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Weekly Spotlight

October 5, 2017

Three Reasons To Read Jean-Luc Marion
By CACS alumnus and Graduate Student of Theology, Dave de la Fuente 

Jean-Luc Marion is widely considered one of the most important living philosophers, and certainly one of the most influential Catholic thinkers. Although he is not very easy to read, there are three nuggets in his thought that have captivated me and shape how I view theology (and faith). First, his method of reflection can be conducive to intellectual generosity. Second, he values beauty. Third, he affirms the core of Christian faith, that God is revealed to be Love itself.

Resources for Generosity

When I graduated from Fordham in 2010, I immediately went to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry to pursue a Master of Theological Studies degree. Incidentally, Fr. Mark Massa SJ, then the Director of our Curran Center, also went up to Boston to become the Dean of that School. This gave me great joy because this meant that Fr. Massa would continue the tradition of feeding the soul and the stomach.

But I initially experienced grad school to be a place of “raging theological hormones.” To be honest, my own were raging too (only theologically!). What I mean by this is that grad school is one of the first great opportunities to “nerd out” with total freedom. Nearly every student in my program was fresh out of an undergraduate program at Jesuit school, or fresh out of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. So we were eager to read, eager to debate, and a little too passionate to debate carefully. Friendships would hang in the balance over whether Star Wars or Star Trek was theologically evil, whether Vatican II went too far or not far enough. This left me dissatisfied.

Enter Marion. In a book that is controversial in some circles (God Without Being), there are several strange and beautiful assertions. Marion writes,

"One must admit that theology, of all writing, certainly causes the greatest pleasure. Precisely not the pleasure of the text, but the pleasure--unless it have to do with a joy--of transgressing it: from words to the Word, from the Word to words, incessantly and in theology alone, since there alone the Word finds in the words nothing less than a body (God Without Being, loc. 372)."

Theology is transgressive. Why? Marion points out that it causes the writer to write “outside of [oneself]” since the theologian writes about or speaks about things for which only God alone can answer (loc. 386). Therefore, “One must obtain forgiveness for every essay in theology. In all senses” (ibid). This impacted me deeply, because Marion is right: every time I (or anyone, for that matter) write an essay in theology, I do so using a limited frame of reference that cannot account for everyone or everything, and above all, cannot really speak truly of God, who is above and beyond my comprehension. To ask forgiveness for every essay is to invite generosity, to recognize that I do not have the last word; only the Word does.

So instead, I have to learn as much as possible about the Word from every person who writes about the Word, about God. In the end, this makes theology even more delightful than it would be if I lived in my own world all the time. One can learn so much from other Catholic theological traditions, and from other Christian theological traditions, and from other religious traditions altogether.

The Saturated Phenomenon: An Approach to Beauty

One of Marion’s most important contributions in philosophy and theology is the notion of a saturated phenomenon, which is a sort of “excess of intuition over intention” (Being Given 226). This is a fancy way of saying that there are certain events and things that are so rich when they “appear” to us (“excess of intuition”) that we can’t put them in a box or “objectively” constitute (“over intention”). Instead, we have to receive the phenomenon as it gives itself.

This is a very brief and sketchy way of trying to describe a saturated phenomenon, but perhaps it can be elucidated with a few examples. What was the cause of World War I or World War II? The real factors contributing to the war are quite numerous. This helps to express the “excess” of a saturated phenomenon. You never really get to the “bottom” of the event in its origin or its significance. Perhaps the most basic example of all is the experience of human love. When you compare the love between lovers (and even with them, at various stages of life), parents and children, siblings, friends, and so on, there are similarities and differences. In each case, one can identify real love. Yet its origin, its expression, its significance is totally different and can never be encapsulated.

I wonder if Marion’s use of the saturated phenomenon can make even more space for generosity. Along with the experience of love, the work of art is a saturated phenomenon. People find it helpful to have art critics help draw out the significance of a painting. In a similar manner, with things like theology and human experience, it is helpful to admit that I cannot really put an experience in a box, nor can I claim sole expertise in understanding the nature and mission of the church. To me, Marion’s theory of saturated phenomena invite dialogue: the more I hear from others, the more I grow in appreciation of a great song, poem, play. Similarly, one can better appreciate God, church, justice, and so much more if we follow Marion in affirming an “excess” in many aspects of human life and experience.

God is Love

Which leads to a final reason why we ought to read Jean-Luc Marion. To develop his phenomenological project, he focused specifically on love in several works, most notably The Erotic Phenomenon (be careful reading this in public; the cover design is misleading). We might recall from our Philosophy core courses that Descartes asked the question, “How do I know that I exist?” Eventually, he came to the conclusion after rigorously examining all sorts of questions and knowledge that his existence is secured by the reality of his own thinking: “I think, therefore I am.” Marion is a specialist in Descartes, and finds a hole in this argument.

For Marion, simply thinking is not enough to prompt existence. And thinking doesn’t account for the depths of existence. So what if you think? Does that really secure our existence, give meaning to love? We are defined not by our thinking, but by our loving. Descartes omits this attention to love. It’s not the fact of thinking or the acquisition of knowledge, but the perennial question of lovers, poets, and pop stars: does someone love me, and what is that love? Marion observes that on the contrary, “We are… always already caught within the tonality of an erotic disposition—love or hate, unhappiness or happiness, enjoyment or suffering, hope or despair, solitude or communion.” He adds that we reveal ourselves to ourselves through love (Erotic Phenomenon 7). Indeed, “Loving puts in play my identity… in love I put myself on stage and implicate myself, because in loving I make a decision about myself like nowhere else” (Erotic Phenomenon 9). So Marion attempts to show from his own phenomenological reflection of love that the prior ground of our existence is the fact that we are loved by someone else. That first lover is God. Marion adds, “God does not only reveal himself through love and as love; he also reveals himself through the means, the figures, the moments, the acts, and the stages of love, the one and only love, which we also practice” (Erotic Phenomenon 221).

Marion concludes this phenomenal work (pun!) with this incredible passage:

"When God loves (and indeed he never ceases to love), he simply loves infinitely better than do we. He loves to perfection, without a fault, without an error, from beginning to end. He loves first   and last. He loves like no one else. In the end, I not only discover that another was loving me before I loved, and thus that this other already played the lover before me, but above all I discover that this first lover, from the very beginning, is named God. God’s highest transcendence, the only one that does not dishonor him, belongs not to power, nor to wisdom, nor even to infinity, but to love. For love alone is enough to put all infinity, all wisdom, and all power to work.God precedes us and transcends us, but first and above all in the fact that he loves us infinitely better than we love, and than we love him. God surpasses us as the best lover (Erotic Phenomenon 222)." 

Pugsley Pizza reminds us that “love is it.” And indeed it is. The mystic, the philosopher, the activist can take to heart this central fact that love is it, that before all us, there is a love that loves us into existence. What counts most in any context is to name that love and let it animate all that one does. In this way, Marion serves—for me at least—as a foundational figure, framing what I do now (read and write about theology) and what I will soon be doing (teach). The prior love that grounds one’s existence should always be in view, and human living is about living out of that love. Love alone is enough to put everything else to work in proper order, and love alone will change the world.

September 21, 2017Paris

The Bells of Notre Dame 
By CACS Concentrator and Web and Media Associate of the Curran Center, Elizabeth (Libby) Smislova '18

When I hear church bells, I feel like I am five years old again in my new pastel dress going to Easter mass with my family, feeling the warm sun on my face after a long winter. The bells’ announcing the Eucharist the gathering congregation is about to celebrate soothes my soul, reminding me of who I am. Whether the sound comes from the tower above my small parish church or the grand St. Patrick’s cathedral does not matter—I love them all. There is one set of bells, however, that I have always wanted to hear, and those are the bells of Notre Dame in Paris.

This summer, I finally realized my dream. I stood in a pastel dress (only a slightly different style from the one I wore when I was five) on the Île de la Cité, feeling the June sun and hearing those gorgeous bells. Pigeons and tourists surrounded me, but all of that melted away in the midst of Quasimodo’s dings and dongs above Paris.  I went to daily mass at Notre Dame many times while I was studying abroad in France, but there was one time I will never forget. I went to the Centre Pompidou, a modern art museum, and spontaneously decided to go to Notre Dame afterwards for evening mass. However, I was wearing a maxi dress with spaghetti straps, so my shoulders were exposed. I did not have time to go back to my residence hall and change first, but I decided to go to Notre Dame regardless.

Once inside, a guard immediately came up to me and told me I could not celebrate mass with my indecent attire. I tried to explain myself in French that is drenched in an American accent. The guard recognized my nationality due to my poor French and completely changed her motive. Instead of kicking me out of mass, she gave a place in the front row, only a few yards away from the altar. There was an American bishop celebrating mass along with the French cardinal, and the guard thought I would appreciate a front-row view.


Looking up at the rose window, smelling the familiar scent of incense, and kneeling on the marble floor almost within reach of the altar, I felt closer with my faith than ever. In a church built in the twelveth century and hearing mass in a language I only half-understood, I realized how much bigger Catholicism is than I could ever imagine.

The bells I heard when mass ended did not just connect me to my own personal happy memories, but to all Catholics past, present, and future. When I lived in Alumni Court South my first year at Fordham, I sometimes felt homesick and lost, but the bells of the University Church were a constant reminder of God’s presence and love. Now as a senior living in Campbell Hall, I can hear the bells once more, but now they also transport me back to Paris, and a moment I will treasure forever.

September 6, 2017

In an increasingly pessimistic and fast-paced world, taking a few minutes each day to reflect on things bigger than our lives is precious. Signing up for daily meditation e-mails is an easy way to start the daily ritual of setting aside a little bit of time to sit quietly, thinking about God. A fantastic (free!) one is by Richard Rohr and the Center for Action and Contemplation that you can sign up for here. The website describes the reflections as such: "Drawing from his own Franciscan heritage and other wisdom traditions, Richard Rohr reframes neglected or misunderstood teachings to reveal the foundations of contemplative Christianity and the universe itself: God as loving relationship."

As a preview of what you could receive in your inbox everyday, here is the beautiful meditation that Rohr sent out on August 11, 2017:

All people have access to their True Self from their very first inhalation and exhalation, which is the very sound of the sacred. It is the literally unspeakable Jewish name for God, YHWH. It cannot be spoken but only breathed: inhaling and exhaling with open lips. [1] It is the first and last “word” you will ever utter—most likely without knowing it.

William Stafford (1914-1993) described the True Self in his poem, “The Way It Is”:

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread. [2]

This thread is the True Self. And your True Self is who you are and always have been in God. At its core, your True Self is love. Love is both who you are and who you are still becoming, like a sunflower seed that becomes its own sunflower. Most of human history has referred to the True Self as your “soul” or “your participation in the eternal life of God.” The great surprise and irony is that “you,” or who you think you are, had nothing to do with your True Self’s original creation. All you can do is nurture it, which is saying quite a lot. It is love becoming love in this unique form called “me.”

We are allowed to ride life and love’s wonderful mystery for a few years—until life and love reveal themselves as the same thing, which is the final and full message of the risen Christ, life morphing into a love that is beyond space and time. Christ literally breathes shalom and forgiveness into the universal air (John 20:22-23). You get to add your own finishing touches of love, your own life breath to the Great Breath, and then return the completed package to its maker in a brand-new, yet same form. It is indeed the same “I,” but now it is in willing union with the great “I AM” (Exodus 3:14). It is no longer just one, but not two either.

Note that Stafford doesn’t instruct you to not let go of the thread; rather, he offers a promise, foretelling the future: “You don’t ever let go of the thread.” Why? Because you can’t. Love has you. Love is you. Love, and your deep need for love, recognizes Love itself. Remember that you already are what you are seeking. Any fear that your lack of fidelity could cancel God’s fidelity, is “absurd” (Romans 3:3, JB). Love finally overcomes fear. Your house is being rebuilt on a new and solid foundation. This foundation was always there, but it takes us a long time to find it; remember, “it is love alone that lasts” (1 Corinthians 13:13)."

April 24, 2017

tree of lifeThis Thursday, April 27th marks the beginning of our Conference on the Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination! We at the Curran Center are so excited for the Conference, and hope you are too. There is a fantastic group of speakers and lots of wonderful events happening, so it is sure to be an enlightening and enjoyable event filled with conversation and community. If you are attending (we hope you are!), please take pictures and tag us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook with the hashtag, #CatholicLiteraryConference

Twitter: @curran_center 
Instagram: fordhamcurrancenter
Facebook: The Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies

Haven't registered yet? There's still time! Click here to register for the #CatholicLiterary Conference. It's free for anyone affiliated with Fordham, so there's no reason not to! 

April 3, 2017

Can Ignatian Spirituality Re-enchant Medicine?
By CACS alumni Dave de la Fuente (‘FCLC 10) and Laura Veras, M.D., (‘FCLC 10)

From March 24 to March 26, we participated in the annual Conference on Medicine and Religion, which is a co-sponsored event bringing together many prominent institutes, programs, and centers that conduct research and training on medicine, spirituality, and religion. This year, the Conference was held in Houston, Texas, under the sponsorship of the Institute for Spirituality and Health at the Texas Medical Center. The theme of the Conference, “Re-enchanting Medicine,” was inspired by sociologist Max Weber’s concept of “disenchantment of the world,” especially as articulated in his 1917 Lecture “Science as a Vocation.”

Briefly, Weber saw that the modern world would inevitably give rise to a “rationalized” and “instrumentalized” understanding of knowledge, which would result in the world “losing its magic,” a phrase that has usually been translated into English as “disenchantment.” Here is a key quote from “Science as a Vocation”: “Increased intellectualization and rationalization do not bring with them a general increase in our knowledge of the conditions under which we live our lives. What they bring with them is something else: the knowledge, or the belief, that if we wished to, we could at any time learn about [the conditions of our life]; in other words: that...we can—in principle—dominate everything by means of calculation. And that, in its turn, means that the world has lost its magic.”

To be sure, modern disenchantment is not intrinsically bad. Weber is right to note that part of the purpose of science and technology is to help us grow in knowledge through a constant process of discovery and development. Through science, we can give a more rigorous account of the created world’s origins and design. Weber also believed that religion as a whole offered a “magical” and mythical explanation of the world, rather than a scientifically acceptable one, and that a “magical” cosmology has been shed in the process of rationalization and disenchantment. Indeed, Weber saw religion and science as antithetical: to be religious, one has to sacrifice the intellect.

Of course, it is good that we no longer attribute the world’s functioning to “magical” and mythical powers. But among many objects we can make today to Weber, the two that Laura and I focused on were whether we can “dominate everything by means of calculation” and whether “losing magic” is necessarily a good thing. We don’t need to sacrifice our intellect to be intelligent and rational people. From our experiences in medicine, and based on our convictions as Catholics with a particular devotion to Ignatian Spirituality, we know that no matter how much we plan, our lives frequently unfold differently than we’d like, and that there is something lost when we think we can “dominate” everything by calculation. This is especially difficult in the realm of medicine, because if medicine becomes “disenchanted” in the sense that we no longer find God at work in our work, everything can become dry and meaningless. So we reflected on how we might “re-enchant” our understanding of medicine, and found that Ignatian Spirituality can help meet the challenge of disenchantment.

By re-enchantment, we don’t mean returning to a “magical” view of the medical world, but rather that we retrieve a sense of God at work in and through the created world. After all, from an Ignatian perspective, we have come to believe that God does not work through “magic,” but frequently works through seemingly ordinary means and things, including personal relationships, work, hobbies, and talents. For medical professionals in particular, we signaled that it is precisely in the operating room, in the examination room, in our patients, among our colleagues, that we can encounter God inviting us to find meaning in our work, and thus attain a “re-enchanted” view of medicine. We turned to the Ignatian Examen as the vital tool for sustaining this re-enchantment. We offered an hour-long workshop that included an overview of Ignatian Spirituality and a practical experience of an Examen. We also offered some suggestions for adapting the Examen to help physicians, nurses, medical professionals, and scholars reflect on their career and discern God’s presence in their daily lives and work.

To round out why the Examen works, we need to recall what Ignatius calls the “first principle and foundation” in the Spiritual Exercises. In short, we are convinced that we are created to serve God and others, that medicine is the field and tool given to physicians and medical professionals, and that we need to be “available” to God’s presence in medicine. The Examen helps us become sensitive and available to God’s grace in medicine.

This Conference gave us an opportunity to share many of the graces we received during our time as Fordham students, as well as build on and share the skills that were first honed during our time as Concentrators. More importantly, we saw in this Conference signs of exciting changes in healthcare. Several hundred physicians, allied health professionals, and scholars shared their scientific and theological research and reflection, and gave witness to our shared conviction of the central role that faith and spirituality play in promoting health and healing.

Laura Veras, M.D., is the Clinical Research Fellow in the department of Pediatric Surgery at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. She has completed two years of General Surgery residency at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, where she will be returning to complete residency after finishing her research fellowship. After Fordham, Laura graduated from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai.

Dave de la Fuente is a first-year doctoral student in the Department of Theology at Fordham University, and is the Graduate Assistant for the Curran Center for the 2016-2017 academic year.  After Fordham, Dave earned a Master of Theological Studies Degree from Boston College, and subsequently worked for four years at the Institute for Head and Neck and Thyroid Cancer at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel, New York City. 

March 27. 2017Empire

This is Fordham's 175th year, or "dodransbicentennial" as Fr. McShane likes to remind us. Our motto is "New York is my campus, Fordham is my school," and in that spirit, the Empire State Building will shine maroon night in celebration of Fordham's many years as New York's Jesuit school. Be sure to keep up with Fordham University's social media (or take the train to see it in person) to be a part of this historic and patriotic event! 

February 13, 2017Silence

On February 3, CACS went to the movies to see Martin Scorsese's new film Silence about Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan .
Read on for Concentrator Philip Ryan's reflection on the poignant film: 

"In an era when arguably the most difficult challenges to Christianity come from Christians themselves, the movie Silence directed by Martin Scorsese stands out for a calling back to an earlier era of Christianity when Christianity was fighting to spread. The movie begs the audience to answer the question, “What would you struggle through for your faith?” while simultaneously putting a surprisingly human spin on suffering and God. One of the most interesting divisions the movie creates is between imitating Christ and claiming to be Christ himself. Indeed, in the long run it is the Japanese Christians—not the main character—who become martyrs, Christ-like in a sense that they died for their beliefs. Yet, it is difficult to say who suffered most. The movie emphasizes that sometimes living with love in a world that does not can accommodate it can be harder than dying as a martyr. Death is inevitable, but it is optional for one to decide to truly live. Thus, the movie ultimately stressed that sometimes, doing the loving thing requires that we abandon or change our beliefs in order to do the right thing."

January 30, 2017

Paul Elie, a Fordham graduate and rennowned writer, wrote "The Passion of Martin Scorsese," an article in the New York Times Magazine  about the director's new deeply thoughtful and somber movie Silence. The film features two Jesuit priests travelling to Japan to find their missing mentor during a time when Catholicism is illegal. In the article, Scorsese says, “There are so many obstacles in between us and the spirit. In a sense, to make this film was to try to make God accessible to people in the audience who feel alienated from the churches." Read the whole article here

Concentrators, check your e-mail for an opportunity to see this poignant movie together this Friday!

January 23, 2017Praise

The Significance of the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal by Dave de la Fuente, CACS alum and Doctoral Student in the Department of Theology

This year, one of the major ecclesial movements in the Catholic Church is celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of its existence. In February of 1967, several young adult Catholics had an experience of spiritual renewal while on a retreat sponsored by Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. The central experience, which is generally called “baptism” in the Holy Spirit, sparked a movement within the Catholic Church that claims approximately ten percent of the global Catholic population (120 million out of 1.2 billion Catholics across the globe). When one factors in that the Catholic Charismatic Renewal is part of the broader “revivalist” tradition that includes the modern Pentecostal movement, the reality is that the approximately one in every four Christians across the globe is in some way affiliated with Pentecostalism or the Charismatic Renewal.

What is so significant about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal? I’d like to briefly identify two aspects of the movement that are remarkable. First, from a historical perspective, this is a distinctly American movement. While it is true that there have always been movements focusing on the Holy Spirit and enthusiastic religious expression, the modern Pentecostal movement and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal are both distinctly American in origin. The roots of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal should be traced to the explosion of religious enthusiasm in 1901 in Kansas and 1906 at Azusa Street in Los Angeles, and by the 1950s, Pentecostalism was seeping into mainline Protestant traditions (which we generally identify as “charismatic renewal”). These American roots make this movement unique compared to many other major ecclesial movements, such as Catholic Action, the Focolare, Communion and Liberation, Opus Dei, and the Neocatechumenal Way.

Second, this ecclesial movement is theologically significant in large part because of its proximity to the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Briefly, the Council debated the nature and mission of the church, and after some intense debates, the Council ultimately defined the church as both hierarchically and charismatically ordered. The Council also stated that charisms, or gifts of service freely bestowed by the Spirit of God on all the faithful, are ordinary features of life in the church. Both the general charisms of leadership and prayer and service, and more unusual charisms for healing and “prayer in tongues” are part of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal’s style, and from the beginning, this movement has featured strong lay leadership by women and men and an emphasis on the reality of charisms. This has given the movement a unique capability to mobilize Catholics to take on leading roles as lay ministers and leaders.

The explosion of Pentecostalism is proving to be a persistent trend that the Catholic Church in the United States must consider. Every Catholic can, and ought to be, a little bit “Pentecostal” in the sense that we take seriously the gift and presence of the Spirit of God and the vision of the church at Pentecost, which was marked by common life and the sharing of goods so that needs are met, and by unity amidst diversity in fellowship and in prayer “with glad and generous hearts” (cf. Acts 2:46).

December 5, 2016

angela o'donnellAngela Alaimo O'Donnell, Curran Center Associate Director, is the featured poet in the Fall/Winter 2016-2017 issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review. In addition to O'Donnell, 32 other poets are represented. The premiere issue of Valparaiso Poetry Review appeared in 1999, which makes VPR one of the longest running online literary journals. This 35th issue contains offers three of O'Donnell's poems, which are part of an ongoing book project entitled Andalusian Hours: Poems from the Porch of Flannery O'Connor. In addition, the issue contains a review of O'Donnell's most recent book of poems, Lovers' Almanac (2015). 

November 28, 2016dante

Join us tomorrow for the next meeting in our series Fordham Reads Dante. Matthew McGowan from the Classics Department will take us to the Limbo to meet the great souls of the poets and philosophers of antiquity. Come enjoy his reading (in English) and Alessandro Polcri's recite of the canto in Italian.

Tuesday, November 29 | 5.30 p.m.

Faber Hall 568 | Rose Hill

November 14, 2016

The NYC Marathon: An Experience of Church by Dave de la Fuente, CACS alum and Doctoral Student in the Department of Theology

On Sunday, November 6, I was one of 51,388 runners to complete the TCS New York City Marathon. Although it was a grueling race, it proved to be quite fun. As I made my way through the course, my main thought was that the whole event of the race was an experience of what the church is and always ought to be: a supportive community journeying together towards a difficult but possible goal, with each person offering one’s particular skills and gifts to edify others. Finally, for me, church is about celebration, and the Marathon lived up to its billing as a “26.2 mile long block Dave de la Fuenteparty.” 

At 9:50 AM, my wave of runners crossed the start line after the start gun (a howitzer, actually). Three hours and forty-five minutes later, I crossed the finish line in Central Park. The journey took me across five boroughs, five bridges, dozens of neighborhoods, and into the heart of Manhattan. All throughout the city, there was one constant even as neighborhoods, skylines, and elevations changed: there were always people supporting, cheering, handing out water, Gatorade, and even orange slices, bananas, and Coca Cola. There were moments when there were walls of sound as friends, family, marching bands, rock bands, DJs, and dancers cheered and performed. There were thousands of police officers, firefighters, doctors, medical students, paramedics, and course marshals all along the route, all ready to respond at a moment’s notice should anyone need help.

Dave de la FuenteThe most exhilarating part of the experience was spotting friends and family in the crowd. Early on in Bay Ridge, a friend and Fordham alum cheered me on and ran with me for fifty feet to let me know how my pace was. I spotted two lifelong friends several times on the course, and each time I passed them, I felt a surge of energy that kept me going. And there was nothing like finally approaching the finish line and crossing it, and looking forward to breaking bread with my friends and family.

In the end, this is ultimately what church is about: people offer their gifts to nourish, heal, support, guide, protect. Some are gifted to make things run easier, while others are gifted with big hearts and big voices. In a race like the Marathon, it doesn’t matter how fast or how slow you finish; what counts is everyone journeying to the finish line and competing well along the way, and that we all work towards it together. Thankfully, I think this dimension of church is returning to the forefront. Everyone follows a unique course in journeying toward God. What counts is to accompany, support, and cheer each other on. 

St. Paul had written to the Corinthian community that they should run the race so as to win (1 Cor 9:24). Of course, Paul meant to speak to the discipline and focus that are needed to run the race of faith, but he also expressed this in the context of a believing community. He favored togetherness. It is that togetherness that I experienced at the 2016 TCS New York City Marathon. 

October 31, 2016

Jen Sawyer writes "Why You Need to Vote (Even if You’re Totally Disillusioned)" on Amendo, reminding people of the importance of getting to the polls for the 2016 Presidential Election. She reminds everyone that they are not only voting for the presidency, they must stand in solidarity with those who don’t have a voice, that voting is a right that a lot of people are still fighting for, and that democracy is communal. Read the whole article here

October 31, 2016

Dean William Gould explains the great need for dialogue in the current American society with all of its opposing groups and controversies permeating communities. His words are especially relevant with the upcoming election. He says, “What is needed, I believe, is for the various groups making up American society to seek to understand each other, both intellectually and affectively. And the way to achieve greater mutual understanding is for the different communities making up our society to engage in respectful dialogue with each other.” Read the entire piece here.

william gould

October 24, 2016

Prof. Angela O'Donnell's column in America delves into the Catholic poetry that is Bruce Springsteen's lyrics. She elaborates on his "devotion to redemption [and] our need for grace and mercy to offset that darkness.This grace comes in many forms—the promise of an engine beneath a dirty hood, wheels that spirit young lovers away, a ride to the river where they dive into its healing waters."

October 17, 2016

Read Kelsey Garcia's essay titled "Recap & Response — Insights into Pope Francis' Views on International Poverty and Development," in which she touches on Most Reverend Archbishop Bernardito Auza's thoughts on Pope Francis' teachings. Garcia is a CACS alum and is a first-year student in Fordham University’s Graduate Program in International Political Economy & Development.

October 10, 2016

From Michael Peppard, Department of Theology ​

"Over the past month, I've returned to writing on a regular basis for Commonweal, and much of my writing emphasizes topics of interest to CACS and its affiliates.  Recently my posts have treated different aspects of the presidential election, such as the religious reasons why the Republican candidate is having trouble winning support in Utah, usually one of the most solidly Republican states (Purple Mountains: Trump's Utah Problem). 

In another election post, I considered the extent to which racism should be a factor on the minds of Catholic voters (Racism: Electoral Non-Negotiable), and I responded to the bizarre question at the end of the first presidential debate about whether each candidate would actually accept the results of the voters (But Does He Believe in Democracy?). Finally, I gave my own personal examination of conscience from the perspective of the Catholic American voter, culminating in the final question I ask myself when undecided (My Final Thought in the Voting Booth). 

On areas not related to the election, my most widely-read post reported on a new study from the Public Religion Research Institute about why people leave their religious communities. I highlighted the strong influence of attitudes toward LGBT community members (Why Nones Are Leaving the Church). 

I rounded out the month with posts on ancient archaeological evidence for women deacons (Women Deacons: Set in Stone) and also the cultural presuppositions of the new exhibit on medieval Jerusalem at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Medieval Jerusalem, Harmonious and Dissonant). 

It's been a challenge to write so frequently in my new role as Contributing Editor, but I'm hoping I can be up to it!" 

October 3, 2016

From Margaret Sanford, FCLC ‘17

"Along with students from Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses, I had the honor to present the results of a month long research project conducted in Rwanda this past spring with the student led conference under the African American and African Studies department. While studying abroad with the School for International Training, I took classes in Kinyarwanda and post-genocide peacebuilding in preparation for my research paper entitled: “Contested Spaces: The Formation of the Sacred in Rwandan Genocide Church Memorials”. The research was conducted over the month of commemoration for the 22nd anniversary of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, where some 800,000 Rwandans were murdered over the span of a hundred days. Many were murdered in Catholic parishes; as previous notions of sanctuary were violated in the intent of murdering all Rwandans labeled as Tutsi or enemy of the state. As a result, the formation of memorials within church spaces was largely contested by the Vatican and supported by the Catholics in Rwanda. Through April, I visited seventeen memorial sites in or around churches, with the help of a grant from the Curran Center for American Catholic Studies, to learn how they came to be and how they function in their communities. 

The student-led conference was a great opportunity to come together with students from their junior and senior years to discuss their current and future research aspirations, and to entertain questions from peers pertaining to our research." - Margaret Sanford, FCLC ‘17

September 5, 2016

Adversity presents opportunity for the human heart to make a difference. The Curran Center’s Angela Alaimo O’Donnell describes two lives spent enacting love and mercy in her new column in America. She discusses the book The Long Loneliness in Baltimore, written by Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham, founders of VIVA HOUSE, the Catholic Worker House in Baltimore. The sanctuary, located in a violent but beautiful city, has been open for 45 years and possesses a rich history. The book offers readers “delicately rendered illustrations of daily life [that] give a face and a name to the anonymous poor and depict the challenges they face.”  Click here to read the column. 

April 25, 2016

One of the greatest experiences of attending conferences is hearing diverse perspectives that pique our intrigue and shine light upon new ideas. Last week, Fordham Graduate Student, Bill McCormick, SJ, was inspired to reflect upon something said at our CST@125 Conference. While listening to the plenary on “Economy and Exclusion in an Election Year,” the question was raised, “What motivates us? Are we trying to help the powerless? Or are we more interested in hurting the powerful?” In other words, “Where is our energy? Is it in helping the bottom 15%? Or in hurting the top 1%?” Click here to read his reflection upon this important question. Click here to view the essay!

April 14, 2016

Congratulations to all of the Fordham students who participated in the Fordham Undergraduate Research Symposium yesterday! We were especially pleased to see some of our CACS Concentrators share their research interests, which ranged from an examination of gender roles in Teresa Deevy's play, Katie Roche, to the development of pyrazoline-based dendrimers to encapsulate the carcinogen known as pyrene. We may have very different interests, but CACS brings us together with a common interest in American Catholic Studies, which is enriched by our rich diversity of perspectives. Pictured here is Jennifer Beall, one of our CACS Seniors and a participant in the Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Jennifer Beall


April 13, 2016

Christine Firer Hinze, Director of the Curran Center

In this 8-minute video, internationally-renowned economist Hernando De Soto challenges us to actually think about who is excluded from our global economy. It is easy to forget, De Soto argues, that two-thirds of the world's population is locked out of the modern market system. De Soto has worked with many governments to help them include the poor into their legal property and formal economic systems, better enabling them to gain access to the housing, schools, and basic infrastructure that they so desperately need. On Wednesday, April 20 at 6 pm, De Soto will lecture on his work at Fordham, with responses by Catholic Relief Services CEO Carolyn Woo and ethicist Daniel Finn. Ove the next two days, a fantastic variety of experts, leaders, professionals, and activists will discuss building good economies for the 21st century. Click here to view the video! 

March 7, 2016 

Fordham students are continuously called upon to not just think about the world theoretically, but to actually see and experience it. They are called upon to recognize the injustices of the world and be truly bothered by them, not just as outsiders looking at others but as fellow people living in a world filled with injustices and experiencing these injustices. Ryan Vale, CACS Alumna '11, recently wrote about her experience of coming to Fordham and becoming truly bothered by the world's injustices. She writes that becoming bothered is the first step to actually DOING something and to being called to BE something. Read the full blog post.

Weekly Spotlight Archives

March 2, 2016 

We're delighted to announce that His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan will be joining us at Fordham on Wednesday evening, April 20th, for the opening plenary session of our "Building Good Economies: CST@125 Conference." Register for the conference. Read Cardinal Dolan's recent article on CST and living wages.

February 22, 2016

The news has been filled with the activities of ISIS. The activities of this group are not only harming human life, but they are also destroying invaluable cultural and religious artifacts, which can never be replaced. Recently, Michael Peppard, Curran Center Associate Director for Prestigious Fellowships, was quoted in an article exploring this horrific destruction of cultural heritage and how ISIS is profiting off of the excavation and sale of artifacts. As so many antiquities are destroyed or sold out of the country, it is unlikely that they will return, which is a loss to the people of Syria and Iraq as well as to scholars. Read more about this unfortunate situation.

February 8, 2016

Nick Sawicki, CACS '16

America Media is one of the oldest and largest Catholic media outlets in the United States. Over the last 107 years, America has continued to be at the forefront of Catholic thought and discourse, and Nick Sawicki, FCRH '16, is proud to join their team. Nick's work will focus primarily in the Development Office as Event Coordinator and Programmatic Development Officer, managing grant relationships and developing national and international opportunities for writers, journalists, poets, etc., which help to broaden the discussion. Some programs that Nick will be managing include the Joseph A. O'Hare, SJ, Postgraduate Writing Fellowship, the George W. Hunt, SJ, Prize for Excellence in Journalism, Arts & Letters, as well as the fundraising for and development of new opportunities as they arise.

Loaves and Fish

February 1, 2016

Rachel Nass, CACS '15

I am spending this year as a part of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, working at Friendship Park, a program of the agency, Loaves and Fishes. I am living in downtown Sacramento in a big, old house that was once a Catholic Worker house, and then an AIDS hospice before it became home to the Jesuit Volunteers. My placement is a place that aims to provide a safe space for adults experiencing homelessness while also providing them with basic needs and survival services. I bike there with the sunrise to be there before we open at 7 am. I usually start the day by pouring cream and sugar into each guest's coffee cup, which gives me the chance to smile and say good morning to a lot of people (we generally feed 500-700 people per day). I then spend some time walking around the park, saying hello to all my friends there or maybe getting in a quick game of horseshoes. Before long, I have guests approaching me asking for shoes or jackets, so I am always running back and forth to the storage room to find some. Eventually, I always end up at the service center, where we give out things like shampoo, bug repellent, and cough drops, or sitting at the other side of the counter to hand out lunch tickets. My days are truly filled with joys and challenges, and both energize me and exhaust me to the core. I constantly am having my heart broken open, as I try to show mercy to everyone around me, showing "the willingness to enter into the chaos of another." I feel so much love and support from my community, co-workers, and clients that I don't think "simple" could ever describe my life here.

JVC Tuscon

January 25, 2016

Marc Alibrandi, CACS '15

When I was thinking about graduation from Fordham during my senior year at Fordham last year, the draw of going right back to school for a Masters or joining the hustle and bustle of the American workforce did not mesh well with me.  Over the course of an undergrad's four years at Fordham, it is impossible to not hear one or twenty of the Jesuit slogans Fordham posts all over the place, with one of the best being "Go forth and set the world on fire". That phrase inspired me to apply to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) for a year of service.  After an extensive application process, JVC placed me in Tucson, Arizona at Santa Cruz Catholic School, a Pre K-8th grade school, as their Campus Minister. My year thus far has been filled with a great many challenges, but even more joy. I've been impressed and challenged by my Middle School students and their awareness and passion for social justice. They love making PB&J sandwiches for the local Catholic Worker house, and are legitimately interested in having conversations about human rights and immigration, an issue that hits particularly close to home since the school is almost 100% Latino and located only 2 hours from the border. My 5th grade students are abundant sources of love and smiles, who love brightening their religion teacher's, which is me, day whenever I walk into their room.  I've learned a lot about patience both in my placement and my community, and I'm really looking forward to where the rest of the year takes me.

December 14, 2015

John Seitz, Associate Director of the Curran Center at Lincoln Center

A recent review essay in the Boston Review offers powerful insights into the relevance of religion to economic practice. Reviewer James Chappel highlights three recent texts as they expose the pervasive cultural power of religious sensibilities for the formation of certain kinds of economic citizenship. The meanings and proper provinces of work, service, and charity are not determined by policymakers alone, but by the structuring of consciousness at the level of everyday religion. The essay makes great reading in anticipation of our major conference on Catholic Social Teaching scheduled for April 2016. Read the article online! For more information about our upcoming conference, read now!

December 10, 2015

Michael Peppard, Associate Director for Prestigious Fellowships

This morning, after two and a half years of collaboration, the Pontifical Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews issued a document titled, "The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable." This document addresses the theological questions and issues that have arisen over the past fifty years from the implementing of Nostra aetate, a document addressing the Catholic teaching about Jews and Judaism. Today's document utilizes scholarship to stress the importance that "the Catholic relationship with the Jews is unique, certainly not just one among many 'interreligious' relationships that the Catholic Church maintains, and even more than primus inter pares." Moreover, the document expresses the necessity of clarifying and disseminating teachings about ongoing relationships with Judaism since far too many Christians have a very limited understanding of Judaism. To read more about this pivotal document, read this article!

November 23, 2015

Angela Alaimo O'Donnell, Associate Director of the Curran Center

Just as life is a journey with many twists and turns, so is the journey of faith. An individual's journey is influenced, enriched, and deepened by the people and experiences in his or her life. In her most recent column published in America Magazine, "The Mystic from Morningside Heights," Associate Director, Angela Alaimo O'Donnell, reflects upon the journey of Robert Lax, a man who can be described as "a searcher and a mystic, a poet with a profound love of life and almost instinctive ability to find God in all things." His close friendship with Thomas Merton as well as his various vocational callings helped Robert Lax to find his faith and develop a disposition of inner joy. November 30 will mark the 100th anniversary of Robert Lax's birth. Read this brief tribute to Lax online!

November 16, 2015

John Seitz, Associate Director of the Curran Center at Lincoln Center

Those interested in scholarly questions about how Catholic Studies might work would do well to consult the following interview, which appeared in the November 2015 issue of the popular magazine U.S. Catholic. Although the title is rather distorting of the piece's main points, the larger issues still come through: 1) empirical descriptions of what Catholics actually do rather than what others may hope they are doing has to be a starting point. And one may find that what they actually do is more interesting than what has been prescribed for them by the tradition or by those outside of it looking in. 2) Also fascinating to consider the possibility of opening space for different ways of being Catholic "without the condemnation from the right or the left." As in "I'm politically left but I say the rosary. I support gay rights, but I also want to be a faithful Catholic." Intriguing as well to see Dorothy Day, who was just recently described as a hero by Pope Francis in his speech before the U.S. Congress, elevated as an example of someone who didn't fit any easy assumptions about what a "good Catholic" looks like. Read the full article.

November 9, 2015

One of our own CACS graduates has shown what it means to embody being a woman for and with others. After graduating from Fordham, Stephanie Pennacchia joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, working in Hollywood, CA at a drop-in center for homeless youth.  After this experience, she joined the nonprofit organization, Breaking Ground in order to address systemic homelessness in New York City. She is only 25 years old, but her work is breaking down the barriers that prevent people who are chronically homeless from having a home. Read the full article to learn more about the amazing work that Stephanie is doing for our city.

October 26, 2015

John Seitz, Associate Director of the Curran Center at Lincoln Center

New York City has so much to offer for people interested in Catholicism; even when you're not looking for them, you often find Catholics and their traditions bubbling up in unexpected places. This is the case today through January 17, 2016 at the new location of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Little-known Chicago artist Archibald Motley (1891-1981), a lifelong Catholic and prominent leader of the nation-wide artistic movement of the 1920s called the "Harlem Renaissance," is featured in the building's top floor. Motley's work, appearing under the exhibition title "Jazz Age Modernist," is staggering in its range, color, and vibrancy. Catholicism is never an overt concern of the portraits and street-scenes that make up the majority of the paintings. An observant viewer can spot crucifixes and stained-glass windows in some of the paintings, but Motley's work is less about advancing traditional Catholic motifs than it is about tackling the complexity, energy, and drama of modern life, especially for African Americans. Reflection on these paintings offers rich material for anyone interested in the intersections of art, race, and Catholicism as part of America's past and present. Don't forget that the Whitney, like many major NYC museums, runs on a "suggested" donation ticket system! Save some cash to enjoy some street food on the nearby "Highline," a former train-line magnificently converted into a walking path and park. View online for more information about the Motley exhibit!

October 19, 2015

Christine Firer Hinze, Director of the Curran Center

Juliet Schor, internationally-known economic sociologist, and author of landmark studies including, The Overworked American, The Overspent American,  and most recently, True Wealth, will be speaking at Fordham's CST@125 pre-conference plenary on Wednesday, April 20, 2016, Pope Auditorium, 3 pm. Here's a new interview with Professor Schor in The Atlantic magazine, with interesting resonances to recent CST and Pope Francis's frequently-voiced concerns about consumerism, and a modern "culture of waste." For more about the conference and Professor Schor, read online!

October 12, 2015

Where Were You?

Angela Alaimo O'Donnell, Associate Director of the Curran Center

Associate Director Angela Alaimo O'Donnell recalls the day the new Pope was first announced to the world and challenges readers to remember, "Where Were You?" Read the full article in America Magazine online!

October 5, 2015

Christine Firer Hinze, Director of the Curran Center

October 4th is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Read online an enjoyable, short article by Bill Droel of the Catholic Labor Network who asks, how and why can Saint Francis be relevant in our fast-paced, 21st century culture?

Have a lovely week, and please keep our founding benefactor, John P. Curran