Blessed are the Merciful: Charity as Sacramental Action
Thursday, November 14 - Friday, November 15, 2013
All events will take place in the Eck Visitor Center
Registration is required. Conference participation is free and open to the public. Register here.
Greco-Roman writers of the ancient world remarked on the striking manner in which the Christian church assumed responsibility for the poor and suffering. An often unexplored question is what motivated the church to become such a distinctive and prominent actor in this fundamental obligation of any civil society. Part of the answer to that question was certainly the desire to create a social order that was more just and equitable. But just as important was the theological conviction that in assisting the poor, one encountered God. The relief of poverty, in the Bible and in the works of early Christian thinkers, was, to be sure, an act of social justice; but it also had a deeply sacramental character.
The fourth century theologian, John Chrysostom, captured this sense quite well. In one homily he commended his congregation for the reverence they show toward the altar in his church. That altar is worthy of such veneration, he explains, “Because it receives Christ’s body.” But this is not the only altar to be found in Antioch. Chrysostom exhorted his congregation that whenever they encountered the poor in the streets outside of Mass, “Imagine that you behold an altar. Whenever you meet a beggar,” he continued, “don’t insult him, but reverence him.” This image was not an idiosyncratic rhetorical flourish. The correlation of the Mass and works of mercy towards the poor was fundamental to Gospel catechesis.
The aim of this conference is to recover the deep sacramental sense that charity once held in the pre-modern church, to explore why it has been minimized in modernity, and to consider how the church might reclaim such a sacramental vision of charity for our own time.
This conference is sponsored by the Institute for Church Life and the Center for Social Concerns, and is co-organized by Professor John C. Cavadini, McGrath-Cavadini Director of the Institute for Church Life, and Professor Gary Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, both of the University of Notre Dame. The conference draws its theme from Professor Anderson's just published book, Charity: The Place of the Poor in the Biblical Tradition (Yale, 2013).
Schedule and Presenters
Thursday, November 14
7:00 p.m. | Keynote Lecture | Eck Visitors Center Auditorium
Charity and the Catholic Reformation
Carlos Eire, T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History & Religious Studies, Yale University
8:15 p.m. | Reception | Eck Visitors Center Auditorium
Light refreshements to follow Professor Eire's lecture; all conference attendees are welcome.
Friday, November 15
All morning lectures will be in Eck Visitors Center Auditorium
9:00 a.m. | Welcome and Introductions
Gary Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Notre Dame
9:15 a.m. | Lecture | "Mercy Wants You to Be Merciful”: Christ and the Poor in the Preaching of Pope Saint Leo the Great
John Sehorn, Graduate Student in Theology, University of Notre Dame
9:45 a.m. | Lecture | St. Catherine of Siena, Charitable Practice, and the Debt of Love
Sr. Ann Astell, Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
10:15 a.m. | Question & Answer
Gary Anderson to moderate
10:30 a.m. | Break | Eck Center Atrium
Coffee & light refreshments will be available.
10:45 a.m. | Lecture | 'Seeing through God's eyes': The Representation of Charity in Late Medieval Art
Dianne Phillips, Independent Scholar , University of Notre Dame
11:15 a.m. | Lecture | Charity: Justice in Excess
Cyril O'Regan, Huisking Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
11:45 a.m. | Question & Answer
Gary Anderson to moderate
12:00 p.m. | Panel Discussion | Eck Visitors Center Auditorium
John Cavadini, McGrath-Cavadini Director of the Institute for Church Life; Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame
Rev. Jim King, C.S.C., Director of Campus Ministry, University of Notre Dame
Andrea Smith-Shappell, Assistant Director, Center for Social Concerns; Associate Professional Specialist, Theology, University of Notre Dame
12:45 p.m. | Lunch and Wrap-up | Eck Visitors Center Atrium
Concluding Remarks/Wrap Up around 2:00 p.m.
A campus map is available at: http://map.nd.edu/ . The Morris Inn has an adjacent parking lot for hotel guests. Public parking is available near McKenna in either the Visitors' Lot or at the Notre Dame Bookstore.
The closest available parking for the lecture on Thursday night and the events on Friday is in the Notre Dame Bookstore parking lot, which is open to the public. For handicap-accessible parking, please check with one of the guard houses at either of the main campus entrances.