Inaugural articles

Roots and Spectacles

Below is a preview of the 7th and final article of the inaugural issue of the Theophilus journal, by CTU student Fr. Martin-Edward Ohajunwa. You can click here to read the rest of it and to read the other inaugural articles

Roots and Spectacles: The Impressions of an African-American Missionary in the Western Church

roots spectacles2

The Catholic Church in the West is faced with a dearth of priestly and religious vocations amidst a growing cultural diversity. This situation poses many pastoral challenges, one of which is the need to meet the demands of ordained clergy in many of the parishes and dioceses across Western Europe, the United States, and Canada. What used to be a vibrant and dynamic local church has in recent years seen its numbers of clergy dwindle. This has necessitated the creation of a new dimension of assistance and sustenance for parish life: the use of international priests from countries where vocations are still growing. These international priests are otherwise called the Fidei donum (gift of faith) priests by the Diocese of Belleville and many other dioceses in the United States. These priests are mainly immigrants from Asia, Africa, and South America, with a greater number from countries like India, Poland, and Nigeria in West Africa. In fact, according to the Directory of African Conference of Catholic Clergy and Religious in the United States (ACCCRUS), Nigeria contributes the highest number of priests and religious working in the United States in relation to other African countries.

The dearth of vocations has made it an imperative for the local church of the United States, like in most western countries, to reach out to priests, with the consent of their individual bishops and Ordinaries, from far away dioceses and Congregations to invite them to come over and support the U.S. Church in its pastoral need. This is in tune with the mark and mission of the Universal Church that is in communion with local churches and so shares the gift of faith (fidei donum) in her unity and catholicity.

This paper is my reflection as an African international priest on pastoral assignment in the United States. It is a reflection on my observations of the conflict of culture that has become a major concern for the local churches in the on-going engagement of international priests in the dioceses of the United States, with particular interest in the Catholic Church of Southern Illinois. The conflict of culture and the process of engagement of the international priests are areas of greatest concern. This reflection has been inspired by a talk originally given to the priests of the Diocese of Belleville for the Clergy Day of October 28th of 2010, when I was invited to share my impressions with the priests of the diocese as an international priest from Nigeria working in their midst. Thus, one may see dominating these perspectives and impressions experiences from both my homeland in the Eastern heartland of Nigeria with its typical Igbo church and the Church in Southern Illinois. However, these perspectives will be broadened to accommodate, where necessary, impressions from outside these precincts.

I have chosen to call this reflection “Roots and Spectacles: The Impressions of an African Missionary in the Western Church.” It serves as a kernel for appreciating the common heritage, the “common meaning,” and the experiences which all priests share with the “one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church” that is missionary. It is of great importance to appreciate this fundamental character and formation of the true Church that informs us of a great and unique tradition of faith and apostolate. Though we may travel far and wide, the consciousness of this unity in faith affords me the leisure of a realistic reflection. So, in order to proceed with this reflection, I will briefly explain my use of terms as it applies to this paper and then delve into where and how these terms apply in the universal mission of the Church. I will present a brief survey of the Nigerian Church, and then, the Church in the western world with particular reference to the United States. I will also examine the cultural and pastoral challenges facing this mission with some proposals for moving forward into the future.

Click here to continue reading!

Advertisements

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.

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!

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.
##user.profile.profileImage##

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.

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!

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