Two More Authors: Denise Azores-Gococo and Meredith Holland

DeniseDenise Azores-Gococo is a home-grown South Carolinian hailing from the great city of Greenville.  She graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2014 with degrees in Science Pre-Professional and Theology. During her much needed retreat year before entering the medical field,  Denise is working at Heartland Farm: a spiritual retreat center and organic farm in the heart of Kansas run by the Dominican Sisters of Peace. Her days are now spent tending to chickens, gardens, and lovely alpacas, getting lost during dirt-road runs, reading Wendell Berry, and trying to hear God’s voice in birdsong and the Kansas prairie wind.

MeredithHollandMeredith Holland is a recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame, having received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Theology in May 2014. She is currently a Master of Theological Studies candidate at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, where she studies and serves as a graduate assistant. In addition to her interest in religion and literature, Meredith hopes to focus her studies on Catholic Higher Education, particularly considering institutional mission and ministry as well as student formation and vocational discernment.

Meet Our New Authors: Renée Roden and Laura Taylor

Oblation is happy to announce two new authors being added to our happy little community of authors:

ReneeOriginally from the quiet suburbs of Minneapolis, Renée Roden is now a resident of New York City’s bustling East Harlem neighborhood. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Theology from the University of Notre Dame in May 2014, she began work as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Cristo Rey New York High School. Renee has always been captivated by stories. She is particularly interested in the stories humans create in works of literature and art, and the story of salvation that we reenact with each liturgy we celebrate; and how those stories reveal the extraordinary beauty that lies within the ordinary events of daily life.

Oblation Pic LT

Laura Taylor, M.T.S. is a “Double Domer,” having received two degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She first graduated in 2012 with bachelor’s degrees in Honors Theology, Piano Performance and a minor in Liturgical Music Ministry, and graduated again in 2014 from the Master of Theological Studies program with a concentration in Liturgical Studies.  She is currently serving a two-year commitment in Ireland with the House of Brigid, an organization dedicated to reinvigorating the Catholic Church in Ireland through liturgical music ministry and catechesis, co-founded by Assistant Director of the NDCL, Carolyn Pirtle.


Worshiper Lighting Votive Candle on Altar

Vocation is Now

SamuelBellafiore Samuel Bellafiore Philosophy, Music ’15 Undergraduate Fellow, Center for Liturgy

At Catholic Exchange, Benjamin Mann has written an insightful piece on how “Your Vocation is Not About You.” He perceives several misconceptions in the way people think about vocation today, including options and personal satisfaction. Especially for young people, these points can distract from an authentic understanding of vocation. Without a good understanding of vocation, it becomes extraordinarily difficult to discern one or pursue it well. Mann points out that vocational discernment has become like our consumerist culture. A few steps into any big-box store presents a trove of options. Regardless of whether one needs a new television, one can gaze at the wall-to-wall rows of gleaming, sharper-than-life screens. One can compare specs, sizes and resolution. There’s a similar proliferation of options for Christians today. Not only are there all the people you already know, there are also all the people on CatholicMatch.

There aren’t just the religious you happen to meet, now every single order has a website. Naturally, everyone freaks out. What if I my whole life is in one link and I don’t click it? If that’s not enough, every third blog post you read purports Wall-of-HDTVsto be good advice on how you’re really supposed to be spending your life. (Oh, the irony.) In another age, a young person who wanted to serve the Church made the trek to the local monastery or convent, knocked and entered. (Or a boy’s parents sent him there since there was nothing else to do with the third-born son.) Maybe not better times, but simpler. Today young people can suffer from a paralysis of the possible. Youth, while rarely clear or easy, often includes a joyous awareness there is an entire life ahead of us. There is so much that could happen. At our best we delight in this. But so often it simply arouses anxiety about will happen. This comes from a lack of perspective on the goal of human life. The goal of human life is to return where it began, in God. “He made us, we belong to him.” (Psalm 100:3) He made us, and therefore we belong to him. Our aim is to return.

The final human vocation is not to a spouse or parish or job, but to eternal union with the Trinity. On the way there, to get there at all, all our choices are to be ordered to beatitude, the lasting happiness of that union. Discerning a vocation starts at the end. Each person’s particular vocation is a means to that end. This doesn’t mean the particular vocation excludes other ends – in fact, loving with true eros means seeking your own end in another human being. But each particular call from God is a road map to help get people home to him. It is a sure method for returning to the origin and reaching the goal. With this in mind, discovering one’s particular vocation need not be a fraught process. But nothing good ever came without a cost. No surprise then if beatitude, the greatest happiness, comes at a great cost. Mann gets this:

“A vocation – any vocation – is a school of charity and a means of crucifixion. Your vocation is the means by which your self-serving ego will die in order to be resurrected as the servant and lover of God. This is all that we can expect; but this is everything – the meaning of life, all there really is.”

Whoever wishes to follow Christ must deny himself and carry his cross. Whoever wants life must give up self-interest in exchange for self-emptying, always at the service of others. Knowing your gifts can help reveal your vocation: it shows what it is you must pour out. But gifts don’t determine a vocation; they indicate it. God can call someone to a vocation that may not seem to use any of his or her gifts, a vocation of which that person may seem absolutely incapable. Like every other vocation, that vocation wGrunewald_03ould require trust. The Christian call is not to efficiently allocating resources, but to selflessness.

Mann is concerned that current discussions of vocational discernment are too caught up with resolving personal insecurities. He rightly asserts that one’s particular vocation will not do this. It will, he says, lead to being “mysteriously fulfilled even when I am not happy.” The self-emptying Christian mind can perceive happiness where the self-centered imagination cannot. One’s particular vocation may not always yield warm feelings or remarkable chirpiness (though both can be fruits of a well-lived vocation). The Crucifixion was part of Christ’s particular vocation. However, living one’s vocation bestows a new kind of perspective: the joy that comes from the Spirit and the peace that passes understanding. This perspective allows St. Thomas Aquinas to say Christ on the Cross is the true image of happiness.

Self-emptying readies the heart for the unfathomable treasure of Christ in heaven. It is to this kind of love each person is called in the present moment. If we’re ever to live a future calling well, we must live the present one well. Conveniently, the present call is often more obvious than the future one: being a son, daughter, student, employee, sibling, friend. Living the call now is the surest way to find the call later. If a person refuses to see the call now, how will he or she recognize another call when it arrives?

In C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, the veteran demon Screwtape tutors his nephew in the art of deceiving humanity. On how to distract people from the importance of contentment with the present, Screwtape writes, “The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity.”

A Pilgrimage to Walsingham

TimOMalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

In November of my junior year in college, a sizable number of Notre Dame students studying abroad in London boarded a bus at the corner of Edgware Rd. and Harrowby St. to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Leaving behind the noisy streets of London, we found ourselves in the pastoral hamlet of Little Walsingham, walking into a small, empty church for Eucharistic adoration. Our normal trip to some bar or nightclub in the center of London replaced by the chanting of the Tantum Ergo.

In the midst of our gathering, perhaps for the first time, we began to reflect on how difficult it was to “practice” Catholicism in London. Our local parish church, Our Lady of the Rosary, was devoid of the energy found in the Sunday liturgies of our respective dorms. The pastor of the parish was often surprised to see fifty young adults walk into the church on a Sunday morning. The city of London itself OurLadyoftheRosarywas not exactly a place for silent contemplation (as one might find on the Grotto of our own campus), the noise of the city constantly breaking through (along with the bitter heat and cold) the rather thin windows of our flats. For many of us, it was the first time that we had lived in a city in which religious practice was an aberration rather than the norm.

Yet, here we were, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. Before signing up for the trip, we were previously unaware of the existence of England’s Little Nazareth. We had not heard of the small home (modeled off of the house where the mystery of the Annunciation unfolded) that once existed on the site, built through the request of the Blessed Mother. We were unaware of the popularity of the site in the medieval period, such that the site was ranked alongside the great pilgrimage destinations of Jerusalem, Rome, and Santiago da Compostella. We did not know of the destruction that took place in Walsinghamthe Reformation nor were we aware of the re-birth of the pilgrimage in the late nineteenth century. In some ways, we were unworthy to follow in the footsteps of pilgrims, who offered their entire selves, even their lives, to walk the way to Little Nazareth. 

Saturday morning, after a brief period of prayer, we began our pilgrimage to the Catholic shrine. We were told, as we found ourselves on a rough, gravel road, that pilgrims are invited to remove their shoes as they approached the shrine itself. Clumsily, we took off our shoes, placing our feet upon the cold rocky road, our feet chilled by the damp English day. As we walked upon the road, we were invited to say our Aves.

As my voice fell into the familiar grooves of this prayer, I began to consider what precisely I was doing on this pilgrimage. My own faith had been severely tested while studying in London, enough that I began to consider for the first time that God was merely a creation of my own imagination. I began to live as if there was no meaning in the world outside of the pursuit of pleasure through drinking and being in love with what I thought was love. Yet, here I was, barefoot and stumbling along the same pilgrim route that uncounted numbers before me had trod upon. My mouth uttered words that I no longer entirely believed; still, I could not help but be struck that I was participating in a long line of women and men who offered their own poor Aves upon this road to little Nazareth.

In the years since, I’ve learned to look back at this pilgrimage to Walsingham as the hidden salvation of my soul. The retreat and pilgrimage that weekend did not immediately shine light upon the darkness to which I had grown accustomed. But, it did remind me that Catholicism is not simply for those who practice their Aves and Paters with total surety. Along that road to little Nazareth, saints and sinners had sojourned before me. In the end, it was not the sheer intellectual heft of Catholicism, the surety of its moral vision, that kept me in the folds of the flock. Rather, it was my own deep OurLadyofWalsinghamawareness, as I painfully walked upon that gravel road, that I was not alone in the practice of this faith. That the road that I walked upon was not paved by me but marked by the prayers of those who went before me.

The weekend following the pilgrimage, I remember walking once again into the parish church of Our Lady of the Rosary, the meager choir severely out of tune. The back wall of the church marked by blacken ash (presumably from some fire). And as I looked around, at the old women and men who assembled at this parish church, I grew aware that it was not aesthetic grandeur, the delightful movement of my affect, or intellectual surety that would keep me saying my Aves and Paters. It was the communion of saints, of whom Mary herself is queen, that would keep me fumbling along on my own pilgrimage.

Since my time in London, I have found myself healed from the intellectual doubt and moral discord that marked my time abroad. I am married now with a young son. I teach and study theology at the University of Notre Dame. But, I remain perpetually grateful to Our Lady of Walsingham and that unpaved road full of the hidden prayers of pilgrims past and present. I pray now for those pilgrims, who journey along that way, hopeful that my prayers (however meager they might have been and still are) might lighten their load upon the road not simply to Little Nazareth but to the beatific vision.

The gift of Catholicism is not that we go it alone, enacting our personal religious conversion through the sheer force of individual intellect or will. The entire communion of saints intercedes for us in the midst of our paltry practices and impoverished prayer. Our fumbling and bumbling, the burnt out shells of churches that seem emptier than we remember, remain full of the prayers of those who have gone before us.

This does not mean that we can become complacent in our practice, happy to be a Church where everyone just shows us. But it does mean that we are a Church where showing up is the first step toward conversion. Where kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, all the while thinking about what one is going to do when one goes out tonight, is not a meaningless act. For each time that we take up well-worn words and gestures, we enter into the hidden mystery of Nazareth where we, like Mary, are invited to welcome the Word made flesh. Indeed, the Church needs pastoral programs and better catechesis and choirs that sometimes sing in tune. But it needs women and men, most of all, who show up letting the practice of faith become inscribed upon their bodies. Who, whether they are aware of it or not, join in the grammar of praise of those who belong to the company of the holy ones. Who are willing to join the saints along their sojourn, learning to perhaps hope one day, to join their very ranks.

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us. Pray for me.

The Domestic Church at Prayer: The Renewal of the Church Takes Flesh

Tim-OMalley-e1375811311325-137x150Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author


Six months ago, after the O’Malley family finished their evening prayer, I had an idea. We passed by an icon–given to us by a dear friend and colleague–of the Blessed Virgin tenderly holding her infant son, Jesus. Bringing my son over to the icon, we each kissed the sacred image, transforming what had previously been decorative sacred art into liturgical object. My son, still learning to give a kiss, lowered his head to the icon–receiving an embrace from the Virgin and the Word made flesh. Then, commencing a ritual that ChristandtheChildholds to this day, we gave each other a hug. After carrying out this practice twice, my son began to demand this ritual action as integral to his bedtime practice.

When ministers  talk about the role of the domestic church in catechesis, I often think they complicate matters. Indeed, parents are the first catechists of their children. But this does not mean that parents are supposed to provide introductory courses in Christian doctrine while gathered around the dinner table. Rather, what makes the domestic church so “effective” is that Catholic practices are performed tenderly, in the course of daily life. Kissing an icon of the Virgin and her messianic son, Jesus Christ, is not a matter of great courage, demanding both supreme intellectual and moral virtue. It is not even that great of a commitment relative to other practices that could be performed (I spend 59 more minutes a day at the gym than I do kissing this icon). It is a mundane practice, a practice of seemingly non-heroic love, that slowly changes the person who performs it. It even changes what it means to dwell in our living room, since it is no longer a space merely where we hang out. Rather, in this space, we kiss and encounter the living God.

In fact, this formation has not simply been directed toward my son as I had originally hoped. The ten seconds I spend with my lips pressed against this icon have become my supreme act of offering each day. The sorrows and joys of my daily life come to mind. Yet, as I gaze upon this image, I cannot help but be renewed in my own faithful commitment to the tender mercy of the God who is love. I look anew with the tender love of God at my spouse, at my son, at each of my students. This practice, however small, seems to be forming me in loving the world as it was created to be loved.

The domestic church is effective in passing on the doctrine and practices of our faith precisely because in the context of family life, doctrines and practices are no longer ideas or burdens. The Incarnation of Christ is not some event in the distant past. Kissing an icon is not merely a historical, liturgical practice. Rather, the Incarnation is now the fullness of God’s tender embrace of humanity not simply as idea or possibility. The gift of divine mercy is perceived anew each evening as God’s loving embrace of humanity writes itself upon the life of our family. The Church is not a bureaucracy of ministers who make decisions. Rather, we see it now as those (like us) who gather around the Eucharistic altar because they also have encountered (or hope to encounter) the tenderness of this divine mercy.

It is these practices that write the “Good News” upon our bodies, which will have an effect upon the renewal of the Church and the world alike. As pragmatic and at times bureaucratic Americans, we may be more tempted to seek this renewal through episcopal appointments, through the right catechetical or liturgical program offered by a university or diocese, or through some other plan of action that involves extensive committee work.  Our fasting, our weekly and daily participation in the Eucharist, even the kissing of an icon by one small family as the sun descends each evening is what the renewal of the Church looks like in the concrete, in the flesh and blood.

Chicago Archbishop

The Liturgical Vision of Archbishop Blase Cupich

Chicago ArchbishopEditors’ note: The Notre Dame Center for Liturgy’s journal Assembly: A Journal of Liturgical Theology featured an article on the 2000 GIRM by then Bishop Cupich of Rapid City, South Dakota in July of 2007 (a volume of the journal that included a piece by Fr. Michael Joncas and yours truly as a doctoral student at the time). We’re re-posting this article on Oblation, because we believe it might contribute to assessing the liturgical vision of Archbishop Cupich. 

While much of the commentary on the appointment of Cupich has tended to focus on assessing the new archbishop’s position in the ecclesial political wars (is he a progressive conservative, a liberal progressive moderate, or a secret libertarian anarchist?), we see in his treatment of the 2000 GIRM a pastor who sees the liturgy as integral to the Church’s mission in the world. That is, he is not “moderate” in the sense of adding two positions together to get a beige middle.

We also think that the vision set forth by then Bishop Cupich has not been implemented by any stretch of the imagination. But, I guess that’s our job.   

Implementing the GIRM2000: Getting Back on Track

The Implemention of GIRM 2ooo Sidetracked

On Holy Thursday, 2000, Pope John Paul II approved the revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM2000), replacing the 1975 edition (GIRM1975). The Congregation for Divine Worship (CDW) made the text available in Latin under the title, Institutio  Generalis Missalis Romani, through the Web site of the Vatican Press Office.

Shortly thereafter, the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy (BCL) issued a provisional English translation for study purposes. Almost immediately, people on opposite sides of the liturgical spectrum weighed in. One camp described the revised Instruction as a return to clericalism and rubricism. In their view, its implementation represented a rollback of the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. The other side praised the new document as a welcomed and necessary correction of abuses. This was the set of “new rules” they had hoped for and urged the bishops to enforce them.

After reading the document, I became convinced that both sides were making the same mistake and misreading the GIRM2000. If left unaddressed, their shared mistaken approach, which in effect involves a very limited reading of the document, could sidetrack the liturgical renewal envisioned by the document and the Council. Succinctly put, both sides were reading the Instruction too narrowly, approaching it simply as a list of rubrical changes to be introduced in the celebration of the Eucharist. The only difference between the two sides was whether or not they agreed with the new rubrics.

It could be argued that the CDW anticipated the problem of a selective reading of the GIRM2000; i.e., scanning it only for variations. It took the deliberate step of informing the various bishops’ conferences that the provisional translation of the GIRM2000 could not appear in a form that highlighted the differences from the 1975 edition. The wisdom of this directive is now coming to light. Clearly, the Roman officials intend that the GIRM2000 should be read, interpreted, and implemented in its entirety.

Getting Back on Track

Getting back on track involves answering two questions: What do we learn about this document when we read it as a whole text? What does that suggest to us about how we implement it?

Reading the GIRM2000 as a whole text

In answering the first question we should begin with the title of the text. It is an institutio or instruction. Robert Cabié reminds us that, “according to the original meaning of the Latin title, Institutio (generalis), we are being given an ‘instruction’ inspired by an interpretative intention and a pedagogical purpose” (The Church at Prayer, vol.2,Liturgical Press, 1986). The General Instruction explains how the revised Mass relates to the authentic tradition and stands in continuity with it.[1] This means that it is primarily a teaching. It is a summary of the doctrinal and pastoral principles of that authentic tradition, most fully expressed in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (CSL). These principles are pedagogically organized to help us grasp the nature and importance of the liturgy in the life of the Church.

Secondly, we should take note of the fact that the General Instruction as a form introducing the Roman Missal replaced the General Rubrics of the Missal of Pius V. This change represents the shift in the understanding of the liturgy, fostered in the Church since Pius X and especially by Pius XII in Mediator Dei[2] and which led to the reforms of the Council. The General Instruction codifies that shift by presenting the celebration of the Mass in a way that doctrinal and pastoral considerations take precedence over and give meaning to rubrical instructions. This does not mean that rubrics are unimportant but “to the extent that regulations are given, they are explained and related to a truly authentic tradition . . . [and they] serve the pastoral aspirations of the Church . . .” (The Church at Prayer).

Thirdly, the doctrinal and pastoral principles found in the Introduction and Chapter One: Importance and Dignity of the Eucharistic Celebration of GIRM2000 are taken almost verbatim from GIRM1975. (The only changes are in #19, where priests are encouraged to celebrate Mass daily, andd #22, where the role of the diocesan bishop in fostering the liturgy is expanded.) The repetition of these same principles in a document called a “revision” speaks volumes. It means that the renewal of the liturgy called for by the Council is still at issue and it is unfinished business. The document is saying that we need to go back to the principles of the liturgical renewal. It also seems to indicate that the introduction of new rubrics or directions is not just a matter of giving us more rules. Rather, these changes are an attempt to highlight and reinforce one or another of these repeated principles, since experience (not just in our country, but in the universal Church) has indicated they may have been neglected over these past decades since the Council.

Implementing the GIRM2000

In view of all of this, it is clear that any implementation of the GIRM2000 must give priority to educating priests and people about the doctrinal and pastoral principles of liturgical renewal outlined by the Council. Specifically, that means bringing people to an authentic understanding of the Christian notion of the assembly. It means stressing the importance of liturgical signs. It also involves clearly defining worship as liturgical action, as dialogue between God and his people, and as a celebration of the mystery of salvation. These are all central principles. My years of teaching as a seminary professor, as a pastor offering adult education classes to lay people, and as a bishop speaking to groups of priests about liturgical renewal have led me to conclude that we have grossly underestimated the need to educate. It never fails that whenever I outline the principles of the Council’s liturgical renewal in an educational session, many people and priests tell me that they had never thought of approaching the renewal in this way or that the ritual changes were now beginning to make sense.

Secondly, in addition to introducing or reintroducing the principles, we also must help people see how the ritual directives are expressive of them. The task of implementation then cannot be reduced to merely informing people about the rubrical changes and making sure they are enforced. All evidence shows that this approach is doomed to fail, no matter how enticing it may be, given the fact that it is much easier and less complicated. Instead, we should see this new institutio as a challenge and opportunity to explain to our clergy and people how the changes are motivated by a concern for authentic liturgical principles that may have been ignored or maybe in need of reinforcement or encouragement.[3] Admittedly, this will take much more effort, time, and patience, but it has the promise of bringing about the kind of real and sustained liturgical renewal the Council and the GIRM2000 envisions, and that the Church needs and deserves.

Finally, we should not overlook the importance the GIRM2000 gives to the role of the Bishop who is portrayed as central to the implementation of liturgical renewal. Notice that the original description of the Bishop found in GIRM1975 has been expanded in this latest revision. Again describing the Bishop as the “chief steward of the mysteries, . .moderator, promoter and guardian” of the entire liturgical life of his diocese, GIRM2000 states that he must strive to assure that all “grasp interiorly a genuine sense of the liturgical texts and rites, and thereby are led to an active and fruitful celebration of the Eucharist.” This last phrase recalls what the Council Fathers said in setting priorities for the ongoing restoration and renewal of the liturgy; namely, that it can only come through the promotion of the full, active, and conscious participation by all the people, which is the aim to be considered above all else (CSL, 14).

A Fresh Opportunity for Renewal

The GIRM2000 presents us with a fresh opportunity to interpret that priority more expansively. By investing time, resources, and energy into the education of our priests and people, we can bring about the kind of ownership and understanding of the liturgy that makes their full, active, and conscious participation a reality for everyone. Not only is that an investment worth making, it will also keep us on track and avoid having the renewal derailed by ideological extremes.

[1] It is for this reason that both the GIRM1975 and 2000 note that the Mass of Paul VI has benefited from the study of sources unavailable to the Tridentine liturgy, such that “it also becomes clear how outstandingly and felicitously the older Roman Missal is brought to fulfillment in the new.” The International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) translation in the GIRM2000, #6 of Si autem huius traditionis ponderentur interiora elementa, intellegitur etiam, quam egregie ac feliciter prius perficiatur altero.

[2] “It is an error, consequently, and a mistake to think of the sacred liturgy as merely the outward and visible part of divine worship or as an ornamental ceremonial. No less erroneous is the notion that it consists solely in a list of laws and prescriptions according to which the ecclesiastical hierarchy orders the sacred rites to be performed.” Likewise, we read in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 11, “Pastors of souls must therefore realize that, when the liturgy is celebrated, something more is required than the mere observation of the laws governing valid and licit celebration; it is their duty also to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects.”

[3] While some lesser changes seem to be getting all the attention, we should not overlook how the GIRM2000 reinforces principles and practices found in the original Instruction, because they are central to the ongoing renewal and have proven to be so in the intervening years. For instance, this new Instruction strengthens the norms on the homily, noting that it is an integral part of the liturgical action (29). While homilies are required on Sundays and holy days of obligation, they may be eliminated from a Mass with a congregation only for a grave reason (66). Greater stress is given to Communion under both kinds, and to the importance of having the faithful receive Communion consecrated at the Mass they attend. The GIRM2000 has removed any reference to the need for women to obtain permission to enter the sanctuary. These are but a few, but my point here is that these particular “changes,” while not receiving much attention in comparison to others, more easily remind us that all of the changes can only be understood within the framework of the principles of liturgical renewal. This may especially help to counter the criticisms that the GIRM2000 represents a return to rubricism and is a shift to clericalism, an unmerited assumption based on a narrow preoccupation with some of the changes at the expense of overlooking the entire framework of renewal offered in the Instruction.

Christ’s Love Gathers Us: A Series on Dorm Masses (Stanford Hall)

SamuelBellafioreSamuel Bellafiore

Philosophy, Music ’15

Undergraduate Fellow, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Each Sunday night, every dorm on the Notre Dame campus offers Mass. Four minutes before Mass, holed-up Sunday studiers abandon their books, simultaneously open their doors and walk to the chapel. The Masses are lively celebrations. Most dorms have a pianist, choir and several other instruments. Students sing from the Newman Hymnal, recently published by Campus Ministry and used across campus. Dorm residents serve as extraordinary Eucharistic ministers. Dorm rectors who are priests, priests who reside in dorms
or various visiting priests celebrate Mass. It’s an opportunity for the dorm community to gather and pray. Time for socializing usually follows Mass. Throughout this year, Oblation is exploring students’ experience of dorm Masses. Students will be providing insights, observations, experiences and their own wishes regarding these Masses. In this series’ first post, two seniors from Stanford Hall reflect on their experience:


When did you start attending Sunday Mass in your dorm? Why? How often do you go?

Peter: I began attending Sunday Mass in Stanford right away during my freshman year because I wanted to celebrate Mass with my dorm community.I go to every Sunday dorm Mass and attend 1-2 daily Masses per week.

Patrick: I started attending Sunday mass in Stanford Hall my first week as a freshmen. During frosh-o [freshman orientation] weekend, all the staff members really encouraged the freshmen to come to mass. They told us that it was a good way to wrap up our weekends and mentally prepare for the week ahead. They said it was important to see all the guys in the dorm who you may not see during the week. I went the first week and just kept going. I would see all the upperclassmen there and all the RAs and my other freshmen friends and I loved being a part of that.

I go to Stanford Hall mass every Sunday night. Freshmen year I went every week. Sophomore year my attendance dropped off quite a bit and I hardly ever attended mass. Last year I attended once or twice a month. This year, I’ve made it a priority to go to mass every Sunday in Stanford. It’s important to be part of the faith community in Stanford. Sundays in Stanford Hall are always days that should be spent with the dorm, hanging out, watching NFL, playing section football, and going to the dining hall together. There’s no better way to end a day like that then by going to mass as a community.

Why do you attend? Are there particular aspects of your experience of Mass that make you want to return? Any that discourage you from returning?

Peter: I love celebrating Sunday Mass with my brothers in the dorm. It is a great way to end my week and start the next one. I also enjoy having our rector or our resident priest preside and preach each Sunday. Their homilies are also very applicable to us. The main reason I wouldn’t attend Sunday dorm Mass is because I want to attend one of the beautiful Masses in the Basilica.

Celebrating Mass in our dorm places faith at the core of our community. We are a Christian community and celebrating Mass together is the most important way we can build our Christian community and work together towards becoming better sons and daughters of God.

Because I have always attended Sunday dorm Mass, no one has ever encouraged me to attend. But I have been invited many times to join them for daily Mass in my dorm or other dorms. I have never been discouraged from attending Sunday dorm Mass.

Patrick: I attend mass because it helps me to reflect on the week, on the course the semester is headed, on things that I’ve done well and things that I need to improve. It helps me to have some time to sit in quiet, amongst friends, about how to best serve this community as an RA. It allows me to come together with some of my best friends in the world and pray together. Father Bill is also an outstanding speaker and his homilies alone are worth going to mass for.

Stanford Hall is a Christian community. Everything that we do at Notre Dame is centered around our identity as a Catholic school. In the dorms, in our sections, at this university, we are trying to build a community, a family. We are trying to make this campus into a place where everybody feels welcome, everybody feels wanted, and everyone feels valued. We are trying to make this
into a place where people care about each other. Sunday night mass as a dorm is at the very core of this idea. We are called to come together, as individuals and to form one body, one community. This is what we do in the chapel on Sundays. It represents what we are trying to do during the rest of the week: build a Christian community.

The first person I remember who encouraged me to attend Sunday night mass was my RA from freshman year…He really encouraged me and the rest of the freshmen to attend mass. He would go every week with his girlfriend. I saw them going and I thought, hey I really like how this guy operates, how he lives his life, I’m going to try and be more like him. And so I tried to do what he was doing, and that meant going to mass.

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Keenan-Stanford Hall

Chapel of the Holy Cross, Keenan-Stanford Hall

What do you think of the music at your dorm Mass? Does it affect your experience? Preaching?

Peter: I enjoy the music at our dorm Mass and like the songs they choose to sing. We have a fair number of people who play instruments and who sing in the choir. If the music is off and it sometimes is, it does affect the Mass and the celebration. I enjoy the homilies, particularly because they are specifically geared towards college students.

Patrick: The music is the most beautiful part of dorm mass. At Stanford, we are blessed with some incredible musicians and vocalists. In my four years, we’ve had piano, guitar, bongo drums, bassoons, and more. The choir stands directly behind the altar, in full view of the entire congregation, where everyone can see them singing their hearts out. As a participant in the mass, I love singing the hymns. My favorite song to play at the end of mass is “Canticle of the Turning.” I also love how we sing the Our Father prayer during every mass. 

Do you think other dorm residents have opinions about Mass similar to yours? When people in the dorm don’t attend Mass, why do you think that is?

Peter: I think some others share my opinion about dorm Mass, but certainly not everyone places so much value in Sunday dorm Mass. My opinion has also evolved now that I have lived in the dorm for four years. I value dorm Mass more and look forward to it more than I did when I was a freshman. I do think some people view the Mass mainly as something they should be going to and dorm Mass is the best Mass to attend. Some people don’t attend Mass because they don’t have the desire to attend Sunday Mass. Others don’t attend Mass because their homework and studying is higher on their priority list.

Patrick: I know that everyone who attends Mass regularly does so for similar reasons as me: the music, the homilies, the community, etc. I think that anyone who chooses to attend dorm mass gets more out of it than they ever expected they would. I also think that those who don’t attend dorm mass haven’t given it a chance. Even if you aren’t Catholic or you have a ton of homework to do, every person can benefit from dorm Mass. If you go with a group of friends, if you use the time to reflect and calm yourself, you will be surprised by how much you will gain from just an hour.

Are there snacks after your Sunday Mass or other practices particular to your dorm? Do you think this encourages people to attend?

Peter: There are Mass snacks at our dorm Mass and I do think this is a little extra encouragement for people to attend. But mainly, Mass snacks help build more community after Mass.

Patrick: Yes! We have mass snacks after mass every week. The mass snack changes every week. Sometimes it is root beer floats, ice cream sandwiches, cookies, oreos, etc. Basically anything! It’s a great way to socialize after mass and enjoy some tasty food!

If you could improve one thing at your Sunday dorm Mass, what would it be?

Peter: I would improve attendance at Sunday dorm Mass. Of course, this is the end goal and other things probably need to happen in order to improve attendance. If I had to say one other thing, it would be to make the music even better.

Patrick: The only thing I would improve about dorm mass would be to improve the attendance, to try and encourage more guys in the hall to come to dorm mass. It would be amazing to see our chapel filled on Sundays.

Make of Your Bodies a Living Sacrifice: A Vespers Homily

Tim-OMalley-e1375811311325-137x150Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

This homily was preached at the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy Vespers (September 9, 2014):

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:9-18).

TrinityI have a tendency to delight in my own theological musings. I revel in contemplating the processions of the Son and the Spirit from the Father, aware that this Trinitarian grammar requires us to re-conceive of everything that we thought about the world. I often find
myself considering with serene enjoyment how in the liturgical rites of the Church, women and men return to our original vocation as those made to praise and adore God. In my prayer, I discover myself charmed by the spiritual insights that come to me as I let the words of the Psalms marinate in my mouth and imagination alike.

Of course, early in my career as a theologian, I discovered the profound gap between insight and action, between the intellect and the will, between delight and duty. My intellectual musings upon the mystery of divine love in the Trinity often does not lead me to a deeper capacity to love concrete human beings, who I too often see as obstacles to my own very important labor. My discourse on the liturgical vocation of the Christian is interrupted by very real desire to have my own way in both my work and personal life, no matter the costs. My best intention to let the psalms become my daily bread is intruded upon by that demonic gift of rationalizing intellectual and administrative work above prayer.

I was reminded of this gap between the desire to love God and neighbor and the will to love in word and deed as I read over today’s reading from Saint Paul to the Romans. Beginning just a bit earlier than we read, Romans 12:1-2 states:

I appeal to you, therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (logike latreia). Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2).

Paul’s exhortation for us to present our very bodies, the fullness of ourselves, as a kind of liturgical offering is a passage we’re all familiar with. The Apostle promises the very renewal of our minds, a transformation that moves us away from the reign of death and violence that characterizes the “the reign of the world” to that of the new creation.

If you are like me, you read this passage, and you delight in the image of a spiritual worship that is to take over our entire being. The thought alone of the victory of the new creation over that reign of sin and death undoubtedly pleases you. Yet, the Apostle interrupts our pleasant, secure, musings.

  • If you want to make of your bodies a spiritual offering, “love one another with mutual affection…Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.”
  • If you want to participate in the new creation, don’t simply think about it, but instead “bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
  • If you desire the renewal of your minds, moving beyond the reign of sin and death, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.”

StPaulDear friends, the spiritual worship that the Apostle is talking about, the transformation of our whole selves as we enter ever more deeply into the reign of the peaceable kingdom, is not merely an idea to be pondered. For the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Our spiritual worship is not an intellectual endeavor alone, a decision to follow Christ made possible through the exercise of our minds or our good intentions or pious musings. Instead, we learn this spiritual worship, we learn to dwell in the new creation when we enter into the concrete, mundane, and messy world of love. When we learn to greet the neighbor with love, to let the practice of prayer become inscribed upon our body, to enter into solidarity with all those who hunger and thirst for the Word made flesh, to love one another as I have loved you.

As we continue this academic semester together, dear friends, it is the Apostle who speaks to each of us. Let this year be an occasion not simply to delight in our own intellectual musings or administrative accomplishments or prayerful recollections. Instead, enter into the very heart of the Church, to those concrete bodily, practices of love that form us to offer that spiritual worship that will renew creation itself.

Liturgy: The Soundtrack of a Life

HopeBoettnerHope Boettner ’15

Theology Undergraduate

Fellow, Center for Liturgy

I have a confession to make. My personal music taste is pretty strange and eclectic. It has always been so, mostly because as a young child movie soundtracks served as one of my (few) cultural exposures. And still, over twenty years into the game, soundtracks continue their hold on me. The first few notes of many a soundtrack instantly link and connect me to moments within a wide range of movies.


This instinct to be called out of myself, to recognize a moment within a story, has affected me since about the age of three when I was conscious enough to realize what was happening in the Man from Snowy River movie as the main character, a cowboy named Jim Craig rode through the Victorian Alps of Australia. I believe this is one of the powers and abilities of a good soundtrack: it can serve as an instant connection to moments and times in movies. Soundtracks can call us to a sentiment or mood that movie-makers and those creating films scores hope to inspire in watchers and listeners, regardless of where we came from when the movie began.

Concrete examples help us to make more sense of this:

Rudy— The main theme of “Rudy” is one nearly all Notre Dame fans can identify. There are some intense songs in the movie to be sure, because the whole thing isn’t flutes and Notre Dame scenery (after all, it is a football story). But the main theme is soft, inspiring, and continually climbing.


Lord of the Rings- “The Bridge of Khazad Dum.” The very instant this piece starts, you know something intense is happening. Indeed, the Fellowship is fleeing for their lives, but the piece manages to be powerful and motivating while communicating the urgency of what is happening at the same time.


Little Women- “Spring.” The “Little Women” soundtrack by Thomas Newman, a musical genius, is one of my all-time favorites. It is particularly brilliant because the soundtrack spans all seasons and sentiments. “Spring” is what you would expect. It is lilting, hopeful, and one almost thinks of daisies popping out of the ground as the music plays.


All three of these themes all have their purpose, their place, and their particular time within the movies. The movie-maker would not want soft flutes and strings when Rudy is about to go out on the field; we would hate the “Bridge of Khazad- Dum” amidst the tranquility of the Shire. The cheerfulness of “Spring” should not come where Beth is dying. Those other themes, those other things have their own place. But within that particular soundtrack, individual pieces call us to something different at varied times throughout the course of the movie.

I’m reminded of the often-quoted passage from Ecclesiastes 3:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance….” (NRSV Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4)

Would we live our own lives differently with the aid of a soundtrack in the background during these varied seasons and times? Would we take somber moments more seriously if ponderous music played? Would we realize the beauty of births and baptisms if somehow a corresponding theme unfolded? Would we thoughtfully be more present during important conversations if some background instruments portrayed the gravity of the moment?

This discussion of soundtracks has been a rather long-winded way of connecting our lives to the liturgical calendar. And so here is the LiturgicalYearquestion I pose: what if we thought about the liturgical calendar as the orienting soundtrack of and for our lives? What if God, through His cosmic liturgical screenplay, has created a liturgical movie score for the soundtrack of our existence?

Sacrosanctum Concillium, Vatican II’s document on liturgy can help us to inform this thought:

“Within the cycle of a year, moreover, she [the Church] unfolds the whole mystery of Christ, from the incarnation and birth until the ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of blessed hope and of the coming of the Lord.

Recalling thus the mysteries of redemption, the Church opens to the faithful the riches of her Lord’s powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present for all time, and the faithful are enabled to lay hold upon them and become filled with saving grace” (Chapter 5, Paragraph 102).

Throughout the course of a liturgical year, we experience, remember, and unfold the whole life of Christ. The entire “drama” of salvation unfolds—and this is a much bigger drama than a football player achieving his goal or of the fulfillment of a fantasy fellowship’s quest. This is THE cosmic drama. It most certainly deserves soundtrack status.

When we think about the liturgical calendar as a soundtrack for our lives, an important distinction must be made to separate our personal feelings from the disposition to which the season calls us. I am not saying that we should instantly summon the “feelings” associated with a liturgical season simply because it is the appropriate liturgical time. On the contrary: one of the beautiful parts of the “soundtrack” of the liturgical year comes from its ability to call us outside of ourselves in a way that supersedes the power that soundtracks have in movies. There is something beautiful and transcendent about singing, “Alleluia, He is risen!” and knowing that Christ has defeated death, even if your voice cracks because you are mourning from recent loss. There is something sobering about the call to repentance during Lent, even if in our own lives we may have recently experienced moments of fulfillment or excitement and happiness.

I remember a moment in class a few years back when a professor explained:

“’Ek” means to go out, and ‘stasis’ means to stand. Creation happened when God literally went outside Himself with love. It was ek- static.”

The liturgy can perform a similar function. It can be ek-static. In the liturgy, we are called outside of ourselves, outside of our own communionthoughts and feelings and recent experiences. We are united with the entire Church in one common goal and disposition as we strive Home toward our Creator.

Sacrosanctuum Concillium also tells us that:

“….the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows.”

How would our own lives be different if we consciously chose to let the liturgical calendar orient our actions, our thoughts, and our prayers? What if we thought about the liturgy as both a summit (climax) and a font (the exposition and rising action) of our liturgical story? What if the cosmic calendar of uniting ourselves to the life of Christ was our own soundtrack? What if the seasons of the liturgical year helped to shape the seasons of our lives?


This is one more way to think about the liturgy as not a “designated for Sunday mornings and fifty-some odd minutes,” but rather as a way to shape and orient our entire lives. Liturgy can be our soundtrack. It can be the beautiful, sometimes soaring, and sometimes sobering theme that plays constantly throughout the drama of our lives.

2015 Symposium, Liturgy and Vocation

Tim-OMalley-e1375811311325-137x150Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

The Notre Dame Center for Liturgy is happy to announce the line-up for our 2015 Symposium: Liturgy and Vocation (June 8-11, 2015).

General Sessions

Christ as Bridegroom (Brant Pitre, Ph.D., Chair of Sacred Scripture, Notre Dame Seminary, New Orleans)

Liturgy and Vocation (Msgr. Michael Heintz, Ph.D., Director of M.Div. Program, University of Notre Dame)

Icons of Love: A Theological Vision of Priesthood and Family (Holly Taylor Coolman, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Providence College)

The Political Vocation of Ordination and Marriage (Chad Pecknold, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Catholic University of America

A Panel Presentation on Formation for Marriage and Priesthood

  • Fr. Denis Robinson, O.S.B., President-Rector and Associate Professor, St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology
  • Stacey Noem, M.Div., Director of Human and Spiritual Formation, M.Div. Program, University of Notre Dame
  • Joshua Noem, M.Div., Writer and Editor of, University of Notre Dame


  • The Liturgical Spirituality of the Priest (Fr. Denis Robinson, O.S.B.)
  • The Rite of Marriage (Fr. Daniel Merz, Outgoing Associate Director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship, USCCB; Priest, Diocese of Jeffeson City)
  • Liturgical Music for the Rite of Marriage (Christopher Ferraro, Director of Music, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Lindenhurst, New York)
  • Formation for the Sacrament of Marriage (Joshua and Stacey Noem)
  • Hispanic Catholics and the Sacrament of Marriage (Fred and Lisa Everett, Co-Directors of the Office of Family Life, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend)
  • The Deacon in the Life of the Church (Deacon Scott Dodge, Cathedral of the Madeleine, Diocese of Salt Lake City)
  • Advanced Seminar in Liturgical History and Theology (Faculty, University of Notre Dame)

Since 2012, we have been undertaking a study of the rites reformed
LiturgyandVocationafter the Second Vatican Council including the Eucharistic liturgy (2012), initiation (2013), and the rites of healing (2014). The rites that we will be considering in 2015 are the sacraments of communion including ordination and marriage.

The inspiration to the approach that we will be taking at the Symposium is to be found in the writings of the liturgical theologian Alexander Schmemann:

…some of us are married and some are not. Some of us are called to be priests and ministers and some are not. But the sacraments of matrimony and priesthoodconcern all of us, because they concern our life as vocation. The meaning, the essence and the end of all vocation, is the mystery of Christ and the Church. It is through the Church that each one of us finds that the vocation of all vocations is to follow Christ in the fullness of His priesthood: in His love for man [sic] and the world, His love for their ultimate fulfillment in the abundant life of the Kingdom” (For the Life of the Word, 94)

This year’s Symposium will focus less on the historical development of these two rites (something we think is worthy of study) and more on what we see as the theological and pastoral task facing those involved in formation around these rites. In our discussion of the theme, we grew increasingly aware that the vocation crisis within the Church is not simply related to the priesthood. Rather, there is a general vocational crisis in society as a whole.

For example, marriage is often so difficult for couples to participate in, because they have accepted a narrative in which “being married” means finding one’s complete soul mate. The marriage is supposed to make you happy beyond belief, such that you never again experience loneliness for the rest of your days. But, anyone who has been married, knows that such marriages do not exist. We are never complete in another human being, and thus it is no surprise that those who are married still experience loneliness, restlessness, even sexual desire for other human beings.

Likewise, an array of young men are ordained to the priesthood suffer from the very same expectations. They expect that their identity as “priest” will lead to a happiness unknown, a sense of calling that surpasses all else. The reality of the priesthood today (and most likely always), of course, is that this happiness is often fleeting. The daily life of a priest is full of the mundane, the difficult, and the boring. There is joy to be found here, but those who believe that priesthood is a slow devoid of the cross, may find themselves leaving in the first five years.

These two examples point toward why we think that a deeper consideration of both ordination and marriage might function as a catalyst for the  Church’s imagination. The liturgy of the Church is not simply something that we are supposed to think about. Rather, it can serve as a window that enables us to think about the Christian life as a whole. The daily celebration of the liturgy can bestow to us a broader vision of vocation, of that sense of calling within the world. The “crisis” will be fixed not simply through better recruitment strategies or clearer teaching about the Church’s understanding of divorce and re-marriage. Rather, the crisis will be healed when women and men discover that every aspect of our lives (the joyful and sorrowful), are gifts to be given away–the way that each of us participate in the common priesthood of Christ.

We think this topic will resonate with anyone who is involved in marriage preparation, offices of vocation, campus ministry at both the high school and college level, as well as those who work in catechesis and liturgy. We hope you consider joining us.


Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, Institute for Church Life

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