Tag Archives: Church Life

The End of Beginnings: The New Church Life

Tim O'MalleyWhen I first purchased my home, I learned very quickly about how to care for the rose bushes on the side of our house. In order to let the flowers blossom to their full potential, it was necessary to prune them with some degree of regularity (a lesson I learned the hard way after the first summer).

In an analogous manner, the Center for Liturgy has been responsible for two “growing” publications in the Institute for Church Life, both of which require a bit of pruning. We first started up a blog connecting the celebration of the liturgy to the spiritual life. Quickly, we discovered that Oblation reached an audience that we didn’t know was interested in liturgical prayer: young adults. We grew so large, that we began to publish not simply once or twice a week but daily. In the four years that the blog has been in existence, we have seen significant growth from 15% in year 1 to 40% over the last year. This blog has become a trusted voice in liturgical formation, especially among Millennials, throughout the United States. It has also become a space to feature the insights of the entire Institute for Church Life, in some sense, becoming a project that was much bigger than the Center for Liturgy.

At roughly the same time, we started up an academic publication for the Institute for Church Life, aptly entitled Church Life. This journal has been marked by its beauty, its serious study of the implications of evangelization in pastoral and social life, and for doing non-desk bound theology (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, no. 133). Our first issue, with minimal advertising and a somewhat difficult platform for reading, had viewership of 25,000 in the first year alone. We wanted more people to be able to read the pastoral theology of John Cavadini, Cyril O’Regan, Ann Astell, and more. But, the digital platform we used was too clunky, too hard to share.

Beginning last year, with the help of a new communications director, we concluded that it was time to do some pruning of these publications.  Beginning in February, we will be launching a new site (churchlife.nd.edu), which will include:

  1. Four major essays per month, dealing with theological, sociological and cultural themes related to the pastoral life of the Church. If you’re interested in submitting an essay, see our call for papers.
  2. In addition, we will have regular shorter articles that will respond to present events or pastoral needs in the Church today. These shorter pieces will include the voices of regular columnists, as well as occasional contributors from around the globe.
  3. The blog Oblation will cease to exist under that name (old articles will be migrated to the new site) but instead become Church Life’s official blog, still concerned with themes related to young adult spiritual life and often the liturgy. We’ll be publishing on Oblation through the beginning of February. When we transition to our new platform, we will re-direct readers to churchlife.nd.edu.
  4. Lastly, within the next year, we will be launching a series of podcasts and other forms of digital media dealing with preaching, catechesis, liturgy, and the spiritual life.

Through this four-fold approach, the Institute for Church Life will be at the forefront of the academic study of evangelization in the modern world (catechesis, liturgy, preaching, and social action), providing accessible pastoral resources for those in ministry, as well as engaging in the digital acropolis. We see ourselves as writing a new chapter in both the history of Notre Dame, as well as the American Church.

We hope you’ll come and join us.

For updates relative to progress around our journal, visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter.


Timothy P. O’Malley, PhD

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Editor, Church Life




An Interview with Anna Keating of The Catholic Catalogue

AnnaKeatingBAnna Keating

Co-Editor, The Catholic Catalogue

Editor’s Note: This article will appear in the Institute for Church Life’s journal that will be re-launched in February of 2016.   

“Being Catholic means living a life.  The practice precedes the theology.” This is the premise behind the eclectic and ever-engaging collection of multi-media material—articles, reviews, playlists, video—that makes up The Catholic Catalogue website, with a book by the same name forthcoming in 2016 (Image Press). Anna Keating runs the website and is co-author of the book alongside Melissa Musick. She is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in First Things, Salon, America, and The Denver Post, among other publications; and co-owner of Keating Woodworks, a handmade furniture studio.

Keating’s writing has often focused on what it means to be a wife and mother in the Church and the world today. The following written interview for Church Life focuses on several topics that might help to flesh out a pastoral theology of women, in the vein of Wendell Berry’s “logic of vocation.”

What are your thoughts on the oft-discussed issue of whether women today can really “have it all”, and more generally on the attempt to balance work, family, life, and faith? How does a healthy view of marriage fit in?

I’m a little uncomfortable with the expression “having it all.” Who has everything they want all the time? There are ups and down in any kind of life, especially in communal life. And suffering is also part of life. Everyone suffers, and suffering doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ve done anything wrong. Sometimes, as in childbirth, it’s just part of the process. Most of my greatest blessings have involved suffering, compromise and sacrifice. I don’t think anyone has it all, all the time, much less the perfect life that the phrase implies.

Still I do think there’s a way in which women can have rich, full, meaningful and well-rounded lives. I’m married, raising two small children, running a website, and working on a book. There are ups and downs, good days and bad days, but I feel extremely grateful to have meaningful work both as a mother and a writer. And yet, it’s an ongoing process of discovering what’s best for me and what works for my family. If you’re open to love and relationship, meaningful work and compromise, I think there’s a way in which you can have all those things.

I married when I was 23, and a year out of college. When I was 22 and feeling called to be married, I worried—more than I now like to admit—about what other people would think about my decision to marry at a relatively young age.

I read and admired writers like Hanna Rosin, who wrote in The Atlantic recently that college girls today see a serious suitor the way they did an unplanned pregnancy in the nineteenth century, “a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.” That squared with my experience of how many of my peers felt at the time.

When I was 22 it bothered me that getting married young made me look less ambitious in other people’s eyes. It was difficult when people I admired, my professors and peers, voiced concern. My grandmother said, “I thought you wanted to be a writer.” I know good people worried that I wouldn’t be able to “have it all,” both rewarding work, and a husband and a family.

But there is nothing unambitious, in my mind, about wanting to be in loving, meaningful relationships, married or single. Those take time and effort too. They don’t just happen, any more than a good job just happens. And the quality of our relationships and friendships, to a great extent, determine the quality of our lives.

Too often I think we assume that a “successful” life for young women needs to follow a script, or that the measure of success is income, or status. According to the current script, the twenties are supposed to be a time of professional achievement as a single person, and then in one’s thirties career-minded people are supposed to suddenly settle down and have one or two kids, while still pursuing their careers with the same intensity. I didn’t want to live my life, holding the person I loved the most at arm’s length, or waiting for the socially acceptable time to make a commitment. There is no good time to get married or have kids.

Right after graduating from Notre Dame, I tried, briefly, to follow the script. I moved 700 hundred miles away from my then boyfriend, to take a job at a magazine in New York, but we were both unhappy with the distance. One day I was walking around Midtown with a co-worker and complaining about having met the right person “too soon” when he set me straight. He said, “So you feel sorry for yourself because you’ve found what most people are looking for, before anyone else has found it.”  The next day I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself. I quit my job and starting making plans to move back to South Bend, knowing that I would need to find a job there and that this would mean getting married sooner rather than later. For me, that was the right decision. It complicated my life, because it introduced a husband, and eventually kids, into the equation, and I had to find work in South Bend, but it also meant being myself instead of trying to be someone else.

The lives of people I admire are often messy and meandering. When I met the right person, I had a lot of dreams, but I didn’t have a plan for my life. Neither one of us had a “career” when we got married, but we promised to help each other, and support each other, as best we could, as we figured out how to be married, how to be parents, and how to pay our bills together. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but it wouldn’t have been smooth sailing if we had been single either. I just dove in and put my relationship first, and then worked out my career as I went along, and eventually things started falling into place on the professional side.

For most people, it’s an ongoing struggle to try to balance all the work that goes into creating a life, especially if you have children. In my case, it helps to have support. For example, I rely a lot on my in-laws who watch my kids, including a seven-month-old, two days a week while I write the book. They have done so much for me. The modern idea of family is so small; it’s usually just the nuclear family, or just the couple. It helps to cast a broader net and to live closer to extended family, or close community, even when that complicates the picture in terms of added responsibilities.

Looking back, I wish I could tell my 22-year-old self not to worry. I’ve been married for seven years and have two children. My kids and my husband are my greatest blessings, but I’m also very grateful for my work, first as a teacher, and now as a writer. I’m finishing a book on Catholic spirituality and practice with my mom, Melissa Musick, which will come out in 2016 from Image (the Catholic imprint of Penguin Random House), and working on this project has been a dream come true.

Instead of “having it all” I think more about taking turns and supporting each other. I was a teacher and supported my husband when he was in graduate school. He now makes and designs furniture and has supported me both financially and emotionally as I’ve been working on The Catholic Catalogue. So, we’ve just had to rely on one another and be patient with the unfolding of our lives. (I say this as an extremely impatient person. It’s something I’m learning.)

Wendell Berry once said that the logic of vocation is very different from the logic of career. And I think that’s true. He says, “You must refuse to accept the common delusion that a career is an adequate context for a life. The logic of success insinuates that self-enlargement is your only responsibility, and that any job, any career will be satisfying if you succeed in it. But I can tell you, on the authority of much evidence, that a lot of people highly successful by that logic are painfully dissatisfied. I can tell you further that you cannot live in a career, and that satisfaction can come only from your life. To give satisfaction, your life will have to be lived in a family, a neighborhood, a community . . . to which you belong.”

That has been true for me. We’re called to be faithful to our callings as Christians, and keep at it, not necessarily to be successful. And vocations are not just about the work you get paid to do, they’re about being who you are called to be. Being a mother or father is incredibly important and meaningful work. Many men and women feel called to be parents but they don’t know what to do with that longing because it doesn’t make sense in terms of the logic of career alone. It’s not about making more money or traveling the world. It means living a sort of monk-like existence when your children are small, and it’s not something you can put on your CV. But, there are a lot of amazing things in life that you can’t put on your CV.

Looking back, my twenties were a time of growth and discovery, but it was self-discovery in relationship: with my husband, my students, my children, family, and friends. At the end of the day, for men and women, even if you’re called to be single, I think you often have to make your relationships a priority.

 How has your identity as a Catholic woman (and your understanding of it) developed throughout your own history?

When I was younger I identified as a Catholic feminist. As I’ve grown, I think of myself less in terms of those categories.

I’m just a Catholic, someone in need of God’s mercy and the sacraments. That doesn’t mean there aren’t larger issues that still need to be addressed in terms of the role of women in the Church, because there are, but my identity as “just a Catholic,” has its roots, I think, in the way I was raised. I never felt like a second-class Catholic because I was a girl. My sisters and I were baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ just like our brothers were. We were all baptized “priest, prophet, and king.” I was raised to believe that men and women weren’t just equal; they were both of infinite value.

What are the biggest obstacles facing Christian women who seek a robust vocation today, on a larger cultural level?

 The Church is a slow-moving institution. This is good at times, but it can be challenging at other times. The Church needs to continue to work to include women’s voices. Some Catholics don’t know what to do with laywomen, or even women religious, in leadership. And of course, we don’t have enough women in leadership positions in the Church. I would love to see women returned to the diaconate, for example.

But Pope Francis is working on the need for female leadership in the Church. He’s said, “The feminine genius is needed whenever we make important decisions.” And it’s clear that he’s been trying to make changes, for instance, by appointing the first woman, Sr. Luzia Premoli, to a Vatican Congregation. But clearly the work is ongoing.

Still, most of the issues on the day-to-day level in the Church are people problems, not theological problems. There are some people in leadership who don’t know how to relate to women, and perhaps, don’t want to hear their stories.

On the parish level, we need people who are more loving and compassionate to one another, who are willing to listen and learn, and to pass on the faith in all its fullness. If you have a loving community, as a Catholic woman, you feel valued and appreciated. If you have a pastor who treats women like children, of course, you feel undervalued.

What do women need to hear and see more of from their pastors and parish leaders?

Pastors and parish leaders need to be open to women’s gifts. I have a wonderful priest, Fr. Drew Gawrych, CSC, who came up to me at a church picnic and asked me to get involved in a mother’s group at our parish, after some women in the community told him they thought there was a need. He introduced me to a lot of wonderful and holy women that I wouldn’t otherwise have known in my church.

I think the Church needs more pastors like him—men who are comfortable with women in various roles, and who are responsive to the needs of women in their communities. Fr. Drew often has women speak, sharing their conversion stories from RCIA, for example. And I have learned so much from hearing these women’s stories at Mass. It’s been a gift. And I could mention many other priests I’ve known who are like him.

When I was growing up, my home diocese, the diocese of Colorado Springs, had a wonderful bishop, Richard Hanifen. He played a crucial role in my faith formation and decision to remain Catholic. I’ll never forget what a humble and gracious man he was. He welcomed my questions about women priests, for example, and we used to have wonderful, if spirited, discussions. He never made me feel like the Church was afraid of dialogue, and he treated me like I mattered, even though I was all of sixteen at the time.

When I was in high school my mother was the Catholic campus minister at Colorado College. I’ll never forget how Bishop Hanifen would sit in the back of Shove Chapel and listen to her speak. He was a Bishop in the spirit of Pope Francis, truly a servant of the Servants of God, be they male or female. He knew how lead, but he also knew how to listen. The Church needs more women in leadership, but it also needs more priests and bishops like Drew Gawrych and Richard Hanifen.

Also on this grander scale, what unique, positive aspects about being a Catholic woman are worth acknowledging and fleshing out?

One of the things I love most about being a Catholic woman are the ways in which the Church honors and remembers the holy women who have gone before us. Of course, Catholics have a special devotion to Mary the Mother of God, and Mary Magdalene, the Apostle to the Apostles, but all the women saints play a crucial role and are honored by the Church.

When I was a kid I chose Teresa of Avila to be my confirmation saint. I liked that she had a big personality and said funny things like, “May God protect me from gloomy saints.”

Teresa of Avila demonstrated to me that the Church valued strong and intelligent women. She founded seventeen convents, wrote four books, is considered one of the masters of Christian prayer, and is a Doctor of the Church.

As a kid, I liked that she was feminine and joyful, that she was known to dance while playing the castanets.

As an adult, my relationship with Teresa changed and deepened. I became more inspired by her recognition of her own sinfulness and the need for continual conversion. The idea that God is calling each of us to holiness and that for each of us that will look like becoming more fully ourselves. Also, Teresa’s life bears witness to the fact that we can experience some measure of God’s love in prayer.

Your online project, The Catholic Catalogue, is described as “a field guide to the daily acts that make up a Catholic life.” Can you tell us more about it—i.e. its scope, its future, and what makes it an important contribution to the current conversation?

Sure. The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts That Make Up A Catholic Life, will be released by Image Press in 2016. It’s an illustrated field guide, designed to help the reader identify and celebrate both the seasons of life—from birth to death, baptism to funeral—and the seasons of the Church year.

When I was growing up my parents brought the feasts and fasts of the liturgical year into our home. It was strange and lovely to grow up in a home in which the passage of time was imbued with such meaning and significance. It wasn’t just one thing after another. Life was a journey, onward to meet Jesus. We were, as St. John Paul II said, “Wayfarers, pilgrims of the Absolute.”

I went to public school for K–12, so I knew other kids weren’t being forced to pray around the Advent wreath or fast on Good Friday, but when I went to college, I discovered that other Catholics hadn’t grown up with some of these traditions either. I didn’t know many students at Notre Dame who had chanted night prayer, or visited monasteries, or protested nuclear weapons with Catholic Workers, or kept St. Lucy’s day with breakfast in bed.

And yet, despite the absence of tradition in their lives, the people around me had a deep longing for spirituality and tradition—especially as friends began to start families, in their thirties. It wasn’t uncommon to see someone on Facebook ask, “We’re looking to start some family traditions. Any ideas?” Most people, who were nominally Catholic or seeking, had no idea where to begin. The traditions of their Polish, Vietnamese, German or Irish great-grandparents had been lost. That question: “How do I begin?” was the germ of the idea for The Catalogue, both the website and the book.

Because of the way I was brought up, my experience of being Catholic has always meant living a life. Being Catholic was and is more than just a serious of intellectual assents or political talking points. The practice preceded the theology (and the politics).

But it’s clear that many of the ancient customs of the Church—eating together, going on pilgrimage, keeping watch with the sick, attending births and deaths and keeping days and seasons—have been overshadowed by the demands of contemporary life. We’ve lost some of the richness of what it means to live a Catholic life. There are literally thousands of practices that can help us transform our hearts and give us some measure of wonder and peace.

I’ve spent the last couple of years learning about these practices for the book and I feel more connected to my faith as a result of incorporating many of them into my life.

Why do we make Confessions? What is a Byzantine Fast? How do I pray with icons? How does someone discover a vocation? What’s the deal with abbey ale or Catholic tattoos or consecrated virgins? In trying to answer these questions, and others, for the website and the book, I’ve also been answering them for myself. The goal of The Catholic Catalogue, both the website and the book project, was to help people make room in their busy lives for mystery and awe, meaning and joy, whether they’re encountering Catholic spirituality and culture for the first time or have been steeped in it.

I’ve been fortunate to work with other Catholic women on the project. My co-author, Melissa Musick, is a columnist for National Catholic Reporter, and our illustrator, Chau Nguyen, is a friend who also graduated from Notre Dame in 2006. So it’s been a collaborative process. We’ve also been very fortunate to work with our editor, Gary Jansen, on the manuscript. And our readers online (we have about 60,000 followers on Facebook) have been wonderful, offering support, asking questions, sharing posts, even giving interviews about their experiences with some of these faith traditions, many of which will be included in the book. It seems like there’s a hunger for something positive that moves beyond left/right categories.

I think The Catalogue is an important contribution to the ongoing conversation, because it emphasizes diverse practices and the ”way” of faith, and de-emphasizes the divisions, which often receive too much attention, especially online.

Catholic Education and the New Evangelization


Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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

Editor, Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization

Contact Author

The Notre Dame Center for Liturgy and the Institute for Church Life is happy to make available our newest edition of Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization.   This edition’s theme is Catholic Education and the New Evangelization.   In the coming weeks, we’ll be featuring selections from individual articles from the journal.   But to whet your appetite, here is the editorial for the edition.   

In a series of lectures delivered at Yale University (later published as Education at the Crossroads), Jacques Maritain offered an assessment of the state of education in 1943. He described several misconceptions relative to the education in his day. The fundamental misconnection for Maritain was developing an approach to education that does not consider toward what end education should be directed. While educational science can offer pedagogical insight to the teacher, it does not provide a vision of the sort of person that this education seeks to form. A school, for example, may be made up of a cadre of astute pedagogues, who each have distinct understandings of humanity’s ultimate purpose. For ChurchLife2.2some, education is successful when a person is made a critical thinker, able to pierce beyond the power structures set up by human society. Others may argue that the end of an education is the creation of a young man or woman who enters into society ready to contribute in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The government, partially responsible for setting the curriculum of this school, may offer other ends to consider, embodied in standardized tests and required curricula.

The existence of Catholic education remains an interruptive and thus evangelizing force to this limited vision of education. At the heart of Catholic education is the reality that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Word made flesh, the One sent from the Father, seeks to sanctify our humanity through love. Other forms of education may seek to promote goodness, kindness, and compassion, but a Catholic education seeks nothing less than the slow transformation of our humanity into an icon of self-giving love. In the science classroom, we gaze at up at the stars and discover the wonder of a creation that is being ever renewed, ever expanded, and we praise the Creator for the gift of this chaotic order. In the English classroom, the beauty of speech, of narratives that draw us into the drama of being Moonhuman, slowly reveal to us the depths of the humanity that Christ came to save. In theology, that subject which epitomizes the strangeness of the Catholic school vis-à-vis non-religious forms of education, our reason learns to savor those salutary images found in the Scriptures, in Christian doctrine, in the social teaching of the Church, and in the life of prayer—and slowly, our vision of what constitutes reality is transfigured. Our education is not about us, it’s not about the future elite university that we will attend; it is about the transfiguration of our humanity in love. This cosmic and eschatological vision of humanity, transfigured through Christ, is the ultimate end of any education that calls itself Catholic. Education seeks to form human beings capacitated for gratitude.

Perhaps this is why the most important subject in a Catholic school’s curriculum is the Eucharist itself. Not simply theological instruction regarding what constitutes the Church’s robust Eucharistic teaching. Rather, that full, conscious, and active participation in the Eucharistic rites of the Church whereby every facet of our humanity is lifted up to the Father through the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Our failures in the classroom, our being turned down by the college of our dreams, the broken family and friendships that mark the life of an adolescent are lifted up to the Father, offered as a Eucharistic sacrifice of love, and transformed with the bread and wine offered on the altar. Teachers at such schools (whose salaries are low and whose extra-curricular responsibilities are high) dare to perceive their work not as a series of tasks to be performed but a Eucharistic offering of self whereby their attention to grading, their answering of student emails, the failures and successes of teaching are integral to their vocation. The centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the school is a constant reminder that Catholic education does not exist simply to worship at the altar of success, of excellence, of technological innovation that drives an economy of consumption. Rather, Catholic education exists to restore all things in Christ, all aspects of being a student, of being a teacher, as we enter into more deeply into the intellectual and spiritual richness of the Church.


Indeed, this is why the Catholic school cannot be separated from the educational mission of the parish. Schools focusing exclusively upon the educational aims implicit in contemporary pedagogy will cease meditating upon the vision of humanity presented by Christ, a memory constantly savored in the Eucharistic life of the parish. In the parish, our humanity is transformed not simply through intellectual formation—by cultivating critical thought, succeeding in standardized tests, or chasing down the latest educational fad. Instead, the entirety of human life is gradually lifted up to the Father through the Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Women and men discover alternative ways of being human, ones in which faith, hope, and love are the supreme virtues. The parish, and its practice of formation that begins at birth and concludes with death, is a source of constant refreshment to the Catholic schools, seeking to limit their educational aims.

Despite the rather robust vision of Catholic education outlined above, there remains a rather intractable problem. Those of us involved in Catholic education in parishes and schools alike can easily forget that while Catholic institutions may seek to restore all things in Christ, we do so only because we participate in the larger mission of the Church. That is, we do not form our students at Catholic institutions so that they might become faithful alums of our school. We do not want them to remember fondly that the highlight of their immersion into Christ’s life took place at the ages of fourteen or twenty-one. Rather, for our Catholic students, we seek to promote faith in the Church itself, because the Church is not simply Pope Francis, the bishops, those teachers who are charged with teaching theology. Instead, the Church is the Body of Christ, a sacrament that mediates divine love to the world through the glorious poverty of the preached Word, of the sacramental life of the Church. At times, such faith is difficult. Our leaders, both ordained and lay, may fail to carry out this self-giving love. The preaching, the sacramental life of the Church, may be performed in a perfunctory manner, which seemingly deadens the faith of those gathered into this Body. But we cannot dismiss the Church, because it is within this Body that we come to encounter Christ Himself.

Thus, if we as Catholic educators really want to form our students in the mission of Catholic education, then we’ll teach them not simply a love for the intellectual life, for service, even for leading prayer services. Instead, we’ll teach them a love for the Christ who comes to us in bread once bread and wine once wine. We’ll show them that the Catholic school’s deepest identity is learned in the wise but foolish school of the Church in which intellect and power and prestige are burned away by Christ’s own love. StJosephSchool

Catholic educational institutions, therefore, have quite a mission to uphold. Not one composed by a committee of faculty, staff, and students. Not one handed down from a diocesan office. Rather, the mission is nothing less than the transformation of all humanity into an icon of Christ’s own love for the life of the world. Catholic education is concerned about the marginalized, those perceived by society and culture alike as unworthy of education, precisely because of the ultimate vision of reality in which it operates. We see reality, all of creation, as a gift to be savored.

Thus, this edition of Church Life contemplates the ultimate vision of gift that is to direct Catholic educational institutions. It does not attend to issues in educational policy or novel approaches to pedagogy developed in journals of educational philosophy. Instead, in this issue, the reader is invited to consider the telos, the ultimate aim of Catholic education as the renewal of humanity in Christ. In this way, it seeks not simply to make an argument relative to what constitutes Catholic education in parish and school alike. Rather, we hope that through this vision, those involved in the educational mission of the Church will discover that their own vision of their work will be transformed.    

A full pdf of our edition on Catholic Education and the New Evangelization may be found here.


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.

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.


Silence and Seminary Formation: James Keating in Nova et Vetera

In the most recent edition of Nova et Vetera, Church Life columnist Deacon James Keating writes on the role of silence in seminary formation.  Keating notes

Silence, then, cradles the dawning of truth about oneself and God. Most significantly, silence transports truth to that place within us that ignites and sustains conversion. Silence is the essential medium for union with the Trinity, which provokes a change of heart. As noted above, silence is not emptiness but a fullness of anticipated union, a union fostered by the activity of listening and desire. Silence is filled with rapt listening and eager desire.  Silence reaches its crescendo in the act of self-gift, a quiet handing over of oneself in love. Silence is not the absence of words but the fullness of presence, a presence ordered toward gift.  What we gaze at in silence when we pray, beholding the mystery of Christ, is paradoxically an action, His act of free self-donation (310).

Keating’s article, though written in the context of seminary formation, strikes me as, mutatis mutandi, equally true of formation into full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy.  If in the liturgy, we are to offer the fullness of our existence to the Father through the Son, it seems pivotal that we enter into the interior silence where we discover our authentic “selves”.  That we cease being distracted by the possibility of a new email, a text message, some communication that takes us away from the central liturgical act.  Liturgical mystagogy, in an age of noise, will not simply be concerned with teaching theological truths or the history of the liturgy–it will teach us to abide in the silence of the Triune God.

Those seeking to read further, may click here to subscribe.  Or you may contact the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy directly for a copy of the article.


Church Life: A Journal for the New Evangelization (Spring 2012)–Theological Imagination and Evangelization


Here is the most recent edition of Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization.  The theme for this issue is the theological imagination and evangelization.  Columns by Larry Cunningham, Christian Smith, Fr. Virgil Elizondo, and more!  Also, articles by John Cavadini, Msgr. Michael Heintz, Colleen Moore, David Fagerberg, and Lenny DeLorenzo.   Enjoy!

Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization (Spring 2012)

“Church Life” Coming February 2012


So remember when I promised a series of reflections on the O Antiphons.  Oops.  It turns out that with the end of the semester and a couple of looming projects, those texts haven’t been written yet.

The major project has been a new publication for the Institute for Church Life (ICL),
aptly entitled Church Life:  A Journal for the New Evangelization.  In this free, online, quarterly publication, the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy will harness the collective energies of the ICL in articulating the theological and pastoral foundations of the Church’s new evangelization.  For those of you in the know, Church Life is the journal replacing Assembly:  A Journal of Liturgical Theology, published through Liturgy Training Publications and the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy.

Each issue will begin with a series of columns on themes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

  • John Cavadini, director of the ICL, member of the International Theological Commission, and Associate Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, will treat the role of Christian doctrine in the Catechism.
  • Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., a Benedictine monk at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon and professor of theology at Mount Angel Seminary and the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome, unfolds a liturgical theology, steeped in the sacramental wisdom of the Church (and thus, with practical consequences!).
  • Deacon James Keating–of the Institute for Priestly Formation at Creighton–muses upon the freedom and gift of morality when understood as life in Christ.
  • Larry Cunningham, a leading scholar and teacher in the Department of Theology at Notre Dame, discusses the place of the “heart” in Christian spirituality.
  • Fr. Virgil Elizondo, a leading pastoral theologian at Notre Dame, considers the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the continued evangelization of the world.
  • Finally, Christian Smith, Professor of Sociology and Director of Notre Dame’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society, draws out pastoral conclusions from his magisterial analysis of the National Study of Youth and Religion.

Then, in the second part of the journal, we will include a series on articles on the new evangelization.  Our first issue will deal with the theme of evangelization in general. Articles for this issue include:

  • John Cavadini, “Evangelization, Catechesis, and the Mystery of Christ:  The Catechetical Legacy of Blessed John Paul II”
  • Timothy O’Malley, “Three Obstacles to the New Evangelization:  A Theological, Pastoral, and Cultural Analysis of Parish Life.”
  • Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, “The Dignity of the Human Person:  A Catholic Doctrine.”
  • Elizabeth Scalia (a.k.a. “The Anchoress”), “Catholics Online: Cogs in a Divine Whirlygig.”

The last part of the journal will feature a pastoral book essay (this time on liturgical formation in Alexander Schmemann’s The Eucharist, Edith Humphrey’s Grand Entrance:  Worship on Earth as in Heaven, and Yves Congar’s At the Heart of Christian Worship). Finally, we conclude with an essay by a minister for the new evangelization.  Future issues of the journal in 2012 will treat Evangelization and Art; Evangelization and the Rites of Return; and, Evangelization and Catholic Social Teaching.

Once this journal launches in February of 2012, Oblation will become the site where the themes of the journal are actively discussed.  For this reason, we will be changing the name of the blog this February to:  Oblation:  Catechesis, Liturgy, and the New Evangelization.  If interested in subscribing to the new journal (all of you already subscribed to Oblation will continue to be signed up once the name change takes place), please contact us at:


Happy Advent to you all.  We’ll continue to publish over the Christmas holiday here at Notre Dame but with less regularity.