Liturgical Catechesis

Liturgical catechesis—the act of reorienting our lives in and by the liturgical act—is quite a hot topic in ministerial circles currently. Liturgical catechesis should allow the grace of God to work through the words, actions, and meaning of the liturgy in order to form our lives. It would thus transform us into little Christs to serve the Church and the world. What does this look like and how can it be achieved? This is not a new question. There are certainly many answers such as Timothy O’Malley’s books, Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples, and Fr. Randy Stice’s trilogy on a rites-based approach to the sacraments are just a few that come to mind. But as I was perusing the latest issue of Antiphon—the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy—Dr. James Pauley of Franciscan University made a simple yet weighty statement: “the testimony of real people . . . can give voice to what it looks like in their own life experience to live fr­­­om the grace of the sacrament.”[1] Christ’s disciples in the world …

The Body in Early Monasticism

If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” It was with the inspiration of this Gospel passage that St. Antony the Great took off to the deserts of Egypt to begin a life of arduous asceticism. Antony, who is commonly attributed the title of “founder of Christian monasticism,” and his legacy have continued to provoke new questions over the past seventeen hundred years. What exactly motivated him to move out to the desert? Who had preceded him, both before the coming of Christ and after? To what extent did later monastic fathers and mothers follow his example, and to what extent did they diverge from it? And ultimately, were his motivations and lifestyle choice authentic to the Gospel? Many critics of early Church monasticism will point to Manichean and dualistic tendencies in the teachings and practices of these desert fathers and mothers. The shift from eremitic to cenobitic monasticism after the time of Antony, initiated by figures like Pachomios and Basil, …

Telling the Story in Teaching Religion

My constant beef with middle school religion textbooks: There is no story. They just contain a hodge-podge of information strung together. Even when a particular grade level’s book has a theme, the chapters still follow each other like a gaudy striped scarf instead of a tapestry that weaves a picture. In one unit of seventh grade, the chapters cover giving alms and St. Francis, the Eucharist, the two great commandments, and then the raising of Lazarus. Now, these are all areas ripe for discussion, which I would love to share with my seventh grade students. However, a random bunch of topics is not memorable. It is not relevant. It leads to students asking questions like, “Am I ever going to need to know any of this?” and “Why are we learning this?” and “How do we even know any of this is true, anyway?” At the beginning of Unit 3 (not ideal, but better late than never) I finally attempted to give all three grades some context. I talked about the story of salvation: God’s …

Echo Teaching Theology

Incarnation and Re-Incarnation

Taking summer Theology classes at Notre Dame last June, I heard John Cavadini say more than once, “Our children know more about re-incarnation than the Incarnation.” I thought it was catchy, and that it was a testament to Dr. Cavadini’s commitment to helping all of us taking Theology MA classes be better catechists. I didn’t imagine it was a literal comment about the knowledge of my future students. About a month later, I found myself in Indianapolis, teaching Religion to about a hundred and twenty middle school students through the Notre Dame Echo program. The topic for the seventh graders is “The Story of Jesus” and since unit one is all about the “Mystery of the Incarnation,” I devoted a couple days in class to exploring that term with my seventh graders. As soon as I put up the definition of “Incarnation” on the board, in both classes, I immediately got a hand up in the air, “Ms. Burr, isn’t that the thing where you could be an animal?” Had I not heard the phrase …

God’s Patience and the Bible

“Mr. Manfredi, why didn’t God just send Jesus right after the Fall? Why didn’t He just nip this whole sin thing in the bud?” “Why did he even bother with all these covenants before Jesus and just get to the real deal?” “Why is the Bible so cryptic? If God wants us to understand it, why not just put it more simply?” These are the kinds of questions a high school theology teacher who teaches the Scriptures hears everyday. To be sure, these are good questions. They display a higher level of thinking. These kinds of questions indicate that the wheels are turning, someone is home, there are signs of life. I love these questions. Perhaps I love them so much because they are often very difficult to answer and I love a challenge. Mostly, I love these questions because the students are clearly in the midst of learning something immeasurably valuable. They are learning to deal with the dissatisfaction and frustration that studying scripture often brings. They are learning the virtue of patience. Patience is …

The Science of Love

A girl is standing in front of the teacher, a girl rather small for her age. The round face is quite childlike, while the slight body already betrays the early maturity of this southern race. The girl is clad in a peasant smock. She wears wooden shoes. But everyone, not the children only, wear them here, except those very few who belong to the so-called better circles. The brown eyes of the girl are calm under the nun’s gaze. Their expression is uninhibited and dreamy and almost apathetic. There is something in that expression which troubles Sister Marie Therese. ‘So you really know nothing of the Holy Trinity, dear child?” The girl keeps her eyes on the teacher and answers unabashed in a high, clear voice: “No, sister, I know nothing about it.” “And you’ve never even heard of it?” The girl reflects at some length. “Maybe I’ve heard about it…” The nun closes her book with a little bang. Real pain shows on her features. “I’m puzzled my child. Are you pert or indifferent …

Beauty and Theology

Throughout its long history, theology has certainly seemed more comfortable understanding itself through its claim to truth or goodness than to beauty. It is not that the connection between theology and beauty has never been notarized. One simply has to recall the early Augustine, Pseudo-Dionysius, and the Dionysian tradition to realize that this is not true—even if beginning with Tertullian and proceeding through the iconoclasm controversy and on to the Reformation, faith in the Cross made it difficult to think of theology and beauty being anything other than bitter rivals, when it came to allure and existential pledge. Of course, throughout the long histories of Catholic, Orthodox, and even Protestant theologies, there have been internal corrections. The Catholic theologian Matthias Scheeben might  represent a correction within the late nineteenth-century form of Neo-Scholasticism, with its forged alliance between propositionalism and moralism. And, of course, in the Reform tradition no theologian showed a greater openness to beauty than Jonathan Edwards, without succumbing in the slightest to the emerging temptation to elevate beauty while essentially dethroning God. Pace …