Thoughts from a young theologian

Packing and unpacking . . . again


So I’m back… After the last month of traveling and spending about a week at home to recover (which was just barely enough time), I’m back in the abbey!!! The return to the seminary this year was a little more reluctant and hesitant than last year after a summer where, after a long time, I once again took a good, hard look at my vocation but didn’t get any of the answers I was hoping to find… Wow, discernment is hard! I am hoping though that throughout this year back, I’ll find some of those answers that I’m seeking out…

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The beginning of a new school year is always marked by change and that was certainly the case this time… It’s interesting that in a place like a Benedictine monastery where, pretty much nothing changes for years, so much can happen in such a short time. The prior (second in command) stepped down from his position and he’s now our rector (meaning we get to call him now Fr. Matthew instead of Fr. Prior after his position). He’s replacing a legend here in the seminary, Fr. Nicholas who was our rector last year and has been the rector here for many many years. Then, in the vacated prior position, Fr. Benedict, one of the younger but super intelligent monks here, has started to take up just this year. New leadership almost always means changes, however minor they are because there’s still a sense of continuity that’s going on even while many of the rules are being looked at again and updated a little bit… It’s interesting being around this time and seeing all this happen because I have the reference point of last year to compare it with.

This year, in the seminary, I’ve changed my goals up quite a bit. Because of my reluctance and the tremendous uncertainty especially regarding what exactly it is God wants me to do, I’ve decided to dedicate much more time to prayer and I’m really, thus far, loving every minute of it… Last year, I would normally have a holy hour in the afternoon, just before vespers… I’d use up that time reading and (accidentally) falling asleep… There were always a few people (monks and seminarians) in the abbey church at the time too… Well, this year, because I feel I need more time alone (work on a little bit of that interior silence I should be cultivating… heheheeehhe), I decided to move that holy hour to the night, at the time when all the monks are off in recreation. It’s hauntingly beautiful being in that darkened corner of the abbey church where there’s no one else but you and Jesus and the only light is coming from the flickering candle of the tabernacle lamp… Sigh… It’s always the perfect way for me to end each and every single day…

Apart from everything slowly starting to get back to normal (hockey season is starting up once again this week and I was voluntold/drafted back into a team, and we even have our student government elections tomorrow night), the big event this week was easily a huge conference held at Regent College over the weekend between Catholic and Protestant theologians of extraordinary caliber… The theology students were all required to go but they gave permission (not to mention money to pay for the conference) to some of us interested arts students too. The conference was on the heated debate among primarily Protestant scholars about the role and usage of one of two different methods of scriptural interpretation. The historical/critical method or, what I often hear as the literal method is the taking of a specific text as it says it is, though also in consideration of the motives of the author, the cultural and religious circumstances he/she lived in and even the intended audience… It’s the method most accepted by Protestant theologians today. Some Protestant theologians though have started discovering in reading the Fathers of the Church (the people around during the late 1st century through to the 4th century and wrote about the church at the time) a different form of interpretation known as the spiritual/allegorical interpretation, which looks at the deeper meaning of the text often from a Christological perspective…. How does this text, for example, reflect certain truths about the arriving Messiah…. The Catholic Church beautifully integrates both methods in its teaching while the Protestants are still debating the validity of the allegorical method, fearing that it puts too much human influence into Sacred Scriptures…

It was a pretty head conference and most of us didn’t understand half the stuff being said… What kept us interested? Scott Hahn being there sure helped… Deacon Pablo’s respect for me (which isn’t that much) jumped up to 30% because I had a camera with me and managed to snap a nice little picture of our whole group with this prolific Catholic author… Scott Hahn was there alongside Mary Healy, a professor from Sacred Heart Major Seminary who gave a stirring talk on the Letter of St. Paul to the Hebrews, speaking of how, found in the Old Testament are “shadows” that point to Christ and that need to be interpreted allegorically/spiritually to get to that conclusion. We also had R.R. Reno, the editor of the scholarly journal First Things and Matthew Levering from the University of Dayton there with us. My favorite talk though didn’t come from one of these amazing Catholic theologians… My favorite talk was given by Jason Byasse, a pastor for a United Methodist church… He talked about the use of allegory in reading the book of Job by Pope St. Gregory the Great citing some examples given by St. Gregory that illustrated the absolute beauty of allegorical interpretations…

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It’ll be tougher for me this year to blog as much as I’d like to because of both the number and difficulty of my classes… Alongside my metaphysics class (ouch…), I’m also taking Greek, Latin, Liturgical history, sociology (studying different encyclicals and the compendium of the social doctrine of the Church), drama (debate class) and modern philosophy so I have a ton on my plate… In addition, I’ll also be spending significantly more time in the chapel trying to figure out where it really is I’m called to be so my blogging is going to take a slightly second seat… Hehehehe I hope you’ll be patient with me on this… It’s a critical year for me because next year, if I get as far as next year, will be the start of theology… That step between philosophy and theology is a massive one and really does require a lot of prayer and discernment before it’s made… c”,) God bless and thanks for all your prayers!!!

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