Catholics with long memories know the pre-Vatican II parish “mission.” On for two or three weeks, it had a portion for children, a week exclusively for women, another for men alone. Segregated assemblies, presided over by several visiting priests, included daily Mass, lengthy confessional queues, and many sermons-one or more fueled by sulfuric hellfire.
In Catholic Revivalism (1978), Notre Dame history professor Jay Dolan traced the origin of the mission to the 1830s, as a response to what bishops of the time considered to be lax practices on the part of Catholic immigrants. By 1900, the pattern for parish missions was firmly established.
Familiar through the middle decades of the twentieth century, the mission is a less certain part of the parish calendar today. Yet among twenty-first-century Paulists (a group long active in mission work) is Fr. James DiLuzio, designer of a mission/retreat that is a decided departure from the long-entrenched format.
Actor by training and background, DiLuzio originated his new-style mission five years ago with Luke Live! In it, DiLuzio dramatizes the first fifteen chapters of the Gospel of Luke. Yet Luke Live! isn’t pure performance. In morning and evening sessions over several days, DiLuzio addresses: why Luke, who Luke is, and what Luke is up to. Conversing with people in the pews, DiLuzio elicits responses to questions like who is Theophilus, the addressee of...