Tag: Ceremony

Memorial Day Weekend “To Do” List


You have been bombarded with messages about sales, specials, and entertainment opportunities for this weekend. Please add the following items at the top of your list for the weekend, slipping the big sale a little ways down the page.

If you have not seen the HBO movie Taking Chance (included in Amazon Prime, available elsewhere), watch it. Have a box of tissues or a couple hankies handy. If you had other entertainment plans, watch this trailer, and reassess your priorities for the weekend:

End the Inaugural Inanity


1200px-Obamas_dance_at_Neighborhood_Ball_1-20-09_090120-F-9629D-686Ideas need time to gather momentum, and no idea —  no matter how good — works if introduced at the last minute. So if we start talking about this now, it will seem natural in January of 2017. So listen up candidates! I mean, “Mr. President.”

Don’t throw an inaugural ball. Just don’t. Don’t invite musicians to play and jam with on stage. Don’t ask poets to exhort you, or the public to line up and greet you with a parade. Don’t give the press an opportunity to speculate about who will wear which gown or what singer will belt out the national anthem. Take the oath, give your speech, and get to work.

Oh, the howls of cynicism and sneers of “optics”! The gnashing of teeth of the political class! But there are huge payoffs to this approach.

Standing On Ceremony


shutterstock_168595868As a happy break from writing about crime (gloomy) and marriage (even more gloomy) I’ve lately been writing a paper on liturgical theology, which is intended as a chapter for a forthcoming book designed to foster ecumenical dialogue between Roman Catholics and Latter-Day-Saints. It’s proving to be an enjoyable project, which has turned my thoughts to the role of formal ceremony in American life more generally.

Many of you know that I was raised Mormon and am now Catholic, and as a Catholic I developed a deep love of traditional liturgy. Since I developed that taste primarily in my Catholic life, my initial impulse was to think that Mormons are fairly lacking in any kind of formal liturgy. On further reflection though, that’s not as true as it might seem. Of course, the obvious place to find formal Mormon liturgy is in their temple ceremonies. But even in more ordinary settings, Mormons do have a high appreciation of formality and ceremony, along with a very definite sense of decorum. We both (that is, Catholics and Mormons) run against the grain of so much of our mainstream culture, where people are largely ashamed of anything that seems too formal, too ceremonial, or too “scripted”.

To my mind, the loss of ceremony is something of a tragedy. Ceremony and custom are critical to helping us make sense of moments and experiences in life that are naturally difficult for us to process. Weddings and funerals are two events that should absolutely be steeped in ceremony, because these are the moments in life when we struggle to connect our private experiences to something greater than our subjective emotions. Ceremony helps teach us what these occasions really mean and how we can get perspective on them. Sadly, many or most modern weddings have degenerated into glorified beauty pageants, while funerals often don’t happen at all.