Tag Archives: practical theology

Catholic Men Should Be Feminists

In case you missed it, Sister Joan Chittister wrote a beautifully compelling piece yesterday for NCR entitled “Gender inequality is a man’s problem.” As a Catholic, a woman, and a feminist*, it took me some time to process my reactions to her post. After all, I don’t want to authorize men to speak on behalf of women; the suppression of women’s voices has been one of the greatest contributing factors to gender inequality in the Church and the world. I certainly don’t want to perpetuate it by setting up a knight-in-shining-armor-model in which the already over-exposed male voice speaks on behalf of the oft-silenced female one. But the more I reflected on Chittister’s words, the more I realized how necessary they are.

Up until this point, I’ve been letting men off the hook way too easily. Given the number of male acquaintances and relatives I have who genuinely do not recognize gender equality as a valuable or important goal, my general sentiment has been, “the ones who support the fact that I personally am a feminist are already counter-cultural, ahead of the Catholic norm, so I can’t really expect anything more from them beyond tacit support.” After processing Chittister’s words, though, I’m done with that mindset. It is not enough for a Catholic man to resist flinching when I mention feminism. That does not make him an advocate for women. What is needed are not men who simply allow women to speak (which should be a bare minimum), but men who notice cultural norms that are oppressive to women and who vocally identify them, who aren’t afraid to speak up and identify as a male feminist. Continue reading Catholic Men Should Be Feminists

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Or Forever Hold Your Peace…

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By Matt Keppel

It’s obvious that my most popular posts have talked about reform within the Church, and I’m excited to see that this is what people want–or are at least thinking about it. But, here’s the deal: it’s a two-way street. While this whole idea of change is good and well, change does not always begin at the top. In order for administrators to know what the needs of the parish are, parishioners must make their needs known!

Ladies and gentlemen, this is just as much the time of the people in the pews as it is the time of those on the altar! Having passed 50 years since the convocation of the Second Vatican Council, let us take to heart its purpose: to breathe new life into the Church.This is not to say that as the laity we are supposed to try and make the Church bend to our every whim. Instead, our duty is to make our needs known: ministries, projects, and events that serve the greater good of the community. As in any healthy relationship,  parishes can only serve us when they clearly know our needs. Continue reading Or Forever Hold Your Peace…

In Defense of Facing the People

The Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Catholic University of America
The Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Catholic University of America

By Katie Morroni

I’m not a liturgical scholar, and I won’t pretend to be. I don’t have the advanced background or degrees in theology, church history, and ministry that many of my fellow contributors here at CatholicHow have. I still can’t believe I was invited to write alongside this crew of smart, holy people! Don’t tell my editor, but as such, I sometimes feel much of the great work written here at CatholicHow is a bit inside baseball. I’m just trying to love God, live out my vocation, and do the best I can. At the end of the day, maybe that’s all any of us are doing. Fr. Matt asked me to write on this site and, as a friend, did so in full knowledge of my personal flaws and lack of an advanced degree. So I see myself in this crew of bloggers as someone to speak for regular people. And it’s with this in mind that I speak up today.

My fellow CatholicHow contributor Patrick’s post about the direction the priest faces at Mass — and his case for the priest to face away from the people — took me aback, pun intended.

In many ways, it’s an inside baseball post, fit for a scholar. No doubt, it’s not the first time a smart person in recent history has reconsidered this shift in the American Church, and it certainly won’t be the last. Nor should it be! We need smart people to talk about these things, to weigh the merits of doing something one way or another. It gives life to our Church and keeps the beautiful Body of Christ alive and thriving. The historical, scholarly elements of Patrick’s post were new to me, and I found this window into our liturgy’s history quite beautiful. I love symbolism and I think it makes our Church stronger. But I also think it’s worth looking at this issue, and how we talk about it, from another perspective.

Before you read the rest of my post, you should go read Patrick’s post in full, as this is intended as a reply and I use some vocabulary here that he introduced.

Without further adieu, I’ll come right out and say: I don’t quite follow how the direction the priest faces can change their ability to lead their congregation, or our ability to follow. Patrick writes:

The priest, as the one mediating the sacrifice of Christ, as the conduit between the layman and the eternal Godhead, leads the people of God in their marshalling before the Lord. This symbolism is lost on a congregation gathered before a priest celebrating versus populum.

Perhaps this is the case for some, but the symbolism of a priest leading a congregation to God is absolutely not lost on me. I attend Mass at the parish I do because of the priests there, because they are some of the most incredible shepherds I have ever known. I am closer to God because of their good work.

Continue reading In Defense of Facing the People

Sacred Signs and Symbols: Ad Orientem

By Patrick Angiolillo

I had the opportunity to attend a Novus Ordo Latin Mass celebrated ad orientem for the first time two years ago. It was my first experience of both Latin in the Mass and of the priest facing East, and in this case facing the altar, for the duration of the liturgy.

This experience has in part fueled my academic investigations of ancient Jewish and Christian liturgical texts. Although my intention in my research has been to draw an ever-clearer picture of ancient worship-in-practice, my studies connect to the modern religious experience, and can shed light on why it is we do what we do when we perform certain ritual practices in our religious ceremonies. This includes the ad orientem Mass.

Let me begin in Jerusalem, a place where many great stories begin. The Temple in Jerusalem lies not only at the heart of the ancient city, but at the heart of the ancient Jewish faith as well. Historically, Jews have regarded the Temple as the place where God chose to reside: “the place (המקום) that YHWH your God will choose from all your tribes as a dwelling place to put his name there” (Deut 12:5; cf. ||’s). God’s shekinah, or divine presence, is physically manifest in the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the temple, where the Ark of the Covenant was reserved.

Continue reading Sacred Signs and Symbols: Ad Orientem

Moving Away from Miracles

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Miracles were not a topic I expected to surface during our parish mission last month. But Father Tim referenced them with easy comfort.

“I’ve seen so many miracles in my fifteen years here,” he said. “Changes of heart, real conversions.” What, he implied, could be more miraculous?

Which brings us to the subject of canonization.

Supernatural miracles, long required for canonized Catholic saints, have had a storied role in the history of sainthood. Post-death miracles were mandated as a way of verifying that the potential saint was a friend of God and not a fraud or magician, and that her current address was indeed heaven.

In the centuries prior to John Paul II’s papacy, at least four miracles were required for sainthood, but in 1983 the pope lowered the requirement to two: one to be beatified, and a second to become a canonized saint. (Martyrs need only one miracle total.)

Pope Francis has gone still further, lifting the requirement for a second miracle for Pope John XXIII and dispensing the miracle requirement entirely for three other new saints.

Might the Church be moving toward eliminating the requirement for miracles? I hope so, for both theological and practical reasons.

Continue reading Moving Away from Miracles

Sacred Signs and Symbols: How to Pray

Sacred signs and practices have long been a part of the history of religion and religious ritual.  Especially in our Judeo-Christian tradition, such ritual action plays a major role in connecting the divine and human realms.

Numerous examples from the Bible, the deuterocanon, and from apocrypha and pseudepigrapha point to certain ways to pray. In 1 Kgs 8, for example, we find Solomon praying at the dedication of his impressive First Temple. He kneels, stands, lifts his hands, and prostrates himself, and the whole assembly of Israel (kwl qhl ysr’l) joins him in these liturgical practices. In the Apocalypses of Enoch and Abraham as well as in the Testament of Levi (and other patriarchs), we see similar stances and postures taken up before the actual throne of God’s glory (ks’ kbd or ks’ mrkbh). In a similar vein, we see examples of the angels performing very similar liturgical practice.  In Post-Exilic texts like Ezekiel (see chs. 1 and 10) as well as Second Temple texts like the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, a Dead Sea Scrolls liturgical text, there are abundant instances of angelic hosts (like cherubim, and chayyim) standing or bowing before God. Prostration, bowing, or raised hands, we see, were integral in offering the most perfect worship to God in the history of Judaism.

Continue reading Sacred Signs and Symbols: How to Pray