How the Mass is a Sacrifice

This semester, students at WCC set their theology teachers a theme:  the liturgy.  Teachers chose topics within the theme, and students arranged the topics into a semester-long series.  Just like that, the students gained for themselves a full “practicum” on the liturgy, while each teacher has only to give two or three talks.  It’s a great arrangement!

Recently, I was tapped for a talk on “the theology of the Mass” or “how the Mass is a sacrifice.”  You can download it here, or listen online:

Students loved the talk, but they seemed especially excited about the explanation of transubstantiation in the Q&A.

By the way, I’m wondering whether I should post more of these recordings or even start a podcast.  Your feedback would be helpful.

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Whether teachers in a liberal arts college are employees

[This is the third in a three-part series on liberal education: (1) Whether the purpose of a liberal arts college is to teach; (2) whether teachers at a liberal arts college teach for the sake of their students; (3) whether teachers at a liberal arts college are employees.  For background on the subject, see my post on Pieper’s book.  For a glimpse into the kind of enjoyment I hope this post offers, see my comments on the scholastic question format.]

Article 3: Whether Teachers at a Liberal Arts College Are Employees

Objection 1. It seems that teachers at a liberal arts college are employees, because an employee is someone who does something for pay.  But teachers are paid for teaching.  Therefore, teachers are employees. Continue reading “Whether teachers in a liberal arts college are employees”

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My father’s book made the news

The Arkansas Catholic, a diocesan newspaper, ran an article about my father’s book The Cross My Only Hope.  It’s a nice piece and a fitting venue because, as the article notes, the title of the book was taken from a homily by the former bishop of Little Rock, Andrew J. McDonald. Continue reading “My father’s book made the news”

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Is the child in a family an image of the Holy Spirit?

I recently received some questions about how the family is an image of the Trinity. Hans Urs von Balthasar famously mapped the relationships in a family onto the relationship within the Trinity, such that the child in a family is seen as the proceeding love of the husband and the wife and so corresponds to the Holy Spirit who proceeds as the love of the Father and the Son. Scott Hahn picked up that outline in his popularization of Trinitarian theology. Is this a good way to talk about the Holy Spirit?

It can be difficult to dispute Trinitarian theories, because the Trinity is the deepest mystery of our faith. And within the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is arguably the most mysterious of the three persons: What does God’s “breath” or “wind” actually mean? Scripture tells us so little about him!

But our scarcity of information about the Holy Spirit is one reason I would resist describing the Holy Spirit in terms of the child proceeding from a husband and a wife. We have so very few things that we can say for certain about the Holy Spirit that each gleam of light is precious. One of the very few solid things the Church has defined about the Holy Spirit is that he does NOT proceed as a son.

When we speak of the child as the proceeding love of the husband and the wife, I think we get into difficulties on the side of marriage as well. Although beautiful and noble in itself, the union of husband and wife ultimately finds its goal and completion when it is subordinated to the good of children. Speaking of the child as though it WERE the union of husband and wife confuses the two ends of marriage to allow union (the lesser good) to gobble up children (the greater good).

All things considered, I think it best to follow the example of John Paul II. He spoke of the family as an image of the Trinity, but he kept his comparison at the level of “communion of persons.” The family is the first natural communion of persons, and so it points to even more primal Trinitarian communion. John Paul did not attempt to make the Father line up with a husband, the Son with a wife, and the Holy Spirit with a child. When you press the likeness that far, you end up in difficulties.

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Coffee: the agony and the ecstasy

The blog has fallen silent over the past week. To explain why, I have to take you back ten years or more.

It all started when my sister bought me a book called Coffee Basics: A Quick and Easy Guide. The transition from hard-core addict to Coffee geek was easy, and I began visiting my local coffee roastery, sipping regional cups with discrimination, and experimenting with every imaginable brewing method at home. Continue reading “Coffee: the agony and the ecstasy”

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Two habits for happiness

“Oh give thanks to the Lord!” cries the Psalmist repeatedly (Psalm 107:1; 118:1; 136:1; etc.). “All your works shall give you thanks!” (Psalm 145:10). “Give thanks in all circumstances,” Paul commands, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1Thess 5:18).

It turns out that giving thanks to God is not only good but good for you: with the success of clinical trials, gratitude exercises and gratitude diaries have become standard in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Books like One Thousand Gifts have popularized the benefits of gratitude.

Why is gratitude so helpful? There are two reasons: Continue reading “Two habits for happiness”

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From Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday

“It is great and worthy of admiration that on Sunday, which is the first day, on which God began to be engaged in the creation of the world, the Savior enters into the labor of his Passion, and on the seventh day, having been engaged in our salvation throughout this week, which is called the ‘Greater Week,’ he ceased and rested in the sepulcher.”

Rupert of Deutz  (+c. 1129), quoted in James Monti, A Sense of the Sacred

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Beauty favors tradition

Over at New Liturgical Movement, my good friend Peter Kwasniewski has written about his conversion. He doesn’t mean a conversion from atheism to Christianity, or from Protestantism to Catholicism: he means a conversion from “modernity” to “traditional Catholicism.” He says that experiences of great beauty shook him out of “modernity,” that is, out of “what one might call modernism, an exaltation of our own specialness, differentness, newness, and autonomy.”

We can recognize in Peter’s description a progressivism we experience all around us. One could summarize the mindset as three claims: Continue reading “Beauty favors tradition”

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The Cross My Only Hope

My Catholic Christian faith fills my life with joy. My marriage is founded on biblical and magisterial wisdom and supported by sacramental grace. My professional life is teaching theology; my doctoral degree is in biblical studies. So how did I find this pearl of great price?

The real story is not my story, but my father’s. I had to embrace my faith and make it my own, taking up my cross for myself. But it was Leon Holmes who began college as an atheist, found his way to Christianity and eventually to Catholicism, and then handed all that to his children as their most valuable inheritance.  He found the treasure buried in a field.

And how did he do that? As it happens, he wrote a book about it. Continue reading “The Cross My Only Hope”

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St. Melchizedek

August 26

The commemoration of Saint Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God most high, who greeted Abraham the recent victor in battle with a blessing and offered to the Lord a holy victim, an immaculate host. He is interpreted as a prefiguration of Christ, the king of peace and justice, and–although he lacked any genealogy–a priest forever.

***

May Holy Mary and all the saints intercede to the Lord for us, that we may merit to be helped and saved by him who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

V. Precious in the sight of the Lord

R. Is the death of his holy ones.

V. May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life.  And may the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.

R. Amen

[To learn about praying this and other Martyrology entries, see this page.]

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