Put On Superman: Baptism and Halloween

Isaac Garcia

Director of Religious Education

St. Mark’s Catholic Church, Vienna, VA

Contact Author

This article originally appeared on St. Mark’s blog for religious education.  

At the end of October, children across the country venture out into neighborhoods donning Superhero attire, Angel outfits, and all other sorts of costumes.  As a child I always looked forward to Halloween, the day I would march around in my homemade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume (as Donatello, of course) and walk from door to door trick-or-treating.  A funny thing would happen when I wore this costume — I changed.  While in costume, everyone expected me to take on the persona and the behavior of Donatello and I happily obliged with “Cowabungas”, “Dudes”, and attempts at athletic jump kicks.  I had put on Donatello and the outside changed my very thoughts, words and actions.  I was a “little Donatello” for a night, realizing a lifelong dream of being a “hero in a half-shell.”

In baptism, we hope for a similar transformation.

*****

Paul writes, “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal 3:27).  Symbolized with a white garment, the newly baptized are clothed with Christ.  Unlike the Donatello outfit, when we “put on” Christ, it is once for all.  He does not come off.  We never dry off from our baptism.  Instead, we are continually challenged and strengthened by the Sacrament to take on the very persona and behavior of Jesus Christ.  Like the Donatello costume, what happens on the outside is meant to change our very thoughts, words and actions.  The goal, then, of putting on Christ is for the inside to match the outside, so that our very identity becomes who we outwardly claim to be in baptism.  For those of us who were baptized as babies, we spend our entire Christian lives trying to grow into the infant-sized baptismal garment.  We strain to join our voices with Paul’s in proclaiming that “it is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

We return to the image of the “little Donatello.”  After the shell came off the effects quickly withered away.  Once the costume was boxed up for the year, once there was no big event to look forward to, I forgot about the whole thing.  With no continual reinforcement, I returned back to my usually quiet six-year-old self.

This too is a danger for us all — forgetting our new identity in baptism.  “Every Christian is to become a little Christ,” C.S. Lewis writes.  “The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”  We are continually challenged to appropriate our identity as “little Christs”, to grow in faith, hope, and love.  This becomes especially difficult when there is no big “faith event” on the horizon to look forward to.  In a world that pulls us in a million different directions at once, we need constant reminders and help to be “little Christs”; we need the parish community and our family to ensure we notice and live into our baptismal clothes.  We both support and challenge each other to be who we claim to be in baptism.

This Halloween, as we see the “little superheroes”, “little angels”, and “little monsters” parading from house to house, may they serve as a reminder to baptism.  May the automatic taking on of personalities by the trick-or-treaters inspire us to take on the personality of Christ.  And may we support each other in our journey, no matter where we are in our faith.

 

Roman Missal Videos: Sr. Joyce Ann Zimmerman

Over the coming weeks, we are featuring videos that the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy created in order to assist dioceses and parishes in formation for the third edition of the Roman Missal.  We have uploaded them to the Institute for Church Life YouTube pageto make viewing easier for Catholic groups looking to use them in presentations.  Today, we will feature the videos of Sr. Joyce Ann Zimmerman.

Overview of the Eucharistic Prayer

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdZSgyqX2lM

Elements of the Eucharistic Prayer

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PJnqXm1xZac&feature=related

The Presences of Christ:  All Real

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zBsaSA0xRU&feature=related

Eucharistic Prayer as Transforming and Missioning

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzhtunO6TFY&feature=related

Little Ways to Sanctity: Thomas Merton

Rebecca Guhin

M.Div. Candidate, University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

Editorial Note:  As we begin our run up to the feast of All Saints, Rebecca Guhin will be offering a series of reflections on models of sanctity in the Christian life including Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and John Dunne, C.S.C.  Today, she will treat Thomas Merton.  John Dunne’s will be posted tomorrow on the feast of All Saints.  

THOMAS MERTON:

Contemplative and Writer

There is no way of telling people

that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

-Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

While Dorothy Day found her vocation in the poorest of neighborhoods serving the poorest of the poor in New York, surrendering herself to God’s slow work in their hospitality houses and farm communities, Thomas Merton developed in holiness in a small monastery in Kentucky.  In his journals, out of which he thought came his best writing, Merton wrote often about his vocation.  He said, “We can either renounce all worldly quiet and ease and absence of trouble—living our lives out in the Liturgy before the tabernacle as pure contemplatives loving one another in our community—or else we must renounce all our own ease and minister to Christ in the poor as much as we can” (The Intimate Merton: His Life from His Journals, 40).  He felt called to the first of these two little ways, so he wrote quite comfortably in his journal: “my vocation is prayer, and that makes me happy” (IM 62).  Not only was Merton a man of prayer, he recognized in himself his ability to write, and was blessed (and thus the world was blessed) to discover that he was allowed to keep writing after he joined the monastery.  The monk discovered, quite delightfully, “If I am to be a saint—and there is nothing else that I can think of desiring to be—it seems that I must get there by writing books in a Trappist monastery” (IM 73).  Thus, he believed, “This is the precise place he has chosen for my sanctification” (IM 81).  Irenaeus famously said that “the glory of God is man fully alive,” and Merton was called, like all of us, to be his truest self, the person God was calling him to be, and this meant embracing his humanity (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV.20).  He wrote: “the world was made by God and is good, and, unless that world is our mother, we cannot be saints because we cannot be saints unless we are first of all human” (IM 81).

However, delighting in his humanity does not leave Merton without trial.  But this trial enabled deeper surrender, and thus opened up the possibility for Merton to continue to discover his vocation.  He wrote, “All I say is that I must do what the situation seems to demand, and sanctity will appear when out of all this Christ in his own good time appears and manifests His glory” (IM 82).  He did not always know himself to be called to this life; in fact, he was not Catholic until young adulthood and started out living a rather whimsy, frivolous, academic lifestyle.  However, he highlights, like John Dunne, that life is a process of becoming, and our vocations remain “a very open question” (IM 348).  Thus, Merton knew he must depend entirely on God, in whom he “belong[s] absolutely,” because “only He can help me out of my own clumsiness” (IM 26, 43).  For Merton, surrender means letting go, it means letting God take the reins, even when our wills don’t seem to agree with God’s will.  He wrote: “To leave things alone at the right time: this is the right way to ‘stop’ and the right way to ‘go on’” (Thomas Merton: Spiritual Master, 162).  He journals, “The first thing then is to accept the fact that one will have to wait,” knowing we are given the grace to “rest in God” and His love (IM 261).

Merton saw in his love of God the necessity for surrender of all his earthly loves, saying, “There is an utter necessity for giving up all things, taking up the cross and following Christ.  Everything else is imprisonment and death.  Before, I knew this intellectually: now, I know it.  I assent to it with my whole soul and heart, not only with my understanding” (IM 11).  He surrendered his early life and embraced God’s plan for him when he became a priest, vowing poverty, chastity, and obedience– the latter of which is, in many ways, like surrender, which challenged him greatly.  Being a priest also meant centering his life around the liturgy.  Thus, Merton journaled: “This is the heart of the whole day, its center, its foundation, its meaning: it is the day” (IM 30).  He said that in his role as priest during Mass, he was “forced to be simple,” opening himself to God acting through him (IM 64).

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8h3Hbf9wik

With a similar focus on simplicity, poverty was another aspect of his vocation as a priest that Merton emphasized, and another important part of self-abandonment, and the poverty required was both physical and spiritual.  Speaking of physical poverty, Merton writes, “the knowledge of what is going on [in the war] only makes it seem desperately important to be voluntarily poor, to get rid of all possessions this instant” (IM 18).  Merton also said that we cannot call others to live simply when we are living too comfortably (IM 36).  Thus, physically and spiritually, “Whatever this vocation is, it involves a whole different attitude to the future.  A sense of calm.  A sense that I am going to do something hard, murderous to my pride and my senses. … [but] it doesn’t make sense to fear it or love it: I must refer everything to God” (IM 37).

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4rU_shFL48

Self-abandonment is similar to spiritual poverty in that it is an emptying of oneself whereby only God can fill us up again.  Merton said, “You do not experience your poverty when you tell yourself about it but when God tells you that you are poor…He means, at the same time, to provide a remedy” (IM 112-113).  In this regard, Merton discusses “le point vierge,” the “little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty” which “is the pure glory of God in us” (TMSM 146).  This point vierge was a large part of his prayer life, his devotion to silent contemplation, and his commitment to sharing this kind of prayer through writing.  An important part of prayer is seeing ourselves as we really are: children of God, children dependent entirely on God.  Thus: “We must not expect to glance at ourselves and see ‘courage,’ and take comfort from this.  Christ alone, on the Cross and in darkness, but already victorious, is our comfort” (TMSM 151).

However, after over a decade in the monastery, in 1958, Merton experienced a new sort of conversion, one which transformed his monastery experience from a vocation in the monastery against the world to one that embraces the world with love (TMSM 57-58).  Highlighting the ways God speaks to us in our daily lives, this realization happened on a simple street corner:

“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all those people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world, the world of renunciation and supposed holiness… Not that I question the reality of my vocation, or of my monastic life: but the conception of ‘separation from the world’ that we have in the monastery too easily presents itself as a complete illusion: the illusion that by making vows we become a different species of being, pseudo-angels, ‘spiritual men,’ men of interior life, what have you” (TMSM 144).

Merton realized, then, that he was not somehow “better” than anyone else because of his specific vocation, that his separateness from the outside world was not meant to create a fortress; rather, it was an opportunity to see the world and humanity in a new way (TMSM 144).  He continued,

“This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. And I suppose my happiness could have taken form in the words: ‘Thank God, thank God that I am like other men, that I am only a man among others.’ … It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes: yet, with all that, God Himself gloried in becoming a member of the human race. A member of the human race! … I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun” (TMSM 145).

This love of humanity meant embracing who he really was, and who we all are, as children of God, with Christ’s light shining through us in our words, our actions, our very creation (TMSM 145).  This opened Merton to a vocation to serve from within the monastery, a vocation to help people to see the way God is living and active in their lives, whether through his prayer, his writing, or even his teaching of seminarians.  Thus, Merton discovered, “My solitude … is not my own, for I see now how much it belongs to them — and that I have a responsibility for it in their regard, not just in my own. It is because I am one with them that I owe it to them to be alone, and when I am alone, they are not ‘they’ but my own self. There are no strangers!” (TMSM 145).

Merton saw, quite clearly, that we are the Body of Christ, and that we are called to take care of one another, whether our vocation leaves us within the walls of a monastery, surrounded by the poor at a drop-in center, or even in a classroom of students and their countless books.  In all cases, Merton believed, “social responsibility is the keystone of the Christian life” (IM 120).  We are called to care for one another, even at personal sacrifice, because we are our brothers’ keepers.  Thus, “every Christian is, at the same time, a hermit and the whole church, and we are all members one of another.  It remains for us to recognize the mystery that your heart is my hermitage and that the only way I can enter into the desert is by bearing your burden and leaving you my own” (IM 85).  Acknowledging that “Life in the monastery is not ordinary.  It is a freakish sort of life,” Merton nevertheless communicates “[a] mysticism that no longer appears transcendent but ordinary” (IM 108, 134).  He provides each of us an example of the Little Way, the simplicity of daily life, whether it be structured with work and prayer, like in a monastery, or out in the world of direct service.  The folly of the Cross, no matter how we carry it, remains triumphant.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkYNac29khk&feature=related

Little Ways to Sanctity: Dorothy Day

Rebecca Guhin

M.Div. Candidate, University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

 

 

Editorial Note:  As we begin our run up to the feast of All Saints, Rebecca Guhin will be offering a series of reflections on models of sanctity in the Christian life including Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and John Dunne, C.S.C.  Today, she will treat Dorothy Day.  

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be.  And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.

– John 12: 24-26, 32

What is holiness?  How are we each called to be saints?  Where do we begin?  Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and our local icon, Fr. John Dunne, CSC, answer these questions with their lives.  A founder of the Catholic Worker movement, a monk hidden away in a Kentucky monastery, and a Notre Dame professor and priest, these individuals are holy not because they followed a pre-planned rubric for saintliness, but because they were and are truly themselves.  Merton wrote, “The problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self” (New Seeds of Contemplation,  31).  The simplicity of this definition of sanctity is coupled with the complexity of actually finding oneself: how do we know who we really are, or what we are called to do?  The stories of these three “little” lives help us to see the way in which delight in one’s vocation, self-abandonment to God’s loving plan, and poverty as a way to wholeness each play into a slow but graced journey to God.

DOROTHY DAY:

Worker of Mercy, Woman of Prayer

When we begin to take the lowest place, to wash the feet of others, to love our brothers with that burning love, that passion, which led to the Cross,  then we can truly say, Now I have begun.’”

– Dorothy Day, Loaves and Fishes

In his introduction to her autobiography, Robert Coles said Dorothy was disinterested in the title of saint because, really, she wanted to be considered “a humble person of faith who tried her best to live in accordance with the biblical teachings she kept pondering,” particularly, “the Sermon on the Mount” (Long Loneliness, 6).  In her humility, she was quite devoted to the saints, and rather than placing them on a pedestal that excused her from the challenge of sanctity, she identified with this call and tried to live it out in her daily life.  Citing de Lubac, Dorothy agreed, “Christianity must generate saints—that is, witnesses to the eternal. … The saint does not have to bring about great temporal achievements; he is one who succeeds in giving us at least a glimpse of eternity despite the thick opacity of time” (SW 102).  In Dorothy’s life, we do glimpse eternity: we see a person trying to highlight and live into a kingdom that is already and not yet, whether it be through friendly conversation over a cup of coffee, marching for the worker on a picket line, or before the Eucharist in adoration, she points us to God and Thy will, on earth as it is in heaven.

The development of Dorothy’s faith illustrates beautifully the slow work of grace in our lives, the way in which God touches us in each of our “long lonelinesses” and calls us toward Himself, the source of our lives and our happiness.  As a child uneducated in the faith, nevertheless, Dorothy said, “my heart leapt when I heard the name of God,” or even that of a saint, and despite her aversion to organized religion during her association with Leftist movements, something in Dorothy’s heart continued to long for something more (LL 12, 24).

At first, as a radical Leftist, Dorothy felt she “could not be meek at the thought of injustice,” so the Beatitudes turned her off—why worship a God that doesn’t care for the plight of the worker, with a religion that reduced “justice” to “doled-out charity”? (LL 46, 87).  She “kept brushing away the hand that held me up,” and “did not know” even in jail on a hunger strike, that she had begun to pray (LL 81).  However, prayer eventually became “an act of the will,” and Dorothy did not know at first whether it was simply for her personal comfort and relief from loneliness, or for more ‘noble’ reasons that she prayed (LL 85, 132).  She was very much in love with a man who would father her child, but she longed for something deeper and greater, and the Hound of Heaven continued to call her home.  Forster, on the other hand, “wanted [Dorothy] to rest in that love,” human love, which, for Dorothy, pointed to its deeper origin; for though she did not know “how to love God,” she knew He was her real source of peace (LL 134, 138).

Dorothy’s sense of faith became even more clear to her at the birth of her daughter, Tamar, which “awakened in my heart a flood of gratitude,” directed ultimately to God, and called up in her “the need to worship, to adore” (LL 139).  Because she became convinced that “only faith in Christ could give the answer” to life’s deepest questions, providing her “order,” Dorothy decided to have her daughter baptized (LL 140, 141).  Both Teresa of Avila and Therese of Lisieux would be her daughter’s patron saints (LL 140, 141).  Sister Aloysia helped Dorothy to get Tamar baptized and to develop her own faith, even as she struggled with contrasts to her Leftist roots and her increasing alienation from Forster, who rejected all religion and wanted nothing to do with her if she became a Catholic (LL 142-144, 149).  Dorothy’s reception of her first three sacraments came without “consolation,” and it was Father Zamien who later encouraged her to receive communion daily, as a reminder of God’s love for her (LL 148, 161).  Surrendering her natural love of Forster, which pointed her to the supernatural love of Christ, taught Dorothy the importance of both the natural and supernatural loves.  This enabled her to embrace both her natural concerns, like the injustices inflicted on the poor, as well as God Himself, the supernatural source of the love that overflows, a love that enabled Dorothy to live out her vocation as a founder of the Catholic Worker movement.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRSjY_4fFfc

It began, then, with the next (and lasting) man in Dorothy’s life, the idea man and good friend behind the Worker movement, Peter Maurin (LL 172, 273).  A saintly influence on Dorothy Day, he helped her see what made this the Catholic Worker, and he used the saints as guideposts through history, formed deeply by the Catholic tradition (LL 172, 273, LF 12).  He advocated the Works of Mercy as “the most direct form of action there is,” including both the temporal and spiritual works (LF xvii).  Thus, his program was three-fold, including “[r]ound-table discussions,” “houses of hospitality,” and “go[ing] back to the land” (LF 22-23).  They wanted “to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us” (LF 215).  This requires complete self-emptying, and like the little boy in the loaves and fishes story, it requires giving all that we have, and trusting in grace to enlarge and transform these small gifts of self (LF 215).

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GH5kWdvIVP4

Peter did not worry about the money they would need; he said the saints themselves would rely on prayer, so they simply needed to begin (LL 173).  Dorothy learned from Peter, and through this movement’s beginnings, to depend on God, to continue to surrender, as she had already, and that prayer and voluntary poverty could be active forces of love in the world.  She confirms, in her story of the movement, “somehow everything works out.  It works out naturally and it works out religiously” (LF 92).  Her example for this kind of life they would lead was that of Christ Himself, born into a humble carpenter’s family, whose “teaching transcended all the wisdom of the scribes and pharisees, and taught us the most effective means of living in this world while preparing for the next” (205).  He spoke these words to the poor, and the Catholic Workers tried to see Christ in each person who passed through the door (LL 205; SW 96).  Dorothy wrote, in a Christmas issue of their newspaper, The Catholic Worker:

“It would be foolish to pretend that it is always easy to remember this. If everyone were holy and handsome, with ‘alter Christus’ shining in neon lighting from them, it would be easy to see Christ in everyone… But that was not God’s way for [Mary], nor it is Christ’s way for Himself, now when he is disguised under every type of humanity that treads the earth” (Selected Writings, 96).

Thus, based in Matthew 25, Dorothy deeply believed that Christ lives in the poor today, and He “made heaven hinge on the way we act toward Him in his disguise of commonplace, frail, ordinary humanity” (SW 97).  She knew this was her call as a Christian, so this is the way that Dorothy and her fellow Catholic Workers lived, welcoming, like the Benedictines, each guest as Christ.

Service of the poor, however, “is not enough,” the Catholic Worker movement says we are also called to voluntary poverty, lived out in community (LL 214, 243).  Dorothy said of the poor, “One must live with them, share with them their suffering too. Give up one’s privacy, and mental and spiritual comforts as well as physical” (LL 214, emphasis added).  This is a lofty task!  It means embracing the discomforts of poverty in a community of others who are in need as well: both those experiencing unjust poverty (never condoned by Dorothy) and those who have chosen poverty for the sake of their salvation and wholeness.  Peter emphasized St. Francis of Assisi’s love of “Lady Poverty,” who is a gift, not the result of injustice (Loaves and Fishes, 48, 82).  Dorothy called poverty “strange and elusive,” saying, “if we are not among its victims its reality fades from us” (LF 71).  Similar to Martha in John 12, who washes Jesus’ feet with oil and gets challenged for not spending that money on the poor, Dorothy says that “no magnificence is too great” for Christ in His tabernacle, but we, the people of God, are called to live simply as long as people are bound to unjust poverty around the world (LL 217).

Because this poverty is to be lived in community, it creates spaces for relationships between people of a variety of circumstances, enabling a more authentic personalism, also central to the movement (LL 224, 221).  Dorothy wrote, “charity is only as warm as those who administer it,” so although Catholic Worker houses are not known for efficiency, they are certainly known for hospitality! (LF 74).  She said, “The only answer in this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community” (LL 243).    Thus, “we are not a community of saints but a rather slipshod group of individuals who were trying to work out certain principles—the chief of which was an analysis of man’s freedom and what it implied… It was a practice in loving, a learning to love, a paying of the cost of love” (LF 50).  Love, then, is the telos of poverty: it enables one to let go of attachments and to be more whole and holy.  Yet, perhaps without realizing it, in this community “not…of saints,” Dorothy grew in holiness as she grew in love (LF 50).  It provided her a freedom that enabled her to surrender in the name of her faith.  Dorothy says, “It is simpler just to be poor… The thing is not to hold on to anything” (LF 89).  But this freedom takes time:  Francis of Assisi let go of his worldly possessions “in only one step,” but for most of us, and even most saints, it takes a lifetime of “many steps, and they are very small ones” (LF 83).  Thus, Dorothy embraces Therese’s “Little Way” notion, realizing that even tiny acts of sacrifice can be salvific when we allow them to wash away our selfishness and make more room for Christ.

Like the story of Abraham and Isaac, Dorothy not only gave up her beloved Forster, she had to surrender, in different ways, her own daughter, Tamar, to various schools and ultimately to a husband of her own (LL 236, 242).  Dorothy wrote, “No matter how many times I gave up mother, father, husband, brother, daughter, for His sake, I had to do it over again” (LL 239).  But this openness to surrender was not only natural, it was supernatural, and Dorothy is known for her “every day” sort of holiness, her humble approach to life that enabled both detachment and real love of neighbor.  On The Retreat, Dorothy would learn the importance of “supernaturalizing all our actions of every day” (LL 247).  She and those in her movement made time for people, they made time for prayer, and they found, according to their Retreat leaders:

“If we are rushed for time, sow time and we will reap time.  Go to church and spend a quiet hour in prayer.  You will have more time than ever and your work will get done.  Sow time with the poor.  Sit and listen to them, give them your time lavishly.  You will reap time a hundredfold.  Sow kindness and you will reap kindness.  Sow love, you will reap love” (LL 252).

By living in community, Dorothy thus develops in her ability to surrender even her time, the most precious of gifts.  She learns on The Retreat, like the example of Osee in the Old Testament, that all her gifts are from God, not from man, due to His extravagant love for each of us, love that overflows, love that marks the “folly of the Cross” (LL 255-256).

This love calls up in Dorothy “the duty of delight” (LL 285).  She writes, “If we do not learn to enjoy God now we never will” (LL 257).  Dorothy “enjoys God” in her community, in her prayer, in the Eucharist.  She enjoys Him in daily life knowing that, by our baptisms and through detachment as a gift from God, our lives have been and continue to be “transformed by love” (LL 257).  She saw in Peter Maurin even a “delight” in “poverty,” a delight in words and ideas, a delight in the people he so genuinely and impartially loved (LL 280, 274).  Thus, in her short “Postscript” description of how the Catholic Worker movement came to be, Dorothy highlighted the challenge and blessing of “the duty of delight” (LL 285).  Although love can be “a harsh and dreadful thing,” “[w]e cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love each other we must know each other” (LL 285).  This love, this answer to “the long loneliness,” means we need “community,” a community that began “while we sat there talking, and it is still going on” (LL 286).

 

Roman Missal Videos: Msgr. Bruce Harbert

Over the coming weeks, we are featuring videos that the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy created in order to assist dioceses and parishes in formation for the third edition of the Roman Missal.  We have uploaded them to the Institute for Church Life YouTube page to make viewing easier for Catholic groups looking to use them in presentations.  Today, we highlight the videos of Msgr. Bruce Harbert, the former executive of ICEL.  

Geographic Catholicity

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnFtpUxpFI4

Historical Catholicity

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeNWQcXodmU

The Roman Canon

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okZ_NkdJHT0

Eucharistic Prayer Three

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0InDxH3zK7c

The Experience of Mystery in an Explained World

Eric Buell

Head of the Department of Religious Studies

Director of the Liturgical Band

Presentation High School, San Jose, CA

Contact Author

A student raises her hand, she has the earnestness of a girl striving for the “A” yet the slightest hint of mischievousness after I just finish my litany of brilliant analogies explaining the Trinity.  I take a bow, she raises her hand higher; fingers straining towards the heavens.

“I understand your explanations Mr. Buell, yet, why exactly is God a trinity of persons?”

I smiled.  It was the smile of a humbled teacher who lacks the quick thinking to provide a meaningful yet “graspable” answer to a fourteen year old seeking a solution to her ‘problem’ of faith.

“It is a mystery.”  I am satisfied, she is frustrated; my more knowing students roll their eyes smelling a copout answer.

In a certain respect they have a right to be frustrated because information for my students is no longer something to be learned, retained, and recalled when addressing a situation.  Whatever our feelings, they have information and answers to questions within .22 seconds (the average time of a Google search).  Some days I am simply an extension of their web browser, perhaps a bit more theologically accurate.  However, the mystery of God is another matter altogether.  The explanation and understanding of our Triune God is found in the experience and the engagement of God.  It is something that cannot and should not be googled.  A mystery grows deeper and richer the more the you explore.  You may be able to solve problems using search engines, but mysteries require an active participation and realization that the answer may never be complete.

Is my answer a copout?  Consider the following decade on how I pursue mystery with my students:

1.  I have had a personal experience of God during a Eucharistic liturgy.  This sentence always seems to cause a variety of responses depending on my audience.  My more agnostic friends scoff and ask if I am trying to sell them a Virgin Mary grilled cheese, curiosity from fellow Catholics, awkward silence or discomfort on the part of my students.  This statement is an example of obvious intimacy.  It is something we assume happens at mass, yet the personal nature can make it uncomfortable to discuss.  The Eucharist is where we approach God’s very table, sit down, and engage in a moment with the ineffable.  The Eucharist defines the notion of mystery.  The more we discover about this incredible moment, the more words and music we need to define what has happened.  Our knowledge of the Eucharistic moment will never be complete.  What would happen if we began to have honest conversation about Eucharistic experience?

2.  It is in the Eucharist where the Trinity becomes not only about relationship between the Godhead.  The Eucharist extends this relationship towards humanity so we can slingshot our way back to God; I think my professors described it exactly as such.  Deification  (the wonderful tradition from Eastern Christianity) which helps us to describe the mystery of being an Easter people.

3.  A relationship with God is demanding.  Opinion:  Students resist challenging a worldview that calls into question their status, wealth, and comfort.

4.  Status:  When it comes down to it would you defend a corporation or a human person?  If you are faced with a critique of your favorite store, movie, or article of clothing based on empirical data highlighting child labor or practices which stereotype based on race or gender, do you maintain brand loyalty or change your life to uphold the dignity of the human person?  It is the mystery of the Eucharist that we are now responsible for the re-creation of a world where we put down our stuff to build up the other.  It is the essence of solidarity.

5.  Wealth:  Most of us would consider the afterlife one of the incomprehensible elements of our faith – a belief in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting.  However, Christ highlights a different moment for our consideration.  The rich young man asks Jesus a mischievous question “what must I do to attain eternal life?”  I think the threefold challenge of Christ, like the threefold movement of the Trinity, is more worthy of modern day contemplation than that of the afterlife: (1) Go and sell everything you have; (2)  Give it to the poor; (3) Come, follow me.  I have heard many explaining that Jesus was not serious.  He only meant to warn us not to get too attached to our material goods.  But it is this challenge that brings me into a face to face reality with God more than anything else.  Consider how difficult and seemingly incomprehensible this challenge would be for a sixteen year old (or for every modern middle class American).  There is nothing more baffling than to construct a worldview for students where more stuff does not equal more happiness.

6.  Yet, Forbes magazine just released a study of the ten happiest professions and clergy took the number one spot.  It seems that even today it does not matter so much what you become, but who you become.  And is not the whole point of liturgy to become our true self in Christ.

7.  A common exchange between myself and my students:  “Why are you here?”  “So we can get into a good college.”  “Why do you want to go to a good college?”  “So that we can get a good job.”  “Why do you want a good job?”  “So that we can make good money.”  “And why do you want money?”  “So that we can buy nice things for ourselves and our future family.”  The school of a materials economy gives the human person the identity of a consumer.  The point of a liturgical service is to destroy that identity.  Those baptismal fonts and holy water stations are positioned in the Church for a reason: to wash away that consumer identity and to put on the identity of Christ who actually calls you to sell, give, and follow.

8.  Comfort:  Prof. Maxwell Johnson at the University of Notre Dame once quipped in class, “There’s nothing comfortable about a dead guy on a cross.  If you are comfortable in your Christianity, you are doing something wrong.”  I say this often to students, parents, and colleagues.  Do we give from our leftovers?  Our extra?  Or do we give of ourselves?  As Christ emptied and humbled himself, even to the point of death on a cross; how do we empty ourselves?  Do we risk being uncomfortable?  Can we be prudent and truthful with our students about the challenges of the Gospel?  When the collection basket is passed around at mass can we give some thought to how much of our income goes to ourselves and how much goes to others?  When we have food and clothing drives at school – can we create an atmosphere where we donate what is new and what we would like to have instead of our hand me down jeans and a five month old can of peas?

9.  I had my class sing the other day.  It was weird and good and moving; do not misunderstand, it sounded awful.  But for a second we were all unabashedly singing ‘Jesus the Lord.’  Music hints and touches at the divine – secular or sacred – it forms bonds between people.  I am still seeking an answer about the evolutionary function/development of music.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ttr3_MayMvw

10.  Aidan Kavanaugh wrote the following in his book On Liturgical Theology:

 Standing before the living God is a risky business.  People dare to do so not because they are irrational but because they have found it plausible that they, like others before them (even Moses), might do so without actually being incinerated, and that the advantages of doing so outweigh the disadvantages of not doing so, the deity remaining all the while unpredictable.  Whom God loves he chastises.  It is risky to sit at the Lord’s table, and there is absolutely no certainty that one will not end up on it with one’s own body broken, one’s own blood poured out.  But it is plausible in faith that one might risk the whole thing and even be the better for it (125-26).

God and the experience of God in our Eucharist is a mystery precisely because it is a risk.  We enter into this relationship uncertain of how or what will be asked of us, but we have faith that the ineffable God whom we put our trust is never far.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeKvNxYMDxE

 

 

 

 

Approaching the Throne of Grace: Confession and the Millennial Generation

Miriam Marston

Assistant Director of Theology Programs, Theological Institute for the New Evangelization

St. John’s Seminary, Boston, MA

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Although air travel is not always the most enjoyable of experiences, I have been surprised at how often the conversation with a fellow passenger turns into a remarkably open and revelatory exchange.  It seems it is far easier to give an honest confession to a complete stranger in a crowded plane at an altitude of 30,000 feet than it is to whisper one’s sins through a screen, to a priest who is bound by the seal of the confessional, all while being assured of the splendid promise of forgiveness.  Now, either the high altitude makes one particularly prone to serious introspection and emotional transparency or there is something in all of us which deeply desires to bring the hidden parts of our lives into the light, and, notably, in the context of some sort of relationship.  While my last post dealt with the significance of recognizing the Word of God as Someone with whom we may enter into relationship, I begin here to explore how the sacrament of confession can be informed and animated by this pursuit of relationship, an activity which is especially close to the hearts of young adults.  If, after all, the desire to belong and feel loved is a category of experience which is central to the young adult’s life, then the Church needs to do all she can do to recover an understanding of confession which accentuates the wondrous possibilities of being in right relationship with God.

Today’s religious educators find themselves more in the business of “selling” the sacrament of confession than they are of actually teaching it.  In a culture where the prominent role of “choice” is somewhat reminiscent of the Israelites’ golden calf, confession has not proven to be the most marketable of Catholic commodities.  And why should it?  Why should young adults, in particular, who have grown up with a world of options at their fingertips, go out of their way and choose to confess their sins, when the religious norms which have directed their lives no longer always correspond to society’s measure of the good life?  There is a widespread notion among young adults that the Catholic Church has not put its finger on the pulse of the times, and is clinging to remnants of an authority long-since eclipsed by modern advances in the various social and behavioral sciences.   In short, young adults:

are not angry at the Church.  They are simply distanced from it.  Their knowledge, understanding and familiarity with the tradition are limited and hollow….These persons want to negotiate their relationship with an institution that has not caught their imagination or about which they have faint or ambiguous feelings. (Dean Hoge et al., Young Adult Catholics: Religion in the Culture of Choice, 220)

It is not surprising, then, that these young adults, unwilling to completely abandon such a significant part of their social identity, “live as self-defined Catholics without depending on the Church for normative authority to do so.” (Hoge, 221)  As maturing men and women pull away from the very things that once held the different parts of their life together, they grow increasingly aware of their own voice of authority, and how this voice often exists in an uneasy relationship with previously-held convictions.   But:

young adulthood is a time of special readiness for this expansion of soul.  Loosening the bonds of conventional belonging (which is fostered by critical thought) and developing inner-dependence (with a consequent openness to wonder and exploration) both conspire to set in place a ripeness for meeting and hearing the other. (Sharon Daloz Parks, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Young Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith, 140)

At these exciting crossroads of life, certain figures or institutions of authority often run the risk of being perceived as deliberately attempting to thwart any advancement toward real change and progress.  Catholic young adults, in particular, are more likely to bristle at even the hint of an institutionally- imposed moral agenda.  But even this attitude is nuanced, and reflects an ongoing tension within the young adult consciousness: between pushing the boundaries outward and returning to what is familiar and secure.  As if this process of discerning credible sources of authority were not enough, they are working through that stage of development which Erik Erikson defines as “intimacy vs isolation.”  Erikson identifies intimacy as “the capacity to commit oneself to concrete affiliations and partnerships and to develop the ethical strength to abide by such commitments, even though they may call for significant sacrifices and compromises.” For Catholics in particular, this is the time when they are evaluating, maybe even for the first time, what role, if any, their Church plays in their relationship with God. 

Some of this tension emerges in a 1997 survey, which compiled data concerning young adult religious and spiritual practices and attitudes.  The group was asked what they believed to be the most essential components of their Catholic faith.  Sixty-five percent (which constituted the highest ranking) thought that “the belief that God is present in the sacraments” (Hoge, 199) was the most essential part of their faith.  Interestingly enough, however, a further study showed that seventy percent of those young adults believed that one could be a perfectly good Catholic without going to Mass every Sunday (Hoge, 208).  The comparison of these numbers begs the question: how do these young men and women understand relationship with the God of the sacraments, if they also believe that one does not really need to participate in the sacraments to enjoy this kind of relationship?  With obscure or unsatisfactory images of God (i.e. a Zeus-like figure sitting on a cloud, lightning bolt in hand) and equally vague impressions of the glories of the hereafter, it is no wonder that a certain ambivalence toward such matters arises in these young minds. It is the urgent task of Catholic formation and catechesis to make the essential and exhilarating connections between every day life and eternal life, and to supply the faithful with images of a God who welcomes the prodigal son or daughter, rather than a deity who throws fire bolts at sinners just for fun.  If their images of God do not provide sufficiently compelling reasons for engaging in the sacramental life of the Church, those images must be revised to better capture their religious imaginations, and direct them to a deepening of their friendship with God.

 

The Ignatian Examen: The Mysticism of Mary in Nazareth

Benjamin Wilson

M.Div. Candidate, University of Notre Dame

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While holding the newborn Jesus in her arms, Mary took a moment of quiet and, as Luke tells us, “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”  Later, relieved to find Jesus in the Temple after thinking she had lost him, Mary, as Luke again notes, “kept all these things in her heart.”

For those of us who don’t wash the Incarnate Son of God’s laundry and sweep the floor after his playtime, how much more necessary is it for us to stop, search, and ponder to find traces of Jesus’ tracks in our lives?

St. Ignatius of Loyola’s practice of the “Examen” imitates Mary’s example of discovering God by prayerfully recalling the events, thoughts, and feelings of the day.  This is the heart of the “Examen” in its many forms.  I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from this type of prayer, and I would like to urge you to try it as well.

One good reason to practice the “Examen” is to grow in self-knowledge.  Cultivating the habit of looking back over the day and considering what all we saw, heard, did, and thought, we start to see patterns and habits, both good and bad.  We start to see more clearly how different things affect us—what excites us, what drains us, what stretches us?

But it’s about more than just self-knowledge.  The “Examen” is a way of coming to see things as God sees them, to see our very selves as God sees us.  It is less of a “looking at” the day and more of a “looking with” God so as to see both ourselves and God more clearly.

So, how might we go about praying the “Examen,” especially when we are each so busy and are already committed to other spiritual practices?  The “Examen” can take many forms and can be easily adapted to fit with lots of other types of prayer.  While preparing for communion or confession, at the start of night prayer, or during a midday walk to class:

1. take a moment to give thanks to God for this day,

2. ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to see things as God sees them,

3. replay the events of the day,

4. ask forgiveness for shortcomings,

5. and pray for the grace to rededicate ourselves to the love of God and one another.

The fruit of the Ignatian “Examen” is to enter the mysticism of Mary in Nazareth–to learn to find God all around us since that’s exactly where God is.  But, as I imagine Mary reminded Joseph throughout Jesus’ teenage years, be sure to look for Him in the Temple too.

 

Practicing Radical Gratitude: Work, Vocation, and the Utopian Imagination

Aimee Shelide, MA

Recruiting Coordinator, ECHO:  Faith Formation Leadership Program and Emcee of Notre Dame Vision

Catholic Worker Resident, Peter Claver House, South Bend, IN

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Every September on a rural parish property in the rolling Iowa farmland, forty miles north of Davenport, over one hundred people connected to the Catholic Worker Movement gather for what can best be described as a camping-retreat-family-reunion of people whom you (likely) have never met.  The annual “Sugar Creek” gathering of Midwest Catholic Worker communities draws carloads and bike brigades from the surrounding states (Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Kansas) and beyond (Texas, New York, Tennessee, Mexico).  In true Catholic Worker fashion, everyone brings produce, meat, and dairy from farms and donation surpluses to contribute to the “stone soup” potluck meals that end up looking more like a gourmet feast for 150 people than a haphazard assemblage of random ingredients.  No matter what a first time attendee’s expectations may be, she or he will certainly leave with the confirmation that Catholic Workers know how to cook for a crowd.

The annual gathering at Sugar Creek, similar to the Catholic Worker Movement on the whole, is about community: coming together, breaking bread, telling stories, playing music, showcasing talent, sleeping in tents, sharing prayer, and of course engaging in “roundtable discussions for the clarification of thought” as Peter Maurin envisioned.  The structure of the weekend—consistent with the Christian Anarchist thread of the movement—loosely revolves around communal meals and three sessions of roundtable discussions.  The roundtables constitute the building blocks of Saturday and every willing participant chooses among five or more simultaneous break-out discussions on such topics as nonviolence, economic distributism, women in the Catholic Worker, taxes, and planning the annual spring “Faith and Resistance” retreat.  This year a new topic was added to the chart:  Working full-time and living at a Catholic Worker.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz4bUS4rE4Q

As someone who tries to wear both hats as a full-time, live-in volunteer at the Catholic Worker community in South Bend and a full-time employee at Notre Dame, I chose this roundtable without hesitation.  Over fifteen others joined our discussion, which quickly alleviated each one’s fear of being the only person present at Sugar Creek who was living this tension. It has long been looked down upon to hold jobs outside of the Catholic Worker, but given the turnout, the exception to the rule seemed to be becoming more normal.

During the introductions around the table, in typical CW fashion, we shared who we were, where we came from, why we chose this particular roundtable, and what we hoped to get out of it.  By the end of introductions, the last person commented that he felt like he was attending a support group.  Although we responded with laughter, the laughter masked the relief we all shared, consoled by the knowledge that others lived this tension too.  Participants were able to name burdens born by this tension, such as guilt, resentment, fatigue, impatience, and defensiveness, and then let them go.

Surprisingly (and to my delight) the end of the conversation took an important turn toward the topic of vocation.  A young man explained that in his Catholic Worker community, they held it to be important to support each other in pursuing their vocations and callings to such things as teaching, advocacy, farming, grocery co-ops, and environmental sustainability initiatives, and thus viewed the jobs held by those in the community as an outgrowth of the Worker itself.  This discussion kept bringing me back to the idea of the Catholic Worker community as a family.  My community members are my family for daily, practical purposes, for whom I work and invest time, but by whom I am capacitated and encouraged to go forth from the community to live my call to work with two really wonderful programs—programs that fortuitously support and reiterate tenants of the Catholic Worker.

In sharing my current situation at Sugar Creek of working full time and living at the Worker, I came to a deeper realization that the two programs for which I work, Vision and Echo, are two of the primary venues where I first learned about the Worker.  The people and programs that introduced me to a sense of call, the life of Dorothy Day, formation as a leader in faith-based ministry, and a commitment to solidarity with the poor, are now the very programs that, practically speaking, pull me away daily from a full-time commitment to the Worker.

To the regular hypothesis that my job at Notre Dame helps support my life at the Worker, I must preach the opposite: it is because I live at the Worker that I can work at Notre Dame.  Life on S. St. Joseph Street roots me in the local community, in the stories of real people weathered by burdens I cannot even fathom.  The richness of life at the Worker nourishes and nurtures my commitment to enter the Notre Dame community.  Each morning when I leave the houses for work and say good-bye to those sitting on the porch for an early morning cigarette, I can’t help but wish for them the dignity that comes from employment.  We do have guests stay with us who work (and sometimes work at Notre Dame) and their commitment and gratitude for employment reminds me of what a blessing it is to have not just employment, but meaningful employment.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuXAXiepJ0Q

In St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, we hear, “For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it.  If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that” (1Tim 6:7-8).  I do not work because I need food and clothing.  The Worker supplies me with all that I need in abundance.  I work because God has given me gifts of communication, public speaking, formation, arranging, coordinating, and a large heart to serve the church.  Tempted though one may be (by a salary and a pension plan) to take credit for my blessings and hoard the results, the Worker is a daily reminder that God’s grace and the fortune in my life results not from my own merit.  With that mindset, I know that I must not work to store up worldly treasures that will only serve as a barrier to eternal life.  To her whom much has been given, much will be expected.  Paul continues, “Those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and into a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge them into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is the root of all evils, and some people in their desire for it have strayed from the faint hand and have pierced themselves with many pains… Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness” (1 Tim 6: 9-11).

When Peter Maurin plays with words in his Easy Essay, “A Case for Utopia” he writes:

The world would be better off
if people tried to become better,
and people would be better
if they stopped trying to become better off.

For when everyone tries to become better off,
nobody is better off.
But when everyone tries to become better
everyone is better off.
Everyone would be rich
if nobody tried to become richer,
and nobody would be poor
if everyone tried to be the poorest.

Voluntary poverty frees us from the constraint of money and desire for power and recognition that blurs our end goal of pursuing compassion, righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness, as St. Paul encourages.

When have you last heard that the duty of your work is to become more compassionate? More gentle?  More patient?  More loving?  More faithful?  When a former women’s house guest voluntarily visited (with no “ado”) one of our male guests in jail last week, I saw compassion anew.  The poor have much to teach us about visiting the imprisoned.  When a mother of an 18 month old who lives at our house tirelessly followed her active and curious daughter around for hours as she learned new words and explored new corners of the yard, I saw patience in a new way.  The poor have a lot to teach us about slowing down and being present to the moment.  When a guest at our men’s house gave an hour of his free time after long shifts at work to give Tango lessons to a current community member and her fiancé in preparation for their December wedding, I saw love made present in a creative way.  The poor have a lot to teach us about sharing their gifts freely.  When I heard the guest I am accompanying through RCIA share about his prayer in the midst of gang violence growing up in West Chicago, I understood a faith that is raw and real.  The poor have much to teach us about sincere faith like a child.

Voluntary (and true) poverty frees us to these gifts: to see them, share them, and witness to them in our daily life.  Truly how better off we would all be in such a world.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WDdmcPw3WoQ

 

Six Steps to Re-Gifting in (Jesus’) Style

Kristi Haas

Echo: Faith Formation Leadership Program, University of Notre Dame (Echo 7)

Apprentice Catechetical Leader, Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Angleton, TX

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Ashamed to walk around in public when your inability to create ex nihilo is showing?

Follow this free six-step guide in order to maximize your gift-giving freedom.

(1)   Catch the world off guard.

We human beings have acquired a bias against re-gifting.  In an informal survey, 100% of respondents agreed that it is better to give a new gift than to re-gift.  Even the Apostles were given to this bias; when a little boy gave them five barley loaves and two fish, Andrew turned up his nose at the prospect of re-gifting that food to the crowd of five thousand.  Jesus, of course, had other plans (John 6:1-15).

The problem is not that we are wrong; a fresh batch of chocolate-chip cookies is better than a petrified fruitcake.  The problem is that we are creatures, not creators, and we necessarily start with the ingredients we’ve already been given.

The first key to re-gifting in style, then, is to re-gift boldly.  Assemble with other re-gifters in public, and proclaim your purpose.  Personalize!  The fact that you are re-gifting does not mean your gift has to be boring.  Fermented grapes present a challenge to handsome presentation, and wheat is un-fruitful unless it falls to the ground and dies.  People have found ways around that.

Really catch the world off guard by embracing the biggest re-gifting taboo around:  as you conspire to give gifts back to the One who gave them to you, fess up:  yes, Lord, we are re-gifters.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,

for through your goodness we have received

the bread we offer you:

fruit of the earth and work of human hands,

it will become for us the bread of life.

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation,

for through your goodness we have received

the wine we offer you:

fruit of the vine and work of human hands,

it will become our spiritual drink.  (The Order of Mass, §23, 25)

(2)   Trust in the Lord, who makes all things new (Rev 21:5).

You can throw in with the bread and the wine other things produced through the earth and the labor of human hands, including friendships, projects at work, and unanswered questions.  You can offer your own body as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).  The gift of time spent at Mass and in other forms of prayer is a beautiful gift and one of the most costly, since it is something we can never replace or get back.  Still, an eternity of meditation would not be enough to call to mind all the abundance the Lord has given us!

Let’s face it – it is really hard to shop for someone who can create whatever He wants.  Give your gift anyway, though it is unworthy of our Father.  Pray that the Spirit of Christ will make it holy along with all the things you cannot possibly call to mind.

You are indeed Holy, O Lord,

and all you have created

rightly gives you praise….

you give life to all things and make them holy….

Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you:

by the same Spirit graciously make holy

these gifts we have brought to you for consecration. (The Order of Mass, Eucharistic Prayer III, §108-109)

That is, Lord, if you will, it, make holy all the cosmos.

(3)   Try to stay composed when your gift is taken up into the gift of Christ.

Just when you think you have given all you can, you will hear the words:

Take this, all of you, and drink from it,

For this is the chalice of my blood,

The blood of the new and eternal covenant (§111).

Like that of a child watching eggs in the back yard hatch into baby birds, your experience of wonder and awe is valid.  Your simple gift becomes the Body and Blood of Christ, and so it becomes the only gift worthy of the Father.  It is still your gift, but by grace it has become a worthy gift, a “holy and living sacrifice” (§113).

Some dos and don’ts:

Don’t stop listening.  Not only is your gift now worthy; not only does grace make it into something completely new; but further, it is given back to you, for your sake, for your sanctification:  [It] will be poured out for you and for many, For the forgiveness of sins (§111).

Don’t chest-bump the person next to you.

Do channel that part of you that wants to chest-bump the person next to you, and use it instead to…

(4)   Express your gratitude for the worthiness of your gift — Give a thank-you re-gift!

Realizing that in receiving this gift, you will be made into the Body of Christ, promise with your brothers and sisters to give your transformed, sanctified, perfected communion back to the Father, for all eternity.  You can only do this by being joined to Christ, so pray:  May he make of us an eternal offering to you…   (§113)

Our “eternal offering” to the Lord is an offering of time — not only the time we spend in prayer during this earthly life, but the eternity He has given us.  At the same time, in the same act, we receive the same gift in return:  our becoming an offering to the Father for all eternity (as is our certain hope) is our eternal life.  Pray that in addition, the world, the Church on earth, and the dead will receive the fruit of this eternal relationship.  Re-gift your communion to the world:

May this Sacrifice of our reconciliation,

we pray, O Lord, advance the peace and salvation of all the world.

Be pleased to confirm in faith and charity your pilgrim Church on earth,

…  and to all who were pleasing to you

at their passing from this life,

give kind admittance to your kingdom (§113).

(5)   Receive the sacrament, God’s very self, his life, his love.

Who knew that what started out as a humble attempt to re-gift some bread and wine to the Lord would end up as a way for Him to give us the only gift that was never created, the only thing that is totally outside this economy of re-gifting – His very self, his life, his love?  What the priests prays over the gifts on the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time is fulfilled in our receiving the Eucharist:

Lord, accept our sacrifice as a holy exchange of gifts.

By offering what you have given us may we receive the gift of yourself.

We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord. 

 Having given all you had and received all that you could never acquire except by God’s gift, you are now free to re-gift in style.  “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life” (§144), that is —

 

(6)   Re-Gift God’s very self to the world.

Now that we have received the gift of yourself, Lord, let us help You to give Your bread, Your blood, Your life, Your love, Your truth, Your mercy, Your grace to the whole world, “from the rising of the sun to its setting” (§108).  Amen.

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJXD9mkUpJA