So, in my last post, I mentioned the Ignatian Retreat. I think that of all the retreats that we offer at SLU, this is my favorite. Lots of open time, plenty of space to walk around, and you get past all the usual retreat fare, the icebreaker-small group-game playing stuff that can be fun in small doses but that gets old fast. We went out to a retreat center run by an Episcopal church in Illinois, and it was great: cold cold, but with a couple of big fireplaces that became focal points for people all weekend, partly because it was so cold, partly because fire is just hypnotizing. Here are a couple of pictures, which really don't represent the retreat because I didn't want to take pictures of people during a silent retreat -- it didn't seem like it would be in the spirit of the thing.
Anyway, a really good retreat. Just after that, classes started back, and this time around I've got an intro theology class: 30 freshmen, quite different from the 8 upperclassmen I had last semester, but still I think it's in good shape. We've spent our time so far doing the usual introductory stuff, including a bit on Catholic Biblical interpretation, and working through GN 1-3 (my 3 favorite chapters of the whole Bible, I think, so I've spent a little extra time with them).
I'm also working on vocation week in campus ministry, which is next week (and which is tough because so many vocation directors want to get in on it, you end up with more of them than students -- what I call the "feeding frenzy" model of vocation ministry -- yeesh. For Lent this year, I also pitched the idea of offering a couple of overnight getaways for students, what we are now calling "midweek escapes" -- after classes on a Wednesday, go to the university's retreat center, which is just off campus, feed the students, give them a little talk on entering silence, and then just leave them alone until the next morning, when we feed them and bring them back to campus. It sounds really simple, and it is, but my idea was to enable students to create some psychic distance from campus and quiet down. We're offering two this year, but we'll see if it goes anywhere.
Last night I took the Micahs to the ceramics studio, which I did last year as well, to hopefully encourage the doing of theology with the right side of the brain -- making symbols, making meaning. It was one of the favorite activities last year, and it seemed to be equally popular this time. We'll go back in a couple of weeks to glaze the pieces they made.
Plenty more stuff going on, including a couple of paper proposals I'm putting out there: one for the Notre Dame Peace Conference, which I attended last year, and one for the 2009 Merton Society conference. I also finally met tonight with the students who are going to Haiti with me in June and met the students from Habitat for Humanity who are going to New Orleans with me at Spring Break. Oh, I was also finally able to participate in a sweatlodge that some people around here offer once a month. A deep ritual, one I had been missing the past few years since I left Arizona, and one I intend to keep doing. I wrote a paper last semester on an anthropological consideration of baptism and the sweat lodge, but it's probably too much to put on this blog. Needless to say, it remains an area of interest because I am so convinced that baptism when it is done right can be amazingly potent as a ritual, and I know from firsthand experience how rich the lodge can be. More soon, hopefully not a month and a half this time...