Suffering, Remaining, and Witness

Below is a post by Theophilus editorial board member and CTU MA student, Susan Francois, CSJP. She reflects on this year’s LCWR address which happens to correlate to work that Susan is doing right now as she prepares for her comprehensive exams. This post first appeared on her blog.

I was delighted to see that Nancy Schreck, OSF drew upon the work of Shelly Rambo in her 2014 LCWR Keynote address. I have been 412Gx1t-D-L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_reading (and re-reading) Rambo’s Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining (2010 Westminster John Knox Press) these days. I first used Rambo’s book for a paper I wrote on the ministry of reconciliation with trafficked persons. I’m now using it as part of my thesis work (today in fact …. it sits open before me as I procrastinate in my research with this blog post!)

It was interesting to read Schreck apply Rambo’s work on trauma to the place where women religious find themselves today.

This shifting within religious life and in world events has taken us to what I call a middle space. We find ourselves in this place of both creativity and disorientation. Much of what was is gone, and what is coming is not yet clear….

I am greatly helped in this next section by the work of Shelly Rambo and her book Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining. Rambo speaks about a theology of remaining in difficult places because “when you enter certain worlds, they do not let you go.”

Though her work is with trauma survivors and in no way do I want to diminish the aspect of trauma, I do think some parallels with or experience can be drawn….

The task of “remaining” in this uncertain place is to pay attention to the reality that does not go away. In this experience all of our theological categories are re-defined: concepts like love, divine presence, incarnation, and world view are reshaped. Knowledge, truth, and experience of our world are transformed, placed on much more fragile terrain because of the radical disruption….

What we try to do in the middle space is to describe events that shatter all that one knows about the world and the familiar ways of operating within it. What if from this place we simply witness to and provide testimony about this experience, with special attention to truths that often lie buried and are covered over….

In this middle space that is what we do: we call attention to things, things others might bury, or are afraid to face. That is why I say, however long the night we will be faithful and we will speak about what we are learning in the middle space. We trust Holy Mystery revealed in our midst. (Excerpt, Schreck, pages 7-10)

I need to think and pray into that some more, especially as it relates to my experience as a woman religious.

I’ve certainly been thinking and praying with a heavy heart today about the immense (human induced) suffering in our world today. And I mean, quite literally, today. A friend recently posted a very poignant list she’s been carrying around with her these days: “Fergusson (police state, Black Man Walking), Gaza, Ukraine, Malaysian Air Flt 17, Refugee kids fleeing violence in Central America, Yazidi’s fleeing the Islamic State, The Islamic State, Syria, Afghanistan, Ebola …” No doubt you have your own (similar) list. It seems to be growing by the day. So much violence, oppression, death, and trauma being caused to human beings by other human beings. One can feel paralyzed, helpless, or even complicit. Our globalized media savvy reality means that we are present to this suffering on one (superficial/virtual) level, even though the vast majority of us are removed in our privileged spaces of comfort and safety. In my case, I think that’s at the root of much of my own sense of being uncomfortable in my own skin as human induced suffering rages on and seemingly spreads. Removed as I/we are from the reality of suffering, I worry that it becomes easier to ignore or fail to act against it, thereby fueling more suffering.

Which is where I find Shelly Rambo’s work so helpful:

In our current world, we are witnessing ongoing atrocities and different manifestations of suffering. The invisible forces of global capital and the undetectable effects of new wars and their justifications demand that theological accounts of suffering attend to the elisions constituting traumatic suffering. Although some may say that all ‘suffering is suffering,’ there are different expressions of that suffering and its effects that press for renewed theological articulation. I understand this as the increased invisibility of suffering and the power of its erasure. The discourse of trauma engages these invisible realities, continually calling attention to what falls outside the lines of what is, or can be, represented. The challenge of theological discourse is to articulate a different orientation to suffering that can speak to the invisibility, gaps, and repetitions constituting trauma….

A theology of the middle Spirit can help us rethink the theological discourse about suffering, given its new unique dimensions in trauma. Bessel van der Kolk acknowledges that one of the primary effects of trauma is a crisis of the human spirit. This crisis refers to a complete loss of meaning and trust in the world. … How does a theology of the Spirit meet this crisis of spirit?….

I have started to envision practices patterned after this testimony, practices of tracking and sensing that propel us to recognize suffering amid its multiple elisions….

The tracking and sensing, then, not only unearth and give theological significance to the unknown and unutterable within human experience, but these practices also testify to something of who we understand God to be. The work of the witnesses is to track the undertow and to sense life. But this witness is, as well, a testimony that runs deeper than we might imagine, to the nature of divine love. In the middle, divine love is witnessed in its remaining. …The work of tracking and sensing is sanctifying work, the work of making love visible at the point where it is most invisible.

If we read this sacred story as a story of survival, we are pressed to think about what it means to remain in the aftermath of a death that escapes our comprehension. To witness this sacred story is also to receive it for the truth that it tells: love remains, and we are love’s witnesses….

From this space, a different vision of life can be glimpsed. It is life as remaining. This transformation, this redemption in the abyss of hell, is not about deliverance from the depths but, instead, about a way of being in the depths, a practice of witnessing that sense life arising amid what remains. The middle story is not a story of rising out of depths, but a transformation of the depths themselves.

(Excerpt, Shelly Rambo, Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining, 169-172)

A lot of words, many of them big theology words. But really, if I am even beginning to understand their power, I think it is summed up best by these two contrasting photos that have come out of Ferguson:

Top: Violence, suffering, and trauma.                                                           Bottom: Witness, remaining, and healing.

 

Reading Contemporary Responses to the Resurrection

Below is one of the inaugural journal articles by Donald Hermann, a current Mdiv student who has already completed his MA at CTU. 
 
hermann

Reading Contemporary Responses to the Resurrection: Metaphorical, Historical, and Naturalistic

For the contemporary Christian, as it was for the early believer, the Resurrection of Christ is foundational for religious belief. Paul states the centrality of the Resurrection to the Christian faith in 1 Corinthians 15:14-17: “[I]f Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty too your faith…and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.” The doctrine of the Resurrection remains central to Christian faith.

For many centuries, the resurrection was either believed literally or not at all. Beginning with the Enlightenment, however, different sets of questions arose as some were skeptical about the actual possibility of an occurrence of Resurrection; while others, accepting its possibility, questioned whether the Resurrection should be understood as a spiritual or miraculous event. By the nineteenth century, controversy developed over whether there was a historical basis for belief in the Resurrection. Over the last forty years, there has been a revived interest in the historical Jesus along with significant attention directed to the subject of the historical evidence for his Resurrection. One survey reported that since 1975, there have been more than 1400 scholarly publications on the death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus. This literature provides the basis for this paper, which will examine several trends in contemporary scholarship on the Resurrection. I will begin with an identification of some of the traditional approaches to the subject of the Resurrection which have largely been put aside. This earlier commentary either did not consider the Resurrection a possible event in history, or otherwise dismissed the historical aspectsof the Resurrection as largely irrelevant to the matter of Christian faith. I will follow this with a brief survey of the range of contemporary writings on the subject of the Resurrection. A key concern of this paper is to suggest that these contemporary discussions treat the Resurrection in either a metaphorical, historical or naturalistic manner. Finally, I conclude with evaluations of the persuasiveness of and critical reactions to these understandings of the Resurrection.

To continue reading Donald’s article, check it out here!

She Did Not Know That It Was I…

Below is a preview of an article from the inaugural issue of the Theophilus Journal by CTU student, Stephen Gartner, O. Praem. 

Stephen Gaertner, O. Praem., the article's author

Stephen Gaertner, O. Praem., the article’s author

“She Did Not Know That It Was I . . .”: Knowledge of God and Covenant Ethics in Hosea 2

Sometimes lost within modern discourses on the first three chapters of Hosea is the important ethical ballast associated with knowing God for a covenant people, in this case the pre-Exilic Israelites. To be sure, working through the now-problematic husband-and-wife metaphor and the misogynistic language deployed in its depiction is today, without question, a very relevant conversation for ministers as well as Hebrew Scripture scholars. Still, we ought not to forget the undergirding significance of this figurative language, even as it (rightly) makes contemporary scripture readers uncomfortable: the centrality of God’s covenant relationship with God’s chosen people. For persons within the Judeo-Christian tradition, today as in the 8th century BCE, Hosea outlines in stark terms the need to prioritize always this fundamental relationship, e.g. to “know” God. I intend to examine primarily one specific pericope, Hosea 2:10—11, within this orienting framework. What I hope to demonstrate in a close reading of this passage is that the sense of knowing God understood within Hosea’s socio-historical context is not incidental; that is, to know God as a member of a covenant people is not simply a matter of being a fortunate possessor of proto-Gnostic information about God, but rather suggests a deliberate moral choice in favor of covenant fidelity on the part of a specific individual and group (Israel). Necessarily, to be ignorant of the terms of the covenant relationship with God also implies for Hosea a conscious decision, individually or collectively, to reject the terms of the covenant relationship, and therefore to reject YHWH.

From this critical starting point, I will make two further sub-claims regarding the meaning of Hosea 2:10—11. First, in willfully not knowing God, the ancient Israelites are both fully responsible and morally culpable for ignoring their covenant obligations and turning to worship Canaanite deities (i.e. Baal). Second, the punishment that YHWH inflicts on a negligent, unfaithful people by taking away his material gifts represents more than the literal, manifest frustration and anger of a jealous God. Rather, on a more figurative level, it speaks to the very tangible and negative impact on human flourishing that turning from YHWH and his covenant will have on Israelite society (though, naturally, we must remember that people cannot make God do anything, good or bad). In broad strokes, then, these are both the ethical and the practical stakes of knowing or being in right-relationship with God for both Hosea’s Israelite contemporaries and, as I will argue, for Catholic Christians in the 21st century.

Of course, before anything else, it is necessary to begin with a closer examination of Hosea 2:10—11:

10 She did not know
that it was I who gave her
the grain, the wine, and the oil,
I who lavished upon her silver,
and gold, which they used for Baal,
11 Therefore I will take back my grain in its
time, and my wine in its season;
I will snatch away my wool and my flax,
which were to cover her nakedness.

Click here to continue reading Stephen’s insightful exposition of this text.

Hope Arisen

Below is a poem by Mdiv student, Clifford Hennings, OFM. To read another poem by Clifford, click here.
sunrise

A Lake Michigan sunrise (credit: Melissa Carnall)

O what a new day, the sun picking up and the darkness falling

Bristling rays paint colors clean and the earth shrugs the dew.

Early melodies fill the air and charm the wind to dance anew

And I greet it with a quieted soul, still and reverent to its calling.

The dreams that caged this restless spirit have now dropped away

Fleeing with the somber moon to leave me with this day.

What approaches is a mystery, and yet its promise so enthralling .

A time to find that which my heart has for a lifetime sought

The cache for which by heavenly grace I have so sternly fought

Is glimmering in the dawning light, to it my soul is crawling.

To cast aside this awesome promise and fritter away the time

Would be to rebuke what lies ahead, a covenant sublime.

Yes that ignoble deed would be an action most gravely galling

To the righteous hand that has shaped  beauty by a word

And wrongly call the breath of life, a curse idly slurred

So yes I say to the risen sun I will heed the master’s calling.

I will chase what eternal providence has so kindly borne for me,

Starry eyed with arms outstretched, enraptured and wholly free

Seeds of Peace: Thomas Merton’s Ecological and Peacemaking Consciousness

This article, by Susan Francois, CSJP, was published in the inaugural issue of Theophilus. Susan is a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace.  She a Bernardin Scholar and Maters of Arts in Theology candidate at the Catholic Theological Union, specializing in Ethics and Spirituality. Her previous ministries have included social justice education and advocacy and local government administration.
 

The ecological conscience is also essentially a peacemaking conscience.” These are the words of the 20th Century American Trappist monk Thomas Merton, from a book review he wrote just months before his death in December 1968. While Merton is well known for his spiritual writings on a variety of topics, including peace and nonviolence, he never published a major work on ecology. However, recent scholarship has highlighted his evolving ecological consciousness, sprinkled throughout his writings, in particular towards the end of his life.

Like Merton, my own religious community, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace (CSJP), has recognized the connection between the ecological and peacemaking conscience. We recognize that “[w]e live in a society marked strongly by the violence of war, violence to people through poverty and a sense of powerlessness and alienation, violence to earth, sea and sky—violence that is truly cosmic.” At our 21st General Chapter in 2008, we adopted two Chapter acts, both under the theme of “Seeds of Peace,” that continue to guide our efforts to develop this ecological and peacemaking conscience. The first Seed of Peace Chapter Act is a commitment to growing in nonviolence. The second is a commitment to care for creation and respond to the crisis of climate change. Our Seeds of Peace commitments call us to deepen our CSJP spirituality of peace regarding care of creation.

This paper will consult Merton’s own writing and recent scholarly research to survey and explore the evolution of his ecological conscience and spirituality, particularly in the last six years of his life after his encounter with Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring.  His ecological spirituality will be discussed in dialogue with his spirituality of peace in the context of the moral and spiritual crisis of the nuclear age. The present ecological crisis and my own religious congregation will also serve as conversation partners to consider how the writings of this 20th Century contemplative might be a resource for 21st Century Christians seeking to integrate spirituality with ecological concerns in the midst of our own moral and spiritual crisis and the urgency of human-induced global climate change.

Click here to continue reading Sr. Susan’s article!

On the pilgrimage of life

This week’s blog is a reflection by Kevin Devotta, a CTU student who started in the Spring semester and is a candidate with the Society of the Divine Word (SVDs).
Kevin on pilgramage,  contemplating the meaning of life at the Mayan site of Tikal

Kevin contemplates the meaning of life at the Mayan site of Tikal

Going on a pilgrimage is a long established tradition among Catholics. Whether out of a sense of devotion, penance, adventure, or any other number of reasons, a journey to a sacred site often opens one’s eyes and heart to the reality of our loving and ever-present God. Being on pilgrimage gives us the opportunity to be open to the Spirit and encounter Jesus in those we meet. Recently, I had the blessing of backpacking for three weeks in Central America, starting out in Guatemala and passing through to El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua before arriving in Costa Rica. Though I wasn’t journeying to a particular religious site, I still felt that I was on pilgrimage because I trusted that God would bless me along the way with people and events that would help deepen my relationship with God. And indeed, God delivered and I can honestly say I felt that I met Jesus in many people in some of the most unexpected places.

Travelling to five countries in just three weeks meant I was on the road a lot and usually only had a day or two in each hostel before moving on. The amazing sites – ancient Mayan ruins and cloud rainforests among others – were complimented by the wonderful people I met along the way. Since I was travelling alone, being open and friendly to my fellow travellers was one of the few ways I could change an otherwise lonely dinner into a night of companionship and sharing. In other words, it was by being open to those God placed in my path that I was able to add depth and meaning to my trip.

Being on pilgrimage is a way that I would also describe my time at CTU. I am an Associate (or candidate) with the Society of the Divine Word (SVD), and I moved to Chicago from Toronto at the start of the spring semester at CTU earlier this year. Coming from a multicultural city like Toronto, there wasn’t much of a culture shock for me to be in the ethnically diverse environment of CTU. The challenge, however, was filling the void left from being far away from family and friends. Just as I had to be open during my backpacking pilgrimage to the people God put in my path, I had to be open to those around me in my SVD community, in my classes and CTU in general, and in Chicago as a whole. By being open and friendly to those I met, I was able to add depth and meaning to my time as an Associate with the SVDs and as a first-year student at CTU.

Throughout my backpacking travels and my first semester at CTU, the thought of being on pilgrimage kept coming back to me. True, in most of those instances I wasn’t headed towards a particular sacred site; yet, I certainly was and continue to be on a journey, one that I make with great trust in God, looking out for the ways in which God will bless me, whether through people I encounter or events that pass my way. As I journey on my current pilgrimage with the SVDs, I’m not entirely sure where I’ll end up: I’m continuing my discernment, open to the possibility that God is calling me to continue with the SVDs or to walk a different path. In any case, I know that by trusting in God and being open to the Spirit, I will encounter Jesus along the way and thus grow in my relationship with the loving God Who has made this all possible.

Eucharistic Foundations and Social Transformation: The Eucharistic Thought of Benedict XVI

This article, by Graham R. Golden, O. Praem., was included in the inaugural publication of Theophilus. Graham Golden is a member of the Norbertine Community of Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey in Albuquerque, NM. He is currently pursuing a Masters in Divinity at CTU with an emphasis in intercultural ministries. In addition, Graham also recently graduated with a Masters of Arts at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration with a broad focus on macro-level social interventions in policy and social program development.
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Eucharistic Foundations and Social Transformation: The Eucharistic Thought of Benedict XVI

Between October 1 and 16, 2013, the Federal Government of the United States was effectively “shut down” due to Congress’s inability to resolve the budget for fiscal year 2014. In contemporary American politics, we have become accustomed to stalemates in public policy and political processes being driven by ever-increasing polarization. These polemical trends have become the dichotomous lens through which the media and our world perceive reality. The Church is not immune to such polarization, especially in how the media and general public often caricaturize Church leadership and doctrine.

Since his election on March 13, 2013, Pope Francis has been a media darling, being frequently portrayed in stark contrast to his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, especially in terms of the pastoral and social emphasis of his pontificate. The height of Pope Francis’s 2013 media rise was his being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. A lesser known public media accolade was that The Advocate also named the Pontiff as their Person of the Year, a surprising pick for a LGBT publication. Although both Time Magazine and The Advocate couched Francis’s often-interpreted liberal worldview in a more balanced light, such nuance is lost on most of the media. A quintessential culmination of the division depicted between Francis and Benedict in public discourse is the February 13, 2014 Rolling Stone cover story: “Pope Francis, the Times They Are A-Changin’.” A central theme of this division is the caricaturization of Benedict’s doctrinal and liturgical emphasis and Francis’s interest in poverty and inequality. The article claims:

Francis threw down a real marker in November, with the release of his first apostolic exhortation, or official written teaching. Apostolic exhortations under John Paul II and Benedict tended toward the dogmatic (JPII’s Familiaris Consortio restated orthodox Church teaching on birth control and the traditional family) or the wonky (Benedict’s Sacramentum Caritatis spent 32,000 words on the Eucharist). In this context, the blistering attacks on income inequality in Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) resonate like a bomb.1

Many conversations, formal and informal, in theological circles seem to focus on how “progressive” Francis is or is not. However, little energy seems to center on determining the legitimacy of portraying his predecessor as out of touch and disinterested in the concerns of our time. Has Francis departed that significantly from Benedict? Is a pontificate that would dedicate so much verbiage toward the Eucharist somehow inherently disinterested in the plight of the poor, or is there more depth to what Benedict was attempting to accomplish? Did he provide a more significant foundation for the social emphasis of Francis than may be thought by the general public?

Given the popular conception of Pope Benedict XVI as a radical conservative, there was little surprise when he issued the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, allowing what he called the extraordinary form of the Mass (usus antiquior), the 1962 Missal of Blessed John XXIII—functionally known as the Traditional Latin Mass of the council of Trent—to be celebrated more freely in the Church. He is also known for attempted reconciliation with the schismatic conservative group The Society of St. Pius X. Under him, the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith took steps toward correcting what the Roman Curia deemed a “doctrinal crisis” among women religious in the United States. More surprising to many has been the pastoral nature of his encyclical letters Deus Caritas Est and Spe Salve, along with the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis. Yet more striking still was the release of Benedict’s last official encyclical as a reining pontiff, Caritas in Veritate. Lisa Sowle Cahilldescribes the encyclical letter as “a concrete response to global poverty and violence, especially the inequities and imbalances of power that lie behind the global economic crisis of 2008 to 2010.”2

For many, this document was so unexpected that some of Benedict’s greatest supporters, like George Weigel, responded with criticism and even redactions in search of what was an “authentic” voice of the Pope amidst what were seen by critics as external intellectual influences. Benedict advocated both for what some would classify as anachronistic liturgy and ritual, and major structural change in social, economic, and political spheres. For many this is inherently contradictory. I believe that these two “poles” grow from the same intellectual tradition exhibiting a remarkable continuity (though not without evolution of thought) within the theology of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.3 If this continuity of thought is true, then the emphasis of Francis on the poor is not a departure from the theology of Benedict but an ever increasing praxis of what was set forth by his predecessor. It may be in fact a concrete manifestation of the liturgical axiom, lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi.

To continue reading this timely article, please go to the Theophilus Journal website.

Another Medium

This is a spoken word poem that Melissa, a rising 3rd-year Mdiv student,  performed recently at an open mic night. Unfortunately, the video from that night was too dark, so this is actually a  re-creation of her performance that night…please still pardon the quality of the video ;) The poem was inspired by her field education experience this past school year as a chaplain intern in a hospital. Melissa is a chaplain intern again this summer at another hospital in Chicago doing her Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE). 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8XQ2arqIn4

Another Medium

I got a B minus in art in the 4th grade.
I didn’t get another B for 10 years
And I gave up any hope of being an artist for more years than that.
I had tried and been found wanting,
So I would leave the art to the artists
And I would stick with numbers and then eventually with words.
Words could be my medium.
They can be inserted passionately into space
And their absence can adopt as much meaning as their presence
They can speak life or indict injustice
They can explain, and qualify, and be understood.
Unlike my 4th grade art that couldn’t explain itself.
That couldn’t cry out in self defense–
I was trying.
Words. Words. Words could be my medium of choice
While I pondered the possibility of me
An artist.

An artist
I pondered another medium too.
Alongside my precious words, I found another art form that awakened my soul.
That worked with words but also with silence
And that used the 64 colors of the Crayola box
With the 65th color of the breaking of a heart
And the 66th color of the vulnerability of a hospital bed
I feel my words get jealous as I get acquainted with this new medium
But don’t you see, words?
I still love you.
I’m using you right now.
Together we’ll create our art, with this medium of words and silence
And color and breath and heartache and joy.
Our medium is life itself.

I tried out this medium recently.
Furtively, like an imposter, I painted and composed and mixed words.
I stood silently at hospital beds in utter confusion
And in awe of the vulnerability of our human condition
Masked more easily for some.
I entered into the pain of rejection with our sisters and brothers with mental illness.
I crossed myself with fellow Catholics
And waxed rather nonpoeticly when asked deep theological questions.
And I fumbled words of español and uttered honest prayers for our searching.
My heart swelled in the swirling of the graced mystery
I thrived on the poetry of it all.
Or so I thought.

Then I couldn’t leave the room
I felt trapped by his presence
And then trapped by my mistake.
And my iron ran low
And my frustration ran high
And suddenly, my new medium appeared as a fraud.
I was kidding myself.
There’s nothing poetic about ministry, about life.
He was tired of life
And I was just tired.
And my iron ran low
And my frustration ran high.
And my new medium appeared as a fraud.

I wasn’t an artist
And life wasn’t a poem.
I was bumbling and tired and life was a mess.
But outside my own willing
I’ve felt the beauty amidst the mess
The graced mystery swirls and I’m not strong enough to resist
Love has captured me.
So sooner rather than later
The romantic in me can’t deny the canvas being painted
And I want to be a brush.
Coaxed back to art with empathy and concern,
Iron and friends, the trust of my patients and the brushstroke of the Artist.

In my art with a patient
I thank God aloud that God has created her in God’s image.
So she can consider her dignity and worth.
And since art is meant to stir in us
Is it lacking in humility to say
It stirs me to consider that I am created in the that image
Of our artist-God too?
I am a brush and a pencil, a painting and a poem.
Art and artist.
Words and image and life and pain and beauty.
Our medium is life.
Maybe I am an artist after all.

 

This poem was originally posted on Melissa’s blog, like sunlight burning at midnight.

Tinted Glass: The Trinity and a Discourse of Dialogue

Below is an excerpt from one of the articles in this year’s inaugural Theophilus journal. It is by Brendan Dowd, a recent graduate of CTU with an MA in Theology. You can read the rest of it and check out the other articles in our online publication.
 
The author of "Tinted Glass," Brendan Dowd

The author of “Tinted Glass,” Brendan Dowd

Human life is sustained by the expansion and compression of breath entering in and out of the lungs. Breath brings nourishment but does not settle. It swirls through the body and returns again, in new form, to the world. Similarly, the spirit that filled Jesus did not remain in him but flowed outwards for the sake of love of the world. These images we have of God not only help us understand complex/abstract concepts, they also implicate ethical responses. Elizabeth Johnson writes, “…symbol gives for the occasion of thinking.”1 Images provide the symbolic and metaphorical language that gives substance to living. I will explore three images of God created by a Trinitarian theological analysis; God as polyphonic movement, God as circle of relationship, and God as boundary crosser. In light of these pedagogical reflection points, I propose that Trinity be considered the motivating theology for directing the adoption of a dialogical theology of radical openness and particularity required by the Church’s foundational initiative for creating a society of sisterhood, brotherhood, unity, and respect…

Click here to continue reading!

Trusting in the Father to give New Meaning to Fatherhood

Below is a Father’s Day reflection from Frater Jim Garvey, O. Praem, a Norbertine brother pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at CTU.
fathersday

When I met with my children to inform them of my discernment to the priesthood I did so with trepidation.  Never wanting them to feel their father was abandoning them, their approval was crucial to my ultimate decision.   My eldest was local, meaning Philadelphia.  My second son was living in Slovenia and my daughter was in New Orleans.  I preferred to meet them individually.  I wanted them to absorb what I was saying and asked each of them to offer their response in a few days.  To my surprise they all said “Well Dad, I can’t say that I am at all surprised.”  And each of them offered their blessing.

My discernment had practical issues beyond their emotional response.  I wondered how would I be able to provide for them financially with weddings ahead and first homes to purchase?  Like the Rich Young Man I faltered.  Through spiritual direction clarity emerged.  “How could God be asking this of me if he was not also willing to provide for their needs?”  I knew what I needed to do – I had to hand them back to the care of God.

As my spirits lightened with the delight in their faces I joked with them.  “I’m going to be adding new meaning to the word father for you.”  God makes all things new.

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