All posts tagged: timothypomalley

The Conformism of Catholic Ideology

If you spend enough time on Twitter (which I sadly do), one encounters a Catholicism radically distinct from that experienced within life in most parishes. It is a Catholicism that conforms itself to an American political ideology rather than an expansive and generous account of orthodoxy that has marked the Roman Catholic Church’s discourse when she is at her best. A critique of certain dimensions of capitalism according to this political ideology immediately marks one as a communist, condemned by Leo XIII. Or, a critique of any dimension of the Second Vatican Council colors one as an anti-conciliar (and thus anti-Pope Francis) traditionalist. Rather than measure one’s fidelity to the Church according to the Church’s own regula fidei, such political ideology requires that one conform oneself to the ideology of a preferred in-group. In a short essay in his Creative Fidelity, Gabriel Marcel worries about this distinction between orthodoxy and conformism. Orthodoxy, according to Marcel, “is an absolute fidelity to the Word which has been made flesh; it is the fidelity of an adhesion or …

The Advent Apocalypse

Our parishes are too safe. They gather together like-minded citizens whose children go to the same schools, whose parents root for the same football team and work in similar fields. We form insular communities that sing music praising not the triune God who comes to interrupt history through the power of the cross, but music reminding the Creator of the universe how lucky God is to have a people like us as his own. The Church’s liturgy in these instances functions not as a counter-polis but as a replication of social structures that reduce the reign of God to a country club. We naively sing (accompanied by an upbeat tambourine), “Send down the fire of your justice,” unaware that this fire may be for us. And we do so in the name of an evangelization that is supposed to be palatable for a generation that longs not for prophetic discourse but therapeutic memoirs. Advent is the season in which our parishes should once again become dangerous spaces. The coming of Christ that we prepare for …

Whose Liturgy? What Sacrifice?

James K.A. Smith’s cultural liturgies project has concluded with his volume on political theology, Awaiting the King: Reforming Public Theology. In the three volumes, Smith makes an argument about the formative nature of Christian liturgical prayer. From the beginning of the project, Smith founds his liturgical theology of culture in an Augustinian anthropology: we are what we love. While secular culture has done an adept job at forming us in rites that shape our desires and imaginations (including shopping malls), Reformed Christianity has focused primarily on developing a worldview through an intellectual formation carried out in the Christian college or university. Smith argues that Christian education must turn away from an exclusive focus on the formation of the intellect to an approach grounded in liturgical practice. If we are what we love, then we need to cultivate those practices that shape the human imagination to love God and neighbor well. The first volume of the cultural liturgies project (Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation) established the anthropological basis of the argument, focusing on the manner …

The Hospitality of Adoption

“I hope that you’ll have one of your own one day.” Anyone who has adopted a child has heard this statement more than once. As an adopting parent of two children, I’ve learned to grit my teeth and smile, offering this gentle retort, “Well, I happen to see my children as my own. But thank you.” The simmering anger that normally accompanied my response has dissipated over the years. I’ve replaced the rage with a reasonable question: why is my well-intentioned questioner so concerned about having a child who is biologically one’s own? Biological parenthood, of course, is a good. The human race does need to be propagated. The wonder of sexual union (in addition to it often being fun) is the possibility of a new life coming into existence. From the mutual affection of man and woman, from self-gift, a child may be born. The child takes on characteristics from the mother and father, reflecting back to husband and wife the gift of their union. From the result of the love of two, a third …

Letting the Imagination Out to Play

Last weekend, I was in Philadelphia for the Society for Catholic Liturgy. This “multidisciplinary association of Catholic scholars” seeks to promote the “scholarly study and practical renewal of the Church’s liturgy.” The theologians, architects, philosophers, pastoral liturgists, and musicians of the Society range from advocates of the “reform of the reform” to those more sympathetic to Msgr. Francis Mannion’s “recatholicizing approach, one that “seeks a recovery of the sacred and numinous in liturgical expression which will act as a corrective to the sterility and rationalism of much modern liturgical experience.”[1] The Society brings together both those who prefer to celebrate the usus antiquor, the Latin Mass, as well as Novus Ordo Mass-goers who suspect that the low-Mass mentality of the pre-conciliar period has been canonized in the current ars celebrandi and aesthetics of the reformed liturgy. While attending this event, I often found myself returning to a passage from Artur Rosman’s last column on the retrieval of a Catholic imagination: Church life must once again become the heart of the Catholic imagination, but the onus of …

The Catholic Imagination is Ecclesial (Or It’s Not Really Catholic)

In two previous articles, Artur Rosman, the managing editor of Church Life, has advanced a proposal for what constitutes the Catholic imagination. According to Rosman, the Catholic imagination is often employed in departments of Catholic Studies in a way that suits the faculty and/or artist’s interests: Each of these institutions, and there are many of them, appears to have its own working definition of the Catholic imagination that developed out of its own institutional needs and accents upon Catholic identity. These practical needs sidestepped much of the work of theologians on the Catholic imagination. In a later article, Rosman hints that medieval Catholicism is the privileged era for the birth of what we refer to the Catholic imagination. Rosman’s articles point toward a significant lacuna that exists within both philosophical and theological accounts of the Catholic imagination: the dearth of attention to the ecclesial nature of this imagination. In my own graduate studies, the term “Catholic imagination” was often defined by the transformation of theological doctrines into epistemic or literary principles: The Catholic imagination is …

Editorial Musings: Restoring Sacramental Magic

This summer, I attended the biennial congress in Leuven, Belgium of Societas Liturgica, an ecumenical gathering of liturgical historians, theologians, and musicians from throughout the world. The congress’ theme was that of sacramentality. Rather than understand the sacramental through traditional categories (matter and form, substance and accidents), the various lectures of the congress sought to grasp the sacramentality of life itself, the manner in which God’s presence permeates history. This “sacramentality” of existence then should allow us to re-consider the nature of liturgical practice in post-modern, secular society. While sacramentality (the permeation of divine presence in human history) was held up as a virtue, magic remained a vice. The dismissal of sacramental magic is ubiquitous in modern (and even post-modern) works of sacramental theology. Louis-Marie Chauvet’s account of the sacramentality of existence—required reading for all those involved in liturgical theology—makes a habit of warning against a “magical” interpretation of the sacraments. A magical account of the sacraments would be one that does not concern itself with the intrinsic link between ethics and the sacraments. It …

The Hope of the Assumption

Glorious things are spoken of you, O Mary, who today were exalted above the choirs of Angels into eternal triumph with Christ (Entrance Antiphon, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary) Elite athletes exist at the edge of the possible and the physically absurd. Last year, in Brazil, we learned this once again: The marathon runner, who pushes his or her body beyond human limitations to complete the 26.2 miles in the same time that it takes to drive a car from South Bend to Chicago. The swimmer, whose powerful legs and lungs, enables her to move through the water in record time, all the while performing with grace. The sprinter, who runs so swiftly, with such ease, that we re-imagine what the human being can do when formed according to such perfection. The gymnast, who defies all laws of gravity, in the vault, the parallel bars, the floor routine. At the end of the Olympics, do not all of us (no matter the lack of our own athletic prowess) in some way expand our imaginations to …

Editorial Musings: Nourishing the Imagination, Renewing the Church

As I write this week’s editorial musings, the McGrath Institute for Church Life is engaged in final preparations for our annual summer programming. We will welcome to the University of Notre Dame liturgical and sacramental catechists, facilitators of our online theological education program, youth and campus ministers, high school students, young adults, teachers of science and religion, priests from around the country, and master’s students preparing to work in ministry in the Church. Our summer programming functions as a kind of sacramental sign of the Institute’s mission in the Church. Through nourishing the Catholic imagination of those ministers with whom we partner, we seek to renew the life of the Church. The language of imagination and renewal has been chosen with great care. The imagination is not a matter of mere fancy, engaging in a “make-believe” world. The imagination is that capacity that we have as human beings to see the world anew through the images and narratives that nourish us. As James K.A. Smith writes about the formation of the imagination: . . . we …

Celebrating the Easter Season, Part 3: Dads

In his book, Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations, Vern L. Bengston notes that a father who is actively involved in religious practice is more likely to have children who continue being involved in religious practice. For this reason, it is essential for the flourishing of the American Church that dads get involved in the religious lives of their children. Here are six practices that dads might do with their kids during Easter to help develop habits of faith in the home. 6) Take Your Children to the Zoo and Speak About Religious Imagery My son loves the zoo. We ride the carousel of sundry animals (often choosing the shark or dolphin for some unknown reason). We race down hills together. We run to see the lions, the monkeys, and the terrifying carp. For this reason, it wouldn’t take a lot to talk to your kids at the zoo about the link between the animals and the Catholic imagination. Deer are prominent in early Church mosaics because of Psalm 42, “As the …