Tag Archives: What We’re Reading

What We’re Reading: tours of the afterlife, canonization, and loving our enemies

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

ND ’14, MTS ’16 (History of Christianity)

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1) From Dappled Things, Jonathan McDonald ponders the artists who turned mystical visions of heaven and hell into a literary genre:

If anything, this is a genre waiting to be revived in its original Medieval spirit. We still have mystics in the Church who are given visions of the blessed and damned, but few poets who care to make those visions aesthetically pleasing.

2) Over at First ThingsGeorge Weigel comments on the “happy addition of ‘spouses‘ to the “pantheon of vocations to sanctity.”

The Church doesn’t canonize saints for their sake. God takes quite good care of his holy ones […] No, the Church canonizes saints for our sake, so that we might have models who inspire us to be the holy ones we must be, if we’re to fulfill our Christian and human destiny.

That’s why the Church sings the Litany of the Saints at its most solemn liturgical celebrations: the Litany of the Saints is the Church’s family album, the roster of those who form that “great cloud of witnesses” of which the author of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks so eloquently.

3) And in Aleteia, Center for Liturgy director Timothy P. O’Malley weighs in on the atmosphere of hostility in contemporary debates that turns our interlocutor into our enemy:

Christ’s words, addressed to the Israel of his day, now echo in the Church. Our “enemies” are no longer Romans but German bishops, the Pope, The New York Times columnists, conservative and liberal theologians, bloggers on the left and the right, and anyone who we see as a threat to the Church’s flourishing in the modern world.

Follow Tony on Twitter: @tonyoleck

What We’re Reading Today: Christian Art, Becoming a Lover, and Worship

TimOMalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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1) Mathew Block at First Things on the decline of the Christian Music Industry and what constitutes Christian art: 

The same lesson holds true for Christian artists, whether their craft be literature, music, the visual arts, or drama. Christian artists are called to do more than just paste little crosses onto readily available secular products; they are called to think deeply about their craft so that they can, through their work, invite others, Christian and non-Christian alike, to also think deeply—about life and death and the One who holds life and death in his hands. That’s the Christian artist’s calling: to confront others with truth and beauty, to captivate imaginations, and to lead the audience deeper into contemplation of both creation and Creator.

God has blessed the Church with many talented artists; those of us who have not been so gifted should take pains to encourage those who have. That means making an active effort to seek out those who are making good Christian art (whether the art in question be overtly “Christian” or otherwise) and support them as they do so.

As for Christian copy-cat works? I’m sure they’ll hang around for some time longer. But I for one am tired of simply settling for what the cat drags in.

2) In light of our Symposium this week, a piece by Brendan Busse, SJ at The Jesuit Post on how to be a “better” love:

These days love is very much in the news and yet we’re so confused that we can’t seem to affirm it without either conflict or further confusion. For Christians love ought to be familiar, recognizable in merciful acceptance and total self-gift. Dorothy Day said it well and simply: Love is the measure. She was speaking of the foolishness of love in a time of war. But the Gospel principle she proclaims is true in all things. Self-giving love is the measure by which we judge all things, including sexuality, and yet, all too often we view love through the lens of sex rather than the other way around.

3) Want to avoid letting oneself become entirely changed by the technoculture. Brian Brock has a great article at Second Nature for you to read:

Thus it is the lived practices of Christian worship, confession, repentance, and amendment of life that are the vectors through which human hopes and desires are offered alternatives. Christian practices and texts provide Christians with a past as they tell the works of God in previous generations, and a future because this narrative can orient their hope. They are empowered to make judgments about their present impossible for modern nomads whose fragmented narratives offer them no grounds to assume the future will be predictable enough to make it worth forming long-term hopes. Entrusted to the living fragility of the church, the Incarnate One restores Christian powers of moral discernment by reestablishing the trajectory between transgenerational memory and orienting hope that the late modern nomad lacks.



What We’re Reading: Prayer and Humanity, Grateful Liturgy, and Shakespeare

A return of our series of what we’re reading this Monday, April 13, 2015:

1) A piece by a Notre Dame undergraduate from China in Notre Dame Magazine, reflecting on her longing in prayer:

Now, a year and a half after my awkward first encounter with the Catholic Mass, I still have no intention to be converted or baptized. But I frequently go to the small chapel in Lyons Hall and simply stand there and watch my friends praying. I still talk with Nina about my life here at Notre Dame and listen carefully to her perfectly logical responses. The reality is that there are irreconcilable conflicts in the world and they are probably going to exist for a long time. The question is: How can we each fight for our deepest belief with whatever we have but without demonizing those who hold equal passions on the other side?

Buddhism has a concept called “absolute see.” It means seeing without judging. Through the “absolute see,” we fully accept the world as it is and give up those useless attempts to change others or ourselves. Finally, we are able to truly face up to those irreconcilable differences in the world and start to appreciate them. The “absolute see” of the world does not ask that we change ourselves and abandon our deepest convictions. But it should humble us, temper our passions, make us realize our excessive self-righteousness, and compel us all to open our hearts and minds to new beliefs.

All of which brings me back to my crush on South Dining Hall Guy. I understand now my crush was not actually on the guy. I realize now that I was not drawn to his words or gestures or even to his subtle, peaceful smile as he finished his prayers. Rather, my crush, my feeling of pure happiness, was on that flashing moment when I accepted the common beauty of human beings shining through our irreconcilable differences. This conflicting world is beautiful, especially when we choose to fully accept it.

2) Learning to practice the radical gratitude of the liturgy with Peter Leithart of First Things (through the help of Paul Griffiths):

We are trained, Griffiths says, in “radical gratitude.” The liturgy trains us as recipients, as “being one who who has received” and received gratefully (234). The liturgy doesn’t leave any corner of life untouched by its habituation. What Griffiths calls “the liturgy’s imperialistic omnivorousness” involves “a complete embrace of those who undertake it.” We die and rise n baptism, having received a “renaming, reclothing, the gift of something radically new” (234-5). Other liturgical acts “depict and endlessly repeat the subsumption of the individual into, first, the community, and then, second, the LORD.”

Griffiths means this quite literally: “The individual’s language is overtaken and framed by the language of the canon of Scripture: he is written into its margins as an ornament to the illustrated capitals of its pages. And the individual’s very physical life is shown to him to be given its meaning by his membership in the communion of saints, a body of people extending far in time and space beyond what he can directly sense.”

The liturgy “constantly signals that there is nothing external to it, nothing belonging to the individual that cannot be taken p into it, and nothing anywhere that will not, finally, be embraced by it.” Even the inner theater “is gradually transformed by participation in the liturgy from a private spectacle into an iteration of a public drama. It becomes an instance of the liturgy that claims it” (235).

3) Terrance W. Klein on Shakespeare and the salvation of the created order:

History isn’t cancelled by heaven. Eternity doesn’t annul the work of earth. The cosmos will have a consummation, the final revelation of a resurrected humanity, one rent yet redeemed. To borrow from the Bard, the winter of our discontent shall yet be made glorious summer.



Three Things We’re Reading Today: Celebrity, Consecrated Life, and the Nunc Dimittis

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

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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1) The Jesuit Post’s Cyril Pinchak, SJ on celebrity, beauty, and the desert fathers and mothers:

Celebrities today show us what natural beauty looks like, it is true.  But the Desert Fathers and Mothers had their own attraction too, a kind of harsh beauty encountered only at the limits of the familiar, a beauty that terrifies even as it enthrals.  It is a kind of jarring beauty that comes to me on warm summer nights, as I lie in the grass watching the stars come out one, then two, then cover the night sky like salt; I realize how small I am, and how big the universe is.  All that exists…and so do I.  It is a mesmerizing beauty that drew people to deserts in the fourth century even as it draws some to the top of Mt. Everest today.  And it was Beauty that drew Simeon to find joy, and life, and purpose, atop his one square meter of this universe.

2) First Things has a lovely piece on the gift of consecrated life (through the lens of Pope Francis):

When all is said and done, the purpose of vows of consecrated life is to lead one closer to God amongst one’s neighbors. The vows stand as a witness that is counter-cultural, offering an alternative to secular obsession with competitive glamour. Consider that recurring throughout each issue of The New York Times is an almost subliminal sentence, “Remember the neediest,” nearly buried amidst at least quarter-page advertisements for luxury watches, hundred-dollar cologne, and exotic vacations.

A brother prays for the neediest and wonders whether one way to opt out of the commercial frenzy is to cancel his subscription to the newspaper. Pope Francis urges all of us to turn from Mammon to Christ, and his religious vows have given him the discipline to lead by example. Among religious brothers, that discipline and self-denial may be unobtrusive, but it remains essential to the Church’s mission in the world.

3) A gorgeous musical piece from William Byrd on this feast of the Presentation of the Lord (a setting of the Nunc Dimittis):


Three Things We’re Reading Today: Rest, John Garvey, and Praise of Old Words

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

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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1) Brendan Busse, SJ at The Jesuit Post on our need for rest as we strive to live God’s justice in the world:

We need rest. We need hard work and creativity and struggle and sweat, but we also need rest. If we’re going to respond to the challenges before us, if we’re going to heal the wounds behind us, we need rest. The world is a weary place of late and we could use a break, a few deep breaths and a moment of silence. We need a place to get off of our feet for a while. We need to set our eyes on a distant horizon. We need to sense again the arc in this long road that bends towards justice.

2) John Garvey of Commonweal Magazine recently passed away. For many of us around my generation, it was his voice that taught us that a really deep spiritual life, a really deep sense of theological vision, and a deep love for the polis could be united in one person. Here is Peter Steinfels speaking of the now departed columnist:

John wrote about our self-delusions, especially of control and autonomy, and our ways of propping them up: therapeutic clichés, media clichés, conservative clichés, liberal clichés. A favorite theme was the confusion of faith with certainty. Believers could turn anything, including Jesus, into an idol to be manipulated to serve their self-interested purposes. Nonbelievers could equate all faith with fundamentalism and ignore their own certitudes.

John’s columns—at least in the years before the editors put tighter word limits on columnists—were spiked with hilarity. Writing of appeals to “get in touch with one’s feelings,” John reported that he had tried, but “they were out so I left a note.” Lamenting the mental befogging of our culture, John remembered a university job repairing academic jargon “that came by our desks by the barrelful.” A proposal for a program called “Human Development Counseling” bravely announced, “The process of human development, according to [recent studies], can be both constructive and destructive.”

3) A piece over at Dappled Things by Michael Rennier in praise of old words:

An unfamiliar word with the whiff of antiquity about it creates mystery for the reader to solve. The Mass is not “contemporary” (a hilariously archaic word in its own right) or “modern” (again, funny). It is not an everyday newspaper article that will be out of date the next day. It is a timeless artifact that requires a close reading. It is an adventure! The low-level grumbling in response to the new translation was enough to put the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years to shame. Particularly odious to the complainers was the change in the Nicene Creed, which went from “one in being” to “consubstantial.” What old-fashioned nonsense is this, proponents of modern language cried! This new word, the complaint goes, is archaic. It has lost its meaning. It is technical. No one knows the definition and it is not user-friendly. What such a complaint overlooks, though, is that the word has the great virtue of being incredibly precise. It emerges from the crucible of a philosophical discussion with deep roots. This one little word has worlds of meaning packed into it. It brings us back to ancient Nicaea and Plato’s Ladder of Being and Santa angrily punching the heretic Arius in the face. This is a word that is experienced in vibrant color, it smells of incense, whereas in the service of relatability and ease of understanding, the previous phrase was gray and boring. Worse than that, the “modern” translation was quickly falling out of fashion. The now more faithfully rendered translation, archaism and all, is timeless.



Three Things We’re Reading Today: MLK, Charlie Hebdo, and the Week

TimOMalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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1) Archbishop Joseph Kurtz’ MLK day message is worth a read this day:

As our nation celebrates the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today, I am reminded of the timeless plea found in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail that we move “from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of human dignity.” I am grateful for Dr. King’s words and actions and those of so many who worked for justice and helped to advance our country’s recognition of the dignity and equality of each person.

Continuing tensions and violence in our communities remind us that although significant progress has been made in erasing the stain of racism and the cycle of related violence, we still have much work to do. As we consider the gains of the past and the challenges before us, I urge each of us to pray for healing and peace as we work for ever greater communion. Every human life has profound dignity, rooted in our creation in the image of God. We are one family. Our communities will only reflect this dignity if we first turn to prayer to guide our actions toward ending years of isolation, disregard and conflict between neighbors. That which seems impossible can only be brought about through God and his powerful intervention in our hearts.

2) A nice summary of why there are those who will not say Je suis Charlie by The Jesuit Post’s Niall Leahy, SJ:

  • The British newspaper The Guardian asserted in an editorial that the right to offend is implicit in the right to freedom of expression. Satire has been present in European and French culture for centuries and even played a key role in the ousting of monarchical power during the French Revolution. The argument goes that curbing the right to offend weakens a democracy and paves the way for tyranny and the abuse of political power.

  • Even if we retain the right to offend, what constitutes a legitimate target for satire? It has become clear that the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo have caused major offense to a French Muslim community that was already feeling marginalized. A Jesuit friend who for decades has worked with marginalized communities on both sides of the Irish border noted that satire is most effective when it takes aim at the powerful — and most destructive when it ridicules the weak. Or as another liberal Muslim commentator has put it, satire should “punch up.

3) Pope Francis and the Republican party was treated by The Week “this week”:

Looks like the honeymoon is finally over.

The question is why now — and why over the environment of all things?

The answer, I think, is that the environment, in itself, has very little to do with it. The problem is simply that Francis has broken from too many elements in the Republican Party platform. First there were affirming statements about homosexuality. Then harsh words for capitalism and trickle-down economics. And now climate change. That, it seems, is a bridge too far. Francis has put conservative American Catholics in the position of having to choose between the pope and the GOP. It should surprise no one that they’re siding with the Republicans.

Three Things We’re Reading Today: Altar Girls, Confirmation, and a Beautiful Education

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

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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1) Kerry Weber of America Magazine has the best response to Cardinal Burke’s recent interview at the New Emangelization that we’ve read thus far. Rather than respond with insults, she provides a rationale why female altar servers should not be excluded (it’s a rare gift for an author to expand the imagination in the midst of disagreement rather than simply respond with insult):

We are accountable to one another. The elderly ladies commended me or corrected me on my serving skills after Mass. My parents beamed each time I served with my two siblings on the altar. In short, I learned that our actions as servers affected how others experienced the Mass. And so I strove for flawless execution of the book-holding or cross-carrying. But I also made mistakes. One Holy Thursday I spilled the entirety of the foot-washing water across the altar. The sacristan pitched in to help clean up and her smile let me know that I was not the only person ever to make a mistake at Mass. On her knees beside me, she saw my mistake as an opportunity to demonstrate the spirit of service we prayed about that day, to pitch in and to teach me a lesson: Don’t place large bowls of water too close to the edge of the altar steps. And God’s grace is not easily thwarted by our own imperfections.

2) Another piece by Richard Becker at Crisis on the problematic age of confirmation (and why moving it back is a wise pastoral decision).

Yes, it’s a tricky business, raising teenagers—a balancing act of oversight and latitude—but then confirmation rolls around, and what do we do? We compel teens to undergo intense religious instruction—even if they’ve been away from CCD since second grade—and in effect force them to receive a sacrament they themselves might otherwise forego. Plus, many parents of confirmation candidates aren’t exactly living a sacramental life themselves, and so their teens might assimilate the message that faith primarily involves going through the motions. Besides, as the Catechism teaches, “one must be in a state of grace” to receive Confirmation—which includes conscientiously honoring the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays. If confirmation candidates and their families haven’t been getting to Mass on a regular basis, and they have no intention of doing so once the sacrament is administered, then what’s the point?

I’m hoping that some of this rings true for you, and that it accords with observations you yourself have made. If so, then what I’d like to propose won’t sound so crazy.

It’s actually a bifurcated proposal that involves a radical shift of the sacrament either backwards or forwards. The preferable direction, at least according to tradition, is to move confirmation back to the age of reason, and to administer it prior to first communion. This would restore the ancient and proper order of the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, then communion), and would accentuate the Eucharist as the most important of the three. As Pope Benedict pointed out, there are sound historical reasons for how the order (at least in the West) got mixed up, but “it needs to be seen which practice better enables the faithful to put the sacrament of the Eucharist at the centre, as the goal of the whole process of initiation.”

Current practice puts the accent on confirmation as a sacramental goal line, and so it is incorrectly perceived as the “source and summit of the Christian life” instead of theEucharist. And not only does confirmation come last in line, but it also generally involves a great deal of preparation—a full year or more of instruction and formation, for example, along with any number of obligatory service projects. All those mandates can give the misleading impression that confirmation is not only the most important sacrament, but also one that must be earned.

3) The Jesuit Post is constantly offering us the richness of narrative grounded in a theological vision. Here’s another to start your day off on the right to beautiful things:

Sister Patricia McLaughlin is an Irish Sister of Loreto. In 2001, when the community of Jicamarca applied to the Fe y Alegría Network, they needed a religious order to sponsor the new school. Sr. Patricia was running an all-girls prep school at the time and didn’t speak a word of Spanish. She said “yes” and became the founding principal of the school.

Her vision for the school has been simple since the beginning. “We need to believe one hundred percent in education as a means of transformation. It is the only thing that will give these children a fighting chance.”

But environmental factors can make this transformation difficult, if not impossible. Jicamarca is a place of extreme poverty where many people live in houses constructed of straw, wood or very basic brick. There is no running water or sewage facilities, and many people living near the school have no electricity. The men often work in the local brickyards or as drivers or conductors of the small local transport vans. Others go to Lima looking for work.

Sr. Patricia refuses to see this context as an impediment to offering an excellent education. She writes, “Our children may lack resources but they do not lack intelligence, talent, creativity and dreams. I would like each child to know that they too have a right to all things good and beautiful and that this isn’t only for the chosen few.”

Three Things We’re Reading Today: The College of Cardinals, College Football, and Thomas Merton

Carolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M.

Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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1. Writing for Time Magazine, Christopher Hale explains the significance of Pope Francis’ new additions to the College of Cardinals:

By naming cardinals from the geographic and existential peripheries of the modern world, Pope Francis is showing us that’s he serious in his mission to rebuild the Church as “a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven.” To do this, Pope Francis realizes that he must lift up the voices and experiences of those who have been excluded from governance and decision-making authority in both modern-day political and ecclesial structures.

2. In anticipation of the NCAA Championship football game between Oregon and Ohio State this weekend, First Things‘ Senior Editor Mark Bauerlein observes some worrying trends with regard to college football players’ comportment both on and off the field.
As a proud—slightly-biased—alumna of Kansas State University, I couldn’t help but agree with his assessment of a certain opposing team’s behavior during the Alamo Bowl.)

Sadly, [media attentiveness to poor sportsmanship and show-boating] also sends a message to young athletes from middle school to high school: this is the way super-competitors act. And college players who think they have a chance in the NFL draw another conclusion from the abundant coverage of outlandish conduct on the field. If you want attention, if you hope to show up on SportsCenter, add a dance move after you score, be a big mouth on the field, scuffle with opponents. The media will love you, which means the sports industry will, too.

Ultimately, Bauerlein insists, “Coaches need to instruct their players in a different model,” thereby asserting that forming moral character is every bit as important as honing athletic ability.

3. Perhaps an odd follow-up to the previous link, perhaps not: Daniel P. Horan writes a feature in America Magazine entitled “Merton (Still) Matters: How the Trappist Monk and Author Speaks to Millennials.” Particularly attentive to the ways in which Merton’s conversion continued throughout his life, manifesting itself in action and interreligious dialogue, Horan sees in Merton an example for today’s young adults:

Merton’s turn toward the world and the prophetic shift in his priorities seems to offer a timely lesson for today’s young adults. . . . Millennials can look to Merton as a model of someone who remained open to continual conversion, open to the challenge of God’s spirit, open to doing something more and risking much for the sake of another. He used his social location within the monastery, on the margins of society, to critique the injustices of his time—racism, nuclear armament, poverty—and then reach out to support, comfort and guide his readers and help to organize change.

In this centennial year of Merton’s birth, perhaps all of us would do well to recall his particular narrative of conversion and compassion as a model for our own interior lives and our interactions with others.

Three Things We’re Reading Today: Illness, Chartres, and Colbert

TimOMalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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1) A rather beautiful piece by Victor Lee Austin on illness and the Christian life at First Things:

So illness and incapacity can be used by God and by us for our sanctification. But there’s another angle, as well. Sickness can be a mode of sanctification for others. My wife had a brain tumor diagnosed when she was thirty-eight years old. We had then been married fifteen years. She lived another nineteen years. Looking back, I can see that taking care of her—being dropped into the situation where I had to take care of her—was an instrument of divine grace for my sanctification. I used to think that Victor Austin might just possibly be remembered as a teacher or as the author of this or that work of scholarship. Somewhere along the way, God revealed to me that the most important thing about Victor Austin is that he was the husband of Susan Austin.

2) An intriguing piece by The New York Review of Books (also linked by PrayTell) on the restoration of Chartres Cathedral. Raises a number of concerns about architecture, culture, and the marginalization of liturgical experience from the arts:

Observant Catholics, whose primary interest in the cathedral is religious rather than aesthetic, have been particularly appalled by one aspect of the program: the repainting of Our Lady of the Pillar, the early-seventeenth-century devotional statue of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child familiarly known as the Black Madonna. As Jean Markale argues in Cathedral of the Black Madonna: The Druids and the Mysteries of Chartres (1988)—an intriguing study of the links between the Christian sanctuary and the Druidic shrine it superseded—there was a direct precedent for Our Lady of the Pillar in the Celtic black mother goddess Sulevia, another case of early Christianity co-opting indigenous beliefs to attract pagans. Whenever and however Chartres’s Black Madonna acquired its mysterious patina—through oxidation or smoke from candles and incense—it was familiar as such to centuries of the faithful until its recent multicolored makeover, which has transformed the Mother of God into a simpering kewpie doll.

We know that ancient Greek statues were painted in vivid polychrome and adorned with earrings, spears, and other metal accouterments. But the idea of actually adding such long-lost elements to, say, the Parthenon Marbles would be even more controversial than the longstanding debate over where those sculptures should be housed. Officials in charge at Chartres now are engaged in a pursuit as foolhardy as adding a head to the Winged Victory of Samothrace or arms to the Venus de Milo. One can only pray that by some miracle this scandalous desecration of a cultural holy place can be reversed.

3) Last night was the final episode of the Colbert Report, featuring one of America’s best-known Catholics, Stephen Colbert. This piece from The Washington Post does a nice job of describing why a comedic bit mattered to the United States for over nine years:

The joke caught on and never exhausted itself. What we were seeing was the perfect indictment of the world of political punditry, yes, but also a send-up of our inflexibility when it came to opinions, reason and the truth. “Truthiness,” an early invention of the Colbert shtick, allowed its host to have it both ways, as a buffoon who holds objectionable opinions that he intends his liberal-leaning audience to object to by pretending to bask in his jingo-wingo patriotism. “Anyone can read the news to you,” Colbert said on the show’s first episode. “I promise to feel the news at you.”

This interview, as well, as from NPR (focusing a bit on hospitality):

And so I look at every guest as a guest. They’re a guest in my home and I am grateful that they would come here and I hope people have a good time. And, if they don’t, that’s my fault. Or, rather, it’s my responsibility. Because if I get into an actual aggressive discussion with a guest about something that perhaps we’re disagreeing about — and I’m expressing my disagreement satirically —and if they don’t enjoy that, that’s OK because I have a responsibility for what I’m saying. But I actually do want people to have a good time.


Three Things We’re Reading Today: Adoption, Coloring the O Antiphons, and Forgiveness

TimOMalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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1) As an adopting parent, this post fully captured my attention. It’s a beautiful gift from the Jesuit Post and Eric Immel, SJ, a model of theological reflection on adoption from the perspective of the adopted:

At some point, she figured out she was pregnant. I can’t ever know the true feeling of what that means, but here’s a reality: I was a mistake, the product of a love that didn’t last. At least, a love that wasn’t ready for me. I wasn’t expected or planned. I wasn’t wanted. There must have been fear, frustration, hurt, anger, and darkness. And yet, for nine months, she carried me, she fed me, she gave me herself and then she gave me away. I trust that the fear made way for faith. The frustration made way for conviction. The hurt made way for healing. The anger made way for love. The darkness made way for light.

When that angel showed up for Mary and told her, I imagine that her breath was taken away. She had been daydreaming about her betrothed, looking forward to a long life with him, raising children, working hard, enjoying his loving arms at night. In an instant, though, everything changed. Jesus was unexpected and, perhaps for a moment, unwanted. As the poet Denise Levertov writes, “This was the moment no one speaks of / when she could still refuse. / A breath unbreathed, Spirit, suspended, waiting.”

God waited and Mary responded in love. She remained in that love despite everything. She made Him possible. It is this that we celebrate, and this that we remember.

I am here because she loved me. She loves me because I am here. Jesus lived because she had faith. Jesus and I — just a couple of unwanted baby boys — born in darkness but adopted in love. If Nancy ever reads this I hope she knows that she is loved too. I hope she knows that she was brave and that I am grateful.

2) A series of coloring pages for the O Antiphons from the Chant Cafe (for those us looking for ways to distract children at restaurants while also teaching them Latin):

3)  A challenging piece on the nature of reflection by Fr. Michael Cummins at Word on Fire:

Forgiveness is not a weak choice.  In a world often  governed by the dynamics of power and retribution we are encouraged in the assumption that there really is no place for forgiveness and if forgiveness is exercised it is easily written off as either quaint (an interesting anomaly) or the choice of the weak.  Yet, a growing body of evidence is demonstrating that forgiveness has a truly transformative power in the lives of societies and individuals (i.e. the truth and reconciliation processes held in different countries, most notably that of post-Apartheid South Africa).