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.


A fine foreworder & more kind words

120622_christiansen-631Two exciting bits of news to pass along today about my upcoming book, Struggle, Condemnation, Vindication: John Courtney Murray’s Journey toward Vatican II.

First, the book will include a substantial foreword by Drew Christiansen, SJ!

Fr. Christiansen (that’s him in the photo) is currently the Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Global Development at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is also co-director and senior research fellow of the Program on the Church and the World at the Berkley Center. A mouth-full! Many, however, will remember him for his fine work as editor-in-chief of America magazine, a post he held from 2005 to 2012.

I’ve had a chance to read the foreword Fr. Christiansen prepared for the book, and I’m happy and honored to say it’s good bit more than a cursory “here ya go.” Indeed, if you’re interested in John Courtney Murray or the topic of religious freedom, Christiansen’s foreword alone will be worth the price of admission. (So if you buy the book to read what he has to say about Murray more than for what I have to say, no hard feelings at all!)  It’ll be an thrill to have his insights leading off my book!

Second, Boston College professor of theology Cathleen Kaveny has now weighed in on the book. Kaveny is an insightful writer and noted authority on the complex intersections of culture, law, and Catholic faith. Here’s what she has to say:

Barry Hudock’s account of the life and work of John Courtney Murray shows that the development of Catholic teaching on religious liberty cannot be reduced to abstract, numbered paragraphs in an encyclical or catechism. It is a riveting story of clashing personalities, impossible possibilities, and hope against all hope. It is the story of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church.

I’m excited about these words, because Professor Kaveny’s experience of reading the manuscript was apparently very similar to my experience of writing it: Murray’s story is indeed a riveting one, with a fascinating cast of characters living out a drama that is very real.

My sincere and enthusiastic thank-you’s to Professor Kaveny and Fr. Christiansen for their gracious support!



Francis at Tacloban: pointing us to Jesus

francis taclobanSeveral times since Friday night, I have watched that homily that Pope Francis offered at Tacloban in the Philippines. One of the things that keeps coming to mind as I do is some commentary I heard Fr Robert Barron offer some months ago, probably in one of his many online videos. He said that we Catholics today are fortunate to be living in a “golden age of the papacy” that has perhaps not been seen since the early Church. Pope after pope has come before us: John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis — remarkable and holy leaders for God’s church, each in their own way.

In Tacloban on Friday we saw in a luminous way the courage, compassion, and holiness of Francis. He said himself that he had decided at the time of Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013 that he needed to go to Tacloban, where so many thousands died and many more thousands lost family and homes and livelihoods. And so it was not surprising that he fulfilled that intention this weekend, despite the onset of a tropical storm at the time of this pastoral visit to the Philippines. The sight of Pope Francis in that yellow poncho, on that windy and rain-swept makeshift altar, was powerful testimony to his determination to fulfill it.

And then the homily. He didn’t even bother to begin the homily prepared for the occasion. He simply spoke ad lib and obviously from his heart. And what came was a proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in simple and clear and moving terms: Jesus as Lord, Jesus as incarnate in the suffering of humanity.

As we see in the video (and the photo above), Francis literally did in this homily exactly what those previous great Popes of ours have each done so insistently, in their own ways and in the circumstances of their own times: he pointed the people, pointed us, to Jesus.

Now this morning comes news of a crowd of 6 to 7 million people for today’s Mass in Manila. And in today’s homily he reminds us of “our deepest identity,” that of each of us being, together, members of God’s family and that we must live with one another like that is what we are. Again, he says it simply, plainly, winsomely. What he said and the way he said it reminds me very much of the thing I often hope my children will always remember as being a fundamental lesson I tried to raise them to understand: God gives us to each other as gifts, to be God’s help and God’s love to one another, to make one another’s lives better, and so we must always ask ourselves, “Am I being a gift to him or her?”

Rocco comments on today’s numbers:

Beyond taking the all-time record from the final day of John Paul II’s 1995 visit in the same place, it is significant that today’s mass of humanity did not come in the context of a World Youth Day, unlike the prior title-holder and Francis’ draw of 3 million to the closing of 2013’s WYD on Rio de Janiero’s Copacabana beach. What’s more, while John Paul’s last trip to Asia was commonly understood as a “farewell” to a pontiff who was entering the pantheon of legend in his 17th year as Pope, Francis has now presided over the two largest papal crowds ever within the first two years of his pontificate.

To those who scowl at Francis in our day for characteristics and priorities that we have seen on display clearly enough even on this Philippines visit — because he is not attentive enough to the prettiness of the liturgy (that damned yellow poncho!) or because his language at times lacks theological precision (“if someone says a swearword against my mother, of course he’ll get a punch in the nose”) — we should all have the wisdom and common sense to say, “You are silly,” and then to ignore them. Because may God protect us from getting so wrapped up in those peripherals that we keep ourselves from following the direction of Francis’s pointing finger, pointing to Christ, and from allowing his simple, loving, and humble witness from forming us into better Christians.

“An extraordinarily important book”

Here’s some exciting advance feedback on my new book Struggle, Condemnation, Vindication: John Courtney Murray’s Journey toward Vatican II. It comes from Mark Massa, SJ, who is professor of church history at Boston College and the author of several highly regarded books on the history of the church in the United States. About my book, Massa has said:

“This is an extraordinarily important book — arguably the most important study of the thought and influence of John Courtney Murray in 40 years. Hudock elucidates how Murray’s contribution to North American and world Catholicism transcends the tired political labels of our time, so that both Catholic ‘liberals’ and ‘conservatives’ have benefited from his forceful defense of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. A must-read.”

My thanks to Fr. Massa for his gracious words!

The book will be available in May. More on it (including the chance to pre-order a copy) here.

Let me introduce you and your group to John Courtney Murray

I’m interested in spending a good chunk of my time during 2015 talking about Fr. John Courtney Murray. This guy lived out a real-life theological adventure story, he faced some powerful opposition gracefully and obediently, and he ended up having a bigger impact on the doctrine of the Catholic Church than any American has ever had. I had such a great time learning about him and writing about him for my new book, I’m itching to get the word out about him among Catholics today. Not enough of us know about him.

If you’re interested in hearing about him at a parish adult education program, a conference, or other event, drop me a line and we’ll talk. I’ll make sure it’s affordable for your organization or parish. What you’ll get is a dynamic presentation — no monotonous droning on, no reading from Powerpoints or texts — that is interesting and even surprising. And it won’t be something you need a theology degree to understand. I’m not a professional academic; I’m in Catholic publishing, and I know how to make things clear and engaging.

You’ll hear about where things stood in Catholic theology on the topic of religious freedom when John Courtney Murray took up the question, the fascinating way he offered a new way of looking at the topic while constantly insisting on being faithful to orthodox Catholic teaching, and the result that shook up the Second Vatican Council and led to the remarkable achievements of people like Pope John Paul II that would not have been possible without Murray.

I’ll talk for about 50 minutes (and you will not be bored), backed up by plenty of helpful photos, and then there will be time for question and answer. I’ll have copies of my new book, Struggle, Condemnation, Vindication: John Courtney Murray’s Journey toward Vatican II, available for purchase and signing. For a sense of the sort of presentation I give, take a look at this article on one that I recently delivered at the annual University of Dallas Ministry Conference (written by a reporter I didn’t know was in the room at the time).

Oh, and 2015 is a great time to learn about Murray, because this December will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae, Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, of which Murray was a central architect. Let’s mark the anniversary in a fitting way.

I’m not out to make a killing; it just doesn’t work that way for this kind of work. What I want is to make the great stuff I’ve learned more widely available. (And if you want to really make the visit worthwhile and arrange for a second dynamic talk the next day — for example, on Pope Francis and Catholic social teaching, on Oscar Romero, or the crucial place of the Eucharistic prayer in Catholic worship — we can do that, too.)

If this sounds worth looking into, email me at barryhudock[at]gmail[dot]com, and we’ll talk. Thank for considering it.