Happy, Happy Friday: “If You Judge People, You Have No Time to Love Them” (Mother Teresa)

Laura McCarty

Notre Dame Alumna, Class of 2011

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PRELUDIO: All right, people, so this is one of those “YAY WORLD!!” videos that makes you happy that (among other things) you’re not the only one out there who’s a goofy dancer. You just have to live it up ;):

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pwe-pA6TaZk

So anyhoo, HAPPY HAPPY FRIDAY, PEOPLE!!!

HOLA, PEOPLES!!!,

So this week, folks, we’re going to talk about unnecessary warning labels. Seriously, with a lot of these you just have to wonder what the backstory is where all of these friendly suggestions ended up on labels (like not stopping a chainsaw blade with your hand. That’s just got ‘ER’ written all over it, and then you have to explain it to the lady at the ER front desk and then, in addition to trying to stop your artery from bleeding everywhere, you also feel a little silly about the whole thing):

Oh, humanity. Never a dull moment 😉 but seriously, people, I guess companies go the ‘better safe than sorry’ route, but the end result of that is that they print instructions on how to open up a package of airplane peanuts (AND what to do with them once you’ve opened the package which would be…eat them, probably). And well, people, even though I didn’t see the Disney ‘D’ as a ‘D’ until I was thirteen, darn it if American warning labels should give all of us a little more credit (and not blame us for all of the ways that people have tested products to see if they’re flammable, edible, able to be launched off of a roof, able to be used as surgical instruments, or actually do what they’re supposed to be doing (like the label on the sleep meds that say it’ll make you sleepy. I think that makes sense, don’t you? ;)) ANYHOO, we can probably keep moving along 😉

THE HEART OF THE EMAIL: Or, “If You Judge People, You Have No Time to Love Them” (Mother Teresa)

Youtube clip of the week (thanks for the friend who sent me this gem J):

In “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”, Tibby (a teenaged girl) says to her friend Bailey, “I make judgments about people.” And Bailey replies, “But you change your mind.”

Most of us have a pretty definite idea of who we are, what we care about, and what we believe. And we go through life with friends who are typically pretty similar to us (with enough differences to keep life interesting). But what do we do when we meet people who (at least on the surface) are different from us, and we not only have to meet them but find ways to understand them and let ourselves be understood?

Well, now that you mention it, the first thing to realize is that a lot of us(myself included) are toting around ‘checklists’ in our mind, evaluating other people on the likelihood they have of forming an understanding with us. But isn’t it more important to give them space to be bigger than that? Can we make an effort to dismiss no one and treat each person as the son or daughter of God that they are?

There’s no denying that we have differences in interests, personalities, and life philosophies. But think about how much of this applies to every single person we’ll ever meet:

“I want to be better than I am now, but it’s such a struggle to fight my flaws and I hate when I fall short. I want to take care of others, but asking for help is so hard for me. I don’t like to admit that I’m afraid of others’ judgment, of losing what I love, and of my life ahead that is such a mystery. I want to be known and loved, I want to be recognized as someone who matters, I want to trust that God is there and that He loves me endlessly, I want to teach other people what I’ve learned about life, and I want to do something in my life that actually has meaning. In other words, I’m a human being.”

If we look at what separates us, how will we ever remember that we are more alike than we realize? How will we learn that people are more than their interests, their passions, and their personalities? How can we be taught by someone who we think has nothing to offer us? How can we love if we judge and never move beyond our initial categorizing? It’s so easy for a few differences to be sufficient for us to pass someone by when really we have just passed over a person that, even in a lifetime of knowing them, would still have places in their heart known only to God and (maybe) to themselves.

It would be like this: pretend you’re sailing past an island, and even though you feel like it’s such a small-looking island that you’ll know your way around within the week, you decide to land anyway. And then once you move into the forests, you realize that there are waterfalls, there are flowers, there are rocks that sometimes hurt your feet, and there’s LIFE. And before you know it, you’ve realized that there is no end to this land, for we can spend a lifetime traveling its roads and never come to the end of discovering the country we’ve found. It’s so much bigger and complex and wondrous than we ever thought possible.

Welcome to the human race. Checklists will get you nowhere fast: they’ll only put up fences. It’s not the duty of others to fit neatly into your worldview for their goal is the same as yours: to find who God is calling them to be and strive to be that perfectly. We are all human, and all of the books and stories and history of the world has not begun to capture how richly God has designed His sons and daughters to be and to become. Thomas Merton describes it much better than I can, so here he is J:

“Yesterday, in Louisville, at the corner of 4th and Walnut, (I) suddenly realized that I loved all the people and that none of them were, or, could be totally alien to me. As if waking from a dream — the dream of separateness, of the “special” vocation to be different. My vocation does not really make me different from the rest of men or put me in a special category except artificially, juridically. I am still a member of the human race — and what more glorious destiny is there for man, since the Word was made flesh and became, too, a member of the Human Race!

Thank God! Thank God! I am only another member of the human race, like all the rest of them. I have the immense joy of being a man! As if the sorrows of our condition could really matter, once we begin to realize who and what we are — as if we could ever begin to realize it on earth. 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.”

Friends, we are members of the human race, and God has made us long to be understood, cherished, and loved by Himself. And He has given us the task of loving and understanding one another, and in doing so becoming lovable by His grace. And as the saying goes, there’s no time like the present 😉

I send along to you, as ever, my

Love, prayers, JOOOYYY!!! And a HAPPY HAPPY FRIDAY!!! HOODALALLYY!!!

Laura

Church Life: A Journal for the New Evangelization (Rites of Return, Summer 2012)

Although late, we’re happy to announce the launch of the Summer 2012 edition of Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization.   The theme of this issue is Rites of Return, those moments in which through the preached word, the funeral liturgy, the baptism of an infant, etc., one returns to a life of self-giving love defining of the Church.

For readers of Oblation, we make available now the full text of the editorial musings that open up the piece.   We also include a .pdf copy of the journal, as well as the link to the article available for e-readers.  Enjoy!

Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization Summer 2012 (link / .pdf).

Dear Readers,

Thomas Tallis’ The Lamentations of Jeremiah is a stunning piece of music, rendering artistically the first two mournful verses of this liturgical poem.  The closing line of the polyphonic piece cries out, Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum (Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God).   The music incarnates the desire of the poet that Jerusalem ceases sinning and turns toward God, discovering again the beauty of keeping the covenant.  As such, Tallis’ piece is especially apt for the season of Lent, when the Christian embodies this return through the renewed practice of loving God and neighbor.

Tallis’ Lamentations serves as the musical keystone of the summer edition of Church Life, focusing on “rites of return”.  Essential to the new evangelization is the invitation to return to the fullness of ecclesial life.   And this return is performed anew each day in the liturgical and sacramental rites of the Church.

  • The praying of the Divine Office each morning by a monastic community invites the whole Church, whether attending the Office or not, to return to her vocation of divine praise.
  • A couple, absent from the Church for years, approaches the minister seeking baptism for their newborn child, expressing a desire for salvation.
  • Lapsed Catholics return during the transitional rites of baptism and funerals, while those well-practiced in the Christian life renew their commitment to a life conformed to the Paschal Mystery of Christ.
  • The parish’s Sunday Eucharist invites each member of the body of Christ to remember once again his or her deepest identity as made in the image and likeness of God, a creature whose calling is self-giving love unto the end.

All liturgical prayer, the whole sacramental life, is an invitation to return to the Lord, our God.

Thus, as the Church explores what constitutes the new evangelization relative to her liturgical rites, the theme of “return” is a pivotal one.   Too often, the issue of “return” focuses solely upon inviting those Catholics back to the parish, who have been away for some time, for whatever reason.   Such an approach, while a necessary part of evangelization, is partial at best.   If a Catholic returns only to discover a parish so smug, so sure of its holiness, believing it has arrived at the summit of Christian perfection, then the newly returned Catholic will depart as quickly as he or she came back.

Instead, pivotal to the new evangelization will be awakening each Catholic’s understanding of how every liturgical rite, every act of Christian worship, is a “rite of return”.  In his Spirit of the Liturgy, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger writes regarding the return or reditus of Christian worship:

The exitus, or rather God’s free act of creation, is indeed ordered toward the reditus, but that does not now mean the rescinding of created being…The creature, existing in its own right, comes home to itself, and this act is answer in freedom to God’s love.   It accepts creation from God as his offer of love, and thus ensues a dialogue of love, that wholly new kind of unity that love alone can create.   The being of the other is not absorbed or abolished, but rather, in giving itself, it becomes fully itself…This reditus is a ‘return’, but it does not abolish creation; rather, it bestows its full and final perfection (32-33).

As fallen creatures, we have ceased to accept the world as gift.  In worship, we return a word of amorous dialogue to the God whose speech is love itself.  And “returning” this word of love, we become our truest selves.  The process of redemption is learning to speak true words of love in worship.   Ratzinger writes:

If ‘sacrifice’ in its essence is simply returning to love and therefore divinization, worship now has a new aspect:  the healing of wounded freedom, atonement, purification, deliverance from estrangement.   The essence of worship, of sacrifice—the process of assimilation, of growth in love, and thus the way into freedom—remains unchanged.   But now it assumes the aspect of healing, the loving transformation of broken freedom, of painful expiation (33).

No Christian, until he or she enjoys God in eternal life, has fully returned to authentic creaturehood.  We are pilgrims on the way toward the fullness of love and participating in the Church’s worship is our slow return to the authentic life of freedom made possible by divine love.  Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee (Augustine, Confessions 1.1).

Only when this broader sense of “returning to the Lord” is inculcated in the worship of the parish will we become effective agents of evangelization.   Our liturgical prayer will not simply be entertaining but a genuine expression of our desire for union with God.  And our whole identity will become a form of humble hospitality, whereby we welcome the recently returned, not out of obligation but out of the depths of Christian charity, a continuation of the worshipful dialogue taken up in the Church’s rites.  We are happy to welcome back those long absent, not simply to increase our numbers, but because in their presence the body of Christ is built up and the world transformed.  The newly returned are fellow saints in the making.

The rest of this edition of Church Life explores such rites of return both catechetically and liturgically.

Bishop Christopher Coyne, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, describes how liturgical prayer is the pivotal moment of evangelization, inviting participants to enter into relationship with Jesus Christ.  Through liturgical rites, enacted as the Church prescribes and with attention to the rites’ intrinsic beauty, each parish learns that which cannot simply be taught:  Jesus Christ is Lord.

Josh and Stacey Noem turn our attention toward the art of marriage preparation, as one such moment of liturgical return.   In discussing their own approach to marriage preparation, the Noems outline a persuasive, beautiful invitation to the reality that the sacrament of marriage signifies:   a form of self-sacrificial love that is a participation in the Pasch of Christ.   The engaged couple, because of Josh and Stacey’s spiritual pedagogy, begins to discover a theological way of perceiving their married lives together.  Preparation for the sacrament can foster a whole sacramental way of life, one attractive to those preparing for marriage, no matter their initial commitment to faith.

Deacon David Lopez offers a theology for diaconal formation based in conversion of life.   The deacon does not simply assist at Mass or in the visitation of the sick.   Rather, he becomes a sign of that conversion toward self-giving love, which the whole Body of Christ is to live.   When deacons begin to live kenotically, opening themselves more fully to giving themselves unto death, they become an efficacious sign of Christ himself at work in the parish.  Thus, the deacon is both a sign of conversion, at the same time that he is ordained for a lifetime of ever more humble service.

Katie Ball-Boruff and Kristen Hempstead McGann describe the way that Catechesis of the Good Shepherd invites young children and parents alike into a full participation in the sacramental life of the Church.   As Ball-Boruff and McGann argue, Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, because of its attention to liturgical wonder and the particularity of the Christian narrative, may serve as a balm against the debilitating effects of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism in American parish life.  As children are awakened to the grandeur of being in relationship with the Good Shepherd, the whole parish will learn to perceive anew the gift of the Christian life, ceasing to reduce the Christian narrative to morals alone.

Leonard DeLorenzo, who wrote in our last edition on film, contributes this time on the power of the sacrament of Penance for adolescents.  DeLorenzo, director of Notre Dame Vision, positions Penance as a rite of return whereby the adolescent comes to know, perhaps in the first time in his or her life, the freedom offered by a God who loves unto the end, who yearns that we return to give ourselves to God.  For adolescents (and for all Christians), the sacrament of Penance is a re-composition of one’s narrative, not as estranged but as beloved of God.

John Cavadini treats the role of the preacher as theologian, using Augustine’s Enarrationes in Psalmos, as the basis for his argument.  Given as the 2007 Martens Lecture for the M.Div. program at Notre Dame, Cavadini builds the case for the pivotal nature of preaching in the proclamation of the Scriptures.   Preaching is a form of exegesis in which the love and mercy of God continues to take flesh in the poverty of human words, transforming the Church in the process.   Preaching is a sacramental invitation for the Church to return toward the radical love of Christ.

So then, join us in reconsidering what constitutes a “rite of return”.  Such moments are not isolated to those returning to Mass after years away, but to each Christian who wakes up in the morning, again learning to offer a sacrifice of praise for the life of the world.  When the Church acknowledges the pilgrimage she has embarked on, then she will be able to welcome fellow sojourners along the way.

A Eucharistic Critique of the American Presidential Elections: A Proposal for Authentic Faithful Citizenship

Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Editor, Oblation:  Catechesis, Liturgy, and the New Evangelization

Editor, Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization

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When I was a sophomore in college, I had the opportunity to take a political science course, entitled Leadership and Society.   One of our guests for the course was a Democratic staff member from the House of Representatives whose primary responsibility was securing the necessary number of votes for the passage of those bills pivotal to the Democratic party’s platform.  As he described the severe tone he used when dealing with difficult members of the House, ones who refused to vote along party lines, I realized for the first time the logic of violence at the heart of the American political system.  Until then, I had believed in an idealistic politics, one in which reason and a measure of charity defined all political relationships.  In which “democracy” was shown to be the most peaceful form of government (this was at least the less than subtle metanarrative of my courses in history and government in high school).  Yet in that moment, I discerned how deeply self-interest is rooted in the American political system.

By no means do all politicians succumb to this violence, to a form of self-interest in which obtaining victory over one’s opponent is more important than seeking truth, than acting in charity.  Yet as the days pass leading to the American presidential elections, I have begun to reflect again upon the logic of violence operative in contemporary campaigning.   Both Governor Mitt Romney and President Obama have shown in recent days how they are willing to destroy the humanity of their opponent to win.  President Obama’s campaign continues to attack Governor Romney for his wealth, despite the obvious fact that President Obama is by no means living from paycheck-to-paycheck.   On the other hand, Governor Romney blames the President for all economic woes, painting a perhaps too bleak picture of the sitting President’s leadership.  All the while, Americans are being entertained by a political circus, covered by a media forgetful of their obligation to seek truth above obtaining the scoop.  Every minuscule verbal gaffe is granted days of coverage (nonetheless forgotten the moment that photos of a nude Prince Harry surface through the journalistic commitment of TMZ).  Serious issues such as rape (in recent days), poverty, and race become opportunities to score a point over one’s opponent.  All the while we choose our sides, entrench ourselves in the position of our platform, and blind ourselves to the humanity of those who disagree with us.

In the midst of the political drama playing out in the theatre of the American campaign, the Church has begun to once again form her members in what constitutes “faithful citizenship.”  An intrinsic aspect of this formation is undoubtedly the development of a robust conscience, steeped in the Scriptures, Church teaching, and the spirit of charity dwelling in our hearts.  Perhaps, this year, Catholics may go further.  For Catholics (and most other Christians, religious people, and others of good will) participation in the American political system today is not simply  (though includes) determining which candidate is more congruent with religious teaching on war, abortion, marriage, poverty programs, capital punishment, etc.  But as we poison ourselves as a society with an increasingly violent and destructive rhetoric, must our formation not transform the very root of our malaise, the violence itself?  Must not we form Christians, who refuse to participate in the violent system to begin with?

Think for a moment of the Eucharist, what Benedict XVI has felicitously called the sacrament of charity, of love itself.   In the Eucharist, we participate in a vision of perfect peace, of total self-giving love that transfigures what it means to be human.   As we are joined more fully with the presence of Christ in the transfigured matter of bread-once-bread and wine-once-wine, we become the Body of Christ poured out for the life of the world.  We become an icon of Christ’s own love for the world.  Our voices join with the heavenly choirs, and we taste for a moment the sweetness of the city of God, a city in which violence and destruction are defeated through the peaceful blood of the Lamb.  In which perfect harmony exists, for that is the destiny of all humanity:  to be one.

To participate actively in a political system that promotes hatred, violence, and disdain toward an opponent or political party is thus a profoundly “un-Eucharistic” act.  It is to confess one’s belief that violence and destruction are the ultimate meaning of the world, that love does not conquer all.  Of course, this does not mean that we are to avoid substantive political disagreements or debates that need to be had.

  • What is the function of American military power?
  • What constitutes a religious organization, and to what extent does such an organization have a “right” to live their values within the saeculum?
  • What powers should the federal government have, what powers should be reserved to local politics, and what is best taken care of by non-governmental organizations?
  • Does untrammeled spending in election campaigns, in fact, destroy the American political system or contribute to its robust development?

These are the substantive debates that our society needs, but in light of the current tone of the national campaign, we will not encounter such debates.  Rather, we will meet the manipulative use of talking points, of ad hominem attacks, of half-truths and fear-inducing falsehoods running across our television screens, all of which profoundly distort the truth, forming us in hatred, not in wisdom.

So, then, how do we form Catholics in a non-violent approach to faithful citizenship?  First, let’s shut off our televisions during the political season.   Don’t watch CNN or MSNBC or Fox News (watch baseball, it’s generally safer).  Don’t tune in to the political advertising, instead putting it on mute when it occurs.  Watch the debates (with a hermeneutic of suspicion), read about the policy, have intelligent discussions with friends, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, on precisely the substantive questions mentioned above.  If we begin to do this, we might discover how politics can be liberating, not destructive and violent.  In particular, students in high schools and college will discern a new way of being political, and perhaps in future generations, we’ll discover we have a President and a Congress capable of real, serious, albeit charitable debate, one that seeks the true, the good, and the beautiful.

Second, let’s stop placing cynical and angry posts, memes, etc., on Facebook, on Twitter, on Linked In.  There is a place for righteous anger, but it requires astute discernment to determine whether or not one’s anger is righteous or an occasion of sin.  Further, to pass on such anger to others is to perpetuate the system of violence.  Today, we need a new martyrdom; not a triumphalist one, but a martyrdom in which Christians throughout the country witness to the possibility of a politics in which hatred and falsehood are not perpetuated.  In which all politics are defined by the order of love, of seeking the good of another.  This is hard (and why there is necessarily a kind of suffering in martyrdom).  It requires that we listen to positions that challenge our deepest held beliefs, and that we don’t respond immediately in a spirit of attack.  It requires that we learn to articulate our own positions clearly, in total love.  It requires us to accept defeat at times (at least at the level of policy), and then to find other ways to live out our deepest-held convictions, even if it places us on the margins of society.     

And this leads us to the third aspect of our formation.  We must learn again that the city of God is not the city of humanity.  Politics, no matter how well practiced, will not save us.  Even the best political and economic plans of a particular candidate will never lead to an encounter with ultimate reality.  The election of “Candidate X” will not fulfill our deepest desires as human beings.  For, we will only encounter true peace, true wisdom, true love in the eschaton, at that point when the city of the heavenly Jerusalem comes to transfigure the earth.  This does not mean that we as Christians should divorce ourselves from the world, becoming quietists waiting for heaven. We are still to act, to hope for political solutions, for a world of genuine peace.  But, we must hope with sobriety.  And when political disappointment occurs (and it will often happen), we are to remember that God is the primary actor in human history, a dramatist who shines light into the darkest moments of human action.

Finally, let the Eucharist itself be the center of our political formation.  Through the Eucharist, we are transfigured into true, self-giving love.  What does this mean?  Indeed, Catholic political formation involves undoubtedly an acquaintance with Catholic social teaching.  But, the basis of this teaching (as I have argued in an article appearing in the fall edition of Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization) is Eucharistic love.  For in encountering total Love, the God-man made flesh dwelling among us, we have no other option than to love in a similar manner to the Thou that we encounter.  To receive this love is to necessarily give it away.   We love the poor, not because we are a Democrat or a socially-conscience Republican, but because in the poor we encounter Christ himself; we continue our Eucharistic worship.  We stand up for the rights of the immigrant, the unborn, the prisoner on death row, because what else can we do when formed according to the Eucharistic love of the Church?  And we delight in such love, precisely in the way that bestowing a gift is often better than receiving a gift; it is not a matter of obligation, but to quote Dorothy Day, the duty of delight.  Perhaps then, during this formation into faithful citizenship, Catholics may actually remind their members that the most “political” and most “Eucharistic” action that they can do is to not simply vote in the presidential election but find concrete ways to care for those in need in their community, through advocacy, through developing a robust education system, through attending to the root causes of poverty, and perhaps most essential through concrete deeds of love offered to every neighbor we meet.

For no matter what happens during this political season, we can still participate in this approach to Eucharistic politics, one that is far more salutary.  And in the end, isn’t this what faithful citizenship ultimately is, at least in the city of God?

The Eyes of All Creatures Look to You: Our Hearts Moved to Gratitude

Fr. Kevin Grove, C.S.C.


Doctoral Student, Theology

University of Cambridge

Contact Author

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

St. John Fisher Catholic Chaplaincy

University of Cambridge, UK

29 July 2012

2 Kings 4:42-44; Ps 145; Eph 4:1-6; Jn 6:1-15

Augustine made the claim that all of Sacred Scripture was refracted through the psalms.  And today’s readings are certainly one instance of his point.  Sandwiched between Elisha’s miracle of twenty barley loaves feeding a hundred men and Jesus’ five barley loaves and two fish satisfying five thousand with baskets to spare we have the 145th Psalm.  And I trust that some of you have frequently heard the words of this psalm outside of Church here in Cambridge.  They are the preparatory words to a number of the college graces here at our university, and even the graces at another place![1]  In my college, two tables of fellows line up while the presiding fellows recite antiphonally: Oculi omnium in te sperant DomineAnd it continues on from there.  Now, for some attending these meals, this may seem merely an arcane, but nevertheless traditional Cambridge way of pre-dinner ritual.  Though, it is actually a Catholic and monastic tradition.  “The eyes of all creatures look to you, [O Lord] / and you give them their food in due season (Ps. 145:15ab).”

We gather here for a much more meaningful meal than those we so enjoy at formals, but the same psalm nevertheless gives us a dispositional orientation to the whole occasion.  The first line of our portion of Psalm 145 is that all your creatures shall thank you, O Lord.  It follows after and from that that you, God, are close to those who call on you from their hearts.  Approaching the Lord is, in the psalmist’s terms, a simultaneous mixture of gratitude and need.  It is part of the perennial beauty of the psalms, that they are able to capture the real depth of our human emotions.  For most often when we approach this table aren’t we in some combination of the same state: of course grateful for that which we receive but simultaneously in so much need of faith or prayer, of forgiveness, or healing, or rest?  In other words, we don’t forget about our needs.  We carry them in our very selves even as we give thanks.  The psalm reminds us that we are a blessed mixture of both; we are creatures who have a profound capacity for genuine thankfulness but are always aware of the many things that we ourselves and those we know need, lack, and long for.

This is the case in the second book of Kings.  The bread and grain brought to Elisha were excellent.  They were the first fruits, top stuff.  That was reason to be grateful.  They had been well provided.  Yet good though that was, the man to feed the people explained that it was not enough.  Such a blessing, yet so much need.  Gratitude in tandem with ever present need.

In John’s Gospel the same tension exists, yet with a development.  A little boy brings five barley loaves and two fish, a precise accounting of food connoting that they had been provided for, but not enough.  Gratitude in tandem with need.  But notice Jesus’ first action.  It was not to say, “It won’t be enough.”  It was not to say, “It will be enough.”  His first reaction was to take the bread and to give thanks.  And he did the same with the fish.  And what did he ask of the people?  Simply that they be seated, that they not move around to determine a solution to the problem among themselves, but that they see and participate in his giving thanks and then enjoy the fruits of God’s gift.  And ultimately, Christ’s miracle was of a magnitude that Elisha might only have dreamed.  He was the fulfillment of prophecy and more.

When you and I gather here for Mass, we gather for things and legitimately so.  We offer the sacrifice of the Mass for a need.  We bring our own needs as well as the many we carry in our hearts who need prayers, who need hope, who need love.  Our eyes do look up to our God that he might give us our food in due season.  Yet in both our Gospel and our Psalm, in which our needs do get met by our God, the meeting of needs is actually the second order of business.  The opening line of our psalm text is clear: all your creatures shall thank you Lord.  And in our Gospel Jesus thanked the Lord for the gift that they had been given. My point is not to minimize our needs, for, as these scriptures show, they are always with us and we rightly ask God to fill them.  But it makes all the difference that our first spiritual movement is one of thanksgiving.  I will suggest in just a few minutes from this altar that you and I “give thanks to the Lord our God.”  By your affirming that it is “right and just” to do so, you and I agree, together with the rest of those at Mass today throughout the world, that the first movement of our hearts around this altar really will be gratitude.

I will leave you with a single image, from St. Bernard.  Just as ingratitude dries us out and parches our souls, so gratitude is like the most renewing rain of grace that can yield growth in the most arid places of our lives.  For that, Deo Gratias!


[1] Oxford.

Editorial Updates: 8/20-8/24

Friends, it’s been a while since we’ve had an update from the editors.   Summers at the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy and the Institute for Church Life are full of conferences, retreats, and teaching. This week, with the start of classes at the University, we’re returning to more regular posting (4 or 5 times a week).  This week, we’ll have a sermon by Kevin Grove, C.S.C., the beginning of a longer series of columns re-reading each year of Orate Fratres and later Worship by Tim O’Malley, and an article on lay ecclesial ministry by one of our new authors, Daniel Whitehouse.

In addition, friends, we’re happy to announce a new blog by Notre Dame Vision, entitled Full of Grace.  The blog:

is an exercise in seeing.  That is, this blog presents reflections from young adults (and some not-so-young-adults) that are testaments to the gift of seeing grace in the midst of what might otherwise seem like ordinary life experiences.  These are stories of the openness of interpretation, of grace interpreting us, of us interpreting ourselves in the order of grace.  In the subtleties, challenges, sufferings, joys, and details of very real human lives, those who share their reflections with us have learned to see the God who has drawn near to them.  A life that isfull of grace is one that has made a home for the Word-made-flesh.  Moments glimpsed as mediating grace are signposts on the lifelong journey of allowing one’s life to become such a home.  Eyes open to glimpsing grace are persistent, humble, and hopeful eyes, for to see grace is to receive what may only come in time and with the courageous willingness to believe.  These stories are about this kind of seeing.

Make sure to check-in weekly to read more about the transformation of vision afforded by the grace of God.

Lastly, we’re in the final stages of our journal, Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization.  We hope to have it available no later than September 5.

For those of you also involved in teaching and ministry, blessings as you begin a new academic year.

 

Inklings of a New Evangelization: A Word on Wonder

Miriam Marston

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

St. John’s Seminary, Boston, MA

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Other columns in series:

The Beacons Are Lit

Of Myths and Maps

Inside the Song

With my previous posts, I offered a few thoughts on how the principle of sub-creation (by which I mean everything from painting to music to story-telling to equation-solving) is part of the hard-wiring in each human person, and why such activity remains significant and sanctifying, across the eras and the continents.

Now I’d like to go “further up and further in” (to borrow from Lewis’ “Narnia”). And what I’m about to discuss here is something that has been exquisitely dealt with by far better writers, but I believe that it’s too important to evangelization just to gloss over with a casual reference. I am talking about wonder…the recovery of which could be one of the keys to the exhilarating adventure of evangelization in our world today.

With each generation of technology, and with all the advancements towards high-definition, true-color, perfect-audio, it’s getting increasingly difficult to hold the attention of young people today. They expect – on some level – to be entertained. It’s as though they’ve “seen it all”. If a young man of 19 thinks “he’s seen it all”, how does that affect the way he’ll live his life? One dangerous scenario is that he will start trying things which deviate radically from the knowledge, experiences and skills he believes he has already mastered. It might be new levels of violence in video games, new drugs, risky sexual escapades, or other hazardous actions which have very unfortunate consequences.

But you try to tell him that he should instead become “like a little child” and he will no doubt laugh. Try to tell him that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven are the meekest, and he might think you’re just borrowing lines from a medieval school book for prospective monks. And I cannot think of a more intimidating task than handing a disillusioned teenager a book of fairy tales, with the hope that he’ll return to his senses by way of a compelling morality tale. I’m also not proposing that you should necessarily do any of these things, at least not without a little context and explanation.

By asking us to become like little children, Christ did not mean that we should be naïve, foolish or childish (in the sense of “immaturity”). Certainly there are a great many mysterious things that He meant when He spoke those words to his disciples, but one thing I take away for the purpose of this column is that we must recover the sense of wonder which makes childhood so distinct from the “elder years”. You know: the time in life when the smell of incense, the sound of the ocean, and the presents on Christmas morning were all minor miracles.

Now, imagine for a moment that you came across these words in a book:

“Farmer Smith awoke abruptly the next day. “Too early” was his first thought, and “is it really day already?” his second. But he glanced out the window and his spirits could only lift at the majestic sight of the green sun, nudging its way higher and higher into the sky, announcing the new morning.”
Of course (hopefully?) you’ve noticed that there’s something curious about this brief passage. Our sun is not green. It’s yellow. The suggestion of a non-yellow sun might ruffle a few of our feathers, even unconsciously. But reading about a green sun only makes us think harder about the yellowness of our own sun. Perhaps that is something we might not have given a thought to since we were on a playground, when we noticed how the clouds rolled in and stole away the light. The grownups thought of an impending rainstorm, but the children thought of eclipses and magic. The strange depiction of something so familiar might stir in us the yearning to take a step back and say: good heavens, our sun really is a blinding sort of yellow.

Another step back might reveal how red and velvety those flowers in the neighbor’s window are, even though you’ve been walking past them for a solid week now. A few steps more, and that friend or spouse or sibling now has that glow of a recovered treasure which has been buried underground for years, and is only now tasting the light of day. They’re tall! They’re kind! They’re loud! They’re generous! They’re beautiful! We are starting to get the hint as to why playing around with adjectives is a big part of storytelling – they yield the power to awaken something inside of us, and inspire us to do such things as jumping to the defense of our own sun.

But I return to our young man, who is now playing Angry Birds, texting and listening to music all at the same time, while you are gesticulating wildly in order to direct his attention to the fiery sunset just outside his window. There was a time, years ago, when he could have associated the dramatic colors of a sunset with the story of the dragon who guarded his enchanted treasure from would-be-looters by breathing fire from great heights. But our friend doesn’t need to believe in dragons to delight in the sunset. Delight requires only a certain measure of wonder, with a dash of enthusiasm. It also means looking up from time to time, whether it be from our computers and newspapers or from our personal (and perhaps rather fixed) intellectual regimens.

There are so many to choose from, but for now, I give you this quote from G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”:

“we all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. This is proved by the fact that when we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough. A child of seven is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door and saw a dragon. But a child of three is excited by being told that Tommy opened a door….these tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water…”

The wide-eyed look of wonder, then, doesn’t always mean the person is clueless. I should say rather that he or she may be clued in to something good, something new. Something which may have lain forgotten while we “got on with life”. It is also worth clarifying that qualities such as humility and innocence – things so closely connected to the heart of a child – do not necessarily translate into uncritical wonder. In fact, Chesterton would argue that children are blessed with a pronounced sense of realism. They won’t believe just everything and anything. Their conclusions about the world have a certain internal consistency (they might be mistaken, but that would be primarily because the data is distorted). When we grow older (and unfortunately, children are growing older so very quickly these days) we often exchange wonder for mastery. We congratulate ourselves on our ability to analyze situations and surroundings, when in fact, we have not stepped away from them long enough to have much of a credible opinion about them at all. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then distance – by defining that which is other to ourselves – makes the heart grow in wonder.

We should not be afraid to invest our energy in becoming like little children, just as Christ asks us to. For it is the heart of a child which is open enough to be mesmerized by the world beyond her shadow. Goodness, truth, love, courage…it is no small marvel that this chaotic world is still full of such virtues, and a faithful spirit of wonder may very well bring these virtues back to life in the hearts of many; in those hearts where things have perhaps gone quiet, still, and stale.

Young Adult Styles of Prayer: The Rule of St. Benedict

Patrick Sullivan

Echo 7

St. Monica, Archdiocese of Indianapolis

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Preface

In the USCCB’s pastoral plan for ministry of young adults, “Sons and Daughters of the Light,” the opening three paragraphs speak to the rich diversity of young adults. They are in their twenties and thirties, are single, married, divorced, widowed, with children, in rural and urban areas with jobs and in school; they come from all over the world and have been brought up in the same town their entire lives. Young adults are recent converts, cradle-Catholics, discerners, skeptics and lukewarm Christians.[1] The irony of the “definition” of young adults is that in an attempt to describe the category, there is a discovery of the great diversity it contains. The quest to define “young adults” yields unexpected results; instead of narrowing down the nature and needs of this population, a great diversity and undefinable quality is discovered.

In recent years, the United States church has taken great strides toward developing a proper ministry to this wide cross-section of the church. Dynamic programs have sprung up to meet the growing and changing needs of young adults, leadership roles have been offered to those desiring to serve the church, and “parish regulars” are becoming more willing to “turn over” roles of leadership to young adults.

With this in mind, the great challenge of young adult ministry, in all its rich diversity, lies in the rapid, unpredictable life of each young adult. As many are young professionals or newly married, the consistency of their day-to-day routine is seldom found. Late hours, intense school work and the prospect of young children of their own often dictate the life of these young adults. Therefore, developing parish programs to meet the individualized needs of these young adults is not without difficulty.

Perhaps because of this lack of stability and unpredictability in the life of these young adults, it is unsurprising that the two most desired things for this demographic are, as mentioned in the Basic Guide to Young Adult Ministry, “intimacy – to be loved and have others to love…[and] community(church related or not) that share their values and interests.”[2]

Therefore, the purpose of this article is to introduce young adults to an outlet to meet these deep desires. This article does not propose to be an end in itself, but rather an introduction to a communal, spiritual life that will draw young adults together, bound in common through a regular and intimate life of prayer. [3]

Introducing the Rule

The life of the young adult is anything but stable. From undergraduate programs, to master’s degrees, to first, second and third jobs, the average young adult might find him or herself in four or five different cities in the span of just a few years. Circles of friends, daily routines and communities are in regular flux. From the surface, it might seem impossible to develop any stability at all.

In the search for any regular form of spiritual life, the young adult would do well to take the Rule of St. Benedict to heart. Without knowing the story or context of Benedict’s Rule, many a young adult might hear the “Rule of St. Benedict” and stumble at the word, “rule.” With such a demanding work schedule, the last thing any socially adjusted twenty-something might need is another set of rules. That being said, this Rule was developed to be a “living guide to the spiritual journey and to community living, rather than a legal document.”[4] Indeed, the community of Benedict, itself, and the rule, were first developed for beginners to the monastic life.[5]

In her own reflection on the Rule of St. Benedict, Esther de Waal describes the Rule and the vows taken in conjunction with it as meeting very basic needs of the human condition. “They are not, as they might seem at first glance, about negation, restriction and limitation,” but rather “they are based on a commitment which is both total and continuing…the paradox is that they bring freedom.” [6]

As a young adult, in the midst of regular chaos and instability, the Rule of St. Benedict provides a means for stability (on a human level), a common purpose (on the communal level) and an avenue toward a deeper and more intimate relationship with God (on the spiritual level).

The Rule

Listen carefully, my child, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart. This is advice from a father who loves you; welcome it, and faithfully put it into practice. The labor of obedience will bring you back to him from whom you had drifted through the sloth of disobedience. This message of mine is for you, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to do battle for the true King, Christ the Lord.[7]

As a young adult in just as many transitions as described throughout Young Adult pastoral literature, the stability of the Rule is certainly attractive. Yet, as mentioned above, the “rule” language does cause some hesitancy. In reading and reflecting on Benedict’s prologue, though, I am struck by the tenderness that runs through the text.  Benedict is not looking to levy a cruel code of conduct as the holy disciplinarian, but rather seeks to lay a foundation of prayer and consistency, much in the same way a father would.

Benedict invites us to listen. He invites us to listen to the advice he shares, to the message of the community and the prayer that is formed through monastic life. It is important to note that he does not say “do” or “you must” but rather “listen.” The end of a Benedictine spirituality is not a long list of tasks and goals, but rather an open heart – one that will beat with the constancy of prayer found in union with Jesus.

As a young adult, the invitation to “listen” may, in fact, be more difficult to take to heart than the “rule.” While many a young adult might be adverse to yet another rule, their jobs, school, home, taxes and commutes are all filled with rules. There are rules for conversations and rules for walking. There are rules for dressing, for singing for playing sports and for cooking. Rules are not uncommon to young adults. Listening, however, is a different story. The chaotic daily life of young adults is filled with noise: music, instruction, to-do lists, lectures, meetings and emails. It might seem that we are listening constantly to the noise that hums throughout our day, but the listening that Benedict invites us to must not pierce the silence but rather by enveloped by it.  Benedict’s invitation to listen cannot be fulfilled in this noise. We are not called to listen in the silence, but rather to the silence, itself.

Stability

In Esther de Waal’s reflection on the Rule, she sees his invitation to stability as necessary for “planting roots” and “growing an identity.”[8] In the life of a young adult, the discovery and manifestation of identity is critical.[9] In this rapid search for identity, though, young adults often find themselves scurrying between post-graduate service fairs, volunteer drives, career centers, pilgrimages, vacations, study tours and intense retreats. The irony in all of this is that in the frantic search for identity, the young adult has no time or consistency to plant any roots. Like a farmer who constantly uproots his crop upon “discovering” better soil, such young adults are never given time to grow into themselves.

“For it is impossible to say, ‘who am I?’ without first asking, “where am I?”[10] The Rule of St. Benedict provides the stability needed to begin to answer these questions. Moreover, the Rule is not relegated to a lofty idealist pursuit of identity, but is grounded in the realistic quest for basic human needs.[11] Indeed, Benedict, himself recognizes human need and human nature and in the context of his Rule encourages his brothers to follow these rules only to the best of their ability.[12]

Community

As Sons and Daughters of the Light and The Basic Guide to Young Adult Ministry both point out, young adults commonly desire to surround themselves with people who share their values and position in life.[13] By living in a “community,” I have been given a concrete outlet to this desire. That being said, I know that most young adults are not afforded this opportunity; their search for authentic community is often hampered by working hours and domestic responsibilities.

Practicing the Rule on an individual basis will certainly develop a practice of stability in the life of a young adult, but abiding by it in a “community” – even in the loosest sense of the term – will deepen the roots that have already been planted. Throughout the Rule, Benedict constantly encourages his fellow monks to practice sincere hospitality and charity. Through the prayers and “rules” found throughout St. Benedict’s Rule, young adults may be able to develop a sense of community in relation to those with whom they come in to contact with every day. Though not sharing a living space, many young adults will have regular co-workers or colleagues. Therefore, the practice of seeing Christ in such people, bearing with them, and enduring in patience[14] might lead a young adult to a deeper connection and “communal” relationship with Jesus, himself.

Prayer

Throughout the Rule, Benedict makes constant mention of the office of prayer, and the sacred reading that should be done by the brothers. As De Waal describes in her commentary on the Rule, the practice of Lectio Divina [15] played a central role in the life of St. Benedict and in the context of his Rule.[16] Encouraged to take a word from their reading with them throughout their work, the monks allow prayer to be the heart beat and rhythm of their days.[17]

In the life of a young adult, where work (in the school or office) dictates most of the day, a great beauty can be discovered in allowing prayer to run throughout the entire day. Instead of compartmentalizing work, home and prayer, the Rule of St. Benedict invites young adults to turn the work they do into an avenue for prayer. While Benedict might not have seen the work itself as anything extraordinary, he did see the occasion for work as an occasion for prayer. Therefore, as a young adult praying with the Rule, one might be encouraged to take a word or phrase from Morning Prayer and mull it over throughout the day, perhaps returning to the source again at lunch, or a coffee break and continuing to ruminate on the message throughout the day. The Rule, itself, even encourages those monks working away from the monastery to take the Rule with them, and continue to have prayer flow through their day.[18]

Living the Rule

This brief reflection on the Rule of St. Benedict is not supposed to be an end in itself, but rather seeks to function as a guide, that is, as something that points the reader to the source. To truly pray with the Rule, young adults are encouraged to read and apply the Rule to their own individual circumstances. As the Rule was intended to be a realistic guide for beginners, young adults should continue to treat it as such. Instead of seeking an earth-shattering, life changing moment in life, the Rule should be allowed to slowly transform the life of a young adult so that he or she is slowly brought into a deeper relationship with Jesus.


[1] SDL, 7

[2] Cusick, DeVries, 17-18

[3] For the purposes of this project, only Benedictine spirituality will be introduced. Had this been developed into a full guide, a variety of other popular prayer styles (Ignatian, Lectio, etc would have been introduced as well).

[4] Swan, 14

[5] Sawn, 15

[6] De Waal 1984, 55

[7] Rule of St. Benedict, v. 1-3

[8] De Waal, 56

[9] Cusick, Devries, 17

[10] De Waal, 56

[11] De Waal, 57

[12] RB 48.9

[13] SDL, 9; Cusick, DeVries, 18

[14] Ephesians 4:2

[15] Had this been developed into a full textual guide, the reader would be directed to a section on Lectio Divina in the life of a young adult.

[16] De Waal, 1995, 124

[17] De Waal, 1995, 123-4; RB 48.11

[18] De Waal 1995, 132; RB 50.4

Sources

Cusick, John and Devries, Katherine, The Basic Guide to Young Adult Ministry. Orbis Books: Maryknoll, NY, 2001.

De Waal, Esther. A Life-Giving Way: A Commentary on the Rule of St. Benedict. Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN, 1995.

De Waal, Esther. Seeking God. Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN, 1984.

National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishops’ Committee on the Laity, Sons and Daughters of the Light: A Pastoral Plan for Young Adult Ministry. USCCB: Washington, D.C., 1997.

Saint Benedict, ed. by Timothy Fry. The Rule of Saint Benedict. Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN, 1992.

Swan, Laura. Engaging Benedict: What the Rule Can Teach Us Today. Ave Maria Press: Notre Dame, IN, 2005