By Barb Arland-Fye
“Tell me something I don’t know,” a former colleague challenged. Every story a reporter embarks on ought to provide readers with a new revelation, she believed. That’s what keeps them reading, learning and motivated.
Her motto stuck with me and continues to provide motivation in my work with The Catholic Messenger.
It has taken on a new impetus in the graduate class I am participating in with deacon candidates from the Diocese of Davenport, their wives, a couple of long-ordained deacons and a deacon’s wife.
Most recently, we studied systematic theology with Professor Corinne Winter at St. Ambrose University in Davenport as our instructor. She introduced us to the principles, systems and language of theology based on a Christian anthropology.
It’s a long way from the philosophy class I took as a 19-year-old undergraduate. So, I admit to feeling a bit overwhelmed by the academic language and abstract concepts.
But some classmates can relate to my situation, having been away from college for a couple of decades or more. While making a point in class, Winter referred to the 1959 epic film “Ben Hur” and correctly assumed that most of us had watched it either the first time around or during re-runs. If she had mentioned “Ben Hur” to her undergraduate students, she said, they would have been baffled.
We “seasoned” students are learning, praying and eating together in community; that’s stimulating and encouraging. My classmates clearly have a desire to explore the faith they have embraced and to be receptive to God’s revelation as a result of that exploration.
Small group exercises allow us to build on our understanding as we discern the meaning of theology. In the process we are gaining new insights.
Also encouraging is the awareness that I’m not alone in needing to re-read articles and chapters I’ve just read in order to grasp and critique the concepts and the knowledge the theologians are imparting.
One of our assignments was to prepare an annotated bibliography listing five articles from academic journals on topics such as: Scripture and Tradition as sources for theology; faith as a theological virtue; faith and reason in Catholic thought; the formation of the Creed; and the concept of original sin. The idea was to acquaint us with the vast resources available in studying theology and the need to winnow selections in order to stay on topic.
I chose to focus on Tradition and traditions in theology. When I began reading the first article I had selected for review purposes, I was stumped. “What does this article have to do with Tradition?” I found myself asking. But on second reading, I had an “Aha!” moment. The author was telling me something I didn’t know, and then some.
Winter reminded us that we need to express our faith in terms that relate to our culture and philosophy. Life is complicated. Some people want their faith to be simple: “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” Others want faith to be something outside of the experience of everyday life. But the integration of our everyday experiences and our faith is essential because it connects us to who we are. My journey toward revelation continues.