Month: June 2014

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).

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.

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.



Black Theology of Liberation: Towards Achieving a Prophetic Vision of Justice and Community

Below is an excerpt from this year’s PAUL BECHTOLD LIBRARY FACULTY CHOICE AWARD article, by Br. Ernest Miller, FSC, from this year’s inaugural journal. You can read the rest of it and check out the other articles in our online publication.
Ernest Miller, FSC, this year's Paul Bechtold Library Faculty Choice Award Winner

Ernest Miller, FSC, this year’s Paul Bechtold Library Faculty Choice Award Winner

An excerpt:

…When we look closely, a hotel civilization is indicative of the American worship of wealth and the insatiable desire for convenience and felicity, which leaves the tradition of struggle for decency, dignity, freedom, and democracy aimless.

In his 1998 State of the Union Address, President Bill Clinton made a bold pronouncement that because those times [late 1990s] were good, we have a stronger nation: “We are moving steadily toward an even stronger America in the 21st Century; an economy that offers opportunity; a society rooted in responsibility: and a nation that lives as a community.”5  Clinton’s perspective is paradigmatic of what still masks the struggle of ordinary Americans to live decent and dignified lives.  What Clinton espouses provides ground for the Jamesian notion of a “hotel civilization” to serve as a heuristic to contextualize Cone’s method of linking theological scholarship and identification with those for whom this moment in American civilization is not beneficial; the city on the hill is fiction.

Cone would suggest that black liberation theology ask, “Beneficial for whom?”  What is the evidence that makes us think America has created a society in which the disinherited, who are disproportionately black and brown folk, are provided an equal opportunity to access economic and social betterment?  What is the evidence that makes us think that the nation has achieved community?  These are among the questions a black theology of liberation must confront.  West takes particular affront at the “sugar-coated language that accents the superfluities and superficialities of our day [that] must be pierced to deal with the harsh realities.”  He extends his critical analysis here:

[T]oday we face a new moment of triumphalism with new idols like markets and privatizing forces, accompanied by new forms of mendacity, such as using stock market records and balanced budgets as benchmarks of good times rather than the quality of lives lived for the least in society.  Perhaps good times should be gauged by the depth of spirituality needed to keep keeping on in the midst of material poverty, and also in the spiritual poverty of brothers and sisters disproportionately white in disproportionately vanilla suburbs.  These sisters and brothers are dealing with existential emptiness and spiritual malnutrition because they have not received enough care and nurture and love along with all their money and prosperity.6

In the intervening years since Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death in 1968, and Howard Thurman’s death in 1981, the nation has come a long way.  Yet, we are still living in a difficult moment in the history of the grand American democratic experiment.  The American political discourse and the nation’s priorities are tilted away from pressing social problems. Thus, it is crucial that we continue to look for theological sources of light to sanctify our public life.

The goal for black liberation theology is to achieve a way of living unchained that is available to all who hunger and thirst for justice, especially those whom Thurman calls the “disinherited,” or, put another way, those who “stand with their backs against the wall.”7  The same question that Thurman raised many decades ago—and black theology must still raise—remains as relevant as ever: “Why [is it] that Christianity seems impotent to deal radically, and therefore, effectively, with the issues of discrimination and injustice…? Is this impotency due to a betrayal of the genius of the religion, or is it due to a basic weakness in the religion itself?”8

Framed by these questions, this paper proposes that black liberation theology urges a progressive movement toward achieving justice and genuine democratic community for all Americans… Continue reading (with full text and his citations) here