Friday, March 2, 2007

Last night I gave a lecture on Thomas Merton as part of a lecture series that campus ministry offers. It went fine, I think, and after another campus minister said, "It was cool to see you in teacher mode." Her comment made me reflect on how much I do miss the classroom setting. As much as I delight in the kind of work I get to do in campus ministry, I am so excited that I will be able to teach a class in the fall, in particular since it is on Merton.

I had dinner this evening with a Jesuit theologian friend here at SLU. Most of his work has been in anthropology and issues concerning Native American religions. We went all over the place, but we kept coming back to enculturation and what it means to talk about the gospel living in cultures other than the European framework in which it has been nestled for so long. I mentioned a class I had taught to lay ministers, etc. while I was in Arizona, and discussing sacramental theology and the adage "grace builds on nature." What can we say about what happens theologically in, say, a sweatlodge or a pipe ceremony? The lodge in particular is so rich in symbol, has such a deep sense of liminal space, of transformation and rebirth and transition, that the grace it manifests is undeniable. That says nothing against the official sacraments, of course, but just like the Apologists drew on Platonism and Aquinas did theology through the lens of the "pagan" philosopher Aristotle, how might Christianity look through the lenses of the genuinely graced symbols and rituals of a Native American religion? I mentioned to my Dad yesterday on the phone that I love having the time in this job to do a little research and write a bit, but the problem is that, with so many brilliant people around, they all point me to books I should read and areas of research that I would love to pursue! As they say, you can do ANYTHING you want, but you can't do EVERYTHING you want.

Mercy within mercy within mercy...

No comments: