All posts tagged: timothypomalley

There Is No Salvation Through the University

The 173rd commencement exercises will take place at the University of Notre Dame this weekend. Like most University commencements, there will be a good deal of self-congratulatory statements about the remarkable promise demonstrated by the class of 2018. Likewise, there will be generic exhortations to the newly minted students to “change the world,” to respond to the “unique challenges of this generation.” Yet not everything about these commencement exercises is quite so formulaic. At the conclusion of graduation on Sunday morning at Notre Dame Stadium, students will sing the Alma Mater once more (this time facing their parents and friends). The personification of the University as “nurturing mother,” as the place that brought the students into wisdom, is shared across colleges and universities. Students at Harvard College sing out in praise of “Fair Harvard!” The Bulldogs of Yale pledges themselves in song to God, country, and Yale. At the University of Tennessee, students clad in orange and white sing a wistful hymn commemorating the search for wisdom begun “on a hallowed hill in Tennessee.” Notre Dame’s Alma Mater is …

Catholic Education and the Market’s Technocratic Paradigm

  I was recently in Scotland for a meeting of the Association of Catholic Institutes of Education (ACISE). As an organization, ACISE focuses on the interrelationship between religion and education primarily within European society. As a body, it exists to respond to the so-called “technocratic paradigm” that seems to have attached itself to educational institutions throughout the world. Such a technocratic paradigm reduces the act of education to learning outcomes and goals provided by the state, forgetting to form students in the dispositions of wonder, hope, critical inquiry, and a religious humanism that has marked the Western educational patrimony for generations. As an American interloper in the conversation, I experienced a bit of cultural disorientation. The American system of education has so radically separated religion and the state that it was nearly inconceivable for me to imagine a world in which the state determined the religious curriculum of the school. Yet, throughout Europe, as secularization continues particularly among the social elite, there is a sense that religious education is under attack by the state itself. …

Being Liturgical

Near the conclusion of the Liturgy of the Word in the Easter Vigil, we hear in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4). St. Paul contends that baptism kills us. It ends a form of life marked by the power of sin, beginning a new mode of existence in Christ. The mind of the Christian, the nous, says Udo Schnelle in the book Apostle Paul: His Life and Theology, “cannot renew itself out of its own resources but is dependent on the initiative of God, who places the mind in his service, for which it [the mind] was originally intended” (536). To have Christ’s mind means that one no longer operates out of the logic of the fallen person marked by an economy …

The Serious Sacrificial Body

I am embarrassed by the sacrificial body of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong. When I teach undergraduates, I am more than happy to address Jesus’s identity as the suffering servant who takes upon himself the sins of the nation. I am pleased to teach how in John’s Gospel, Jesus is the light of the world that conquers the darkness of sin and death. I delight in showing how the Lamb once slain in the book of Revelation is a counter-polis to the Roman Empire (and thus every Empire that follows—including our own). In each case, I seek to lead students beyond a moribund fascination with the death of Christ to its broader location in salvation history, its meaning for humanity hic et nunc. I want students to see Christ’s death as a coherent sign, pointing toward a form of life in which self-giving love is the very meaning of existence. I suspect that I mean well in my approach. But in doing so, I (and thus my students) am too quick to pass over the serious …

Lead Us Not into Temptation

Next Wednesday commences the Church’s annual celebration of Lent. The feasting of Carnival season will give way to fasting, alms-giving, and prayer. The goal of this season is not merely to discipline ourselves for the festive celebration of Easter, as if “the best Lent ever” will give way to the “most excellent Easter.” Instead, during the season of Lent, we must come face-to-face with a fact about the human condition: Something is wrong with us. And perhaps more importantly, we can’t fix it. Christ’s temptation in the desert in both Matthew and Luke diagnoses our malaise. The Reformed philosopher, social scientist, and theologian Jacque Ellul provides an interpretation of this moment in Christ’s life, one that sees in these three temptations “the sum of the temptations that man can encounter.”[1] Jesus is first tempted to turn stones into bread, by the supposition that material needs are the most important dimension of human life. Christ’s responds to the Devil’s tempting by teaching that the divine word of obediential love is what is ultimately determinative of the …

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 …