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At the Name of Jesus

Rod Dreher posts about a personal experience told by Tim Dalrymple. Dalrymple begins with a a friend who had just returned from a month-long Ignatian retreat.

As [my friend] described his retreat, I kept hearing a particular word a word that surprised me, a word that I had not heard or spoken so openly and frequently for years.Do you want to know what the word was? Jesus.I had stopped saying the word Jesus. 95% of the time, I only spoke of God. Or if I had to speak of him, I referred to God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, the Logosnames that sounded intellectual and sophisticated. If I had to speak of the Son incarnate, then I spoke of Christ, or the God-man. Never Jesus Christ, and certainly never justJesus. Loving Jesus, following Jesus, seeking Jesus these were the province of fundamentalists, Bible thumpers, Jesus Freaks, crude Christians who wore WWJD bracelets and listened to Michael W. Smith and read Max Lucado instead of Jurgen Moltmann. We had even begun to subtly mock Jesus by talking of Jeebus or mocking the way certain preachers shouted Jesus! in their sermons, or by laughing at Jesus action figures and the other strange cultural artifacts emanating from Jesusland.But now, here was this friend of mine, whom I admired, and he couldnt stop talking about walking with Jesus and talking with Jesus. He spoke of Jesus telling him something, or showing him something, or holding him. It was striking only because I had not heard language like that since I had come to seminary.

The story reminded me of some words of Karl Rahner in his wonderful little book, "The Love of Jesus and the Love of Neighbor." Rahner recounts a conversation with a colleague whom he identifies as "a modern Protestant theologian." He says:

At one point I put in with, "Yes, you see, you're actually only dealing with Jesus when you throw your arms around him and realize right down to the bottom of your being that this is something you can still do today." And my theologian replied, "yes, you're right, of course -- if you don't mean it too pietistically."

Rahner responds:

I think one can and must love Jesus, in all immediacy and concreteness, with a love that transcends space and time, in virtue of the nature of love in general and by the power of the Holy Spirit of God.

This loving encounter with Jesus is possible to us today, Rahner affirms -- "on condition that we want to love him, that we have the courage to throw our arms around him."

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Gorgeous. Thanks for a wonderful post.

That was my experience in a Jesuit retreat too.

This post reminds me that I often shudder when people I've just met introduce themselfs as Christians. When Dad was on hospice, one of his substitute nurses came in wearing a large cross necklace and announced, "My name's Dale! I'm a Christian, and I'll be your nurse today."Clearly, Dale expected us to infer he had certain virtues as a Christian nurse and to derive confidence from this information. Dad, who viewed these announcements as self-congratulatory and smug, stuck out his hand and said, "Say, I'm Tom, and I won't hold that against you. Want some coffee?"Early in my development as a Christian, I shied away from making Jesus my friend because it smacked of the "personal Lord and Savior" line that I so detest in fundiegelicals. The Jesuits' Sacred Space site is a nice one that it helps one envision Jesus as a friend in a Catholic way. I think links to the site have been posted several times over the years on the blog, but here it is:http://www.sacredspace.ie/

Personal devotion to Jesus, of course, invigorated the Church long before the Jesuits. St. Bernard devoted the fifteenth of his sermons on the Song of Songs to the name of Jesus--http://www.pathsoflove.com/bernard/songofsongs/sermon15.htmland to him is also ascribed the hymn Jesu, dulcis memoria:Jesu, dulcis memoria,dans vera cordis gaudia:sed super mel et omniaejus dulcis praesentia.Nil canitur suavius,nil auditur jucundius,nil cogitatur dulcius,quam Jesus Dei Filius.Jesu, spes paenitentibus,quam pius es petentibus!quam bonus te quaerentibus!sed quid invenientibus?Nec lingua valet dicere,nec littera exprimere:expertus potest credere,quid sit Jesum diligere.Sis, Jesu, nostrum gaudium,qui es futurum praemium:sit nostra in te gloria,per cuncta semper saecula.Amen.Jesus, the very thought of TheeWith sweetness fills the breast!Yet sweeter far Thy face to seeAnd in Thy Presence rest.No voice can sing, no heart can frame,Nor can the memory find,A sweeter sound than Jesus' Name,The Saviour of mankind.O hope of every contrite heart!O joy of all the meek!To those who fall, how kind Thou art!How good to those who seek!But what to those who find? Ah! thisNor tongue nor pen can showThe love of Jesus, what it is,None but His loved ones know.Jesus! our only hope be Thou,As Thou our prize shalt be;In Thee be all our glory now,And through eternity. Amen.

Joe,thanks for one of my favorite hymns. Here is one version of another I love:1 At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,every tongue confess him King of glory now;'tis the Father's pleasure we should call him Lord,who from the beginning was the mighty Word.2 At his voice creation sprang at once to sight:all the angel faces, all the hosts of light,thrones and dominations, stars upon their way,all the heavenly orders in their great array.3 Humbled for a season, to receive a namefrom the lips of sinners, unto whom he came;faithfully he bore it spotless to the last,brought it back victorious when from death he passed;4 bore it up triumphant with its human light,through all ranks of creatures, to the central height,to the throne of Godhead, to the Father's breast;filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.5 In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdueall that is not holy, all that is not true.Look to him, your Savior, in temptation's hour;let his will enfold you in its light and power.6 Christians, this Lord Jesus shall return again,with his Father's glory, o'er the earth to reign;for all wreaths of empire meet upon his brow,and our hearts confess him King of glory now.Words: Caroline Maria Noel Music: King's Weston Ralph Vaughn Williams

There was a time when many/most Catholic men belonged to the Holy Name Society and went to parish meetings and sponsored parish events. (Pancake breakfasts, e.g., at my childhood parish.)http://www.holynamesociety.info/It no longer seems to be important And there was a time when the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus was frequently prayed. It, too, seems to have fallen out of favor, as new devotions have replaced it. http://www.archive.org/stream/prayerbookreligi00lasauoft#page/134/mode/2up

We were taught to sing the Jesu, dulcis in the second grade. I can still manage a few of the verses by heart.Wasn't another of Ignatius of Loyola's forerunners in the devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus Saint Bernardine of Siena?

Gerelyn, Raber belongs to the Men's Club, which seems to perform the same functions as the Holy Name Society. I wonder if it used to be called the Holy Name Society, but now is just called by its generic name.Thanks for the link to the Litany.

John Page,Bernardine of Siena spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus throughout central Italy and encouraged people to place a tile with "IHS" above the doors of their houses. I have one from the town of Montalcino in Southern Tuscany. And, as you know, the mother church of the Society is Chiesa del santissimo Nome di Ges.Also important is the influence upon Ignatius of the "Vita Jesu Christi" of the 14th century Carthusian, Ludolph of Saxony. The "General Introduction" to the Paulist Press volume, "Ignatius of Loyola," sets out in some detail Ignatius' dependence upon the work of Ludolph.It quotes from Ludolph:"If you want to draw fruit from these sayings and deeds of Christ, put aside all other preoccupations; and then, with all the affection of your heart, slowly, diligiently, and with relish, make yourself present to what the Lord Jesus has said and done ... just as if you were actually there, and heard him with your own ears, and saw him with your own eyes. ... Although many of these facts are recounted as having taken place in the past, you nevertheless should meditate upon them as if they were taking place now, in the present; for from this you will surely experience great delight."

Jean,I visit Sacred Space too. I wasn't raised in any church but when I was in college my aunt, uncle, and cousins all became reborn Christians - it was almost scary. I think one of the reasons I became Catholic and not a Protestant was to distance myself from that sort of Jesus-Freak metality. Who knew I would end up back there :)

Crystal, those of us who had no church upbringing often find ourselves IN surprising places, but not necessarily feeling OF those places, no?

Yes, exactly so.

Thank you, Fr. Imbelli for starting a post on this topic. A Catholic scholar friend of mine calls Jesus "He-who-must-not-be-named" I was more than a bit stunned to realize that Bernadine was called before the Pope for potential heresy for promoting devotion to the Name of jesus. After St. Bernadine was given the chance to make his case, all concerns were dismissed but it shows that Catholic hesitancy is certainly historic. I'm so jealous that you actually found one of those IHS tiles that St. Bernadine used to facilitate devotion to the Name of Jesus in the cities of Italy, stop feuds and foster forgiveness of one's enemies. keep thinking that some enterprising Catholic should start manufacturing them again. I want one for my house! As it is, I just show a picture of one 15th century tile during a Making Disciple seminar.

"I was more than a bit stunned to realize that Bernadine was called before the Pope for potential heresy for promoting devotion to the Name of jesus."So sounds like thinking about Jesus as our friend in a personal way isn't just modern fundiephobia.Any ideas why Catholics seem to be historically hinky about Jesus as their friend? And is this changing, perhaps? In my kid's Catholic school, they wore WWJD bracelets and talked about Jesus all the time. As he goes through his "you don't have to go to Mass to be a good person" phase--at least I hope it's a phase--he still invokes Jesus and stories about Jesus quite a lot to back up his ideas about moral behavior.(Speaking of IHS, there is a lovely scene in George Eliot's "Silas Marner," where a neighbor, who helps Silas with his adopted daughter, brings him a basket of bread with IHS. The scene evokes communion and also seems to be a blessing on Silas' adoption of the little foundling.)

Beautiful post!I'm glad Fr. Komonchak brought up St. Bernard's 15th sermon on the Song of Songs. The sermon itself is a work of art, particularly the second part -- Bernard compares the name of Jesus to medicine, so that the name itself has a sacramental quality:"when I name Jesus I set before me a man who is meek and humble of heart, kind, prudent, chaste, merciful, flawlessly upright and holy in the eyes of all; and this same man is the all-powerful God whose way of life heals me, whose support is my strength. All these re-echo for me at the hearing of Jesus' name. Because he is man I strive to imitate him; because of his divine power I lean upon him. The examples of his human life I gather like medicinal herbs; with the aid of his power I blend them, and the result is a compound like no pharmacist can produce."I was also reminded of St. Ignatius of Antioch's sage advice to the Trallians:"turn a deaf ear to the talk of anyone whose language has nothing to do with Jesus Christ."

I'm in the midst of re-reading (after many years) Romano Guardini's wonderful book The Lord. It makes a wonderful antidote to the sentimentalized or enthusiastic (in the old sense of the word) picture of Jesus.

At the end of the day, after all the theologizing, one reality remains: Jesus and his love for us. Catholicism IS about having a personal relationship with Jesus. This is what blew me away when I first starting knowing active Catholics. These Catholics had fallen head-over-heels for Jesus. How is it that this aspect of our faith has been suppressed for so long? How is it that people don't generally see this when they look at Catholicism? We are more than "a bunch of rules." The mass is not "works righteousness" but an opportunity for us to grow in our relationship with Jesus whom we receive in the Word and the Eucharist. Our whole faith is centered on this personal relationship with Jesus Christ. But does the average Catholic know this? Maybe they do, but I wonder...Thank you Fr. Komonchak for recommending St. Bernard's sermons on the Song of Songs. I will definitely read them.

I'm really surprised at this thread. People around here call Him Jesus all the time. Maybe it's the influence of the Baptists. Or maybe it's an ethnic thing. I use Jesus' name all the time, including on this blog. Hmm. What do you all call His mother? I'd say "the Blessed Mother" is the favored name here.I also note that you all don't capitalize the pronouns standing for Jesus, God, the Trinity, etc.

Fariba - Why don't people see this in active Catholics? After years of listening to people talk about their lived relationship with God, we finally realized that the majority of Catholics don't have that kind of relationship with Jesus. For many active Catholics - even high level leaders - the idea of personal relationship with Jesus can come as a big surprise. Many parishes have a de facto "don't ask, don't tell" culture about talking about relationship with God. It is really hard to seriously think or ruminate on something that you've never seen other Catholic talk about explicitly or do overtly. Cause most of us aren't spiritual geniuses and we get our real formation in the faith from watching the other Catholics in our life. There's a reason why the Pew forum found that only 48% of those who retain a Catholic identity are certain you can have a relationship with God and that nearly 30% of Catholics who haven't left don't believe in a personal God anyway. It won't change until we deliberately break the "he-who-must-not-be-named silence.It seems to be extremely wide-spread around the country. There are oasis all over, to be sure, but we've worked in at least 300 different parishes and I'd never been in one where conscious discipleship was the working spiritual norm until last month. It was pretty stunning to see how different parish life can be if the majority are seriously seeking to live as disciples of Jesus Christ. (Just to give a sense of our experience so far, we've worked in 80 US dioceses all over the country and another 25 or so outside the US and listened to tens of thousands of Catholics tell us about their relationship with God and experience of being used by God.)

Now I'm totally astonished. Not want and expect a personal relationship with Jesus/God? One of the things I was taught was taught was that Christianity/Catholicism is superior to other religions (e.g., Hinduism, Bbuddhism) because our God is a personal God, one with Whom one can speak and can listen to. I was taught that Jesus is my brother, and as such I shouldn't hesitate to talk with Him even in a chatty way if we felt like it, and even express my anger at Him and our Father. I particularly remember a "day of recollection" (a one-day retreat) in high school given by an old Jesuit. One of his main points of the day was that it is in our interior life that we find the Lord Jesus Who is simultaneously our brother.

Sherry - This is incredible. Where I go to church, in Kentucky, I see more Catholics who are open about their relationship with Jesus probably because we are near the Bible belt and the Catholics are possibly influenced by the evangelical and baptists around them. This is also on a university campus. The students are very open and even have praise and worship events. Either, students tend to be like this in college and then lose it when they enter "real-world" Catholicism or the youth of our generation are trying to break the silence. I pray that the latter is the case.

"Not want and expect a personal relationship with Jesus/God?"Protestants of a certain stripe will tell you that the Catholics focus more on their relationship with the RCC, and that this is an impediment to the saving grace of Christ. Just' sayin'.

Rahner was anchored in devotion to the Sacred Heart -- its near disappearance in contemporary Catholicism is an inexplicable spiritual tragedy. Note that equivalents of it are found in German pietism (the chorales in the St Matthew Passion) and in Wesleyanism. Charles Wesley:Come, O thou Traveler unknown,Whom still I hold, but cannot see!My company before is gone,And I am left alone with Thee;With Thee all night I mean to stay,And wrestle till the break of day.I need not tell Thee who I am,My misery and sin declare;Thyself hast called me by my name,Look on Thy hands, and read it there;But who, I ask Thee, who art Thou?Tell me Thy name, and tell me now.In vain Thou strugglest to get free,I never will unloose my hold!Art Thou the Man that died for me?The secret of Thy love unfold;Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,Till I Thy name, Thy nature know.Wilt Thou not yet to me revealThy new, unutterable Name?Tell me, I still beseech Thee, tell;To know it now resolved I am;Wrestling, I will not let Thee go,Till I Thy Name, Thy nature know.Tis all in vain to hold Thy tongueOr touch the hollow of my thigh;Though every sinew be unstrung,Out of my arms Thou shalt not fly;Wrestling I will not let Thee goTill I Thy name, Thy nature know.What though my shrinking flesh complain,And murmur to contend so long?I rise superior to my pain,When I am weak, then I am strongAnd when my all of strength shall fail,I shall with the God-man prevail.My strength is gone, my nature dies,I sink beneath Thy weighty hand,Faint to revive, and fall to rise;I fall, and yet by faith I stand;I stand and will not let Thee goTill I Thy Name, Thy nature know.Yield to me now, for I am weak,But confident in self-despair;Speak to my heart, in blessings speak,Be conquered by my instant prayer;Speak, or Thou never hence shalt move,And tell me if Thy Name is Love.'Tis Love! 'tis Love! Thou diedst for me!I hear Thy whisper in my heart;The morning breaks, the shadows flee,Pure, universal love Thou art;To me, to all, Thy bowels move;Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.My prayer hath power with God; the graceUnspeakable I now receive;Through faith I see Thee face to face,I see Thee face to face, and live!In vain I have not wept and strove;Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.I know Thee, Savior, who Thou art.Jesus, the feeble sinner's friend;Nor wilt Thou with the night depart.But stay and love me to the end,Thy mercies never shall remove;Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.The Sun of righteousness on meHath rose with healing in His wings,Withered my nature's strength; from TheeMy soul its life and succor brings;My help is all laid up above;Thy nature and Thy Name is Love.Contented now upon my thighI halt, till life's short journey end;All helplessness, all weakness IOn Thee alone for strength depend;Nor have I power from Thee to move:Thy nature, and Thy name is Love.Lame as I am, I take the prey,Hell, earth, and sin, with ease o'ercome;I leap for joy, pursue my way,And as a bounding hart fly home,Through all eternity to proveThy nature and Thy Name is Love.

Jean: I've head numerous Catholics make the same observation.Farbia: You are blessed! But yes - Catholics who are minorities in the Bible belt are readily influenced by their neighbors and are typically much more comfortable with the language of personal relationship. Generally speaking, people don't talk about relationship with God in places where Catholics have been dominant for a long time. In the mid-west/plains where stoic German Catholics and duked it out with the weather, usually very uncomfortable. Also in New England, mid-Atlantic, old majority Catholic centers (Chicago, Boston) or the big urban centers on the left and right costs where post-modern hostility to all kinds of traditional western faiths reigns. We just have to remember that there isn't one Catholic culture in the US, there are hundreds of living "Catholic cultures" in this country.This was highlighted for me in November, 2010, when I visited Most Precious Blood parish in Brooklyn. I felt like I had walked onto a movie set. Here were the gestures, the accents, and the living feel of a world that I had seen depicted hundreds of times in movies and on television. Now I was encountering the real thing and, in the midst of this neighborhood, a unique and deeply rooted form of Catholic culture. One of my guides was Nancy Arkin, a life-long New Yorker who has worked in pastoral ministry in the diocese of Brooklyn for the 20 years. For the past three years, Nancy has served as Coordinator of Adult Faith Formation at Most Precious Blood, which is located in an area that has been majority Italian for generations. But the tide has turned. Like most parishes in the area, Most Precious Bloods membership had dropped nearly 80% from its height in the 60's and the majority who attend are elderly. The Italians have moved out in large numbers and their place has been taken largely by Chinese and Russian immigrants who are not Catholic. Many in the neighborhood now have no Christian background at all. Fr. Maduri, who grew up in the parish next-door, became pastor in 2009 and responded in a remarkable way. He sized up the situation quickly: either the human community had to be rebuilt or the parish would close. Since the traditional Catholic population was leaving the area, he would focus on making disciples of the unchurched and apostles of the churched. To do that, he had to introduce a core of his remaining parishioners to ideas that were totally new. As Nancy put it The whole idea of Holy Spirit that God was actively engaged in a relationship with them and calling them to live it out, that they were his instrument so that others would know the gospel was completely foreign. The people Ive met here this was completely new to them. Everyone says it is new. It was all Greek to them. I am amazed that they are so receptive and responsive.

For those of us of a certain age - and midwestern born and bred - it was made clear early on that we were Catholics. Christianity was almost an afterthought.Relationship with God? I had to join a nondenominational church in my late 20s before I had ever heard the idea presented seriously.Andrew Greeley was/is right: Catholicism is very cultural and, unfortunately, moderately about relationships with God.

I weary of Midwesterners being characterized as cold and stoic. Also, we are not all cheese-and-sausage eating Germans.

Jean - I've spent a lot of time in Nebraska and Kansas and have met ALOT of Germans there. All of which came as a surprise to me cause I had no idea there were major Catholic enclaves there. But I didn't mean to dismiss Iowans or residents of Indiana, etc. and imply they were all Germans. What I did mean is that majority of mid-western Catholics seem to be uncomfortable talking about relationship with God.

"Generally speaking, people dont talk about relationship with God in places where Catholics have been dominant for a long time." Sherry --In South Louisiana Catholicism has been dominant since the beginning (early 18th century), and we do talk about Jesus and our personal relatioships with Him, though not in the language of the fundamentalists. I have a bunch of old prayerbooks of various sorts of devotions, and I'd say they seems to put a premium on such a relationship.I'll grant you that a lot of Catholics seem to have their primary religious one-on-one relationship with Mary.

Sherry, I've lived up here in Michigan my entire life, and I don't want to belabor this, but I think it's a mistake to chalk up the failure to talk about a "relationship" with Jesus as a regional problem largely confined to the Midwest and cold climes/cold people. In my experience, adult Catholics across the board are more preoccupied with their relationship with the Church and its many regulations than with God or Jesus. I certainly felt closer to Jesus as an Anglican than as a Catholic, and I don't think you can find a colder bunch of people than spikey Episcopalians ... unless it's the Unitarians I was raised up around.Among younger people, there is a greater sense of the "personal" Jesus. So I don't see this as a regional thing, but a generational difference.

Father O'Leary:I went to a one-day retreat once about the Sacred Heart, not because I knew anything about it, but just because it was a free day in my schedule. Worst retreat I ever attended. First it was assumed that everyone knew what it was about, and there was no explanation of the rather kitsch picture on the altar. We heard fragments of stories in a historical context that everyone else perhaps knew, but not me; something about a nun painting. Then the priest who directed the retreat lamented the loss of devotions in popular culture, and said: "I used to be a missionary. Vatican II passed me by without my really paying attention to it. When I came back, after 15 years, everything had changed. The Mass was unrecognizable. : "What happened??"" - I saw people in the room nodding empathetically; the talks during the rest of the day were interspersed with short rants against Vatican II. Worst retreat I ever attended!I don't understand why people would want to pray while staring at a picture of Jesus holding how own heart in his hand. There's something really weird about that. I don't see much reason to mourn the disappearance of that devotion. There are other ways to maintain a personal relationship with Jesus, that are not accompanied by Vatican II bashing.

Jean - actually southern Michigan is one of the most remarkable oasis in the country and the home of the most remarkable parish I've encountered to date. And I mentioned lots of places in the country outside the mid-west. No argument about spikey Episcopalians :-} I would certainly agree that adult Catholics tend to be preoccupied with their relationship with the Church. (I was just talking this very issue over with the president of a graduate theological school a couple weeks ago.)In my experience so far, it can be both very regional and sometimes generational. For instance, moving here to Colorado Springs, the evangelical Vatican from uber "none" Seattle was a true stunner. Local cultures really matter.Ann - I grew up in your neck of the woods and thought about mentioning southern Louisiana but haven't worked there enough as a Catholic to say. I'm only reflecting our experience of the 80 US dioceses we've been in so far and a few others that I've just spent time in.

Sherry --Yes, we Catholics who care about the Church have been extremely concerned about it lately, but it's because the Church is an unprecedented and terrible state. Why wouldn't we be focused on it much more than usual? Still, that doesn't stop our usual practices.

Re: Catholics not talking about Jesus: in my opinion, there is a lot to the notion that Catholics have an analogical, or sacramental, imagination. We tend to operate more in imagery and metaphor (both visual and literary) rather than a torrent of words.I take the poetry blossoming in this thread as a case in point.

"... actually southern Michigan is one of the most remarkable oasis in the country and the home of the most remarkable parish Ive encountered to date."An oasis from what? Southern Michigan covers a lot of territory. South of the I-96 corridor, you've got (moving east to west) rust-belt poverty in Detroit, edu-tech affluence from Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids, and resort spots on Lake Michigan that pander to wealthy people from Chicago (except for Benton Harbor, which is still predominantly African-American and ever struggling). Moreover, Ann Arbor Catholicism has been influenced to some degree by former pizza baron Tom Monaghan's money, influence, and special devotion to the Blessed Mother.My sense is that the affluence and educational level of the Catholics in those areas probably affects those parishes more than their ethnic make-up or geographical location. Perhaps we can agree that the dynamic of any Catholic--and the degree to which parishioners feel comfortable talking about Jesus in a personal way--is a fairly complex thing. We used to sing a Christmas carol in the Unitarian Church I attended as a child called "The Friendly Beasts." I suppose that still drives my notion of Jesus as a gift to the humblest of us.But I ramble.

"I dont understand why people would want to pray while staring at a picture of Jesus holding how own heart in his hand. Theres something really weird about that. I dont see much reason to mourn the disappearance of that devotion. There are other ways to maintain a personal relationship with Jesus, that are not accompanied by Vatican II bashing."Claire, you captured the SH devotion in a state of extreme decadence. Rahner was fighting against that in his essays on the SH.The biblical roots of the devotion are in Matthew, "Come unto me...", in John, "Out of his heart will flow streams of living water..." -- in short the parts of the Gospel that offer the most intimate union with Christ. It is an inner sanctum of New Testament spirituality, later enhanced with medieval and early modern currents of devotion.

Jim: I hadn't noticed a lack of words on this blog or any lack of facility in using them on any number of topics on any number of blogs or other media outlets. Nor have I noticed any lack of verbal ability on the part of Catholics anywhere I've traveled. We are perfectly capable of talking at great length about the things we care about, think about, and hear other people talk about.Joseph - I've always been intrigued by Sacred Heart devotion but have to admit that the popular art has always been off-putting. It isn't like I know how to render the concept visually any better. But in the absence of an image that doesn't make me wince, I think I'll have to keep my devotion verbal.

I guess I'm not turned off by the sacred heart images. Our Catholic neighbors used to have a plaque of the Sacred Heart in their living room, Jesus exposing his glowing red heart with a crown of thorns and dripping two or three drops of blood. As a kid, I thought it was a kind of symbolic and rather sanitized way to remind people of the real, painful, humiliating death that Christ died. I'm not sure I'd want this hanging up all the time for constant contemplation (when the kids were punished, they were forced to sit on a stool and look at it for 30 minutes, usually after a couple of good whacks with a wooden paddle their mother kept for that purpose).But I'd be hard-pressed to find a better representation of Jesus as willing sufferer, as man and God, as conqueror of death.

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About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is an associate professor of theology at Boston College.