Living the Vocation of Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

MTS Student, History of Christianity, University of Notre Dame

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

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

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

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

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

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


Laudato Si, Guardini, and Liturgy

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

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

MTS Student, History of Christianity, University of Notre Dame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

MTS Student, History of Christianity, University of Notre Dame

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with Integrity

Alan Stout

Editor, “Worship with Integrity”   Pamplona, Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evangelization to the Children of God

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

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

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

To exhort, to encourage, to plead…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Summer at Oblation

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

MTS Student, History of Christianity, University of Notre Dame

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Dear Readers,

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

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

Yours in Christ,

Anthony J. Oleck

University of Notre Dame, ’14, MTS ’16

Assistant Rector, Fisher Hall

At the Feet of and Entrusted to the Heart of Jesus

Hope BoettnerHope Bethany

University of Notre Dame, Class of 2015

Echo 12 Apprentice

This writing finds me in a familiar place, though at a different stage of life. I often come to sit at the feet of the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue on campus. When I came here as an undergraduate, I liked to think about sitting here as an image of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus—the type of quiet listening, spent sitting at the feet of Jesus, that we think of when we think about Jesus in the house of Martha and Mary.

Johannes Vermeer's painting of "Christ in the House of Mary and Martha"
Johannes Vermeer’s painting of “Christ in the House of Mary and Martha”

One day this past spring (maybe because of this writing job, in fact; it has made the wheels of my mind continually turn and try to catch ideas for writing), I realized that my mental picture of sitting at the feet of Jesus and sometimes trying to force the sentiments of peace that Mary might have found was overly idealistic. I hope and pray that there will be many times in my life of sitting at the feet of Jesus, quietly and at peace like Mary. But Mary of Bethany’s time at the feet of Jesus does not image for us the only time spent at the feet of Jesus.

These scenarios also did, and maybe they do so more powerfully.

The woman caught in adultery found herself at the feet of Jesus.




Mary Magdalen, pouring the anointing of oil on Jesus in sorrow for her sin, began by crying at the feet of Jesus and drying those tears with her hair.





And Mary, the mother of Jesus, had to spend hours at her Son’s feet while at the foot of the Cross, experiencing the agony of watching her Son die.



And so at another point, I realized that my thought process of sitting at the feet of the Sacred Heart of Jesus statue here on campus, and finding my way to it no matter what state of mind and heart I found myself, more closely mirrors the way that St. Margaret Mary Alacoque wrote about the scenarios in which we ought to entrust ourselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus than it did to any time Mary of Bethany spent quietly at the feet of Jesus, as Martha bustled busily around the house.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque—the saint to whom we believe that Jesus appeared and revealed his Sacred Heart—expresses the reality that our lives belong at the feet of Jesus, or, in keeping with the feast we celebrate today, entrusted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

This divine heart is an abyss of all blessings, and into it the poor should submerge all their needs. It is an abyss of joy in which all of us can immerse our sorrows. It is an abyss of lowliness to counteract our foolishness, an abyss of mercy for the wretched, an abyss of love to meet our every need.

Therefore, you must unite yourselves to the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, both at the beginning of your conversion in order to obtain proper dispositions, and at its end in order to make reparation. Are you making no progress in prayer? Then you need only offer God the prayers which the Savior has poured out for us in the sacrament of the altar. Offer God his fervent love in reparation for your sluggishness. In the course of every activity pray as follows: “My God, I do this or I endure that in the heart of your Son and according to his holy counsels. I offer it to you in reparation for anything blameworthy or imperfect in my actions.”

Continue to do this in every circumstance of life. And every time that some punishment, affliction or injustice comes your way, say to yourself: “Accept this as sent to you by the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ in order to unite yourself to him.”

But above all preserve peace of heart. This is more valuable than any treasure. In order to preserve it there is nothing more useful than renouncing your own will and substituting for it the will of the divine heart. In this way his will can carry out for us whatever contributes to his glory, and we will be happy to be his subjects and to trust entirely in him.

Life belongs at the feet of Jesus, entrusted to his Sacred Heart, in all circumstances. In joy and in peace, yes: but also in sorrow, and especially in contrition for sin.

And what do the feet of Jesus and entrusting ourselves to his Sacred Heart have to do with anything about writing? Oblation editor Tim O’Malley asked Sam Bellafiore and me to write “wrap-up” pieces about what we have learned as undergraduate fellows and where we are headed. As became more and more epidemic as the year went on, I am late in writing (spilling ramen on my laptop and destroying it did not help this process; requiescat en pace, old laptop).

But I am grateful for this last year, in which I have been able to write for this blog as a job (it felt like I was cheating every time I entered hours). I am grateful for what I have learned about writing, about thinking of writing as a kind of ministry, about Tim and Carolyn’s senses of humor and patience (and the abilities Sam and I had in testing that patience). Writing can be a kind of ministry, I suppose. As I prepare to begin master’s level coursework in theology and to serve in parish ministry during the next two years, this writing—and this lesson of entrusting it all back to the heart of Jesus for his glory (and not for mine), will continue to be on my mind. Because, again, as St. Margaret Mary said:

This divine heart is an abyss of all blessings, and into it the poor should submerge all their needs. It is an abyss of joy in which all of us can immerse our sorrows. It is an abyss of lowliness to counteract our foolishness, an abyss of mercy for the wretched, an abyss of love to meet our every need.

May we give ourselves over to that “abyss of love” of the heart of Jesus more and more, entrusting ourselves to his will.

Liturgy and Vocation: Day 3

TimOMalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

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Yesterday was a busy one for participants in our Symposium. In the morning, we welcomed Chad Pecknold from The Catholic University of America to give a lecture on “The Order of Freedom: Social and Political Effects of the Vocations to Priesthood and Marriage.” It’s important to the Center for Liturgy at each of our Symposia that we address liturgical and sacramental rites in the context of the broader culture in which such rites are carried out. 


Yesterday’s morning session began with an account of what Dr. Pecknold called the “pre-political” aspect of what it means to be human. That there is something about the human condition, which the state must recognize (including the nature of marriage and family life). Pecknold then offered an account of how the theological tradition has protected this pre-political aspect of humanity. Using an Augustinian reading of the two cities, he noted that the city of God is not an excuse for Christians to withdraw from social life. Rather, the city of God (and the city of man) are in fact spiritual dispositions. To belong to the city of God is, in the end, to guard the dignity of the human person; to guard that aspect of our identity that is pre-political (our being created in the image and likeness of God). Marriage and celibacy alike, as practiced within the Church, are part of the politics of the kingdom–the elevation of the natural to the supernatural. The sacraments of marriage and priesthood alike manifest to the world  the distinctive politics of the city of God not as an act of withdrawal but mission toward self-sacrificial love, the political discourse of the kingdom of God. Marriage and priesthood alike are thus public vocations, which the Church seeks to promote not simply for their own sake but for the flourishing of the polis.

The talk was an exceptionally learned one (we’ll make it available via video in the following weeks). The question and answer period was especially robust.

  • One diocesan leader inquired about the kind of love that should characterize the Church’s outreach to gay Catholics. A discussion ensued about ways of articulating the Church’s position on marriage, without succumbing to either rhetorical violence or required silence on the point.
  • A priest from the Midwest made a comment about marriage and undocumented immigrants. To perform the rite of marriage presently would necessitate letting the state know that said immigrant is undocumented. In such a situation, immigrants may in fact be drawn away from the sacrament of marriage rather than toward it. How the Church handles this is one of the pressing pastoral problems of the time.
  • In the blogo-sphere, there has been much discussion as of late about a “Benedict Option.” Michael Bayer from the University of Iowa asked a question about what Dr. Pecknold thought about the Benedict Option. Here, a discussion ensued (eventually moving to Twitter) as to whether the Benedict Option is consonant with a Catholic ecclesiological vision oriented toward mission and not withdrawal. Dr. Pecknold’s sense was that the Benedict Option, although attractive, is not one that the Church can take (at least as it is presently being formulated). Catechesis is what is most needed, not withdrawal.
  • Another question was asked about discernment and vocations to the priesthood. That most of the young men who come to the seminary are often themselves from families that have experienced brokenness. How, one might ask, does one cultivate vocations to the priesthood in this milieu? Dr. Pecknold recommended that there has to be an approach to discernment that moves beyond the individual toward a common, social good. That we have to act not merely as “individuals” but work toward communal discernment. Do you choose a vocation to the priesthood simply for your happiness or for the flourishing of the Church? Do you choose marriage for individual delight or because marriage gives life to the world? Catechesis and practices of discernment must engage this.
  • Lastly, a question was asked whether Catholic priests would one day need to withdraw from participating in the state sanctioning of marriages. Dr. Pecknold noted that the Church should not withdraw, because this “power” given to the Church by the state fundamentally recognizes the existence and power of the Church. The state should have to take this away; the Church should not give it away.

This morning’s talk, although not directly focusing upon the liturgical rites of the Church, expanded our imaginations to discern those pastoral problems around both priesthood and marriage (but especially the latter). This kind of astute cultural and social analysis is needed within each diocese.

Later in the afternoon, we had our final seminar period. And then celebrated Eucharist at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and a banquet at Legends of Notre Dame.


Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, Institute for Church Life

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