Saturday, September 10, 2011

Good Books

Friars in formation begin academic studies at accredited institutions of higher education in the post-novitiate phase, the third year. The Capuchins of the New York and New England province send their brothers to Boston College, Emmanuel College, and St. John's Seminary for theology, philosophy, and other disciplines. However, the friars in formation begin their instruction in Catholic faith and practice from Day One of postulancy.

We meet in seminar style in the library of St. Michael Friary's basement most mornings, and the postulant director or a guest lecturer will lead the class. Most often we will meet with friars from our province or other provinces who have specialized in one area of expertise or another. For instance, the sister from the Franciscan Sisters of Peace returned this week to speak about Franciscan prayer and St. Clare of Assisi, the first Franciscan woman. In one week, one of our own brothers, Fr. Jack Rathschmidt, whose ministries focus on preaching, religious education, and retreat work, will meet us to discuss the charisms, or gifts, of the vocation to Capuchin religious life. Yesterday the postulant director helped us view the liturgy of the Eucharist through the lens of ritual and walked us through the parts of the Mass. We will be travelling to Wisconsin and the Capuchin Province of St. Joseph at the end of October to meet with Fr. Edward Foley for a week of instruction on theology of the Eucharist.

In preparation for that week of instruction, we have been given to read Father Foley's major work on this sacrament, central to the Catholic faith: From Age to Age: How Christians Have Celebrated the Eucharist. Having parted with most of my books on liturgy and worship a few years ago, I am very happy to have this volume in my possession. It is primarily a work of history and practice, but it also incorporates elements of theology as well. It is well illustrated and replete with illuminating sidenotes. I have finished the first forty pages, and it is a refreshing, lively read. It will be a little joy to curl up to this book in my spare moments over the next few weeks.

Another text we have been assigned comes from another Capuchin, Fr. David Couturier. The book, The Four Conversions, proposes that metanoia, the turning toward God, involves more than an individual's change of mind and heart. Conversion has relational consequences; thus, it has interpersonal, ecclesial, and structural dimensions. The personal changes wrought by a turn toward God effect social change, and they have an impact on Christian community. Brother David has explored the links between theology, psychology, and organizational dynamics for years. He will meet with the postulants to discuss his work on the spirituality of transformation next month.

A third book we are reading I have mentioned before on the blog. It is Donald Spoto's biography of Francis of Assisi, Reluctant Saint. I will be cozying up to this book through the weekend.

How blessed the postulants are to have so many good books at our fingertips. How blessed we are to have brothers and sisters who are willing and able to mentor us. We, who have as yet really given nothing and received everything. We, who know nothing and lack good sense but have been greeted as though we had all wisdom and understanding. We, who came to renounce privilege but find ourselves standing in a fountain of favors overflowing. Indeed, has there been any change in my habit of living? When does the gifted become the gift?

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