Month: July 2014

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.

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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.