Dr. Chad Pecknold is associate professor of systematic theology at Catholic University of America, and he also provides great insights on politics from his Twitter account @ccpecknold. He spoke briefly with Josh Mercer, Editor of CatholicVote’s daily newsletter, The Loop.
How did your family celebrate the Epiphany?
Our family celebrated Epiphany eve by going to a medieval and renaissance concert at our parish with some friends, and then to Mass on the Solemnity. We looked at one of Fra Angelico’s paintings of the Adoration of the Magi and talked with the kids about how much we are like the Magi when we go to Mass, bringing our humble gifts in exchange for the greatest gift of all: God with us!
How do you keep your children quiet during Mass?
We don’t. Next question. It’s always a juggle between coloring, cuddles, shushing, stern looks, and then burying our heads in prayer. We often sit in one of two lofts at our parish, one named for St. Joseph, and one named for St. Mary. So we decide beforehand whose help we’ll need most with the kids. They are a little quieter for the Blessed Mother.
Do you pray more during the morning or the evening? Any special prayers you cherish?
We are such a simple family with our prayers really. We always pray together at every meal, crossing ourselves whether at home or at Chipotle. But the heart of our prayer life as a family is in the evening, before bedtime. We ask about special intentions. It’s interesting to watch kids develop from asking for things they want, to asking for what others need. That’s struck me lately. Prayers are a school for growth in charity. We always sing our evening prayers, because St Augustine says that when you sing to God you’ve prayed twice. We pray simply the Church’s central prayers. We don’t try to branch out to other prayers, mainly because we like our habits, and this is a good one for us. We sing the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be. When old enough, we sing antiphonally, trading verses, and adding The Nicene Creed. We ask whichever saint is being remembered by the Church to pray for us. It doesn’t take long, but it feels like the most important thing we do as parents, as a family.
You’re teaching Saint Augustine on Twitter?
I’m always teaching St. Augustine. For the last decade I’ve been teaching his City of God, and this spring I’ll teach a doctoral seminar on it at CUA. Since I usually just tweet about whatever I’m doing, I knew I’d be tweeting a lot about the City of God, and so I just shared the reading schedule and invited folks to read along with us. I thought a dozen people might take up the challenge. Boy was I surprised when the invitation went viral, and thousands of people responded.
How do we join?
If folks want to join the seminar, Retweet or Quote the pinned invitation tweet on my timeline @ccpecknold. Then buy the Penguin Classics edition translated by Henry Bettenson. It’s about $10 on Amazon. Follow our reading schedule, and then every Thursday night from 8-10pm ET follow the hashtag
#CivDei. You can just lurk, see what I have to say, or you can dive into discussions about what you are reading. You can choose the speed of your involvement. And you can even look at the hashtag later, at your convenience. But it bends our use of Twitter to a more noble and edifying end. I also think it sort of signals an intuitive sense that Augustine’s City stands at the origins of the Western social and political order which very much is limping and needs revival and reform. Augustine’s City promises to recharge our collective wisdom about the world we’re living in. It’s going to be a great few months of reading and thinking together. And don’t be afraid to join us!