All posts tagged: worship

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 …

Everything Looks Different After Priestly Ordination

Since my priestly ordination, one of my favorite liturgical texts has become the Office of Readings for Bl. Miguel Pro, the Mexican Jesuit martyred for clandestinely administering sacraments to persecuted Catholics. Cobbled together from letters written shortly before his arrest, the reading centers on Pro’s amazement at the change wrought in him by the priesthood. Pro writes to a friend, “Everything begins to look different [after ordination], everything is seen from another angle, everything is shaped by wider, more generous, more spiritual horizons. You will not be the same as before: something more is going to flood your soul and change it.”  But lest his friend expect an instantaneous and effortless transformation, Pro adds, “I did not notice this change until I found myself in touch with souls . . . God our Lord chose to use me as his instrument to do good.” The priesthood for Pro was like seed planted once for all in his heart, yet requiring ministerial contact to flower in his imagination. That this would be the case for Pro, …

The Supper of the Lamb

Today, I boarded a train from Leuven (where Societas Liturgica is meeting) for Ghent. After years of teaching the Mass to undergraduates, of inviting them to gaze with wonder upon the supper of the Lamb of Van Eyck, I couldn’t leave Belgium without seeing it. I arrived at St. Bavo’s Cathedral after a thirty minute walk from the train station. Escaping the rain, I walked into the cathedral and began to wander around with the rest of the tourists. We passed through the nave of the Church, the high altar, various side chapels, until we arrived at the chapel in the back of the church that housed the Ghent altarpiece. I paid my 4€ and joined the dozens of tourists to see the altarpiece. Each day from 12:00 PM until 1:00 PM, the altar piece is closed, showing the image of the Annunciation. I arrived in the chapel at 12:47 PM and began to pray the Angelus, joining myself with the Marian prayer of the Church. The prayer was uncomfortable. The tourists continued bumping into …

The Virtue of Tenderness: David Foster Wallace and the Practice of Love

In 2005 David Foster Wallace gave the commencement address at Kenyon College. The speech, which has acquired the title “This is Water,” still makes the rounds on the Internet regularly.[1] When I first heard it, blaring from my computer while I was giving my daughters a bath, I was struck by how compelling it is, and how close Wallace comes to telling the graduating class of 2005 that to flourish in adulthood and make the most of their liberal arts education—well, they needed God. Of course Wallace doesn’t quite say that, but his speech makes an excellent starting place for thinking about the virtue of tenderness and why it might have resonance in secular culture in these first decades of the twenty-first century. If we pay careful attention to what David Foster Wallace says, we find that he sets before his hearers two possibilities for their adult lives. On one hand, they can be swept along by the forces that drive the world of advancement and prosperity. On the other hand, they may develop the …