Wednesday, May 24, 2017

O-HI-O

A wonderful opportunity came up a few weeks ago, so here I am writing from the Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH (sometimes known in Catholic circles simply as "Steubie"). I'll be back in Boston on Pentecost, God willing, but in the meantime I am auditing a course in Theology of the Body with Dr Michael Waldstein, translator of the TOB talks of Pope John Paul.

Although I am one of the original fans of Theology of the Body, with my interest in the talks dating back to 1980 when the saintly pope had barely begun to deliver them, there are some big gaps in my understanding of the whole arc, especially the theological dense second section with its treatment of the sacrament of marriage and the connection with the relationship of Christ and the Church. I am very grateful to be able to focus for these three weeks on the entire series, going in depth into some of the key themes. It also gives me a chance to fill in the blanks on a TOB-related project that got its start when I wrote too much for the study guide for the video lecture series Discover Theology of the Body. Hopefully I will be able to complete a brief overview of TOB that can work as a kind of correspondence course or deeper companion to the video series. (Stay tuned.)

Besides the interesting mornings (class runs from 9:00 - 11:45 M-F), the campus setting itself has a lot to offer. Since I did not have a typical college experience, this is my first time in a college dorm situation. Not that Steubie is par for the course, I am sure: the building I am in has one wing for the men, one for the women, and a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament in between the two on the lower level. I think all their dorm buildings have chapels, and if they are like the one in this building, Jesus gets company there throughout the day. Then there's the larger campus chapel: daily Mass is held here at noon. There is always a music leader and vigorous singing. Actually, the singing is astounding (even if I don't really go for "How Great Thou Art" accompanied by solo guitar). It was also inspiring to see the Franciscan Fathers converging on the chapel last evening at sunset to make confession available for an hour. I keep wishing that the young people in my own family had had the opportunity to experience for two or three weeks this kind of intensely lived Catholic life adoration and confession and daily Mass are almost taken for granted, and where the culture supports and nourishes the expression of faith instead of suppressing (or ridiculing or misrepresenting) it.

The campus does honor to St Francis' reputation for the love of nature with its carefully tended gardens, abundant lawns and trees, Stations of the Cross set into the woods on a hillside, Lourdes grotto on the edge of the woods and to-scale Portiuncula chapel (also with the Blessed Sacrament: you find Jesus all over the place). There are immense youth events here every summer, but I can see making a retreat here, too. There is enough beauty to support a week's worth of silence.

Then there is the social dimension. For me that began when we were tipped off by an email that Dr Waldstein would be teaching the TOB course here. That notification came from a local MA student who had written an article for our Discover Hope newsletter. (She also picked me up at the airport and provided me with the linens and towels that the dorm does not offer.) At the first (mandatory) dorm meeting, I met a new friend, Pam (from Chicago!) and made the acquaintance of another Pauline: a member of the Holy Family Institute, Lisa. All three are taking the TOB class, though only Pam and Lisa are here in the dorm. It has been great having people to share TOB insights--and meals--with every day.

And the meals are good, too.

While I have been out of town, the Phantom drone has been in the "hospital" getting repairs for stress cracks. I just got notified that it is fully repaired and tested, so it should be back in Boston before I am. I need to get in some more practice air time so I will be ready and able to record a few scenes from the upcoming vow day events--unfortunately, I won't be able to get any chapel footage, for two reasons: my superior really does not trust my aviation skills indoors (with good reason) and the propellers are really, really loud. (No one would hear the vows!)

Actually, I will only have one day in Boston after Pentecost before I fly away again: to New Orleans, for some precious family time.

I have some lovely pictures to share with you, but it seems to be impossible right now to post them. Well, something to look forward to some other time!

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