What We’re Reading Today: Why I Need the Liturgy, Li’l Sebastian, and Orestes Brownson

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

MTS Student, History of Christianity, University of Notre Dame

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1) An excellent post by John Fyrqvistat at the ‘The Catholic Catologue’ explaining why we need the liturgy:

For it is in God’s presence that we are able to truly worship, an act which sets us free. In His presence we are free to shed the idols that distract us. We are free to rightly order our loves, and conform our wounds to those he bore on the cross. Liturgy is the source and summit of our lives for this very reason: in true worship we are made whole. In God’s presence sins are forgiven, wounds are healed, lives are transformed.

2) Chris Schroeder, SJ connects every Parks & Rec. fan’s favorite four-legged equus to the practice of devotion. The Jesuit Post deserves ‘5,000 candles in the wind’ for this one:

Reviewing this history of pilgrimages and shrines, however, I must recognize that none of them were my idea at all. It was other people who have stirred me up and showed me what it meant to connect to God. Nor did they do so by enrolling me in a catechism class or theology lecture. Devotion, whether to God or to comical mini-horses, is something that we learn via the example and the experience of others, rather than long-winded explanations. When we review our own experience of God, we find everywhere the well-placed candles, the timely words, the abandoned crutches that others have left behind in our hearts.

3) First Things’ Peter Lawler with a 2002 piece on Orestes Brownson and political discourse:

Brownson should grab our attention, then, because he adopts a philosophic stance on political life that is neither pragmatic nor existentialist. And neither doeshe point back to Greece in an effort to bypass the Christians, as many twentieth-centurypolitical theorists have done. Rather, in a broadly Thomistic way, he views natural reason and supernatural theology as complementary human goods-and he rejects the easy dichotomies that permeate so much of the history of political philosophy.

What Dorothy Day Teaches Us About Calling Saints ‘Saints’

Leonard DeLorenzoLeonard DeLorenzo, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Vision

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Dorothy is a peculiar candidate for sainthood because, after all, she expressly commanded, “Don’t call me a saint, I don’t want to be dismissed so easily.” To some, this is the final word on the matter: she said don’t do it, so stop trying. But I don’t think it’s clear that this statement means what many take it to mean, even if it is to receive privileged treatment as her expressed wishes on the matter. In order to seek to understand the meaning and limits of this now oft-quoted line, Dorothy’s own view of sainthood is instructive, which come to the fore in a compelling fashion in her apprehension of Thérèse of Lisieux.

Without a doubt, Thérèse of Lisieux and Dorothy Day seem an odd pair: the pious little French girl locked up in a provincial convent and the radical American firebrand who both served the poor and lambasted the government with a passion bordering on brazen recklessness. And yet Thérèse meant quite a lot to Dorothy, so much in fact that, as many know, Dorothy wrote a spiritual biography of the saint.PRAYER-TO-SAINT-THERESE-OF-LISIEUX The life of Thérèse pierced Dorothy’s heart in a way that glossy clichés never could because Dorothy listened to who the saint really is. Thérèse knew herself as the beloved of God who belonged to the Church. It’s not that she wasn’t pious or French or cloistered, its just that the uniqueness of her holiness is not reducible to tidy explanations. As the cause for the canonization of Dorothy continues to unfold, the Church will ask and scrutinize over the same question about the irreducibility of Dorothy’s own Gospel witness, which, like Thérèse’s, cannot be reduced to neat banner headings. And of all who happen to reduce Dorothy to a banner, the ones who risk doing so most of all are, ironically, those who stand behind her own words: “Don’t call me a saint.”

Dorothy  was born about a month after Thérèse of Lisieux died, in 1897. Needless to say, Dorothy never knew Thérèse, at least not until she lay in the maternity wing of Bellevue hospital, holding her newborn daughter, Tamar Teresa. Not yet Catholic, Dorothy could still find the appeal of a great figure who did great things, like the great reformer, Teresa of Avila, after whom she named her own child, or even Joan of Arc whose zeal led to martyrdom. She was not prepared to take seriously a quaint “young nun with a sweet insipid face” (vii, all quotes from Dorothy’s Thérèse unless otherwise noted), who seemed to obsess over minutiae that paled in comparison with the great conflicts of the day. imgresAnd yet the woman in the bed next to Dorothy mistook Tamar’s middle name for the name of the “Little Flower” and thus gave Dorothy the medal of the saint she had in her pocket to pin on the newborn child. After initially protesting, Dorothy reluctantly accepted the gift of this new saint—not because she was fond of the saint but because her love for her own child demanded a gesture of largesse. Dorothy would give her child not one but two saints: from the older saint she would give a name and from the younger she would give a “novice mistress, to train her in the spiritual life” (vii). Thus began Dorothy’s own relationship with Thérèse of Lisieux, whose holiness required Dorothy to grow in order to cherish it.

It is this growth—indeed, what is properly called ‘transformation’—that loosens the tension of Dorothy’s apparent resistance to being proclaimed a saint. It is certainly not surprising that many would hasten to echo that line when Cardinal O’Connor introduced the idea in 1997, and all the more when Cardinal Dolan began furthering the movement in 2012. The more serious her cause becomes, the more frequently these words will be repeated. Several weeks ago, Colman McCarthy invoked these words in a NCR article to protest the “bureaucratic process to get a halo atop Dorothy” as a move to defang the “heart of the American left”. McCarthy’s claim is that the move to canonize Dorothy is a move to box her in, to reduce her radicalism to domesticated proportions. Besides the fact that an anti-ecclesial bias pervades his piece, McCarthy is certainly right in noting that the canonized saints—especially the most well-known and popular among them—are often glossed over according to pithy banner headings. He thinks the move to do the same to Dorothy would violate her integrity, and he is right in this regard.stained-glass-window-saints-25543299 What he is wrong about, however, is in concluding that this is what it means to be a canonized saint and that the Church’s process of naming its saints—which usually is bureaucratic—intends such an outcome. Ironically, the most certain way to reduce Dorothy’s originality would be to cling to her as a political force, a figurehead for a cause, or even a lifelong agitator of the status quo. Try as he might, McCarthy cannot capture Dorothy according to these categories. It may in fact be the case that the only category that can capture her is that which he resists: “saint”. But—and this is the decisive but—not a saint according to how we each might prefer the saints to be, but rather as the saints are and show themselves to be. This is why Dorothy’s own devotion to the saints is so instructive: in her growth in response to them she gives witness not only to what a saint is, but to what it means to apprehend a saint.

The saints are given in order to be understood; they are not understood in advance. They are like books that one receives on the recommendation of a friend: “This book will do you good.” You take a book like this not because you have determined on your own that it is good, but because you trust the recommendation. (To take the metaphor a step further, the Church is therefore a library of good books.) Reading the book is then something like an experiment: to see if you can find the good that someone else found there. This dynamic was as true in a convalescent’s bed in Loyola and a garden in Milan as it was in that hospital room in New York. Just as it was with Ignatius and Augustine, the saints were themselves like recommended books who stretched Dorothy. She didn’t seek out Thérèse and she certainly didn’t know Thérèse was good for her: Thérèse was recommended and Dorothy had to learn to apprehend the goodness.

To read Dorothy’s spiritual biography of Thérèse is to receive Dorothy’s own recommendation of the good found in the ‘little saint’.31QD1U8zn4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ She came to recognize in the saint the universal human desire to grow in love and the response to the universal human problem of not knowing how to do it. In every way, it was the small and obscure that led to the wholeness in love that Dorothy discovered that she sought for herself. Dorothy wanted to find her answers in the loftiness of great upheavals and the overturning of power structures but was forced, with Thérèse, to contemplate the mundane.

In Thérèse’s parents, Dorothy discovered skilled artisans who poured over intricate details, whether in watchmaking (Louis) or lacemaking (Zèlie).It was this same care and attentiveness that was exercised in the Martin household, where the obscure and routine work of family life remains hidden from the world but for the one who looks closely for the intricacies of how it works. Even the care Louis and Zèlie took to live modestly and save their earnings was, when examined carefully, done in the interest of creating the “kind of home where it would be easier to be good” (31). images-2In other words, Thérèse’s parents invested in the economy of the household as the place where love was to be practiced, where mutual concern was to be the rule, and where the praise of God was expressed in multiform ways. It is telling, then, that Dorothy finds in the Martin household the basic insight that she grew to love in Peter Maurin’s vision for the Catholic Worker, “to make that kind of society where it is easier for people to be good,” (31). Dorothy’s close attention to the smallness of Thérèse revealed to her an aspect of that great good to which she would orient her life. She didn’t see it at first because she wasn’t looking to the delicacy of domestic life; that is, until she held her own child in her arms and Thérèse was given along with her.

In the account of the death of Thérèse’s mother, Zèlie, Dorothy closely observes the way in which the Church speaks communion into and through death itself. In a family where liturgical feasts marked time, it was not insignificant that the family held a party on August 24 for the feast of St. Louis, whom they celebrated to honor their own father. Even as their mother lay on her deathbed about to receive last rites, the family opens itself to the company of the saints. When Zèlie does receive last rites, the priest prays through the intercession of “Mary, St. Joseph, all the angels, archangels, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the other saints,” (43). When she is sent forth from the world, Zèlie is bade a happy journey in the name of these same angels and martyrs and saints, “through Christ our Lord, Amen,” (44). comm_of_saints1Dorothy then lists Thérèse and her sisters as participants in the requiem Mass, united to this great company just invoked. When it is said elsewhere that Thérèse’s early life was a “festival of communion” (Balthasar), this is what is meant. The good home her parents created was one in which communion was practiced, even at the hour of death.

In attending closely to Thérèse—who left nothing behind except her own life as witness (for what is Story of a Soul but that?)—Day was learning how to cherish the small things, to see their incalculable significance and dignity and worth. “There is never too small an incident for Thérèse to mention in her memories,” Dorothy writes, “knowing that we can all of us match them, but not, perhaps, draw the same lesson,” (76). It is as if to say, ‘begin with the form of the witness, then contemplate its meaning: seek so as to understanding’… like trying to find what is good in a recommended book by reading it closely.

When Thérèse offers her first Communion for a poor man who once filled her with pity but refused the alms she offered, Dorothy takes note. She discerned in this the fruits of what Louis and Zèlie taught their children: “that it was a privilege to serve the unfortunate with their own hands and do the works of mercy directly,” (30). When the direct gift of alms was declined, the creativity of Thérèse took over and she offered the very Communion she received for the sake of that poor man: her own prayer became an act of embodied communion. urlWhen Dorothy—the revered practitioner of the Corporal Works of Mercy—then exalts the Spiritual Works as “spiritual weapons to save souls, penance for luxury when the destitute suffer, a work to increase the sum total of love and peace in the world” (145), perhaps we might consider that it was this creativity of Thérèse that taught Dorothy something previously unknown: that there is a depth to love that binds together what one does for the demonstrated needs of the neediest with how one gives oneself as a sacrificial offering for the life of the world. This is the genius of the saint—of any saint—to contemplate the paradoxical union of the Incarnation unto the Paschal Mystery as the good that is the foundation and climax of the meaning of the world and of each individual’s existence. To refuse to contemplate this depth of Dorothy—a depth which she herself testifies to—is to reduce her to a caricature of herself.The beauty—the goodness—that Dorothy learned from Thérèse of Lisieux is not beauty according to the world’s reckoning. It is a veiled beauty, hidden from the proud. When Thérèse was introduced to Dorothy, Dorothy was too proud to receive her as she is. Dorothy wanted greatness on her terms, a revolutionary on her terms, a saint on her terms. What she got was the saint as the saint is: a gift for her child. And at the heart of this saint was the mystery of the beauty of the One the saint herself loved:

My devotion to the Holy Face, or rather all my spirituality, has been based on these words of Isaias: ‘There is no beauty in him, nor comeliness; and we have seen him, and there was no sightlines in him. Despised and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity; and his look was, as it were, hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not.’ I too desire to be without glory or beauty, to tread the winepress alone, unknown to any creature” (quoted on 166).

The ‘littleness’ that Dorothy first found unappealing is the very ‘littleness’ she herself grew to love. It is the ‘littleness’ of not taking oneself too seriously, of not trusting in oneself too much, of referring all things to the loving care of a loving Father, of discovering oneself in the self-donating love of the Son, and of giving oneself over to the life-giving movement of the Spirit. This is what the saints communicate, as if to say, along with Christ who gives himself as food for the world, “You will not change me into yourself like bodily food: you will be changed into me” (Augustine, Confessions VII.10.16, Maria Boulding translation). This is not a pious gloss on the witness of Dorothy; this is, to the contrary, her own testimony about coming to understand holiness through her devotion to the one whom she at first dismissed as a ‘little saint’ because she did not conform to her notion of “saintliness”. If Dorothy is a saint then she gave to the world she first received, like Thérèse giving communion to the poor man.

Calling upon a “saint” doesn’t so much place demands upon the one called as it does upon the one calling. We who call upon them must allow ourselves to be transformed and to make room within ourselves for their holiness. urlThey teach us what it means to be human: we are to become as they are, not vice versa. When Dorothy said, “Don’t call me a saint”, I take it that she meant that we are not to reduce her to our own prefabricated ideas of what it means to be human, to be good, to be holy. To do so would be to miss the struggle and the strain, the work and the uncertainty, the striving and the deep longing that ran throughout her life and that was the home for the particularity of her own holiness. Thérèse didn’t conform to Dorothy’s preexisting expectations and Dorothy will not conform to ours.

I know this is true for myself. I would much prefer to find in the saints my own image, such as I am at present. It would be easier because I would then be able to utilize the energy I want to utilize, to grow in the manner pleasing to me, and to remain the same in all the other ways I see fit. To take Dorothy seriously, as herself, pierces through all of that. The Church is asking the question of Dorothy’s holiness in order to discern whether this witness to holiness is authentic, trustworthy, and worthy of imitation. In other words, the Church is asking if Dorothy is, in herself, an original insight into the mystery of the Incarnation, to study how the Son’s eternal embrace of human flesh transforms that human flesh forever, preserving and perfecting it at once.

This is the largest, most capacious question one can ask of Dorothy. It is also a question that requires disciplined attentiveness to who she is. As she herself learned with Thérèse, the question can’t be asked according to what we want a saint to be; it must be asked as a true act of inquiry, to discover what a saint really is. The Church has the duty of asking this question because the Church is bound by identity and mission to contemplate Jesus Christ as communicated, even today, in the Holy Spirit. It is an act of faith to entertain the possibility that the fruits of Christ’s sacrificial love have transformed this real, historical, human life. The Church names its saints because it has to if we are to believe Christ’s promises as true.the-peoples-business-5I, for one, never knew Dorothy. In fact, I was born about a month after she died. But might it just be the case that Christ who searches for each of us throughout all time finds me in the peculiar holiness of this servant of his, into whose Catholic Worker home I have both dined and served, whose devotion to the actual needs of the neediest thwarts my attempts at complacency, whose political boldness reveals the seriousness of the Gospel, and whose own love of the saints, on their terms and not hers, teaches me what it would mean to learn to love Dorothy as a saint?

Living the Vocation of Love

Caitlan RangelCaitlan Rangel
3rd-year Master of Divinity student,
University of Notre Dame

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Editorial Note: The following reflection was delivered as part of Morning Prayer during the Center for Liturgy’s recent Symposium, Liturgy and Vocation. We are grateful for the author’s permission to post it here.

Brothers and sisters,
I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,
which you received and in which you stand firm.
You are being saved by it at this very moment.
I handed on to you first of all what I myself received,
that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he was buried and, in accordance with the Scriptures,
rose on the third day.
1 Corinthians 15:1–2a, 3–4

We can all be grateful for and humbled by St. Paul’s introductory sentence in today’s reading: “Brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and in which you stand firm.” St. Paul is leading early Christians and disciples today through an exercise in religious remembering. He is stirring our memories so that we might come to enter more fully into who we are as Christians and why we are Christians.

St. Paul’s first sentence is also a deeply vocational one. It prompts us not only to remember, but also to probe deep within. It begs us to ask ourselves: Do I live that Gospel in which I stand firm? How do the vows that I have made manifest in my daily life? How is the journey of seeking after Christ unfolding in my life?

If love of God and life in God prompted St. Paul’s encouragement for us to remember the Gospel, then love of God and life in God are also certainly elements in answering the vocational questions we have just asked. I would like to highlight two elements of God’s love and life found in today’s Morning Prayer [for the feast of St. Barnabas].urlFirst, God’s love and life is creative. The creative love of God is overwhelmingly evident in the Canticle from Daniel [Dan 3:57–88, 56]. This magnificent Canticle praises the Lord for all creation. The Lord has created an infinitely unique variety of heavenly beings, plants, animals, stars, vegetation, climates and land formations, all culminating in humanity.Because of this creative life-giving energy, we are exhorted to “Praise and exalt him above all forever.” Creation is not only a manifestation of God’s love, but also fosters the love of God within us that is expressed through praise.

Then in [today’s proper] Antiphon for Psalm 63,  we hear a Christic tone in the creative love of God: “Love one another as I have loved you.” As God has loved us through creation, through salvation history, and through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we are to love one another. This is a creative and creating love. It brings life; it is relational; it is mysterious; it is expansive; it is joyful; it is faithful; it is perpetual; and we are invited to share in this creative love through our vocation to Christ and His Church.

Second, God’s love and life is sacrificial. God’s love is a love poured out, a love overflowing. We see this in creation and throughout salvation history, all culminating in Jesus Christ. jesus_washingAs the [proper] Antiphon for the Canticle [from Daniel] repeats from John 15:13: “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends.” It is perhaps this kind of love that we most closely associate with the gospel. We see Christ pour himself out in Scripture and come to know Christ poured out in our lives through the merciful love of others and the sacramental life of the Church.

Through the first sentence of today’s reading, St. Paul invites us into this reflective remembering and vocational questioning. Like a good guide, he leads us to the heart of our journey with the last sentence of today’s reading. He says, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried and, in accordance with the Scriptures, rose on the third day.” Actively remembering this kerygma that we have received leads us to enter into the mystery of God. It leads us to reflect on God’s mercy, forgiveness, fidelity and calling in our lives and in the life of the Church. Most importantly, it leads us to the person of Christ who is alive within each of our hearts. It is Christ who calls us, Christ who leads us, and Christ in whom we stand firm. Let us pray that we might live THIS, the heart of our shared vocation more fully each day in our lives as disciples.

What We’re Reading Today: post-encyclical readings, John the Baptist and Gothic Cathedrals

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

MTS Student, History of Christianity, University of Notre Dame

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1) First Things’ Maureen Mullarkey presents her list of post-encyclical readings:

[Christians] should remember that it is not the business of the Church to do the same things as the state—to build a Kingdom like the other Kingdoms of men, only better; nor to create a regime of earthly peace and justice. The Church exists to be the light of the world . . . .

2) Over at the New Liturgical Movement, Gregory Dipippo offers some liturgical notes on the Nativity of St. John the Baptist:

It has often been noted that the days of the year begin to grow shorter right after the Birth of John the Baptist, which is three days after the summer solstice, and begin to grow longer right after the Birth of Christ, four days after the winter solstice. The priest who taught me to serve the traditional Mass once explained in a beautiful homily of two sentences how this symbolizes the words in which St. John “summed up the entire Gospel in a single sentence, ‘I must decrease, that He may increase.’ ” (John 3, 30)

3) National Geographic reports that recently a historian began using lasers to “unlock mysteries of Gothic cathedrals”:

A former composer, would-be monk, and self-described gearhead—or, as he puts it, “tacklehead”—Tallon intends to make that history right. With the help of 21st-century laser scanners, he is teasing out clues hidden in the ancient stones of Notre Dame and other medieval structures—and revolutionizing our understanding of how these spectacular buildings were made.


Laudato Si, Guardini, and Liturgy

Tim O'MalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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Pope Francis’ recent encylical Laudato Si on care for our common home has been analyzed by an array of media sources for its ecclesiological, political, and social-cultural insights. But, one thread that has not been entirely acknowledged is the  robust liturgical and sacramental vision that Pope Francis provides in the final chapter of the lengthy document, Ecological Education and Spirituality. If one does not attend to concrete ways that one can promote this vision, then of course, the encyclical remains nothing but words upon the page (or screen). Thus, in a series of articles, I hope to offer a liturgical commentary upon one section of the text, Sacramental Celebration and the Celebration of Rest.

EcologyYet, before doing this, I want to acknowledge the central liturgical and sacramental insight that guides the document as a whole. The text commences with St. Francis’ doxological exhortation to Christians everywhere to praise God for our Dear Sister Earth. Pope Francis notes that the ecological destruction affected by humanity is caused by a form of non-orthodoxy, non-right worship:

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Gen2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters (no. 2). 

The desecration of creation is the result of a sin that mistakes humanity as lord and master of the universe. We have forgotten our status as creatures made in the image and likeness of God, as those who are meant to receive before we participate in the activity of co-creation. And indeed, the heart of Laudato Si is an acute diagnosis of the problem of self-worship. As Pope Francis writes:

A spirituality which forgets God as all-powerful and Creator is not acceptable. That is how we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God, even to the point of claiming an unlimited right to trample his creation underfoot. The best way to restore men and women to their rightful place, putting an end to their claim to absolute dominion over the earth, is to speak once more of the figure of a Father who creates and who alone owns the world. Otherwise, human beings will always try to impose their own laws and interests on reality (no. 75).

It is no accident that at the center of the document is Romano Guardini, the liturgical and cultural theologian par excellence. For Guaradini was acutely aware of liturgical prayer’s role in revealing to humanity our identity as creatures in need of reform in the midst of the modern world. That the laws of liturgical prayer could move us away from self-worship toward divine love.

EndofModernWorldIn his The End of the Modern World, Guardini discusses the dissolution of a liturgical and festive culture in the medieval period, which guided the sense of time and space for the human being:

Re-enacted year in year out in the liturgy of each and every church in Christendom, this symbolic rendering of time became the very rhythm of temporal life. Every event of life for a man or for his family–birth, marriage, death, labor and rest, the advent of the seasons, the passing of the weeks, the deeds of the day–each of the them breathed the rhythm of the ecclesiastical year. That rhythm had become one with the single moment and with the span of man’s life even to his last extremity (21).

LakeComoFor Guardini, the loss of this culture is not simply reclaimable. The cultural structures of knowing and being that once dominated the world have been replaced by both modern ways of being and knowing and now the dissolution of the modern age itself. Humanity no longer lives a time that is infused with the liturgical year, with a form of festivity that orients human life toward worsip. That being said, Guardini moves forward with an optimism that in this age, the human being can create a space for freedom and self-gift, which will move us away from self-worship and destructive approaches to power:

…it must be possible to tackle the task of mastering nature in a way that is appropriate, but also to find a new sphere of freedom for the soul, to give back true security to life, to achieve an attitude, a disposition, a new order of living, standards of what is excellent and what is despicable, of what is permissible and what is impermissible, of responsibility, of limits, etc., by which we can hold in check the danger of destruction presented by arbitrary natural forces (Romano Guardini, Letters from Lake Como, 84-85).

For Guardini, liturgical prayer is a concrete Christian practice that offers the kind of formation toward freedom of self-gift. Though it is impossible at present to analyze the entirety of his magisterial The Spirit of the Liturgy, this text describes how the practice of liturgical prayer can move the human being away from self-worship, toward a salutary use of power. That is, for Guardini, liturgical prayer is an enactment of a realistic vision of the human person, one that enables us to see creation for what it is:

In the liturgy the voice of Nature makes itself heard clearly and decisively. We only need to read the Psalms to see man as he really is. There the soul is shown as courageous and despondent, happy and sorrowful, full of noble intentions, but of sin and struggles as well, zealous for everything that is good and then again apathetic and dejected. Or let us take the readings from the Old Testament. How frankly human nature is revealed in them! There is no attempt at extenuation or excuse. The same thing applies to the Church’s words of ordination, and to the prayers used in administering the sacraments. A truly refreshing spontaneity characterizes them; they call things by their names. Man is full of weakness and error, and the liturgy acknowledges this. Human nature is inexplicable, a tangled web of splendor and misery, of greatness and baseness, and as such it appears in the prayer of the Church. Here we find no carefully adapted portrait from which the harsh and unpleasing traits have been excluded, but man as he is (The Spirit of the Liturgy, 32).

Thus, in some ways, one can read Laudato Si as an application of the liturgical and cultural thought of Guardini to the present environmental crisis. And, like Guardini, Pope Francis gives prominence of place to divine worship as essential to healing the human being; of re-creating a culture in which human beings are not masters of the universe but worshipers of God.

The implications of this kind of liturgical-ecological culture will be unfolding over the coming days through attending to Laudato Si’s Eucharistic vision.




What We’re Reading Today: literature, forgiveness and the Synod on the Family

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

MTS Student, History of Christianity, University of Notre Dame

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1) Peter J. Leithart over at First Things on why literature matters:

“What impressed me was the teacher’s point that the poem leads its reader to expect an unstressed syllable at the beginning of the fourth line, but instead Shakespeare uses a stressed one. I suddenly felt the word ‘bare,’ how it cuts across an established expectation, the way a good tennis player catches his opponent leaning the wrong way, or a pitcher throws only fastballs, then  gets the batter to swing at a change-up.”

2) In the wake of the tragedy in Charleston, Anna Floerke Scheid at Daily Theology seeks to articulate a spirituality of forgiveness:

A spirituality is something I have to engage regularly. I have to practice it.  A spirituality of forgiveness means relating anew each day to God’s healing grace working on the abuse or violation that was done to me. It means struggling to remain open to this grace of forgiveness even in the midst of my hurt and anger.  As Middleton-Brown said, “I’m a work in progress…and I acknowledge that I’m very angry.”  Forgiveness doesn’t mean not feeling hurt.  It doesn’t mean not feeling angry.  What it does seem to involve is a recommitment every day to let go of impulses toward rage and vengeance, and instead to struggle to embrace God’s love and peace.

3) Gerard O’Connell discusses the pastoral practice and the working document for October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family:

Speaking about marriages that have broken down, the WD makes clear that all those who responded consider it a fundamental principle “to care for wounded families and make them feel the mercy of God.” Everyone recognizes that marriage break-down is “a defeat for all,” and that afterwards people need to recover trust and hope once again. “Everyone needs to give and receive mercy.” To begin with, the Church asks couples who are separated or divorced to show respect to each other, and not bring more suffering to their children.

The WD emphasizes the need for the Church h [sic] to “accompany” such couples and families, and this means “to adopt a wide and differentiated attitude” to their different situations, remembering that “God never abandons anybody.”

What We’re Reading Today: priesthood, polyphony and leisure as the basis of summer break

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

MTS Student, History of Christianity, University of Notre Dame

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1) Over at The Jesuit Post, Paul J. Shelton, SJ reflects on his first year as a priest:

I guess this year has been about meeting Christ, again. One of my priest mentors, Bill, likes to say sacraments give us permission to be Christ. I like this, not for me exclusively qua priest, but for everybody.

2) Dappled Things’ Karen Ullo on God speaking in polyphony:

I wonder how often such rational arguments have steered people toward despair. How ardently we humans long to hear the voice of God, and how resolutely we convince ourselves of His silence. We cannot reconcile the idea that a noisy instrument of destruction might also be a healing whisper of God’s eternal love.

3) An interesting little piece on leisure as the basis of summer break from R.J. Snell at the Intercollegiate Review.  Perhaps it will occasion further reflection from our authors connecting Pieper’s essay on leisure as the basis of culture with liturgy.

As I explain in Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire, it isn’t easy to become the sort of person who engages in activity meaningful in itself. We are all trained to evaluate everything in terms of its usefulness, and so have a difficult time comprehending what it even means to do something for its own sake. As Pieper notes, it’s hard to find people who know how to feast, for it requires a certain kind of existential richness, a depth of vision and understanding to see the point.

Worship with Integrity

Alan Stout

Editor, “Worship with Integrity”   Pamplona, Spain

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Editorial Note: This article first appeared at “Worship with Integrity” on April 13, 2015. It has been re-published here with the author’s permission.

As a young 20-something I thought it was normal to be angry and anxious, and depressed as I was. Thanks be to God in 2009 I began asking for help from a counselor and spiritual director named Greg McBride, who was recommended to me by my pastor. The work Greg helped me to do was some of the most personal and difficult I could have imagined, but also the most rewarding. That is because in the course of working with him, I learned to rediscover my integrity.

Integrity, he defined, is when we act according to our true nature. As a people dead to sin and reborn in Christ through the gift of baptism, we now have a heavenly dignity, a divine sonship. But in a world of sin, we often fail to respond in our integrity to the gift of our baptismal dignity. A good measure for whether we are acting within our integrity, I have found, is being attentive to when we are loving, honest, grateful and forgiving. Each of these virtues must be exercised together, for each virtue contains the others. Love, for example, naturally contains gratitude, honesty, and forgiveness. I have been meditating on these four words since I began my work with Greg, and on how I can always be acting in each of these four ways. Still, it is useful to define what we mean by each of these words.

Loving: C.S. Lewis wrote a book about the “Four Loves” illustrating that the ancient Greeks had many different words to describe love.url But perhaps the best definition of love for our integrity is our own. That is, it is the way we are when we are first filled with love. Note well that this is not a “do,” but rather it is a “be.” This is because God does not have something he wants us to “do” nearly as much as he has someone he wants us to “be.” Of course, actions descend from being. I cannot act hatefully and at the same time “be” loving.

Honest: This is not the same kind of honesty as when someone rudely says, “I’m just being honest.” No, that kind of being honest is no honesty at all, because it is not spoken from a place of ownership. “Honest” means that we say something that we are willing to look back at years later and say, “Yes, I stand by that.” Because honesty is not something that we are always comfortable using, or at least haven’t learned to use well, this kind of looking inward takes some time and patience.

Grateful: Gratitude is the recognition that I am entitled to nothing, and that all I have is gift. Saying words of love and honesty won’t go far unless there is also deep gratitude for what the other is to us and how good God has been to us. Gratitude keeps us humble, it keeps us in perspective; it keeps us remembering the past well, and not in resentment or in vanity.

Forgiving:  Forgiveness has to be given to ourselves and to others. If we lack forgiveness, we have not fully given up our desire to control circumstances or punish another. Forgiveness is the key to freedom that allows us to be fully confident in whatever it is we wish to do or say.

Loving, honest, grateful and forgiving, when exercised together, create a sort of rule by which we can judge our behaviors, in order to measure whether they are within our integrity or not. For myself, I cannot recall a time when I have been acting within my integrity and have sinned. For the times that I have sinned, I can always identify one of these four ways in which I had been lacking.

Acting within our integrity is particularly interesting when we consider our real identity: that is, our dignity in divine worship as sons and daughters of God, during the liturgy of the Mass.catholic-mass If I understand that I am God’s beloved son when I pray before the altar of almighty God, I cannot (when in my ‘integrity’) simply cross my arms and plug my ears. Instead, I would by my nature respond with gratitude for Jesus’ sacrifice and the gift to me of the beautiful liturgy. I would be honest in my prayers before God, offering my tiredness, my imperfections and also my genuine love for him. I would be loving both to Jesus and to those around me since I have radically experienced his love. Finally, I would be forgiving both to myself and to those around me, because I would see that I have already been forgiven so much.

The incredible thing is that while we may err in acting within our integrity, our dignity as sons of God never changes. Sometimes we may feel helpless in our weakness against sin, and incapable of responding to God. But that’s only step one, “I can’t.” Step two is recognizing that there is one who can and will help us, and that one is the Holy Spirit. Amazingly, we are never without the gift of the Holy Spirit, who helps us to act within our integrity as we rediscover our dignity as true sons and daughters of God. In fact it is only by the Holy Spirit that we can worship with integrity and be transfigured; it is because of the Holy Spirit that our prayers and worship can be perfected. God has condescended to us to invite our perfected worship to be returned to him as a perfect offering and sacrifice.

Considering our integrity may be a particularly fruitful place to start for deepening the spiritual richness of our lives of liturgical prayer. When we serve at the altar with integrity, we embrace the crying babies and put off our judgment of others. When we act within our integrity we, by our natures, choose to swing the thurible a little more profoundly, to read from the lectionary a bit more thoughtfully, to do a bit more preparation and study outside of Mass, to offer our celebration or participation at Mass with genuine art. In return, we have the privilege of diving deeper into the mystery of God’s love for us, and we become luminous to those around us.

Evangelization to the Children of God

Matt Miller
Director, Office of Worship,
Diocese of Evansville, Indiana

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Editorial Note: The following reflection was delivered as part of Morning Prayer during the Center for Liturgy’s recent Symposium, Liturgy and Vocation. We are grateful for the author’s permission to post it here.

You likewise know how we exhorted every one of you,
as a father does his children—
how we encouraged and pleaded with you
to make your lives worthy
of the God who calls you to his kingship and glory.
That is why we thank God constantly
that in receiving his message from us, you took it,
not as the word of men, but as it truly is,
the word of God at work within you who believe.
1 Thessalonians 2:11-13

To exhort, to encourage, to plead…

Saint Paul presents us with a very relatable, very human image in this passage—the comparison of his work with the people of Thessalonica to that of a father and his children. This “child-like” idea is one that we have heard other places in Scripture (I think Jesus may have mentioned something about it—“Let the children come to me. . .”), and perhaps the child is where our attention is first drawn in delving deeper into the reading. jesus-childrenIt is a scene all of us have witnessed and with which we can sympathize—the enthusiastic and/or petulant child who is asking questions, trying new things and testing boundaries, in need of some exhortation, encouragement, and even some pleading from a nearby father (or mother or grandparent or caregiver). In all honesty, we have all been that child at one point or another in our lives, and we probably still can be that child given the right circumstances. But hopefully, as we have grown in wisdom and stature, we have learned to put aside childish things while still retaining the appropriate child-like faith.

Let us turn now to the other character Paul gives us—the father. Like above, we have all had those moments in our lives to be as a parent or caregiver to someone: to exhort, to encourage, and to plead. I propose that we focus on the father and what we can learn from his actions. With Paul’s “father-figure,” there are three components on which I would like to reflect.

First, “we exhorted . . . we encouraged and pleaded. . . ” The father here is doing more than just asking nicely or offering some suggestions—“If you would not mind to do these things I’ve been talking about at some point, I’d really appreciate it. Or not. It’s up to you.” It is much more than that. There is urgency and passion to the actions of the father, as it should be between a parent and a child. Is not this urgency and especially passion what Pope Francis has been emphasizing?In his apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, the Holy Father remarks:

Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. This means that we are to be God’s leaven in the midst of humanity. It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way. (Evangelii Guadium, §114)

Is that not what Paul is saying to the Thessalonians? In our own world, do we share the Gospel with urgency and passion? Do we exhort, encourage, and even plead when need be?2013111110joy_of_the_gospel_300Second, “we exhorted every one of you . . .” The father, the parent, does not get to pick and choose among the children whom to exhort, encourage, and plead—although some children may need more than others. Pope Francis quotes his predecessor Paul VI when he reminds us that “No one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord” (Gaudete in Domino, §22). Are there people among us with whom we choose not to exhort, encourage or plead? Why do we exclude them? Why would we want to exclude them?

Which leads us to the last point: “in receiving the message from us you took it, not as the word of men, but as it truly is. . . .” Just as the parent does not get to pick and choose among the children, the parent also does not pick and choose the message,to make it up along the way (although it may feel that way to parents and children out there at times), or do it for their own benefit or merit (although you cannot beat a quality “World’s Best Dad” coffee mug).206ab038bb2f72ab607e35fdc4e5525d The exhortations, encouragements, and pleading have their source and roots in something bigger than the parent—they are hopefully rooted in love, in wanting the good for the other. Pope Francis reminds us that “If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good . . . and ‘life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others’.” (EG, §§9, 10). Christ came and offered up his life in order to give life to us, and his Gospel continues to exhort, to encourage, and plead with us today to do the same. That is where our dignity lies; that is where true fulfillment awaits us. And if we truly want this life for ourselves, are not we missing the point if we do not wish it for others as well?

As we spend the next few days in study, prayer and fellowship, let us take Saint Paul’s example to heart. May we never cease our exhortations, our encouragement and our pleading. May we open ourselves to be evangelizers to all without discrimination. And may we stay rooted in the Gospel of Christ, who is the source of all vocations.

The Summer at Oblation

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

MTS Student, History of Christianity, University of Notre Dame

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Dear Readers,

I write to introduce myself. If you are a faithful follower of this blog, you may recognize me as a regular contributor. While I will continue to write for Oblation during these summer months, I have also been handed the added responsibilities of editing and publishing – tasks which I take up with great joy and gratitude. I will essentially act as a kind of pons, a bridge between our authors and you. I will be assisting Tim and Carolyn with their editorial responsibilities by facilitating Oblation’s regular production of first-rate theological pieces amidst the many conferences and events taking place over the summer.

I look forward to serving you, our readers, as well as to the interactions and dialogue that we will engage in together over the coming months. Please do not hesitate to reach out, and please continue to support Oblation by reading and sharing our pieces on your own social media sites!

Yours in Christ,

Anthony J. Oleck

University of Notre Dame, ’14, MTS ’16

Assistant Rector, Fisher Hall