Culture

A Pilgrimage of Sacred Art

A Pilgrimage of Sacred Art

The sacred art of this world is not eternal, but it calls us to what is. This is never clearer than when art invites us to contemplate the “last things” in Christian hope. In relation to our end in God, all of life is a pilgrimage that begins in the fount of baptism.

Priests: Formed as Men of Communion

Priests: Formed as Men of Communion

The formation of priests has received significant attention in recent months. This attention is due in no small part to issues surrounding the most recent revelations of abuse in the Church, though the work of continually reforming priestly formation is not solely a response to this crisis.

The Chronicles of Narnia: A Spiritual Journey

In a world grown cold without wonder, how do you reimagine the drama and joy of Christianity? For C.S. Lewis, the answer was to invite us into a different world that would help us see this one with fresh eyes. That world was Narnia, and when Lewis wrote that world into existence, he created more than a story — he created the possibility for a moral and spiritual journey.

“The Chronicles of Narnia” span seven books, each a narrative unto itself, that come together to form a larger whole. Lewis started writing these stories with “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (published in 1950) because he had this image in his mind of a faun standing next to a lamppost, and he wanted to tell a story about that. In the course of writing that first story, it soon became a Christian story because he imagined what kind of redeemer a world like the one he was imagining would need.

Read more at OSV Newsweekly

Love Is Always Conditional

We want to say that love is unconditional. It seems right. It is equal parts comforting and challenging. It is comforting because if I am loved, then there is nothing I can do to lose that. It is challenging because in order to love, I have to will to be untroubled by obstacles. We do not want to say love is conditional because we fear submitting love to the twisted logic of relationship terrorism: if you do not meet my demands, I deprive you of what is good for you, or vice versa. We think of conditions as qualifications and we do not want to attach qualifications to love. So we say love is unconditional. But that is wrong. Love is always conditional.

Read more at Church Life Journal

The Wilderness Within: Pope Francis, Moses, and Religious Liberty

The Wilderness Within: Pope Francis, Moses, and Religious Liberty

Retelling the story of the American People as a story that began in the pursuit of liberty, that progresses in seeking this liberty for all, and that shall always be an ongoing project to secure liberty so that dialogue and peace may become its fruits, makes the story of the United States a story of religious liberty.

The Real Work of the Synod of Bishops

The Real Work of the Synod of Bishops

We must, must, must commit ourselves personally, as disciples within our parishes, schools, and homes, to heed the mission of the Gospel and present its beauty to our young people in word and deed. We must become the witnesses who show them God’s love and testify to that love with our lives.

A Better Response to Fr. Jim Martin

A Better Response to Fr. Jim Martin

…I’m still not completely happy with how I’m saying what I’m saying here, but at least I’ve taken some more time to think about than I did in my initial, somewhat impulsive, totally Twitterish intervention. If Fr. Martin reads this or any others who responded critically to my initial intervention, I really do hope he and you will receive a sense of my respect along with my words, because I definitely do intend that.

Google Classroom and the Unintended Consequences of Unintentional Decisions

Google Classroom and the Unintended Consequences of Unintentional Decisions

My wife shared an interesting observation over dinner with friends last weekend. She said that one of the small, daily arguments with our eldest son just stopped this year. Why? Because he switched schools, and unlike the one he attended last year, his new school does not use Google Classroom.

A Short Reflection on Three Home Football Weekends

A Short Reflection on Three Home Football Weekends

…This is of course part of the culture at Notre Dame—the cost for all the extraordinary benefits that the football program affords the university and its community (and they are extraordinary, not only in financial terms but in communal terms also). But the sequence of three straight weekends at the very start of the semester has been, in my view and the view of the students I talked to yesterday, unfair and actually rather cruel to our students. We have not put them in a position to start strong this year and to set a foundation for success. Instead, they’re already behind and playing catch-up. …

Images of Fatherhood to Nourish the Catholic Imagination

We need better images. It has become increasingly obvious that we are starved for trustworthy and reliable images of manhood in our present age. The unreliability of the current popular images of “man” are likely related to the deteriorating image of “fatherhood” in the modern world.

The men felled by sexual misconduct allegations over the last nine months have offered an image of manhood that consists of using others to satiate their own appetites. Perhaps these prominent men show the inevitable outcome of unchecked power, of misdirected authority, of self-indulgent customs that fuel the cults of personality. But this behavior exists in private places, too, and indeed a widespread remediation is necessary to cure our young men of the tendencies that might lead to such actions.

Using others makes everyone a slave of their own appetites. What is missing is the power to fulfill responsibilities, to create life and secure wellbeing for others, and to trade away selfish desires for another’s good.

Read more at Our Sunday Visitor.

Reconsider veto of Women's Care Center facility in South Bend

Last Friday, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg vetoed Bill 05-18, which would have amended a residential zoning ordinance for the construction of a new Women’s Care Center facility at 3527 Lincoln Way W. Known for his thoughtful and impartial consideration of local issues, Buttigieg had the opportunity to overcome the polarization that affects so much of our national, state, and now, we regret to say, local politics.

He had the opportunity to usher in the peaceful coexistence of two organizations that have fundamentally different views about the nature of women’s health care. He had the opportunity to give women in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city a choice in approaches to care. He had the opportunity to serve our community rather than kowtowing to the national interests of his political party. He failed.

Read more at the South Bend Tribune.

(Co-authored with Jessica Keating)

‘Outcasts’: A film for our time

At its best, art puts us in contact with what is true, good, and beautiful in a new and creative way. Art can reveal what was hidden, remind us of what we have forgotten, and usher us towards what we might otherwise avoid.

 

Art can also, easily, do the opposite of all these things: it can numb us, distract us, saturate us, and move us away from what is true, good, and beautiful.

 

Perhaps no form of art is as regularly immersive as filmmaking, and thus as potentially powerful either for good or ill. Film surrounds us with both images and sound, with movement and development, with the appearance of what is real and the invitation for reconsidering reality. Therefore, when one person describes a certain film as “a kind of moving icon” and another says it is “a sermon for our age,” it is hard not to take notice. But this is precisely what Outcasts from Grassroots Film is: it is a startling, challenging, necessary, and inspiring look into the light of Christ shining—vibrantly shining—right in the midst of the darkest parts of the world in which we live.

 

Outcasts portrays the Franciscans Friars of the Renewal who live and work among the poor of New York, England, Ireland, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal are a branch of the Capuchins founded in the Marian year of 1987. These friars seek out situations of desperation, violence, and great suffering in order to slowly and diligently build peace and the conditions for the possibility of redemption. Outcasts shows them doing nothing less than letting the light shine in the darkness.

 

A 37-year-old woman in Bradford, England, who is addicted to heroin and caught in a cycle of prostitution, says that it “seems like I’m going in a circle that I can’t get out of.” All she hopes for is “to be safe; to be warm.” She is overcome with loneliness, with a deep sense of loss that includes her estrangement from her daughter. Every day is more of the same and every night is filled with everything she wants to leave behind, and yet each sunrise and sunset brings about the same story, over and over again. The friars go to England for her.

 

In 2012, a fire ripped through a massively overcrowded prison in Comayagua, Honduras, killing 359 inmates. The inferno consumed those whose wide-spread violence across Honduras had been jammed into the close quarters of horrendous conditions within cement walls. Inside those walls, violent language and violent urges, mixed with violent actions and violent customs created a living hell in which communion was impossible and survival was an urgent daily concern. The fire was just one more horrific destruction of humanity within a place where peace was impossible. And because peace was impossible, the friars rushed to this place to bring what only Christ could bring: life out of death. They went to help start a new life in the ashes of ruined lives, and to introduce a new way of being in a place where the only rhythm to daily existence was violence. As one friar simply confesses: “I’m there because Christ wants be to be there.”

 

Even without the concrete walls and mandatory sentences, communities can be undone when the conditions of hatred become systemic, passing from parents to children, and perpetuated by warring factions unbreakably bent toward destroying each other. Moyross, Ireland, is one such failed community, from which the only news that ever makes its way to the rest of the country was only ever the news of more murders, more arsons, more degradations, more hatred. But Moyross is not the first city possessed of demons who turn neighbors into adversaries. The Tuscan city of Arezzo was every bit as hopeless—if not even worse—during the 13th Century. Arezzo is the city to which Saint Francis sent his brother Sylvester to drive the demons out, while Francis prayed for its liberation. As modern day brothers of that most humble saint, the friars entered the city of Moyross to teach their children, to live among the neighbors, and to introduce a new way in the midst of the old, habitual ways of enmity and suspicion. They willed to suffer in the midst of a suffering city so as to plant a seed of joy where nothing good ever grows. In response to Francis’s instruction to them—passed down over the centuries—they invited Moyross into 40 days of penance, dedicated to a simple prayer: “Free us O Lord from hatred, from addiction, from abuse. Free us, O Lord.”

 

Outcasts continually draws into the frame of our vision what is otherwise hidden, forgotten, or avoided. We see the darkness of addiction, of exploitation, of violence and neglect. We see how the chains that bind one generation become the very chains that bind the next one—we see how suffering absorbed becomes suffering inflicted on others. We see the cycles of desperation in which no other way is ever made possible, in which nothing but more of the same and much worse is all that one can ever see. We see what it looks like when we abandon each other and fail to love.

 

And in that very same frame—as difficult as it is to gaze upon—we see something else: the will to love; the commitment to suffer with, to suffer for, and to wait in hope with those who have none. We see works of mercy that heal weary bodies and enkindle darkened spirits. We see the light of Christ, given in the spirit of Saint Francis, in the love of joyful men in gray habits.

 

Outcasts is a piece of art at its best. It helps us to discover the truth, beauty, and goodness that would be invisible to us otherwise. Through this film, we see the rays of that eternal act of love that took flesh and dwelt among us—among us as we are, not as we wish to be. Outcasts is an icon, it is a sermon.

 

The one thing that Outcasts does not do is tell us, exactly, who the “outcasts” are. The outcasts may be those “cast out” of civil society, who slip out of view, who bear the weight of becoming un-useful, disgraceful, addicted, alone. The outcasts may certainly be the friars, who leave behind all wealth and possession in imitation of Saint Francis, who read the Gospel and believed it, plain and simple. Or, the outcasts may be those of us who find ourselves hiding within our own comforts and blindnesses and failures to love. Maybe we are all outcasts, in different ways. But what is common to us all is the paradoxical way in which we become more human together, in the way that Christ is fully human, in the way that Francis craved that fullness, and in the way that these friars offer a witness in the modern age. On their behalf, Outcasts says this:

 

Run toward poverty.

Run toward suffering.

Run toward loneliness.

“Rise and do not be afraid” (Matt 17:7).  

 

For more on Outcasts, visit: www.outcaststhemovie.com/Outcasts was screened on April 3, 2017 under the auspices of the McGrath Institute for Church Life.