God has a message, via miracle, for traditionalist (& all!) Catholics this weekend

pope, san gennaro 2So the blood of San Gennaro (or Saint Januarius, as he is often called in the English-speaking world) liquefied yesterday in the presence of Pope Francis, during his visit to Naples. I have to admit, I’m a bit of an enthusiast for the annual San Gennaro miracle. I check every September 19 for the news that the miracle has happened again, and then typically point it out to my family, our RCIA people, etc. (Though I guess if I were more of an enthusiast, I’d have been aware that it also happens on two other dates annually, as the article linked to above points out.)

Such a miracle is something that more traditionally-minded folks (rightly) dig. It’s all about saints and relics and miracles and yeah, surely a bit of Catholic triumphalism, the stuff that more progressive Catholics often turn up their noses at, right? And now, this time, throw in the very presence of the Holy Father as the instigating event of the miracle, and wow, what a Catholic package.

So my fun little theory this morning is this: By this remarkable miracle, the Lord is telling our traditionalist brothers and sisters to lay off His Pope and get with the (very orthodox, very Catholic, and very challenging) program that he is laying out for us these past two years. Enough, says the Lord, with the silly “Can a Pope Be a Heretic?” stuff, the stupid “dark and false church” stuff. The question is: is our Catholic faith strong enough, are we bold enough, to allow him to form us into a better, stronger, more truly Catholic Church?

Questioning the status quo on the economics of family life

Our Sunday Visitor has posted a new column I wrote for its Daily Take blog, on the economics of raising a family today. In the piece, I question the choice that most young families are forced to make in a society structured to accommodate a two-working-parent home: we must either choose to have both parents work — in which case the family suffers in a variety of ways associated with regular childcare outside the home — or one parent stays home, in which case the family suffers in a whole other set of ways. My main point is that lay Catholics — who belong to a Church whose social teaching insists on the centrality of family life, not only for the well-being of each family and the individuals who make it up, but for the good health of society — should push harder for a conversation about better solutions. I’m well aware, by the way, that my piece does not even mention single-parent families, which are of course quite common today. I had a hard time sticking to the word count I was given for this column even without getting into that aspect of the question. But the fact is, the fact of single-parent families only makes my point stronger and more urgent. Read the whole post here.

New in OSV: on Romero, Grande, the man behind the best Romero blog, and more

Just in time for yesterday’s announcement of a date — May 23, 2015 — having been set for the beatification of Oscar Romero, not to mention the upcoming — March 24 — 35th anniversary of Romero’s martyrdom and today’s 38th anniversary of the martyrdom of his friend Fr. Rutilio Grande, OSV Newsweekly has published a series of articles I’ve written exploring the whole matter.

Right here you will find my lengthy article, “The Martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero,” that offers an overview of Romero’s life, conversion, ministry, and death. At the same link is a sidebar article, “Who was Rutilio Grande?”, offering a brief portrait of the man without whom there would likely be no Blessed Oscar. Also at that same link, toward the bottom of the page, are a couple of other shorter articles, one on the factors that have made the Romero beatification such a controversial question, the other on the disturbing but important social and political context in which Romero worked and was killed.

Finally, there’s still another new article here — an interview with Carlos Colorado, the man behind the previously obscure blog that has been getting a lot of attention lately: Super Martyrio, on all things Romero.

All together, perhaps a good way to prepare for the upcoming beatification. Check ‘em out!

Worship: The new issue rocks

My favorite academic journal has always been Worship — and that was the case decades before I was fortunate enough to come work for the press that publishes it. The latest issue (March 2015) is out now, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working my way through it — cover to cover.

First there’s an interesting article by Robin Jensen on the placement of the altar in churches of early Christianity. We learn — as historical studies of liturgy have taught us so often — that what was done was not nearly so uniform and consistent as we might have thought or even hoped. Professor Jensen demonstrates the likelihood that many churches, particularly in northern Africa, where Christianity thrived in the early centuries, featured an altar at or near the center of the building. That goes contrary to the assertion that it was always facing the back wall. She even offers reason to believe that St. Augustine celebrated Mass with the congregation gathered around the altar with him in the cathedral at Hippo where he served as bishop.

Then comes a brand new article from the recently deceased David Power (whom I had as a professor when I studied at Catholic University of America in the late 1990s). It’s on the intersections between care for the poor and Christian worship in the sixteenth century, especially in the thinking and practice of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the Catholic confraternities that were so popular at the time. Aside from the important historical material, Power’s article is a powerful reminder of how strongly the Eucharist is connected with service to the poor — or to put it another way, the interconnections sacramental theology and social ethics.

The next article is my favorite of the bunch — Timothy Brunk’s fascinating “Summorum Pontificum and Fragmentation in the Roman Catholic Church.” It is sharply argued, and its conclusions are important to both liturgical theology and the lived experience of everyday Catholics. Someone should mail it to the Vatican. (This article was also a fun read for me because it includes several quotations from Andrea Grillo’s recent book, Beyond Pius V: Conflicting Interpretations of the Liturgical Reform; that’s my English translation of Grillo’s Italian that Professor Brunk is quoting there.)

Since cosmology is a favorite topic of mine, Robert Daly’s “Ecological Euchology” also grabbed by attention — offering an example of what a Eucharistic prayer might look like if it took into account modern understandings of the universe we live in and its history.

Coming in a close second, after Brunk’s article, as my favorite in the issue is more fascinating stuff: Gail Ramshaw’s article on St. Catherine of Siena and the praise that she offers to the Holy Trinity in her prayer. Here we get some great insight’s into Catherine’s spirituality — as well as into the nature of God and how we have understood God and thought about who God is, in the past and still today — and what that says about both God and us. Ramshaw challenges us not to fail to undertake “the continuing theological quest: are there other trinitarian terms that speak orthodox faith”? Catherine of Siena, a Doctor of the Church, makes clear there were in the past and that there still are today.

And then there are the book reviews — one of the great parts of every issue of Worship.

We (certainly I) have too often allowed our fast-paced, digital culture to deprive us of a pleasure like I have had this week: reading the new issue of Worship cover to cover. It only confirms for me why the journal was my favorite all along.

In OSV: On Romero’s complex cause

OSV Newsweekly has just published my article on the recent dramatic developments in Archbishop Oscar Romero’s beatification cause. Here’s a snippet:

Many viewed Archbishop Romero as a martyr and venerated his memory from the moment of his death. But others, including some Vatican officials, were more hesitant about offering such recognition.

The reasons for this are complex and not always clear. Msgr. Rafael Urrutia, chancellor of the Archdiocese of San Salvador, told Our Sunday Visitor that officials were hesitant to beatify Archbishop Romero while those he had criticized were still alive and unwilling to offer any encouragement to supporters of liberation theology, which was under close Vatican scrutiny throughout the 1980s. At the Feb. 4 news conference, Archbishop Paglia suggested that negative reports about Archbishop Romero the Vatican had received, some of which accused him of doctrinal errors, also hindered the beatification cause.

Still, Pope John Paul II, during a 1983 pastoral visit to El Salvador, insisted, against the will of the national government, on visiting Archbishop Romero’s grave at San Salvador’s cathedral, waiting outside for someone to unlock the door when he showed up. Pope Benedict XVI said publicly in 2007 that he thought Archbishop Romero was “worthy of beatification.” And in the Vatican news conference, Archbishop Paglia revealed that Pope Benedict had taken steps to move Archbishop Romero’s cause forward just prior to his resignation from the papacy in 2013.

The article will appear in the Feb. 22 issue of the paper, but the full text is now available here at the OSV website. Next month, OSV Newsweekly will feature a set of articles I’m preparing that will explore Romero’s story in more detail.

“This Land Is Home to Me,” 40 years on

this landTomorrow, February 1, marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of This Land Is Home to Me, a historic pastoral letter by the bishops of the Appalachian region of the United States. OSV Newsweekly has just published a new article I’ve written about the origins of that letter, its impact on the U.S. Catholic Church and the region, and its enduring legacy. It’s in this week’s print edition and here on the OSV website.

You can find the full text of This Land Is Home to Me here (the link opens a .pdf). At the same link, you’ll also find At Home in the Web of Life, the letter the Appalachian bishops released in 1995, to mark This Land‘s twentieth anniversary. Both documents are well worth a look.

On This Land‘s anniversary, I’d also point you to “A Judgment upon Us All,” an article of mine published by Commonweal almost two years ago, which offers a more personal and on-the-ground perspective on the issues addressed by This Land. Finally, you’ll find a selection of other reflections and comments on Appalachian poverty that I’ve offered on this blog by clicking here.