Tag Archives: Liturgy

Liturgy and the New Evangelization: Symposium 2016

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

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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Register for Liturgy and the New Evangelization

LiturgyandtheNewEvangelization
Over the last several years, the Center for Liturgy has hosted an annual summer gathering attending to the rites reformed by the Second Vatican Council. These summer symposia enabled us to perceive again the theological, ritual, and devotional genius of the reformed Rites of the Council.

Yet, in the course of our conversation, it became clear that the primary concern of our participants was not simply on the reformed Rites of the Second Vatican Council nor a re-reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium. That is, there was a sense that the major concern of our era is not the implementation of a post-conciliar liturgical vision but responding to those new signs of the times that the documents don’t fully address.

We heard from campus ministers, who acknowledged that they are working with a diminishing number of students, who are not coming to Mass at all. We heard from directors of catechesis that there is declining participation in both the sacraments of marriage and infant baptism. Nearly everyone we talked to addressed the difficulty of celebrating the liturgy in parishes where distraction and the busyness of the modern world are obstacles to the flourishing of a liturgical life.

We also heard from the wider Church that the liturgical conflicts that have been so central to those who work in liturgy don’t really matter to them. They’re concerned about the quality of preaching, how to form students (at whatever age) for the sacrament of confirmation, how to draw on a larger repertoire of liturgical music and sacred architecture. And we heard most of all that the translation of the Missal, however despised by those in liturgical scholarship and ministry, is not a major concern among those who offer the sacrifice of praise on a weekly basis. They’re worried about their families, their kids, integrating their jobs and religious practice. The translation neither helped them nor harmed them in this work.

Our conversations during these Symposia reminded me again and again of that famous letter of Romano Guardini, addressing the German bishops in the midst of the Second Vatican Council:

The question is whether the wonderful opportunities now open to the liturgy will achieve their full realization; whether we shall be satisfied with just removing anomalies, taking new situations into account, giving better instruction on the meaning of ceremonies and liturgical vessels or whether we shall relearn a forgotten way of doing things and recapture lost attitudes.

From our conversations, we developed a sense that the liturgical rites of the Church have actually been quite effective in promoting a deeper sense of involvement in Christ’s sacrifice of love among those present in the assembly. But the dire statistics of Pew Studies, the reality of seminarians that are under-formed, of marriages and families in which prayer is not central to identity, and of gradually emptying churches at least in the Northeast and Midwest (and on college campuses as a whole throughout the country) kept intervening. The work of the liturgical movement today is to build a civilization where liturgical prayer can flourish. Where we address the problems of the day not simply through quoting documents, which don’t have credibility for the listener. But return again to the sources of renewal, imagining what it means to live a liturgical life in the 21st century.

This year, we will be hosting our 2016 Symposium precisely on this topic: Liturgy and the New Evangelization. Indeed, we are focusing on this not simply because I wrote a book with this title. Rather, the Center for Liturgy at Notre Dame seeks to solve the problems of this day rather than those of the 1960s. We want to understand, through the research of Christian Smith, how families pass on faith so that liturgical leaders can empower the domestic church. We want to discern how digital media has formed (and at times malformed) the human being, who is to participate in worship. We want to acknowledge the diversity that exists in the American Church, which may open up new avenues for connecting liturgy and spirituality, of “devotional life” and “liturgical life.” We want to know  how liturgy “evangelizes” in the first place through ritual activity, through preaching, through catechesis, and through music. And we want dioceses, high schools, and colleges alike to begin to develop a comprehensive strategy where they celebrate a diversity of liturgical rites as a way of contributing to the work of evangelization in the (post)-modern world. And we want these groups to develop new approaches to catechetical and spiritual formation, grounded in the liturgy, that leads to the fullness of human flourishing, of happiness, of self-gift.

The Center for Liturgy is thus hosting our final Symposia on Liturgy and the New Evangelization as a sign of what is to come.

  • In future summers, we will be hosting a three-year cycle of summer conferences that will form partner dioceses, parishes, and schools in the theological and spiritual principles of the liturgy; in a Eucharistic vision of the world; and in making explicit the intrinsic connection between devotion, social justice, and the liturgy. This event will also eventually have an advanced track, which will consider special topics in liturgical-sacramental ministry.
  • We will be hosting another week that seeks to discern how the principles of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd might influence how we carry out the RCIA, marriage formation, infant baptism, and spiritual formation on college campuses.
  • We will continue to partner with Notre Dame Vision to develop an approach to liturgical music that is not simply grounded in the formation of musical capacities but whose foundation is in the liturgical and theological vision of the Church. It is not enough to form musicians. We need to form liturgical musicians, who know the liturgy, who pray the liturgy, who love the liturgy.
  • And lastly, we will be hitting the road to do workshops, retreats, and other educational events on college campuses throughout the United States (we’re heading to Michigan State, Washington University, and the University of Michigan during this academic year alone).

In this way, the Center for Liturgy seeks to enrich the liturgical and sacramental imagination for the evangelization and transformation of the world. We see liturgical prayer, still, as a unique medium for healing the modern imagination from consumerism, from injustice, from domestic discontent, social isolation, and technological overload.

Join us this summer at Notre Dame as we start to work together on this renewal of the imagination. A renewal that will lead, we believe, to the renaissance of liturgical and sacramental ministry in the 21st century.

 

 

Waiting and Liturgy: A Story of Papal Disappointment

Rose Urankar

Rose Urankar, ’16

Theology and American Studies

Undergraduate Fellow, Center for Liturgy

Thanks to a multitude of blessings, a few of my friends and I were able to go to Philadelphia for Pope Francis’s visit in September.  We even scored a couple of tickets to the Papal Mass, which was arguably the main event of the weekend.  So on Sunday afternoon, with our lucrative tickets in hand, we walked downtown toward the security checkpoints.  We were three hours early—what could go wrong?

This is the sight that greeted us:

papal lines

With jaws agape, we began wading through the sea of people, waiting for the opportunity to enter the secure perimeter.  There must have been a million people packed into three city blocks, but our hope did not falter.  Surely we would make it past this obstacle in an hour or so.

Hours slowly passed as we inched our way down 20th Street, moving at a glacial pace.  To abate our feelings of discouragement, my friends and I prayed together, offering up rosaries, hymns, and chaplets of divine mercy.  On our way, we met hundreds of people, all waiting for the Mass like we were.  We spoke with Christians from New York, Texas, and even Argentina, joining in prayer, song, and conversation.

Yet it was clear that the collective belief of the believers was slowly waning.  At four o’clock, we could hear the bells ringing, indicating the beginning of Mass.  Ok—we had missed the Opening Rites, but we would definitely make it in for the Eucharist, at least.  Right?

Time progressed, but we did not.  We waited, and we learned that waiting is perhaps the most inactive yet infuriating thing you can do. The ordeal was beginning to take a toll on my friends.  One was experiencing back pain and had to crouch on the street, curled up like an armadillo.  Another stopped participating in our conversations and just had to stand in silence.  Eventually, we all resorted to silence and our own thoughts, left to process this bizarre experience in whatever way we could.

I, however, was steadfastly holding onto hope as resolutely as I was holding onto my ticket.  Then, I heard the Communion hymn being sung as we were still deeply embedded in the crowd.  We had been waiting for five hours—five hours—and we had still missed the Eucharist.  I was tired, sore, and frustrated with our circumstances.  Incredulity washed over me as I stood, still quite stationary, among the sea of people.  My frustration came to a rolling boil, bubbling with rhetorical questions that contributed to my mental rhetoric of ridiculous defeat:  Why did this happen?  What was the point?

People walk towards a security checkpoint before entering an area under tighter security to attend Pope Francis events on Saturday, June 26, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

Finally, as the closing hymn played, my friends and I passed through the security checkpoint. The irony was not lost on me that we were entering the space just as the ritual exit was occurring.  My group of friends was reunited but divided in our opinions on what to do next.  Some proposed that we go see the altar, but I was adamantly opposed.  We had missed the Mass; it was over.  Why would we go wading through crowds yet again just to see what we had missed?  I found the nearest patch of grass and sat down in a fury that was deflating quickly to teary hopelessness.

After letting me sit in silence for a little while, one of my friends approached and asked, “How are you feeling?”  With that prompt, I began to pour out all of my feelings of frustration, hopelessness, and depression at missing the Papal Mass, to which we’d been looking forward all weekend.  Even though he’d been feeling the same things, my friend patiently listened.  In turn, each of my friends shared their experiences, and a conversation began as we tried to make sense of the situation.  Certainly some good must have come from this.  We had met lots of wonderful people as we waited, and with them we had shared prayer and song.  Plus, thanks to the marvel that is the Internet, we had read the day’s readings and listened to the homily.

Of course, these revelations do not leave me feeling completely at peace with missing the Papal Mass.  But experiencing and processing these things in community reminds me that, as the Church, our life journeys (including our most frustrating, infuriating, and debilitating moments) are meant to be bound up with the experiences of others.

We are in a solemn liturgical time, finishing with our examination of the End Times over the next few days and moving into Advent, a period of waiting for the coming of Christ.  In these weighty liturgical moments, we are reminded of the struggles we face in our lives, from significant sorrows such as separation and death to daily frustrations brought about by waiting for and being disappointed by the mundane.  But in looking at these struggles through the liturgy, we see them not as singular but communal.  These difficulties are hard to bear on our own, but we are not called to bear them on our own.  Rather, we are called to wait them out with our brothers and sisters, the Church, confident that our liturgical lives, no matter how challenging or mundane, are to be lived alongside each other.

Come to the Yeast

MLewisMadeline Lewis ’17

Theology and English

Undergraduate Fellow, Center for Liturgy

San Francisco is a city for bread-lovers if there ever was one. Scores of bakeries line the city streets, each offering particularly unique loaves to particularly devoted sets of locals. The story of San Francisco bread is a story of the search for hidden treasure. In the mid-1800s, the San Francisco area was abuzz with the pursuit of gold, and bread was an obvious staple for miners on their way to the gold fields. However, in these early mining years, a curious complication arose in the rising bread. Bakers found that the recipes that had resulted in familiar loaves back home garnered different, sour-tasting bread when baked in the San Francisco climate. However, curiously, this unexpected sourness wasn’t necessarily a bad thing: it lent a richness to the bread that began to be especially cherished by the miners in search of gold. This treasured bread became the sourdough bread that we build our sandwiches upon today.

A little while ago, on a warm evening at the beginning of the semester, I was standing on the edge of St. Mary’s lake with my boyfriend. He was peacefully silent, staring out, when all of sudden he started to sniff. He sniffed, and he proclaimed, excitedly: “It smells like good bread!” Of course, I made fun of him at the time. For one thing, I didn’t smell anything that smelled like good bread, only the slight stench of the lake and perhaps the crispness of leaves. I also laughed at his specific insistence that the smell was of “good” bread, and not just your average, ordinary loaf. And so, in the weeks following, I took to periodically exclaiming that it smelled like good bread outside as a small joke that I derived far too much pleasure from.

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I’ve never been to San Francisco, and until about a week ago I’d never read about their thriving bread culture. Learning about this small and wonderful story has been just one result of a fascination with bread that has slowly been growing as the semester has unfolded: a fascination that I can’t help but attribute to that moment by the lake. I totally understand that most people don’t spend their free time watching Youtube videos about how bread is made, voraciously reading lists of the best bakeries in the world, or compulsively cataloguing all the puns that can be made out of the word “yeast”. But lately, bread has been rising up everywhere I look, and it’s made me wonder: what does it mean to look at the world around us and smell bread? And what does it mean to insist upon the distinction that this bread is good?

TheLastSupper

To see our lives in the process of baking would be to trust that we are being kneaded, molded, and warmed into selves that will nourish others. It would mean trusting that a careful Baker is forming our lives with great care, and that we are destined to rise. Perhaps it might also call for a vision of our own unexpected sournesses not as bad but good, with faith that our struggles and sorrows will lend a richness to the dough: a dough that is baking slowly into bread that we have been promised will be. Of course, this is no easy feat, because to look at the world around us and proclaim the smell of good bread is to proclaim all of the aspects of our lives as gift.

To see the world in the process of baking is our challenge as Christians, and the source and summit of this vision of creation is the Eucharist, God’s life-giving bread.

Baking is a process, and at times we may feel that our place in the process is closer to the beginning mayhem of a flour-splattered counter than the ending of a perfect fresh-baked loaf. But each time we come to the Eucharistic feast, we are reminded to praise the process: to proclaim our gratitude for the love of Christ which is molding us into loving loaves through even the messiness and the mayhem. Through the Eucharist, we discover how we are called to look at creation and proclaim that it is good: that it smells like good bread. For, when we receive Christ’s Eucharistic offering, we begin to see all of the aspects of our lives as great gifts of love. Truly, the smell of good bread is everywhere, if our hearts lead our noses to pick up the sacred smell of Christ’s sacrifice of love.

Follow Madeline on Twitter @madlew4

Selfie Worship

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

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

The ubiquitous nature of the selfie has reached a point of becoming comedic. This summer during a baseball game, a number of young women took five or so minutes of selfies, not once looking up to see what was going on during the game. When traveling on planes, it has become normal to see a seatmate pull up her sweatshirt hood, purse her lips, and snap away. Thousands of tourists throughout Rome purchase the selfie stick so that they can take pictures of themselves in front of famous churches, sharing with the world that they were there (yet perhaps never really looking at the church in the first place, only at their own image).

SelfieStick

The comedy of the selfie, of course, became less comedic several weeks ago when a young women, Essena O’Neill, revealed the kind of idolatry that the practice had produced in her. O’Neill declared to her followers:

I’m quitting Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr. Deleted over 2000 photos here today that served no real purpose other than self promotion. Without realising, I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance…Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. It’s contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self absorbed judgement. I was consumed by it.

The selfie, for Ms. O’Neill, was a form of self-worship, an adoration of an image that she could present to her online peers for their consumption. Rather than elicit happiness in her, Ms. O’Neill discovered again and again the surprising emptiness of a like, a favorite, a star. The heart longed for further likes, further adoration to take place. And the constant work of “creating the selfie” never ceased.

AcademicsTweetingIn fact, there is a sense in which much use of social media (whether employing imagery or not) is the creation of selfies for other’s adoration. Even photo-phobic academics tweet out their ideas, longing not simply to participate in conversations but to increase their followers, develop their brand, to be favorited and liked and re-tweeted for all the world to see (sometimes at the expense of the truth and charity alike). The person who tweets their wisdom to the world delights at being noticed by those with prominence, in some way becoming a more important self in the process. I matter because my thoughts have been recognized, acknowledged, taken up by others. I matter. This approach to social media gradually takes over one’s life such that every moment of one’s day is no longer an occasion for contemplation, for existence in the world, but a chance to tweet something out that will increase one’s self-image. The world becomes a house of idols.

This kind of selfie worship (whether of an image or thought) is ruining our capacity for liturgical prayer. In liturgy, we do not create a self before God, seeking to be recognized as beautiful, smart, talented, etc.; rather, we give up on the project of self-creation to begin with. We are to become selfless, which does not mean that we are to hate ourselves. Rather, we are to see the self as fully flourishing insofar as we adore the living God.

In this way, we must see liturgical worship as a form of “play,” which is radically distinct from selfie-worship. To create the selfie may look like play; but often enough the use of the selfie is really a conscious way of constructing a self-image for others to enjoy. Whereas in our celebration of the liturgy:

The practice of the liturgy means that by the help of grace, under the guidance of the Church, we grow into living works of art before God, with no other aim or purpose than that of living and existing in his sight; it means fulfilling God’s Word and ‘becoming as little children’; it means foregoing maturity with all its purposefulness, and confining oneself to play, as David did when he danced before the Ark…The soul must learn to abandon, at least in prayer, the restlessness of purposeless activity; it must learn to waste time for the sake of God, and to be prepared for the sacred game with sayings and thoughts and gestures, without always immediately asking ‘why’? and ‘wherefore’? It must learn not to be continually yearning to do something, to attack something, to accomplish something useful, but to play the divinely ordained game of the liturgy in liberty and beauty and holy joy before God (Romano Guardini, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 71-72).

IncenseThe goal of liturgy is not self-creation, self-formation, self-adoration but self-emptying love. It is to learn to be who we are before God–a redeemed sinner, still learning to utter truthful words of praise to the triune God, who is total gift.

Perhaps, here, the novelist David Foster Wallace in his work Infinite Jest is prescient. We seem to have entered a time in which the goal is not the presentation of a real image of ourselves, of who we are, but a product and a brand that others can admire.  It is only those in the house of recovery in Infinite Jest, who can see themselves truthfully. They are the ones capable of love, of giving up on the project of self-projection to begin with. In the midst of the recovering addict, who has given up the project of creating a unique self apart from all others, do you find the possibility of salvation.

The liturgical rites of the Church also offer this possibility. The goal of our prayer is a halfway house for the selfie-loving soul, moving us away from the kind of self-adoration that infects the present human condition. We stand before the living God and acknowledge not simply that we are a sinner but that our flourishing is only possible through the grace we receive at the holy altar. The liturgy forms us not to hate ourselves, to despise our bodies. But instead to stand before God as we are, to give up on the project of creating the perfect self. We play before the living God, offering words of lament and praise, words that we did not create, discovering in the process an identity that we did not know was ours to begin with. We see our restlessness for what it is. Not something to be stopped, ceased at all costs. But the very driver of desire, which enable us to recognize who we really are: creatures made to praise and adore the living God.

Follow Tim on Twitter (ironic in light of topic of article): @NDLiturgyCenter

 

Christian Hope and the Holy Souls

Laura TaylorLaura Taylor 

House of Brigid

Wexford, Ireland

“Ego sum lux mundi,” read the ancient words of Christ engraved in the weathered, grey stone above the high altar of St. Colman’s church in the quiet country parish of Ballindaggin, County Wexford, Ireland. “I am the light of the world.”

St. Colman's Church, BallindagginI was there to pay my respects for a deceased relative of a nun with whom I had become quite close over the last year. Following traditional Irish funeral observances, it seemed like the inhabitants of the entire village had packed the church for the customary removal service. These traditional Catholic prayers recited at the church in the evenings before funerals are about as ingrained in the Irish consciousness as their love for piping hot tea, spuds, the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association), and commiserating about the weather. We were there to pray fervently for the commendation of this dearly departed soul to heaven, that she would in turn pray unceasingly for us from there with the eternal communion of saints, in the company of Christ and our Blessed Mother.Removal Pic 2

No instructions were given at any point in the ceremony about when to sit, kneel, or stand; the people around me just knew.

The parish priest sprinkled holy water over the casket, and the moment the prayers were finished, everyone leapt from their seats in a rush to shake the hands of the grieving family members, while the many conversations among the mourners elevated the noise level in the church to a dull roar. Our religious duties accomplished, we spilled out of the mid-19th century church–the men headed straight to the village pub, the women congregated outside for the latest gossip, and I strolled pensively around the small cemetery nestled against the church walls, waiting for my companions to emerge so we could make the hour’s journey home.

As we remember the souls of the faithful departed in this month of November, I find myself increasingly struck by the visceral manner in which the Irish honor, mourn, and think about the dead. Carlingford ChurchFamilies and local communities band together immediately following the death of a loved one: they fill normally-empty church pews to the brim in order to somberly commemorate “anniversary Masses,” and to pray en masse for the deceased at removal services, wakes, and funerals. Conversations about death in Ireland are quite open–almost bruisingly candid–and happen over a cup of tea, in the street, or out at the pub. The famed Irish wakes still happen–albeit less often now, due to the rising popularity of funeral homes–and are completely unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The open casket lies in state in the family’s living room, mourners sit in chairs around the body and take turns swapping humorous or emotional stories about the deceased, and a seemingly endless supply of scalding hot tea and coffee, and freshly-baked cakes and scones in the adjoining rooms provides much-needed spiritual and bodily nourishment, and still more cathartic conversation.irish_wake_paintingThere is a freshness in the Irish perspective towards death and dying, however unsettling it may be to a young American in her mid-twenties, who, before moving to Ireland, had attended only a couple funerals–all with closed caskets, all conducted as swiftly and discreetly as possible, the reality of death too uncomfortable for the American psyche. In Ireland, though, I see the true embodiment of Christian hope lived out each day; even in the throes of sorrow and grief, death here is no frightening spectre, but an almost-friend–a constant, quiet companion on life’s journey.

Here, mourning is a public act, and the healing process truly is communal. Churches see their numbers swell dramatically in the month of November in Ireland, as the annual remembrance of the dead draws people from all walks of life–the old, the young, the rich and poor, Travellers and settled, the faithful, and, surprisingly, those who have drifted away from the Church. They are all connected in their grief, and their desire to remember the ones they have lost. The liturgies of this month in particular somehow seem to tap into the deepest recesses of the heart, compelling all of us to congregate, remember, and pray for our loved ones, that they might, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.vigil at maynoothPope Francis’ namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, tenderly refers to death as a sister: “Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death, from whose embrace no one living can escape.” There is an inexplicable comfort in this Month of the Holy Souls here in Ireland, for alongside the heartache of loss accompanies a lingering sense of peace, and hope.  

Fifty Rolls on my Plate: Eucharistic Sexuality in “Sunday Candy”

MLewisMadeline Lewis ’17

Theology and English

Undergraduate Fellow, Center for Liturgy

 

For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, “This is my resting place for ever and ever.” 

-Psalm 132

You better come on in this house, cause it’s gonna rain. Rain down, Zion, it’s gonna rain.

-“Sunday Candy”, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment

I don’t listen to rap often, but when I do, I prefer for it to be imbued with tones of Eucharistic self-gift. This may seem like a tall order, but it’s exactly what the listener encounters in the song “Sunday Candy,” featuring a joy-filled gospel choir, the rhymes of Chance the Rapper, the vocals of Jamila Woods, and some tremendously triumphant trumpeting. When Woods begins her hook, the trumpets pause and a church organ reverberates under her words: “You gotta move it slowly/ Take and eat my body like it’s holy”. Chance joins Woods as she repeats this gentle hook a second time, and as their voices meld together in a duet, a theme begins to emerge: one of right-ordered sexuality, the kind that calls us home to what it means to be human. The very title of the song speaks of a call to express our human sexuality in a way that encompasses not only the sweetness and playfulness of candy but also the reverently respected sacredness of a Sunday.

Chance and Jamila are singing for joy: and it’s the sweetness of a relationship in which there is holiness of waiting (“I’ve been waiting for you”) and praying (I’ve been praying for you”), and honestly, it’s a whole lot of fun. In Chance’s words we might even uncover something of the beauty of a relationship in which two draw each other closer to God: “You’re my dreamcatcher, dream team, team captain/ Matter fact, I ain’t seen you in a minute let me take my butt to church”. The desire to see and spend time with his beloved spurs him to church- and rightly so, for as we might add, it is in loving one another well that we enter into the dwelling place of the Lord, who is Love Itself. This notion of the way we love and the way we dwell with God being intertwined comes up again when Chance describes the one he loves in the second verse: ” You sound like why the gospel choir got so tired/ Singin’ his praise on daily basis so I gotta try it”. In other words, the way that she loves sounds like the praise of a gospel choir, a choir that gives fully and to the end, each day. In Chance’s words, a very Christian truth shines through: in the way that we love, we give praise to the Lord, and we come to dwell with Him daily.

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Thus, in this song we catch a glimmer of what it means to be truly human: to give of ourselves lovingly and dwell joyfully in the place of the Lord. It means, as the song puts it, to “come on in this house,” into shelter from the rain and into the holy house of Zion. Our call to dwell in this holy place is a call to respond to God’s abundant gift of Himself in the Eucharist by becoming abundant gifts ourselves. Perhaps “Sunday Candy” can be for us a small example of the way that we sing to God with joy through the ways we express our sexuality, a most sweet and sacred thing. It can be reminder of the beauty of relationships in which dwelling with each other leads us to dwell with God. Where Chance speaks of dinner rolls on his plate at Christmas dinner, we can speak of the Eucharist, and of the shelter we find as we allow the Bread we take and eat to form the pattern in which we share ourselves in relationship. We can trust that in the patience and the prayerfulness of this sort of sharing, there is also such great sweetness.

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Liturgy and Our Longing for Narrative

unnamedThe Rev. Porter C. Taylor

Author of “The Liturgical Theologian” (Patheos)

Everyone has a favorite story. Some people, and I am one of them, have many favorites stories to which they return over and over again. Those stories have meaning, experiences, and memories attached to them. I can still remember what it felt like the first time I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone; I can tangibly and vividly remember the room I was in, the smell of mid-Fall in northern Virginia, and the excitement of being captivated by a new story.

I am not alone in this. I am willing to bet my mortgage that as you read the previous paragraph you were thinking of your favorite story(s) and the first time you read/watched/heard them.

Deep down, I think we crave story and meaning.

There is something in us and about us that longs for narrative. We travel to Mordor with Sam and Frodo; we are transported to revolutionary France and walk the streets of Paris with Valjean and Javert; we can smell the surf splashing up against the boat in Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. We see ourselves in other stories, as other characters, finishing other plotlines. Suddenly we are no longer reading about Harry, Frodo, the Narnia children, Katniss, or other heroes and heroines: we become them. We assume their role and participate in their stories as if we were them.Harry_Potter_and_the_Sorcerer's_Stone

As I said, deep down, I think we crave story and meaning.

 What is it about us that craves such meaning and experience? I think that we were created to be part of a larger story, part of The Story, and we will search high and low until we finally find a place where we belong, a story that gives us significance, and a plot into which we fit. St. Augustine famously wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”

The narratives of this world tell differing versions of the same story: you are the main character, you can do all things, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get ahead if only you try hard enough. Some stories teach that you are lousy, good for nothing, and will never amount to anything—it is simply the inverse image of the other. Either way, the stories and narratives swirling around us do not orient our lives and love toward God. We are taught to look inward, to discover our true self, and to let our own light shine into the world.

However, the story told in, through, and by the liturgy is alternative to the narratives of this world. It is not counter to these stories—as if somehow the stories of this world set the agenda—but simply alternative to other options. Dare I say that it is better than anything else on offer? It is!

Weekly we reenact, re-member, re-present, and reengage the story of God and his people. It is a story founded on and directed toward divine and self-giving love. In this story the people of God come together as a response to the divine call. This people thus becomes that which they already are: the church. She listens attentively to holy, inspiring, transformative, and normative words being read from the Book. She hears those words expounded upon in the Sermon through which she is called to a better way of life, to the Life. She responds to such conviction and challenge in the proclamation of her faith, humble confession of her sins, and she then receives God’s absolution.

This called, taught, transformed, and forgiven people then moves toward the Altar upon which are laid her gifts to God and the holy gifts of God for his holy people. Partaking of this sacred meal, of this sacrament of sacraments, she participates in the koinonia of the Trinity and the cosmic praise of all creation offering herself and her surroundings to her God. She is fed, nourished, ministered to, and then released for ministry outside parish walls.

advent.concert.212This is a story of a people who have fallen wayward from their God but he continues to seek after them, wooing them back to himself, drawing them unto his holy and divine love. This is a story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. It is a story of hope, of joy, of peace, of forgiveness, and a call to action. You are a participant in the retelling of this story and you are called to go into the world to begin living that story among neighbors and strangers. You are not the main character but you also are not a bit part either: you are called to a very specific part, for a specific purpose, all to the glory of God. Collectively the Church fulfills her role as the extension of Christ’s body into this world.

We crave story because we crave God. The liturgy—as with God’s Word—teaches us to crave the right story, to direct our love toward God, and to praise and worship the Creator of all things rather than the self. The concept of story is powerful because it invites the listener/viewer into something bigger and greater than the “I.” May we continually be invited into the ongoing and unfolding story of God and may we constantly accept his invitation to play a part in his story.

The Rev. Porter C. Taylor is an Anglican priest (Anglican Church in North America) residing in Kansas with his wife, Rebecca, and two sons. He is the author of “The Liturgical Theologian,” a blog on the Patheos Evangelical Channel and is passionate about liturgy, the sacraments, and ecclesiology. He received his MAT from Fuller Theological Seminary and is part of the Schmemann-Kavanagh-Fagerberg-Lathrop school of liturgical theology.

Follow the Rev. Porter C. Taylor on Twitter.

Problematic Pop: Steinfeld’s “Love Myself”

Molly Daily

Molly Daily, ND ’14

Intern, Washington University & Webster University Catholic Student Center Campus Ministry

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I have only been able to find two radio stations so far in St. Louis. The first is a 1970s rock station – certainly filled with talented musicians, but not my scene. So instead, I spend most days driving to and from work listening to the pop music station. One song has been played over and over in the past few days, written by “up and coming” artist Hailiee Steinfeld, and it is particularly disturbing to me – both in its content and in its indication of the attitude prevalent among young adults and those on college campuses.

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The song is called “Love Myself.” Every time it comes on the radio, there’s a blurb by the artist telling listeners that she just wants them to know that they can do whatever they’re doing on their own – they don’t need anyone else to tell them they can. The song itself consists of Ms. Steinfeld proclaiming that, any time, she is just going to love herself, and she doesn’t need anyone else. Perhaps the most startling lyric: “I’m gonna put my body first/ And love me so hard til it hurts.”

Now, don’t get me wrong – the idea of self love and self worth is not only beautiful and important, but extremely Catholic. In order to truly worship God and submit to the truth of His works, one must recognize him or herself as the Lord’s creation and see the inherent beauty in that. While difficult, this is an entirely necessary step for anyone expecting to love creation and others. However, this true, humble, loving of oneself is entirely different than that which is espoused in the aforementioned song.

The loving of oneself in the Christian tradition is inherently communal – the love of self, rooted in the acceptance of Christ’s redemption of all humanity and humankind’s adoptive sonship with God, compels the believer to recognize that same beauty, that same divine sonship, in those around him or her. Self-love, and Christianity in general, are inherently other-centric.

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This song proclaims entirely the opposite. Steinfeld confuses the purpose and nature of loving oneself, proclaiming that her love of self is not only separate from the other, but that this self-love in fact leads to separation. Perhaps even more fearful is her assertion in her “introduction” of the song, which suggests that correction and suggestion, two concepts rooted in the Catholic tradition in the love of the other and the desire to see the other at his or her best, are detrimental to one’s love of self and should be brushed off. This attitude is one I have seen on a broader level in the secular world, both within my campuses and in adults. We shrug off the obligation that comes with the Catholic idea of love of self – after all, that’s too hard. It precludes me from my ability to judge others and to do what I want, when I want. It makes it incredibly difficult to keep up with the immediate satisfaction of desires that has become so common, so advertised, and so valued. Instead, we would rather define self-love as the complete and total acceptance of how we are and how we act based entirely upon ourselves, our relative idea of truth, and what is easier in the short term. Quite frankly, it’s a tempting and glamorous view of life.

However, this is a view of life and of love with perilous consequences for the soul. When I hear the lyrics of this song, I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ interpretation of Hell in The Great Divorce – I hear this young singer shrug off any responsibility other than her own, and I see the Hell-dwellers who became so stubborn, so set in their own ways and their own versions of the truth, that they couldn’t break out of themselves long enough to see the beauty that awaited them. This self-centric view of love and life leads to isolation, to judgment, and to a long-term lack of fulfillment.

This attitude is one that is incredibly hard to crack, but one that we must commit ourselves to resisting – after all, our souls, and those of the rest of the world, are at stake. In the Eucharist, we are reminded over and over again of the true meaning of Love, a Love that draws us in and raises us up, one that compels us to go forth and serve the whole world. This dangerous mindset, one which will certainly be present with me for the rest of my life, is one that can only be conquered by participating in that living and eternal sacrifice.

Sep 8, 2013; Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R. of Indianapolis celebrates Spanish Mass in Dillon Hall. Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

The Mission of the Center for Liturgy

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

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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At the beginning of the academic year, the Center for Liturgy often finds itself in the midst of re-articulating the vision that animates our work. We are a Center at the heart of the University of Notre Dame’s Catholic mission; one that renews the Church through liturgical scholarship and education. We publish material on this blog and in a nationally recognized journal, we hold conferences and host guest lecturers, and we teach courses to undergraduates and graduate students at our University. In the coming months, we’ll be talking about an expansion in our summer offerings related to Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, working with Newman Centers, and more.

Yet, the articulation of a mission includes far more than the activity that we perform on a yearly basis. Over the last five years in which I have served as director of the Center for Liturgy, we have listened to those involved in liturgical and catechetical ministry in the Church. We have held conversations with undergraduates and graduate students about the state of liturgical education in the United States. We have met with other universities engaged in the mission of liturgical formation according to their own unique charism.

We have come to the conclusion that the liturgical renewal promised by the Second Vatican Council is, well, unfulfilled. Too often this unfulfilled vision becomes an occasion to blame others.

  • It is the fault of liturgists, who treated the rites as their own plaything.
  • It is the fault of catechists, who never really taught the fullness of what the liturgical and sacramental life consists of.
  • It is the fault of the hierarchy, who hold on at all costs to a clerical approach to liturgical celebration and formation.
  • It is the faulty of the laity, who seem too apathetic about their own liturgical vocation.

While such blame is often cathartic, offering an easy solution to the renewal of the liturgical life of the Church (get rid of those at fault), these blame games seem to ignore that the Second Vatican Council presented a vision of liturgical prayer as so important to the life of the Church that it should not be surprising that there is work that remains. Further, the very moment in which the Church recognized the liturgy as central to her identity was also the precise moment in which modern, secular approaches to being and knowing alike won out over theological accounts of what it means to be a human being in the world.
BlameThe problem with much liturgical renewal today is that it ignores the difficult task of liturgical formation. National liturgical gatherings continue to repeat the same tired phrases again and again, ignoring the fact that these phrases are often meaningless to the modern person. Full, conscious, and active participation is a desired goal. But, what about the fact that it seems more and more Catholics choose not to be present in the first place?

The Center for Liturgy, thus, believes that a renewal of liturgical formation is necessary under the rubric of the New Evangelization. That the goal of liturgical renewal is not ultimately oriented toward better liturgies alone (though this should also take place). Rather, it is to make possible an encounter with Jesus Christ through the liturgical rites; an encounter that ultimately transforms what it means to be human. The purpose of liturgical prayer is thus the formation of a way of life, a disposition of gratitude that is the source of meaning of human life. As Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium:

The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed. Finally an evangelizing community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always. It celebrates every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization. Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving (no. 24)

In other words, the mission of the Center for Liturgy is what one becomes through the practice of liturgical prayer; the kind of life that one lives through learning to praise and adore the living God.

The Center for Liturgy at Notre Dame is thus oriented toward creating educational opportunities that renew the Church in this way of life. There is something “lay” about our approach insofar as we see liturgical prayer less about who gets to do what during the liturgy; and more about the renewal of politics, culture, and family life.

For this reason, the Center for Liturgy focuses our undivided attention on the kind of imagination that the liturgy forms us in. The imagination is the human faculty that enables us to make meaning in the world. It allows us to see a simple activity as getting up in the middle of the night to care for a sick child as a Eucharistic offering. It is that faculty that forms us to see our work in the world as a similar offering. It is the faculty that transforms two people living together as married into an image of Christ’s self-giving love of the Church in the sacrament of marriage. Our educational programming is concerned about fostering this kind of imagination not simply through the liturgy but through the work of catechesis, of theological education, and a style of research that takes seriously the lay experience of liturgical prayer. Of the union between liturgy and politics, justice, spirituality, our relationship with the environment, ethics, vocation. Of discerning those cultural obstacles that make liturgical participation difficult in the modern world and then promoting the kind of “liturgical ecology” that holds up human life as gift.

This is the work that inspires us on a regular basis. It is the mission that will continue to infuse our programming. We are not a Center that plans on gathering people because they want to prepare for the new liturgical reform (or the reform of the reform of the reform). We see value in these conversations. But they are not ours.

Our mission, is taken directly from Pope Francis’ own address to theologians:

A theology – and not simply a pastoral theology – which is in dialogue with other sciences and human experiences is most important for our discernment on how best to bring the Gospel message to different cultural contexts and groups. The Church, in her commitment to evangelization, appreciates and encourages the charism of theologians and their scholarly efforts to advance dialogue with the world of cultures and sciences. I call on theologians to carry out this service as part of the Church’s saving mission. In doing so, however, they must always remember that the Church and theology exist to evangelize, and not be content with a desk-bound theology (no. 133).

Ours is not a desk-bound theology. It is a theology that seeks to renew the liturgical life of the Church so that the entire cosmos might experience the transformation of love made possible through the Christian vision of existence. We think this involves a renewal of preaching, of music, of aesthetics, of catechesis, and spirituality. This is the mission of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy moving toward into its fifth decade of existence.

We hope that you’ll join us in our work.

A Divine School of Solidarity: The Hours

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

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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Each morning at 5:00 AM, I rise and plop down upon the couch in my living room to greet the new day. My deepest desire at the time is to consume a cup of coffee and to gaze mindlessly at the television as I recover from slumber. Yet, more often than not, I pass by this temptation to spend the morning “doing” the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer (with a cup of coffee in hand, of course). Before 5:30 AM comes around, I have acknowledged to God the sin that I am responsible for; I have  asked God to let me hear the voice of the Lord thundering over the mountains; I have lamented the sorrows that inflict not only me but the entire People of God; and, I have praised God for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’s recreation of the world.

HoursThe gift of the Liturgy of the Hours as a daily practice is that the Christian is schooled in the fullness of the spiritual life as we meditate morning after morning, night after night upon the Psalms. And these Psalms are given to us. We do not get to choose which ones we pray. We do not simply praise God with timbrel and harp but must also acknowledge our deep woundedness, the injustice of the world, and the sorrow that comes with hearing only silence in the midst of our prayer to God. If I could create my own personal ordo of Psalms that I would pray each morning, I would avoid anything that could be construed as “negative.” I would sip my coffee in peace and sing to God a new song but never acknowledge the depths of mercy that I need in order to love God and neighbor alike. Yet, the Church’s construction of the Liturgy of the Hours is wiser than my personal ordo. It is a school of prayer.

And when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, it should be noted that this action is never simply about the individual Christian offering his or her prayers to God. The General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours notes that praying each morning with the Church is never a private act:

There is a special and very close bond between Christ and those whom he makes members of his Body, the Church, through the sacrament of rebirth. Thus, from the Head all the riches belonging to the Son flow throughout the whole Body: the communication of the Spirit, the truth, the life, and the participation in the divine sonship that Christ manifested in all his prayer when he dwelt among us.

Christ’s priesthood is also shared by the whole Body of the Church, so that the baptized are consecrated as a spiritual temple and holy priesthood through the rebirth of baptism and the anointing by the Holy Spirit and are empowered to offer the worship of the New Covenant, a worship that derives not from our own powers but from Christ’s merit and gift.

“God could give us no greater gift than to establish as our Head the Word through whom he created all things and to unite us to that Head as members. The results are many The Head is Son of God and Son of Man, one as God with the Father and one as man with us. When we speak in prayer to the Father, we do not separate the Son from him and when the Son’s Body prays it does not separate itself from its Head. It is the one Savior of his Body, the Lord Christ Jesus, who prays for us and in us and who is prayed to by us. He prays for us as our priest, in us as our Head; he is prayed to by us as our God. Recognize therefore our own voice in him and his voice in us.”

The excellence of Christian prayer lies in its sharing in the reverent love of the only-begotten Son for the Father and in the prayer that the Son put into words in his earthly life and that still continues without ceasing in the name of the whole human race and for its salvation, throughout the universal Church and in all its members (7).

TheAgonyIn other words, to pray the Liturgy of the Hours is never private prayer. To pray these Psalms and intercessions day after day is to join our voice to Jesus Christ’s continual prayer of praise and lament to the Father. For Christ’s voice still calls out to the Father through the Church. Jesus knows our sorrows, our joys. He knows the suffering of a world where many are forced into migration because of the injustice enacted by political regimes. He knows the sorrows of those who experience radical loneliness, who cry out for God’s help but hear nothing; a nothingness that becomes a taunt. Jesus Christ knows the fullness of the human condition. And through our praying the Psalms within the context of the Church’s prayer, we let his voice resound in our own, offering to the Father a sacrifice of sorrow and praise for the world.

Praying the Liturgy of the Hours each morning is, thus, not ultimately about the development of my individual religious life. Rather, it is an occasion to exercise my baptismal vocation to let Christ’s voice echo throughout the world.

It is to become aware, in praying a Psalm of Lament, that there are fathers and mothers in the world, who have to look upon the body of their child, who drowned while trying to escape from the horrors of a war that no one deserves but those in power feel necessary; it is to take up the voice of my student, who is experiencing deep homesickness and loneliness, afraid that he or she will never find a trustworthy friend; it is to make my own the fear of a colleague, diagnosed with cancer; it is to consider those fathers and mothers, who have made a decision to have an abortion and now deal with the painful consequences on a daily basis; it is to cry out to God in the voice of all those who are denied even the most basic forms of human dignity; it is to recognize my own callousness in the midst of these sorrows, the sin of indifference that becomes my bread. Lord, rouse up your might and come to our help.

To pray these Hours each day, therefore, is to enter not simply into a school of prayer but a school of divine solidarity. For God has taken up in Jesus Christ, the Son, the fullness of the human condition. And even now, the mercy of the Incarnation continues as our voice becomes the voice of the Son.

Of course, the consequence of praying the Liturgy of the Hours is that we must learn to love the world aright. Hans urs von Balthasar notes again and again in his theological aesthetics that the purpose of the Christian life is not “delight” in beauty. It is discipleship. If we are to give our voice over to the sorrows of our brothers and sisters, then we must also give our bodies to their plight. We must care for the sick. We must cry out to those in power to come to the aid of those on the margins. We must go to the margins ourselves, letting the words that we pray echo now in our commitment to love aright. The Liturgy of the Hours invites us not simply to “imagine” solidarity but to practice it on a daily basis.

For each day, we are invited again and again to hear the voice of the Lord, to refuse to let our hearts be hardened. And to enter into radical relationship, through Jesus Christ, to all those who share with us the humanity of the Son.