LastJudgment

War, Revenge, and the Eucharist

TimOMalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

A strange, sense of gladness overtook me as I heard on the radio that a coalition of forces had begun air strikes against ISIS. During the weeks preceding the air strikes, I had seen dreadful images of ISIS’ violence directed toward all who crossed their path including young children around the age of my own son. I had heard account after account of the desecration of churches, of homes, of the lives of women and men young and old. My gladness, I believed, was righteous anger directed against those who failed to respect the dignity of human life.  They were receiving what they deserved, what was ultimately right and just. 

In the days following the bombings, I began to reflect a bit on the precise sense of joy that I felt when hearing about the coalition strikes. What ultimately disturbed me was how happy I was about said bombings. I did not see these bombings as a necessary evil, a just response needed to save the lives of countless women and men. Rather, some part of me was rejoicing that those who have caused so much suffering in the region, would now experience a taste of their own medicine. I wanted the terrorists to experience the domination that theISISflag copyy had inflected upon those who they murdered. I wanted revenge.

Indeed, I still see the validity of the air strikes that continue to take place in Iraq and Syria alike. But, the problem for me as a Christian, remains my own twisted delight at the entrance of violence into the world. Rather than acknowledge with lament the continued reign of sin and death with a heavy heart, I found myself celebrating this coronation of death. The gift of peace that Christ bestowed was of little interest to me, as I savored the intoxicating fumes of war.

BaptismalFontTombMy delight in the raising of the banner of war is, of course, a symptom of the problem of sin itself. In baptism, we acknowledge that the fullness of human flourishing is not to be found in the grasping of power, being held captive by the reign of sin and death. Rather, entering into Christ’s own life through the saving waters of the font, we pledge to live once again as creatures, who refuse to claim godliness as something to be grasped (cf. Phil. 2). We become receivers, rather than takers, offerers rather than those who seize at all costs.

Yet, the logic of sin and death is not so easy to give up. We still seek control and domination at all costs–if not through the banners of war than in our personal relationships, in our politics, in our daily labors. As Christians, we are being healed of our tendency to seize and grasp at all costs, of our poisonous addiction to sin. To put it positively, we are learning again to be creatures, women and men who continue to recognize their utter dependency upon God. And who see all other creatures, even our enemies, in light of this fact.

The precise temptation of war is not simply violence, for it is possible to engage in an act that would be considered violent with a sense of justice. Rather, it is the temptation to seek dominance, to impose our will at all costs, to rejoice in the suffering of others (a suffering that lets the “other” know where he/she  stands in the world). It is to again enact that primal sin of humanity in which we define ourselves as ones who seize and grasp, rather than receive and gift.

Indeed, the Eucharist is essential to the healing of this desire to seize and grasp at all costs. Quoting Rowan Williams,

“The eucharist hints at the paradox that material things carry their fullest meaning for human minds and bodies–the meaning of God’s grace and of the common life thus formed–when they are the medium of gift, not instruments of control or objects for accumulation” (Rowan Williams, On Christian Theology, 218).

EucharistI return again and again to the Eucharist precisely because a large part of me is utterly uninterested in letting this truth take flesh in the contours of my life. I rejoice in the announcement of war, because I still wants to abide according to the law of death, rather than the freedom of the kingdom of God. Control and power make more sense to me than self-emptying love. Yet, the concrete rite  of the Eucharist heals this desire, as I practice self-donation rather than domination.

Of course, war (even just ones perhaps) will still happen. The reality of politics intervene. Yet, all Christians stand as radical signs in the world that the reign of sin and death has no power for those who seek to live Eucharistic lives of love. In other words, even in the midst of a perhaps necessary act of bombing, Christians cannot help but cry out with sorrow that the reign of death still continues in a wounded world. Our response to this sorrow must be to give ourselves away more, to return again and again to the Eucharistic life of the Church, discovering that self-donation, not self-preservation, is the medicine that the world needs. The medicine that I need. Dona nobis pacem–grant us peace. 

BC

These Are His People

Meredith HollandMeredith Holland ’14

Master of Theological Studies Candidate,

Boston College School of Theology & Ministry

 

These are not my people.

This mantra has found its way into my thoughts recently, amidst a transition from college to a young adulthood that includes graduate studies in theology and an attempt to engage in parish life.

Alone in a CrowdThese are not my people. This is not the same. This is not how I pray. This is not how I enter into relationship with Christ. This is not the theological vocabulary I learned. This is not the closing song or the Mass setting I would choose. This is not the Church as I know it.

This resistance to the new people around me, in both school and parish life, was not merely a hesitation to engage in dialogue or attempt to reconcile my customs with the practices of those around me; it sat dangerously close to utter rejection of this new other and the result was a deep nostalgia.

I often find that the struggles in my own faith life—particularly when those struggles center on me closing in on myself—are addressed quite intentionally in whatever happens to be the focus of my theological studies in that moment. This was no different. As I encountered the sacramental theology of Louis-Marie Chauvet, I was forced to acknowledge the wall that I had begun to build around myself.

It can seem so much easier to feel close to Christ and to ‘give ourselves entirely to God’ in the comfortable silence of our own homes than in a church where we must often close our eyes and, heads between our hands, cover our ears to free ourselves from being disturbed in our conversations with God (Symbol & Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence).

It had so quickly become easier to make myself unaware of those around me and simply place a box around my own prayer. My prayers still included those around me, but as a result of past practice, not authentic and particular love.

In my box, I had forgotten that the Christian life does not merely suppose a toleration of the existence of those around us, but rather requires an active love that capacitates us to witness Christ in and through those around us. Relationship with Christ demands this active love even before individual conversation with God.

 As praiseworthy and even necessary as this recollection might otherwise be, theologically it should be subordinated to a reverse attitude of ‘de-centration’: that is, of a deliberate taking cognizance of others in their diversity, and in recognizing them as brothers and sisters (Symbol & Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence).

In longing for those I had deemed my people, I repeatedly failed to recognize the beauty in those who surround me, even in prayer. I was blind to the love shared between the elderly couple as they held hands throughout the Mass. I did not perceive the simple joy of the young child as she brought forth the offertory gifts. I lacked the ability to respond with prayer to the pain revealed in the face of a man praying silently as he stared intently at the Cross.

The most frustrating part of this blindness was that these people were the very ones I had missed during the past few years, when the congregation was comprised mostly of college-aged young adults; children, families, and the elderly were noticeably absent from daily Mass in a residence hall or the choir loft from which I participated in the Sunday liturgy each week. My own vision of the world inhibited my ability to receive the grace that God continued to offer.

Parishioners prayingThe Christian faith is inherently communal. The necessary gathering of the people of God in thanksgiving to the celebration of the liturgy rejects any notion of coming to know God solely on one’s own or by turning inward to the self. In communion with others, the Christian receives the Eucharist that draws him toward God and sends him forth into the world to share as gift the love he has first been offered. The narrative of the Christian is fundamentally directed toward the other, as the grace and love of God are both received and offered in and through others.

These are not my people.

Even those whom I have come to identify as my people in this distorted vision of the world are not mine, regardless of how many moments of grace and prayer we have shared. Those around me, whether familiar or unfamiliar, are His people, members of the Body of Christ. The narrative of each person is no more or less part of the reality of the Church, such that the sacramental presence of Christ is always perfectly authentic.

These are His people, the Body of Christ.

Therese

Unless You Become Like Children: Thérèse of Lisieux and the Way of Love

Carolyn PirtleCarolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M.
Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

 

Today, as the Church honors St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, it seems appropriate to think about child-hood, the state of being a child. Thérèse’s autobiography, Story of a Soul, provides a glimpse into a heart filled with extraordinary holiness and exemplary virtue; however, her precociousness and effusive (often flowery) language sometimes cause people to dismiss this great saint as overly sentimental, even superficial or frivolous. Thérèse age 8Yet she was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope St. John Paul II in 1997; thus, it is well worth our time to contemplate the wisdom offered us, as it were, “out of the mouths of babes and infants” (Ps 8:2) by this young woman who endeavored to live as a child of God throughout the entirety of her short life.

Throughout her autobiography, Thérèse writes again and again of contentment with her own littleness, using various images and passages from Scripture.

“For a long time I had wondered why God had preferences, why He did not give the same degree of grace to everyone. … Jesus chose to enlighten me on this mystery. He opened the book of nature before me, and I saw that every flower He has created has a beauty of its own, that the splendor of the rose and the lily’s whiteness do not deprive the violet of its scent nor make less ravishing the daisy’s charm.
I saw that if every little flower wished to be a rose, Nature would lose her spring adornments, and the fields would be no longer enameled with their varied flowers.
So it is in the world of souls, the living garden of the Lord.
It pleases Him to create great Saints, who may be compared with the lilies or the rose; but He has also created little ones, who must be content to be daisies or violets, nestling at His feet to delight His eyes when He should choose to look at them. The happier they are to be as He wills, the more perfect they are.”[1]

For Thérèse, such contentment is the gateway to happiness in God. Contentment with the gifts that one has received leads to gratitude, to self-forgetting, which in turn is the gateway to sanctity. It is this self-forgetting that allows one to orient one’s existence toward God and God alone; indeed, it is this self-forgetting that is the very essence of child-hood. Thérèse sees herself as one of the “little ones” created and beloved by God. She desires a closeness with her creator; she desires to be holy, yet she does not see herself as a rose or a lily. Rather, she sees herself as a “little flower” in the garden of the Lord. She embraces her status as a child.

“You know that I have always wanted to be a Saint; but compared with real Saints, I know perfectly well that I am no more like them than a grain of sand trodden beneath the feet of passers-by is like a mountain with its summit lost in the clouds.
Instead of allowing this to discourage me, I say to myself: ‘God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so, in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a Saint. I could never grow up. I must put up with myself as I am, full of imperfections, but I will find a little way to Heaven, very short and direct, an entirely new way.’”[2]

Thérèse at age 13Thérèse speaks of finding an elevator, a shortcut to Jesus, as it were, for she feels she is “too little to climb the steep stairway to perfection.”[3] In searching the Scriptures for this shortcut, this elevator, she cites as her answer the passage from Isaiah that is now prescribed in the Lectionary as the first reading for her feast: “You shall nurse, carried in her arms, cradled upon her knees; as a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort” (Is 66:12-13). Thérèse exults: “Your arms, My Jesus, are the elevator which will take me up to Heaven. There is no need for me to grow up; on the contrary, I must stay little, and become more and more so.”[4] There is no need to grow up. One must “stay little, and become more and more so.” In order to grow in holiness, one must become more and more like a little child; indeed, as Jesus says in the Gospel prescribed for Thérèse’s feast: “Unless you turn and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3).

But what does it mean to become like a little child? In attempting to answer this question, it is important to remember that childlike is not the same thing as childish. One who is childish is often selfish, demanding, unimpressed, immature. However, one who is childlike retains a sense of humble wonder before God and the created world; one who is childlike is open to the grace of surprise at God’s activity in his life (imagine the childlike prayer of the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation). And we ourselves learn how to be childlike as Thérèse did—from the example of Jesus. Thérèse with the CrossIt is the Incarnation of Jesus that teaches us what it means to be a child. From a purely human perspective, being a child means utter dependence. A child cannot feed or clothe itself. It cannot move independently from place to place. It cannot protect itself from the elements. An abandoned child has no hope of survival, for a child can do nothing for itself. Moreover, being a child means utter receptivity. A child receives its very flesh from the genetic makeup of its parents. A child receives an identity—a history, a language, a culture—from those who gave it life and care for it in the world.

In the Incarnation, we see Jesus living out this radical state of dependence and receptivity as a human child. Yet, as Joseph Ratzinger points out, there is something more profound at work here: “Jesus does not regard ‘being a child’ as a transient phase of human life that is a consequence of man’s biological fate and then is completely laid aside. Rather, it is in ‘being a child’ that the very essence of what it is to be a man is realized, so much so that one who has lost the essence of childhood is himself lost”[5] In contemplating this mystery, Ratzinger concludes that Jesus’ “highest dignity, which points to his divinity, is ultimately no power that he possesses on his own: it is rooted in the fact that his existence is oriented to the Other, namely, to God the Father.”[6] Jesus, the Word Incarnate, receives His identity as the only-begotten Son from the Father, and He offers this identity back to the Father in an act of obedience and love. Thus, to live as a child in the spiritual sense is to imitate His example: to acknowledge our utter dependence on God and to receive our identity as a gift from the hand of our Creator—not in order to grasp it in a willful demand for selfish autonomy—but to offer it back freely in an act of grateful love.

It is the acknowledgment of all as gift and the continuous offering of self in love that characterizes “The Little Way” of Thérèse of Lisieux. As she wrote late in life: “‘Jesus, my Love, I have at last found my vocation; it is love! I have found my place in the Church’s heart, the place You Yourself have given me, my God. Yes, there in the heart of Mother Church I will be love.’”[7] Thérèse received her identity as a “little child,” a beloved daughter of God—not begrudgingly wishing to be a rose when she knew herself to be a violet, but gratefully praising her Creator and accepting even her imperfections and trials as gifts from God’s hand. Thérèse on her sickbedShe accepted sorrows and sufferings in the passing of loved ones and the pain of physical illness, and offered them back to God in love, completely aware of her dependence on him. She rejoiced at the opportunity to “[give] love for love,”[8] offering small sacrifices out of love for the God who first loved her, and in so doing, she followed the example of Jesus, living her life as a child always gazing toward her Father in heaven. Through the intercession of this great, little saint, may we heed the words of Jesus: may we turn and become like children, so that we, too, may enter the kingdom of heaven.


[1] Thérèse of Lisieux. Story of a Soul, trans. Michael Day, Cong. Orat. (Rockford, IL: Tan Books, 1997), 2.

[2] Ibid., 140

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 141.

[5] Ratzinger, Joseph. The God of Jesus Christ, trans. Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), 71.

[6] Ibid., 72.

[7] Story of a Soul, 199-200.

[8] Ibid., 200.

orthodoxy-icon-feeding-5000

Why Liturgical Reform Shouldn’t Divide Catholics

Anthony OleckAnthony Oleck

MTS Student, History of Christianity, University of Notre Dame

Contact Author

Hope Boettner points out in her recent post  that the liberal/conservative dichotomy comes into play all the time, whether one is dealing with liturgy, evangelization, or even assessing the pontificates of Francis and his predecessor, Benedict XVI. Benedict, for example, is often portrayed as the out-of-touch pontiff of a pre-Vatican II Church, whose only concern was restoring the Latin Mass and tweaking translations of the Missal. Francis, on the other hand, is portrayed as the champion of social justice, whose mission is to undo the damage wrought by his predecessor and to implement the agenda of the political left by casting aside the traditions and doctrines of the Church and making Catholicism more ‘relevant’ to today’s Catholics. Benedict is the supreme pontiff of the conservative Church, Francis the humble leader of the progressive Church.

Indeed, liturgical reform is an especially divisive topic among 9780899420677(2)contemporary Catholics. This was evident back in 2007 when Pope Benedict XVI promulgated motu proprio his Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum, which allowed greater access to the traditional Latin Mass. But the divide was especially visible in 2011 with the implementation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal (the new English translation that gave us “and with your spirit” and “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof…”). November 2011 saw many Catholic “conservatives” pumping their fists in triumph, anticipating a return to the “glory days” of pre-Vatican II Catholicism, while more “progressive” or “liberal” Catholics questioned what they saw as a distraction from the many social and cultural problems the Church faces today.

Tim Padgett over at Time, for example, writing several months before the implementation, lamented: “It’s sad when Rome’s cassocked scholars subordinate their intellectual gifts to church expediency.” For Padgett, the new missal was nothing but “petty semantics” aimed at “taking the Mass back to the Latin of the more rigid and remote Tridentine tradition.” It is “foolish” and “not very Christ-like,” therefore, to devote the Church’s precious time, energy and resources to “semantics” rather than to  “all the really weighty [social] issues Roman Catholics face.”

But how opposed to each other are liturgy and the social question, really? A legitimate question for BOTH Catholic “conservatives” and Catholic “liberals” to consider is this: does attention to one necessarily undermine the other?

Liturgy—Source & Summit
It seems to me that the seemingly insignificant changes in diction found in the 2011 Missal sought to remind the Church not only of its responsibility to the world’s poor, outcast and marginalized, but also of the place liturgy holds in the Church’s own identity and ministerial outreach: the Church cannot step into the world as missionary until it understands its identity as being rooted in the person of Christ, and its mission, most fundamentally, as being the presence of Christ in the world. Understood this way, the Church’s liturgy becomes the foundation of such an identity, as it is the first and most potent source of Christ, and the “source and summit” (CCC,  1324; cf. Lumen Gentium, 11) of the Church’s activity in the world. It is the primary locus in which the Church experiences Christ, broken and poured out for the world in the Eucharist.

In his Light of the World, Benedict XVI calls the Eucharist “the most intimate heart of the Church […]51OtSkdt9iL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ It is not just another social ritual where people meet in an amicable way; rather it is the expression of being in the center of the Church” (148). And if the liturgy is “the place where the Church is actually experienced most of all,” then both Benedict and Francis have a stake in upholding it as the Church’s primary function and the source of all ministerial activity. The Church exists to call the world to liturgy, to the Eucharist, to Christ – which both popes have done in his own way: Benedict primarily through his attention to the rubrics of the Mass and his many written works, and Francis through his charismatic personality and insistence on being poor among the poor. Benedict reminds us of the beauty and importance of liturgy as the source of the Church’s activity in the world and as the heart of the world’s encounter with Christ , and Francis reminds us of the charge to now bring this Eucharistic love of Christ out into the streets.

If we are going to oversimplify the messages and impacts of the previous two popes in this way, then we must at least be attentive to how Benedict’s mindfulness of liturgical Pope Benedict welcomes Pope Francisreform and Francis’ emphasis on the Church’s activity in the world can go hand-in-hand in furthering the divinely-instituted enterprise of bringing Christ to all corners of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19).

If we are to uphold  lex orandi and lex credendi, then lex vivendi must follow. If what we believe is what we pray, then the way we pray ought to determine the way we live and move in the world.

An earlier version of this post originally appeared in Crisis Magazine on July 11, 2011.

PraiseofLament

The Praise of Lament

TimOMalleyTimothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Contact Author

Yesterday, Religion and Literature at the University of Notre Dame hosted a lecture entitled “The Pace of Praise: Might Theology Walk Together with Literature?” by Prof. Robin Kirkpatrick. The lecture was characterized by the perfect marriage of form and content, as Prof. Kirkpatrick explored the relationship between theology and literature through attending to themes of praise (both human and divine) particularly in the work of Dante and Chaucer. The lecture was equal parts brilliant (relative to textual criticism) and poetic (using words to describe narratives that had the audience riveted). Leaving, one had a sense that literature has a unique role in renewing the theological imagination insofar as literature forms us to speak about God in the first place.

At the conclusion, a question was asked by a graduate student about the role of divine praise in the midst of not simply literary tragedy (Macbeth, for example) but real, human suffering. The kind of “tragic” situation in which any attempt to offer praise cracks under the pressure of unspeakable sorrow. In such moments, can we really join our voices to the psalmist crying out:

When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,/the moon and stars that You set in place,/what is man that You have been mindful of him,/mortal man that You have taken note of him,/that You have made him little less than divine…(Psalm 8:4-6).

As we watch someone die far too young, can we utter these words of praise? As we turn our gaze to the horrors of war unfolding throughout the world, do we really see creation as infused with divine glory?

The reality is that when we hear about true tragedy, true sorrow, it is exceedingly difficult to find any meaning at all. Literature captures this moment all too well, even in a flawed protagonist like Macbeth:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day/To the last syllable of recorded time,/And all our yesterdays have lighted fools/The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle/Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,/And then is heard no more. It is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,/Signifying nothing (Macbeth V.5.18-27).

The “tragedy” of the world presents itself to us in such a way that weMacbeth - Poster become forgotten actors upon the stage of a history told by an idiot. Meaning fades into the background. We are creatures who have lied to ourselves about some grand narrative, some director that guides human life. Faced now with the truth, we must have the courage to see that life itself is devoid of meaning, having no direction at all. What is there left to praise?

Of course, there are alternatives to Macbeth’s lament. The psalms do not deny that life is full of those radical contrast experiences that tempt us to give up the search for meaning in the first place. But, the psalmist does not succumb to this temptation entirely. Instead, the suffering of the world is directed toward God in the form of lament:

“How long, O LORD; will You ignore me forever?/How long will You hide Your face from me? How long will I have cares on my mind, grief in my heart all day?/How long will my enemy have the upper hand?/Look at me, answer me, O LORD, my God!” (Psalm 13:1-4).

God is held accountable for forgetting, for refusing to act. We cry out, not passing over our sorrow, but presenting it before the very face of God. To do this, of course, is itself an act of praise. The one who has given up all hope, who sees the world as meaningless, no longer cries out in sorrow. To blame God for not acting, to lament, is itself a form of praise precisely because we believe that God cares enough to listen. Psalms (like the one above) end in praise not as a way to butter up God. Instead, they reveal that lament itself is a form of praise: “But I trust in your faithfulness,/my heart will exult in your deliverance./I will sing to the Lord,/for he has been good to me” (Psalm 13:6).

Of course, not all psalms of lament end in praise. The lecture yesterday started with the particularly tragic psalm, Psalm 137. It begins with Israel situated upon the banks of Babylon, the temple destroyed, the captors mocking Israel by demanding the broken people to “Sing us one of the songs of Zion” (Psalms 137:3). Israel, at least upon initial reading, responds not by addressing God but the city of Jerusalem: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem,/let my right hand wither;/let me tongue stick to my palate/if I cease to think of you,/if I do not keep Jerusalem in memory/even at my happiest hour” (Psalm 137:5-6). Yet, Jerusalem is no mere city akin to New York or Scranton. It is the city where God once dwelled in the Temple, a city that (at least to the initial writer(s) of the psalm) may never exist again. All that is left is the desire for revenge against those who have inflicted this darkness upon Israel, who have emptied the Temple of God’s presence:

Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites/the day of Jerusalem’s fall;/how they cried, ‘Strip her, strip her/to her very foundations!’/Fair Babylon, you predator,/a blessing on him who repays you in kind/what you have inflicted on us;/a blessing on him who seizes your babies/and dashes them against the rocks! (Psalm 137:7-9).

BabylonianCaptivityAnd thus, this psalm of lament comes crashing to an end. Israel wants the tragedy that she knows so well inflicted upon Babylon. She praises God now, not because of God’s deep abiding goodness. But in the hope that Babylon will know the very suffering that has so deeply wounded her.

Can we say that this psalm is also a psalm of praise? If we only look at the historical situation of this psalm, then no. But we must recognize that this psalm is not being prayed only by those situated on the banks of Babylon’s rivers. This psalm that offers no comfort but that of a violent revenge against one’s captors exists now in the context of the psalms as a whole–a book for divine worship, of praise itself. Even this moment of sorrow, the desire for violence against the enemy, becomes an offering of praise to God. It is offered by the tongues of Jews and Christians throughout the world (except in the Liturgy of the Hours, which decided that imprecatory verses from psalms should be eliminated).

Of course, for Christians, the praise of lament is most evident upon that cross. Christ himself cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Indeed, Christ is truly forsaken. He does not hear the voice of his Father. He is not rescued by angels or apostles from the tragic death that he must undergo. He is alone and mocked, entering into the darkness of sin and death. Yet, his cry of sorrow is still directed to the Father. The suffering servant heaps upon himself all that is tragic about the human condition.

And yet that he cries out, that he reveals the tragic sorrow of the moment, is itself redemptive. None of us as human beings are spared from the tragedy of death. We too will know what it is like to cry out Christto a God who seems so absent in history. Good literature, to return to the question that guided the lecture, demands that we attend to the reality of this suffering, to the real sorrows of what it means to be human. But using the psalms of lament in worship forms us gradually to continue to cry out to God, to praise God not through harp and timbrel but in the pained cry of distress that is part and parcel of what it means to be human. As long as we do not let our voices go silent, as long as we continue to offer our voices to the Father, we carry out a praise that is not Pollyannish. But one that acknowledges that we, despite the tragedies that inflict our lives, remain creatures of a God who loved unto the end. Praise him. 

4.25.13_walsh_chapel_1-1

Christ’s Love Gathers Us: A Series on Dorm Masses (Non-Catholic Students)

SamuelBellafiore


Samuel Bellafiore

Music, Philosophy ’15

Undergraduate Fellow
According to Admissions, 83% of Notre Dame students are Catholic. Many Protestant or non-Christian students worship at various sites in the South Bend area. Some find a spiritual home at their dorm’s weekly Mass. This second part in our ongoing series on dorm Masses features insights from two such students. Carmen from Pasquerilla East Hall and Joe from Stanford Hall, both seniors, offer a frank and striking perspective on dorm spiritual life.

 When did you start attending Sunday Mass in your dorm? Why?

Carmen: I started attending Sunday dorm Mass about halfway through the first semester of my Freshman year. I didn’t really have a faith community on campus that I was part of up to that point, and I’d been starving for some connection to God. I believe it was sometime in October that I went to my first dorm Mass because I’d been going through a lot with my roommate and with my classes.

Joe: Freshman year. I attend church regularly at home, and dorm Mass was a convenient way to continue doing so while in community with my brothers in the dorm.

How often do you go?

Carmen: I go to Mass almost weekly. There are things that get in the way at times, but I try to make it a point to be there every Sunday night.

Joe: Every Sunday.

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?

Carmen: Part of the reason I attend is the liturgy. I really enjoy the music experience—I am a cantor and choir member in PE. The other part is the community. I feel an incredibly strong sense of connection to my fellow members of PE, as well as to the greater community of Notre Dame. Another aspect is the homilies. In PE we had a priest-in-residence until this year, and seeing Fr. Tom at every dorm Mass and having him bless me during the Eucharist every week was a special blessing in and of itself.

Joe: I attend because I like the sense of brotherhood, the break at the end/start of my week to refresh my connection with God, and the homilies provided by Frs. Bill and Pete. The thing that has nearly dissuaded me from continuing to attend is a negative response from some other attendees in the dorm, who for some reason seem to think I’m not truly welcome at a Catholic Mass as a non-Catholic, even though I don’t partake in communion. It’s also frustrating that I only can partake in communion when I go home for breaks.

4.25.13_walsh_chapel_1-1

Chapel of the Visitation, Walsh Hall


What do you see as the point of having Mass in your dorm?

Carmen: Each dorm on campus is like a small parish, and each parish needs its own place in which to worship together as a community. It brings together the people in the dorm who are confident in their faith, and those who maybe are still going through the motions. It allows us to take a break from our lives and focus, at least for that hour, solely on Jesus with the women—and occasionally men—who are a part of our community on a daily basis. It allows us to see the
faith-filled women who populate our community as children of God. Further, as someone who is not Catholic, it gave me a safe space to experience the Mass. I could ask questions of Sr. Cindy and Fr. Tom, or of my peers and I knew that I would not be judged, but welcomed. By the end of his time in PE, Fr. Tom knew that I was coming to receive the blessing instead of the Eucharist, and he did not even pick up the host. Dorm Masses are a place where those participating in the Mass and those celebrating the Mass come together in true community.

Joe: Mass in the dorm is Notre Dame’s way of encouraging students to continue and reminding students of the school’s unique Catholic heritage. Many students would fall to the wayside if the only options for them were off campus or at the Basilica. Additionally, the Basilica wouldn’t be able to have enough Masses on a Sunday to allow all the Catholic students attending the university to partake.

Has anyone in the dorm ever encouraged you to attend Mass? How? Discouraged you from going? How?

Carmen: My former rectress, Sr. Cindy, as well as many of the members of my dorm encouraged me to come to Mass throughout my freshman year. Though my attendance that year was more sporadic, I knew because of their encouragement that I was welcomed.

Joe: Nobody has really ever specifically encouraged me to attend Mass, but that’s largely a function of me attending regularly from since my first weekend on campus. I have been discouraged from going as a function of being made to not feel welcome by particular individuals of the community, who have confronted me about not being Catholic. I’m very willing to talk about my Christian faith with people, but when certain individuals act like A) Catholics are superior to all other Christians, B) non-Catholics aren’t Christian, or C) non-Catholic Christians have no place in a Catholic community, it is very frustrating to me. It goes strongly against the core of what I believe being a Christian is all about, and it is frustrating to be confronted in a non-Christian manner that suggests that I’m in some way not a true Christian.

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

chapel2

Chapel of St. Catherine of Siena, Pasquerilla East Hall

Carmen: Music is an integral part of Mass for me, and in PE I’m lucky enough to participate in the music as a cantor and member of the choir. I love the mixture of traditional hymns and “Notre Dame” classics. Music was the way in which I was first able to experience the joy of the liturgy. I had no understanding of genuflection, bowing before the altar, crossing oneself, or many of the other practices of the liturgy that are now commonplace, but music was the way in which I was able to experience the Mass. The preaching at Mass is also a very important part of the liturgy for me. Coming from a United Methodist background, I was surprised by the brevity of the homily in the service. The best part about that preaching, however, is that even though the homilies are briefer than the sermons I was used to before coming to Notre Dame, they are more directly relevant to my experiences because they are directed at college students.

Joe: The music my first two years was phenomenal. Last year and this year our choir has been less prominent and we’ve had a little less variety in our instrumentation. Music is often my favorite part of Masses/services back home, and is when I feel most strongly connected to my faith. The preaching since Father Bill and Father Pete took over our Masses has been awesome.

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?

Carmen: I know that there are small complaints that happen—the songs are too high, why do we have to hold hands with everyone during the Lord’s Prayer?—but I also truly believe that those who come to Mass in PE truly enjoy it. Those who don’t attend Mass, I think, fall into two categories: those of other/non-faiths and those exercising new freedoms. In the former group, I think that they feel as though they will not be welcomed or that they will be confused. In the latter case, I think that they are simply exercising the freedom to not go to Mass and then they get into a bad habit, or stop believing.

Joe: I think other people have fairly similar opinions; however, a lot of them have a different awareness of the Mass because I’m coming from the experience of growing up in a non-Catholic home. There are many people in the dorm who aren’t religious, only claim a religion because their parents follow it, or attend non-Catholic churches off campus.

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

Carmen: There are snacks on special occasions (near exam time, senior sendoff, etc.) but not on a regular basis after Sunday or website_photo_candlelight_massWednesday Mass. We do have Candlelight Mass on Wednesdays which, unlike other dorms, includes a sharing of the Light of Christ which is a beautiful tradition.

Joe: I don’t think people attend because of our Sunday Mass Snacks. We have a lot of ice cream/soda float style desserts after our Sunday Masses, but it’s fairly inconsistent. Our Thursday Masses are “Nacho Mass,” which I think definitely has higher attendance and encourages more people to attend.

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

Carmen: I would love to have a larger choir with singers who are not just sopranos, or more LMs and EMs so that there is more variety in who is seen at dorm Mass.

Joe: It would include more fabulous singing.

statue

The Temptation of Either/Or: Liturgy and Loving the World

HopeBoettner Hope ’15, Theology Undergraduate Fellow, Center for Liturgy         Recently, Elizabeth Scalia over at the Patheos Catholic blog wrote a piece about the need for the Church to be evangelical and missionary. She specifically highlighted what she called the “Incarnational” aspect of good evangelization. In the Incarnation, “the Word became flesh and dwelt” (“pitched His tent” as the translation sometimes reads) “among us.” And so she discusses the need for this Incarnational evangelization:

Incarnational Evangelization happens when Christian men and women leave the comfortable place of their own origin, just as the Word proceeded from the Father, to set a tent among the “others,” where they are at, and learns their names and their stories. It talks with them, eats with them, laughs and cries with them, helps to birth them and, if necessary, to bury them. It is first and foremost about service to the “other” and to Love. Which is God.

Talking about the need for the Church to be more evangelical is definitely on the forefront these days. Both Scott Hahn and George Weigel have recently written books about it and Pope Francis’ leadership style has further lead to the wider Church collectively thinking about this and acting on it in various ways. However, I’d like to make a bit of an addition to what Elizabeth Scalia is saying. When we talk about the Church as evangelical and missionary, about being present, about “serving,” we tend to set up a false dichotomy. We’ve got the “social justice” (“progressive,” as the media labels this) people on one side and those who want to teach or retain an understanding of the Church and the sacraments on the other (these folks usually get labeled the “Tradition and liturgy and sacraments,” the “conservative, Church-ey” kind of people). We see a classic example of this in how the Pope Benedict persona versus the Pope Francis persona gets played out in the media; Pope Benedict was a fuddy-duddy who cared about liturgy and translations of things, and Pope Francis really loves the people because he wants to hug and serve them. (This is also unfair to how Pope Benedict actually led as well, but that’s for another piece at another time.) The progressive versus conservative, reductionist lens of understanding what faith is and how faith works—especially when it comes to understanding how we ought to evangelize– does a disservice to the Church. I love the quote Scalia cited from Pope Benedict about thinking about what ought to be the goal in evangelization. Christianity is not about a concept or a cause. Christianity is about a Person:

“One doesn’t begin to be a Christian because of an ethical decision or a great idea, but rather because of an encounter with an event, with a Person, who gives new horizons to life, and with that, a decisive orientation. The evangelization of the person and of human communities depends totally on this encounter with Jesus Christ.” statue

The way to be an Incarnational and an evangelizing, missionary Church comes not in choosing one version of presence. In order to be “present in people’s lives,” and to walk with them, we don’t have to lose the chance to “understand the Real Presence” and the sacraments. Our evangelizing mission in this world, our seeking the face of Christ as we walk with with our brothers and sisters does not come from leaning on one over the other. Learning how to better be an incarnational Church comes in learning that we can hold the people and the Person in tandem. It comes in learning that we can and need to say social justice and liturgy. Relationships and worship. Community building and sacraments. Active action and deep lives of prayer. The two are not diametrically opposed. Far from it! They absolutely need each other. I think that we sometimes think of liturgies, of the Mass, and of the sacramental life of the Church as boring, as non-incarnational and as less helpful at building relationships with Christ and with others because the latter are old. For example: the Mass is a sleepy habit to most of us. It is an hour’s length worth of motions that we go through, that many of us have been doing as long as we can remember. This is why the new translation of the Roman Missal jerked us out of our complacency for a short while and made us think about what we were saying at Mass. What do I mean here by “old”? It’s time to turn to my good friend Gilbert Keith Chesterton.Gilbert_Chesterton

“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is…. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” (From the chapter “The Ethics of Elfland” in Orthodoxy)

In order to fully restore the concept of how we can evangelize as a Church, how we can most deeply speak to the needs of this world, we have to remember both to be present to people in relationships and in walking with them through a liturgical life. To do that we have to realize that we have aged in sin and that the heart of our relationships have gotten a bit stony. Instead of beating excitedly with young love because we encounter Christ in a deeply Incarnational way through the sacraments, our hearts have old-married couple syndrome. So the action of the Church and the rooted nature of the Church need to be constantly feeding off of each other, for the betterment of both of them. I think this is why two of the most important documents from Vatican II were on the mission (Gaudium et Spes) and the nature (Lumen Gentium)of the Church. The AND is where we ought to be. Our Lord held this tension in mind better than anyone. In Matthew 28, the classic citation for evangelization, He said:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” BaptemeFotosearchsmall(1)

Because He is with us always and He has called us to be with others always, He has simultaneously commanded that we baptize and practice and fully live the sacramental life of the Church. The way we observe all that He has commanded us is to properly hold the tension between active, present love in the world that meets people where they are the way that Christ did, while simultaneously loving and being loved in the way He is present to us in the sacramental life of the Church.

FarmLand

Into the Way of Peace

DeniseDenise Azores-Gococo

Heartland Farm, KS

University of Notre Dame ’14

Proprioception is a physiological term for a body’s sense of self. The piriformis and the obturator externus, for example, are two muscles in the gluteal region that primarily carry a proprioceptive function: they keep track of where the hip is angled relative to the body weight and make certain we are able to continue putting one foot in front of another.   Their place in the human body is to ensure that, even with our eyes closed and ears covered, we are (by some miracle, or elegant mastery of design) able to walk in a straight line without losing our balance.  If our body’s sense of self fails, our ability to walk is impaired. We cannot move forward.

The same can be said of our psychological and, as it often follows, our spiritual sense of self. I’ll be the first to admit that I have fallen victim to an impairment of spiritual and psychological proprioception, particularly during my senior year of college. As the main determinants of my self-image, I relied on medical school rejection letters, my inability to enjoy myself in a social setting, and my friends’ virtually futile efforts to make me happy. These cues told me that I was failing; every time I fell down, I lost a bit of my already weakened will to go on. I gave up on myself and succumbed to despair, poisonous judgments, and an uncharacteristic misanthropy. I could not find the light in others, so I shut them out and hurt everyone around me.

I think it’s safe to say that my situation is not unique among college-age students, however much my own flaws contributed to the potency of my particular perfect storm. Universities demand excellence of one sort, parents another, and peers yet another, all of which is exacerbated by social media—a medium by which the success of others’ lives is forcefully exhibited. Although we’re often too proud to admit it, I think most can testify to experiencing that pang of envy and reflective disfavor when we see announcements of accomplishments that we have not received or pictures of “best-night-ever’s” that we have not enjoyed or cannot enjoy. We must be doing something wrong if we are not as happy as they are.

DominicanSistersofPeaceEach day during Morning Prayer, I join four Dominican Sisters in begging God to “guide our feet into the way of peace,” and each day, I realize more and more how God has done just that. Since moving out to middle-of-nowhere Kansas to indulge my country-girl sensibilities, I’ve discovered the proprioceptive mechanisms of the human spirit that so many people are wont to ignore. Previously unexpected raw materials now contribute to my sense of self. The chickens gaze in excited anticipation as I approach to bring them food at daybreak. The tomatoes blush and swell affirmatively to assure me I’ve done well in tending to them. My hands grow calloused and my muscles sore; I realize a surprising strength in my famously tiny frame. As I am daily nourished by the Eucharist, I am capable—in fact, I am charged with—nourishing the creation that the Father has allowed me to enjoy.

Our sense of self is accurately calibrated if we pay due respect to our Eucharistic mission. If we receive our daily bread graciously and embody the daily bread of those around us, we are beautiful in God’s eyes. We become aware of sins that have festered too long for us to pay attention to. We can be proud of the work that God has asked of us and peacefully carry out each task—regardless of what news feeds, transcripts, salaries, or quarterly reports might tell us we should be doing. Granted, the work God asks of us is not always the easiest thing to do; the Lord seems to demand from us both ridiculous feats and numbingly mundane tasks, both of which take a divine sort of strength to accomplish. But the trust involved in knowing I am doing God’s work has a remarkably freeing effect that’s worth all the suffering the world can throw at me.

In 1974, Philippe Petit fulfilled a life-long dream by stringing a tight rope between the World Trade Center buildings in New York City and crossing the wire not once, but eight times. Those who were there with him were astounded by the beauty of one man’s impossible accomplishment—they commented on his playfulness, his delight, his natural presence on the wire, how he could have done it with his eyes closed. He was, really, only putting one foot in frontdownload of another. But each step was a miraculous inspiration to others, all because Philippe Petit had almost psychotic faith in the clarity of his body’s proprioceptive communication.   He trusted his feet to know where to land, his hips to remain square, his body weight to stay center. He beautifully demonstrated the awesome ability of the human body. To be a saint, I think, is to have so much in faith in the way God’s guiding Spirit is telling us where to put one foot in front of another that the world can look on, be astounded by the beauty, and praise God in return.

May God bless us with His grace today.

There were leaves on the trees
And growth on the headrigs
You could confess
Everything to.
Even your fears
Of the night,
Of people
Even.
*
What was better then
Than to crush a leaf or a herb
Between your palms
Then wave it slowly, soothingly
Past your mouth and nose
And breathe?
*
If you know a bit
About the universe
It’s because you’ve taken it in
Like that,
Looked as hard
As you look into yourself,
Into the rat hole,
Through the vetch and dock
That mantled it.
Because you’ve laid your cheek
Against the rush clump
And known soft stone to break
On the quarry floor.
*
Between heather and marigold,
Between spaghnum and buttercup,
Between dandelion and broom,
Between forget-me-not and honeysuckle,
As between clear blue and cloud,
Between haystack and sunset sky,
Between oak tree and slated roof,
I had my existence. I was there.
Me in place and the place in me.

from “A Herbal” by Seamus Heaney

SacredMusic

Living the Questions of Sacred Music

Carolyn PirtleCarolyn Pirtle, M.M., M.S.M. Assistant Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy Contact Author  

 

Beginning a week ago today, I attended several sessions of a two-day conference sponsored by Sacred Music at Notre Dame entitled “Learning from the Masters. Learning from the People.” According to its facilitators, the discussions of this conference would engage and be guided by the following questions:

What constitutes great sacred music? Should we prefer the historical repertories of chant, polyphony and baroque cantatas that have been recognized for their beauty and spiritual refinement? Or do we embrace the music of the people and of the times? Do we judge the quality of sacred music on the basis of its intrinsic beauty or for its capacity to promote congregational participation? Should liturgical music have a separate style than music for everyday life? Can we question the role of contemporary popular styles and of publishers’ anthologies if they appeal to the congregation?

To even begin to answer these questions is a huge undertaking, one people in the Church have struggled with for as long as music has been a part of the liturgical celebration. Anyone familiar with the conference format can tell you that the questions are not often answered so much as raised in new and creative ways that cause us to revisit how we even ask the questions in the first place. Learning from the MastersFor those in the field of liturgical music, the questions above are often the “hot-button” questions—and even as I read them for the first time, I struggled not to answer them in my head one by one, mentally checking off the questions to make sure my opinions on them were intact. These are the questions that send people scurrying to one side of the spectrum or the other, hunkering down in the trenches of their respective arguments, waiting for the other person to make the first claim so that they can fire back with a well-prepared counterargument. It’s a rarity to find someone who is actually willing to listen in these particular situations, who hasn’t settled intractably on one position over the other, who is open to the possibility that there might be a new way to approach an age-old question.

Several of the presenters in this conference addressed these questions in the way I’ve described above—hunkered down in the safety of an opinion honed by years of experiences of liturgical music good, bad, and ugly. One presenter (who self-identified as “very distant from the Catholic Church”) boiled the issue down to pre-Vatican II vs. post-Vatican II, stating that prior to the Council, there was beautiful music in the Church, but after the Council, music became “cheap.” The presenter even went so far as to state, “When you hear that music inside the chapel, I am sure that God left the chapel. There is no God inside. I am absolutely sure of that.” Granted, this person was speaking as a composer and not as a theologian, and while his assessment of much of the music utilized in liturgical celebration following the Second Vatican Council was misguided theologically (God doesn’t leave the chapel no matter how bad the music is), from a musical perspective, the speaker had a point. In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, there were many poor decisions being made in terms of what was being considered “liturgical” music: James Taylor’s songs sometimes found their way into the Mass, for example. Yet, the struggles of the past 50 years have also brought perspective, and we as a Church are realizing more than ever that liturgical music ought not embody an “either-or” approach, but rather a “both-and” approach, in which the very best treasures of the repertoire past and present co-exist in a fruitful and beautiful way.

HPIM1336.JPG

This is also not to say that all of the presenters expressed opinions like that of the speaker quoted above. On the contrary, several of them spoke eloquently about the challenges of addressing musical ministry in today’s Church: calling parishioners to discover the beauty and accessibility of chant, polyphony, and hymnody, while at the same time allowing for authenticity and newness of expression amid the ever-changing demographics of the American Catholic Church. Several presenters identified the polemical approach to liturgical music as not only deeply problematic, but also as divisive and potentially devastating to the Church. As Edward Foley, Capuchin stated, “The binary assessment [of liturgical music] is simplistic, inaccurate, and unhelpful.” Ultimately, the needs of the parish ought to be foremost in determining how to approach the ministry of liturgical music; however, the liturgical music minister must continuously strive for growth and insist on excellence, gently encouraging parishioners to venture beyond the familiar to discover new ways to offer sung praise to God (even if those “new ways” are in fact centuries old). As Director of the Sacred Music program at Notre Dame Professor Margot Fassler put it, “It’s up to us to be wise practitioners who put our best work forward and help our congregations draw closer to God.” If that goal lies at the heart of a liturgical musician’s ministry, then answers to the questions raised by the conference will gradually begin to emerge, and in each parish, these answers will emerge a little differently, according to the context and the spiritual needs present. Whatever the context, whatever the need, liturgical musician who embraces the goal of being a “wise practitioner” will continue to seek and to learn the best of the repertoire, guided by the wisdom of the Church and the needs of the parish, helping others to discover and enter into the “Beauty ever ancient and ever new”—the love of God that we celebrate in the liturgy.

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.

Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, Institute for Church Life

Get Adobe Flash player