This year, the Catholic Heritage Lectures explore the importance of spiritual practice in the advancement of the intellectual life, the building of resilience in the work of activism and advocacy, and the cultivation of joy when working on the margins.
Inspiring speaker and founder of Homeboy Industries, Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. took Seattle by storm, May 8-10.
Three decades ago, Father Boyle was pastor of Delores Mission in Los Angeles when he decided something urgently needed to done to address the violence of the gangs in his parish region. Homeboys is now the largest, most successful gang intervention program in the country.
The centerpiece of his life as a Jesuit priest and as director of these programs is his theological conviction that “we together nurture and help imagine a community in kinship such that God fact might recognize it as God’s dream come true.” The community of kinship dwells “where everyone inhabits their own dignity and their own unshakeable goodness, and their own nobility.” “Service is a doorway into the ballroom of kinship.”
Father Boyle has a marvelous knack for weaving profound insights with humorous, revealing stories. For instance, the title of his newest book Barking to the Choir is taken from a conversation he had with a young man to whom he was giving some advice. The young man protested, “Father G., you don’t need to tell me all that. You’re just barking to the choir!”
In another incident he relates how Eric, a nineteen-year-old African American gang member who had been a trainee for a year, was giving a tour to visitors. “As Father Greg always says,” Eric begins. “Now when a homie starts a sentence this way,” Fr. Greg comments, “rest assured what follows will be something that I have never uttered in my life.” Eric does not disappoint. “. . . it’s not about work for the homie, it’s about the homie working on himself.” Father Greg adds, “I’ve been quoting Eric ever since.”
Father Boyle develops an incredible relationship of trust and acceptance which is at the core of the success of the thousands of young men and women he has nurtured back to the fullness of their own human dignity.
While he was at Seattle U, Father Boyle spoke a student lunch and a faculty/staff lunch; visited Father Peter Ely’s theology class; and gave a major, sold out lecture in Pigott Auditorium. In addition, he spoke the night before at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in West Seattle and subsequently with the S.E.E.L. program (Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life) at St. Joseph’s parish.
In addition to his new book Barking to the Choir: the Power of Radical Kinship (2017), his earlier book Tattoos of the Heart: the Power of Boundless Compassion (2010) has also been a best seller.
Modern philosophers have assumed that prayer is an irrational, irresponsible, and immature activity. The history of Christian thought tells a different story. For many of the greatest minds, prayer was absolutely essential to the intellectual life. Prayer assisted the work of reason and revealed its inescapable limits. Prayer helped its practitioners reckon with their ethical responsibilities, personal failures, and highest moral callings. Prayer was a powerful means of individual and communal maturation. Today prayer remains the source of much creative and critical thinking. It continues to give insights relevant to our deepest social crises. Although Christians do not know how to pray as they ought (Romans 8:26), Prevot argues that prayer contributes something vital to the intellectual and moral life which ought not be abandoned.
Andrew Prevot is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Boston College. He is the author of Thinking Prayer: Theology and Spirituality Amid the Crises of Modernity (Notre Dame, 2015) and co-editor of Anti-Blackness and Christian Ethics (Orbis, 2017). He has published articles in journals such as Horizons, Pro Ecclesia, Spiritus, Heythrop, Tijdschrift voor Theologie, Transversalités, Political Theology, and the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.
Margie Pfeil, Notre Dame
Thursday, March 7 at 7pm in Le Roux Room (STCN 160)
This lecture will explore the possibilities available through spiritual practice for sustaining the work and vocation of advocacy and activism. Attending to personal and communal narrative through the lens of contemplative awareness, what might be a fruitful process of discernment in developing life-giving spiritual practices? Resources from various spiritual traditions offer insight into the generative relationship between contemplation and action, and witnesses such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thich Nhat Hanh help to illuminate paths of spiritually grounded action for social justice.
Dr. Margaret R. Pfeil holds a joint appointment in the Department of Theology and the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame and is a Faculty Fellow of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. Her research interests include Catholic social thought, racial justice, ecological ethics, and peace studies. She is a founder and resident of the St. Peter Claver Catholic Worker Community in South Bend, Indiana.
Greg Boyle, Homeboy Industries
Thursday, May 9 at 7pm Pigott Auditorium
Spiritual Practice and Working on the Margins
This year’s Catholic Heritage Lectures concludes with a presentation by Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ. Fr. Boyle is the founder of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world. He is the author of the 2010 New York Times-bestseller Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, and his 2017 book is the Los Angeles Times-bestseller Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship.