Stories of Practical Holiness

February 5 - 8, 2012  


Stories of Practical Holiness:
An Exercise in Interreligious Understanding

Conference Objective:
To bring together Buddhist, Sikh, Catholic, Muslim, and Jewish perspectives and share stories of holiness across faith traditions in order to promote interreligious understanding and admiration.

"Stories of Practical Holiness" is a symposium sponsored by the Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame that seeks to provide a pedagogy for interfaith admiration by lifting up examples of holiness, much like the hagiography found in many religions, in order to provide access to the beauty and richness of diverse religious traditions without inviting relativism. Admiration is a pedagogy for the imagination that has the power to remove negative stereotypes and to foster a deeper understanding of and solidarity with those of different religious backgrounds. Once someone has encountered and admired someone in another religion, one cannot look at that religion, or indeed religion itself, in the same way.

As Pope John Paul II proclaims in Veritatis Splendor, “By their eloquent and attractive example of a life completely transfigured by the splendor of moral truth, the martyrs and, in general, all the Church’s Saints, light up every period of history by reawakening its moral sense…In this witness to the absoluteness of the moral good Christians are not alone: they are supported by the moral sense present in peoples and by the great religious and sapiential traditions of East and West, from which the interior and mysterious workings of God’s Spirit are not absent” (VS, 93-94).

By lifting up stories of “practical holiness,” the symposium seeks to provide living illustrations of how the witness of religious faith, in the commitment to “universal and unchanging moral norms” (VS 96), has a transformative effect on society for the good of all mankind. Only by a profound respect for and obedience to transcendent truth is “genuine understanding and compassion” possible among people of different cultures and religious traditions, toward the cultivation of “a just and peaceful human coexistence” (VS 95-96).

"Stories of Practical Holiness" offers a glimpse into the lives of exemplary witnesses among diverse religions so as to engender a deeper capacity for solidarity and unity, without reducing religion to a least common denominator, or merely a social force. Rather, the pedagogy of admiration expands the imagination so as to provide a more robust image of religion and its significance in society, as illustrated in the stories presented, toward the shared goal of practical works of love, compassion, forgiveness, and reconciliation




  • This conference is free and open to the public.  No registration is required.  Participants may drop in for a single event or attend the entire conference.
  • The conference kicks off at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 5, with opening remarks by Dr. John Cavadini, McGrath-Cavadini Director of the Insitute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.  In addition to offering featured presentations each evening, speakers will visit classrooms during the morning and early afternoons during each day of the symposium.

Schedule and Speakers


  • The Institute for Church Life and Fetzer Institute are sponsoring this syposium.  We are grateful to the Center for Social Concerns, the Department of Theology, and Multicultural Student Programs and Services for helping to promote and support the conference as well.