Literally, stop saying “literally”

I just stopped reading a blog piece I was interested in because the author used the word “literally” twice, both superfluously, before the third paragraph had ended. I mean, I literally stopped reading. Literally. Stopped.

But how else can I stop, besides literally? If I had done anything but actually stop reading, then I would use another word or phrase, such as “slowed down”, “took a break from” or “read with less interest”. But I stopped reading, which means my reading ceased, it came to an end.

Friends, we have a problem with the word “literally”. We have become utterly addicted to throwing it into sentences. Its overuse knows few bounds. I hear my college students overusing it, I hear adults overusing it, I hear second-graders overusing it. I went to an academic conference last month where it was so overused that at one point during a mid-afternoon breakout, I had the following text exchange with my colleague who sat next to me: Continue reading “Literally, stop saying “literally””

Pop Culture in the Classroom: Rogue One and the Gospel of Mark

One of the challenges of reading scripture in a college course in North America is the perceived saturation of any Christian text in a society in which Christianity dominates the religious landscape. When my students see the Gospel of Mark listed on the syllabus, they assume encountering the text will be a matter of review. “I mean, obviously, I’m a Christian, so I’ve read it before.” I hear this frequently, yet in teaching the text, I find many students have never read the Gospel the way they have read other assigned literary texts such as The Odyssey or Jane Eyre. They’ve heard the Gospel, but then only in snippets (or thematic extracts called pericopes). We can thank the various churches (mine included) for this; in proclaiming and studying scripture bit-by-bit (even, in some churches, phrase-by-phrase), we’ve created a “snippet” Christian scriptural culture, whose members struggle to put the whole story together and think critically about what it means, especially as members of the dominant culture. Continue reading “Pop Culture in the Classroom: Rogue One and the Gospel of Mark”

First (really third) thoughts on Solo: A Star Wars Story

With me, when a new Star Wars movie comes out on DVD/streaming, the question is not whether I will purchase it, but when. Though it became available Saturday night, I had to wait until last night to purchase access to Solo: A Star Wars Story due to conflicts (which included my eager interest in the current offering from PBS Masterpiece on Sunday night: part 2 of The Miniaturist – very unexpected and highly recommended!).

I saw Solo only twice in the cinema, not because I didn’t love it (I did!) but because of timing, and the annoying lack of people as excited about it as I was. So last night I had my third viewing, managing to watch about a third of the film and wanted to share these thoughts.  Continue reading “First (really third) thoughts on Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Now Is the Time

“Brothers and sisters: In this instruction I do not praise the fact that your meetings are doing more harm than good.” (1 Cor. 11:17)

I have always loved the first reading for Mass today, from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. First, it demonstrates Paul’s fiery spirit; one can hear the passion of the Apostle to the Gentiles coming through clearly (maybe a little too clearly for those whose behavior he speaks against).

Secondly, and more importantly for me, he’s fired up about the liturgy, about getting the way we do liturgy right. I think of this passage, and hope I’m standing with St. Paul when I advocate for or against some seemingly insignificant liturgical observance or practice. Too often, eyes glaze in response. “Surely it doesn’t matter that much,” many argue. “If our hearts are in the right place, if we’re participating with gusto, who cares about the details?”

This is an argument I’ve heard a lot lately with regard to the music we use in liturgy. Why can’t we sing more songs from this or that Christian radio station, or from this or than experience of charismatic youth camp? The young folks love them! And isn’t that the point, to evangelize? To engage the youth, to get them excited about Mass? Continue reading “Now Is the Time”

Welcome to Liturgy and Life!

I’m thrilled to write the first post of this long-dreamed-of blog, Liturgy and Life. I hope and pray it will lend needed insight to both Church and world and foster fruitful dialogue. So what will this blog be about? That question reminds me of another question I find it difficult to answer quickly: “what do you do?” Well, I do a lot of things, and at first glance they may not all seem related. I teach catechetical courses for my Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, Ohio and for the University of Dayton’s Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation. I teach first-year nursing students at Mt. Carmel College of Nursing how to be culturally competent in caring for patients of diverse religious backgrounds. I serve my parish, Immaculate Conception in Columbus, as a pastoral musician. I write about liturgy. And I speak, write and talk (especially on podcasts such as Mugglenet Academia and Reading, Writing, Rowling) about the symbolism in Harry Potter, Star Wars and other fictional works. Hence the title of the blog: Liturgy and Life. There is so much to say about the current state of liturgical practice here in the United States more than 50 years after the changes of Vatican Council II. I plan to use this space to reflect on liturgical theology and practice, emphasizing the Paschal Mystery of Christ –  the life, death and resurrection to which we are all called as members of his Body, and into which we ourselves enter boldly whenever we gather to celebrate the Eucharist – as central to any experience of Catholic worship. And I hope this blog can be a space where we recognize our liturgical experience of the Paschal Mystery more broadly – not just in liturgy, but in life. Because the Paschal Mystery can be found not just in stories from the Scriptures, but in those which entertain us and in the everyday experiences of human life. In this thorough-going approach to the Paschal Mystery, we lend its privileged expression in the liturgy more power, more meaning, and we find ourselves, as the Mystical Body of Christ, better equipped to live the liturgy we celebrate, “that we may draw from so great a mystery, the fullness of charity and of life.” (Roman Missal, Third Edition, Collect of Holy Thursday)