Sunday, January 15, 2012

Musing on Reading and Speaking

Just sitting still and musing on a quiet Sunday afternoon a couple of hours before evening prayer, social time with the friars, and dinner.

1. What will I be reading this week while on retreat? Surely the Bible in the manner of lectio divina, and my breviary when reciting and singing the Liturgy of the Hours. In addition, I have packed the following texts, which I hope to browse or read deeply:

Coleman, John A. (ed.) One Hundred Years of Catholic Social Thought. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Press, 1991. Published on the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, the encyclical on labor by Pope Leo XIII, the essays in this volume were commissioned for a conference held at the University of San Francisco in June 1991. Includes articles by bishops, priests, religious, and lay persons.

Congar, Yves. The Meaning of Tradition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004. This is a single-volume English edition of the two-volume classic from one of the theological architects of the Second Vatican Council. It has a foreword from the late Cardinal Avery Dulles. I swiped this book from the library at San Lorenzo Friary and promise to return it when I'm at last finished!

Pable, Martin W. A Man and His God. Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Marie Press, 1988; and The Quest for the Male Soul. Notre Dame, Ind.: Ave Maria Press, 1996. Brother Marty is a Capuchin priest in the Province of St. Joseph, currently helping direct the postulancy program in Milwaukee. He has been a counselor and spiritual director for four decades.

Rahner, Karl. Words of Faith. New York: Crossroad, 1987. An anthology of the Jesuit theologian's spiritual writings for a popular audience.

So, a little social ethics, a little spirituality, a little theology. A balanced diet!

2. A little more reading: At the moment I am midway through an article in Theological Studies, a pre-eminent academic journal, by Brian Robinette of Saint Louis University. Try this title on for size: "The Difference Nothing Makes: Creatio ex Nihilo, Resurrection, and Divine Gratuity." It is a response to process theologians and theologians of deconstruction who reject the doctrines of creation out of nothing and divine omnipotence because they set God's power in opposition to God's goodness as well as creaturely agency, and they fail to seriously answer the question of suffering and evil. Robinette is addressing in particular the philosopher John Caputo, whose argument against these doctrines in The Weakness of God is the starting point of his critique. Basically Robinette is saying that Caputo misconstrues these classical doctrines and wrongly attributes to them the metaphysical origin of false dichotomies between power and goodness, or God and creation. Whew....

Robinette's work excites me because it takes seriously the phenomenon of the Resurrection as a starting point for all Christian theology. His development of a theology of gift is inspiring me, and so is his determination to keep the formulations of classical systematic theology in dialogue with postmodern thought. He makes amazing links between theological anthropology and philosophical theology, connecting "low" and "high" theology. His arguments are fresh; his affirmations are confident. Somehow he brings out the dazzling newness of age-old doctrines, demonstrating they are rooted in the vitality of Scripture and the Christ-event. I will be keeping my mind trained on the work of this up-and-coming theologian.

3. Lest I get caught up too much in the text printed on paper, I hope and pray I will become more literate where it concerns the text imprinted in flesh and bone. We ask God to help us understand the Word that brings to life, renews in redemption, and sustains unto glory. Let us remember that the Author of this Word, written on the page under human words, seeks now to inscribe this Word in us under our human flesh; even to make of our flesh the Word itself through union with the One who was the Word itself, and not merely its stereotype. Those who are humble and wise ask God to show them how to read the Word living in the holy words and deeds of every person, the Word dwelling in each body, a temple of the Spirit.

A more modest goal, related to this and relevant to religious life, is to learn what kind of word I am to others. When my brothers in religion see me; when the folks at Neighbors Together talk to me; when I visit my family, what is the word people get from me? What am I "saying" to them, and what "message" are they receiving? What is my word doing to them? Is it giving them love? Is it showing them comfort? Is it attracting them or scaring them? Is it healing them or scarring them? Is it a blessing or a curse? I ought to know. I ought to want to know, not out of narcissistic curiosity, but because the word I am makes the world insofar as it shares in the creativity of the Word, and it deforms it insofar as it betrays, distorts, or falsifies that Word.

Let me read and be built up, mind, body, soul, and spirit. Let me speak and build others in the same.


This is my last post for a while. I will resume the blog next Sunday evening, at the earliest. To everyone, peace and all goodness. I promise you, after this week away, I will write you loving words again.

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