Fr. John's Memoir: Chapter 7
God’s Mysterious Ways amid Continuing Change and Division:1992-2000
by M. John Farrelly, O.S.B.
The next decade saw many changes in our larger world – e.g., increasing individualism in the United States and globalization in the larger world, a radical diminishment of the Cold War and the beginning of an American experience of terror from a radical segment of Islam. My main ministry was, as in the past, through my writing in which I continued to map out how I, with the help of many others, thought the Church should address this world and be changed in the process, at least in part of its philosophy and theology and their implications for life. This was a centrist position that was less than popular with the left and the right in the Church, and was a long term project. I had a sabbatical in 1995-1996, and in 1997 I no longer had a regular teaching job, since De Sales School of Theology closed. So I will divide this chapter into two sections of four years each.
After returning from East Asia and receiving copies of my just published book, I wrote in my occasional journal:
I have had a greater sense than usual for me in the past that God has again and again out of his mercy raised me – lifted me up, and everything of worth that I am or have done is due to this. The future depends on my trusting in this action of his, his mercy, and in him!
I frequently feel ‘blah!,’ without energy, direction or motivation. But what is of worth in me and my work did not come initially from this in me, but from God who so often in the past has raised me from exactly such feelings to do something for the kingdom – to be interiorly moved once more by him and his grace and love.
And in early July during a short retreat I had a grace to realize the following:
In the very early morning I woke up with the conviction that unless I open myself to mystical graces and respond fully to God’s gift in this area of my life, my life will peter out ‘with a whimper.’ I need, by God’s help, not only to sustain or bear the darkness but to love it – “Jesus thanks, your love is dark!” . . . I am still a divided being, a split being. And I have to accept that I am such – accept it more and more deeply.
I thanked God for all the times I felt that some need of the Church or individual others called me to act with far less security than I felt comfortable with. And I similarly thanked God that he had called me to a long term project that had so far received very little feedback, and enabled me to persevere in it. For example, I wrote “Thank you too that I accepted the poverty of starting a volume on Faith in God through Jesus Christ, even though once more it is one of those long-term tasks in which my ignorance stares me in the face.” And:
Perhaps the darkness I frequently and even usually feel in plodding on with writing comes from the fact that God is so far beyond me that in this work I feel my weakness, vulnerability and ignorance more than anything else. So it may well be witness to God’s transcendence rather than to the improbability that this is his call.
Later in August, during our community retreat, I continued to have this sense:
I feel that there has been a great deal of fretting and anxiety and self-concern in my past. What I have been able to be and do in spite of this ‘albatross’ has been due to God’s loving, liberating grace. But it, the albatross, is always near at hand!
In the fall, aside from teaching I was involved in curriculum revision for De Sales School of Theology and writing a couple of articles, that took time away from my work on Faith in God. De Sales was revising its M.A. program in theology, and a number of us were working on this. De Sales sponsored a program in Leesburg, Virginia to which it invited over 50 people (trustees, faculty, administration, and speakers on the situation of the Church in the USA). That provided a lively and informative few days, after which I took a couple of days of vacation at a friend’s house outside Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. On the evening of October 24, driving during drizzling rain on an asphalt country road around a turn banked toward the curb I ran off the road and had an accident. Several men from nearby houses came out and helped me, said that there were many accidents at that place and called a tow truck for me. I recalled my sister Cordelia’s accident in which she was killed, and thanked God that he spared me.
Michael Glazier, who continued as a consultant for Liturgical Press, asked me to write an article on “Providence” for an encyclopedia he was editing with Monika Hellwig, an invitation I promptly accepted and on which I worked during the fall semester. I also accepted George McLean’s kind invitation to participate in the international philosophical seminar at the Catholic University in the fall on “Evangelization and Culture in America”, and presented a modification of a previously published article, “Trinity as Salvific Mystery, and Historical Consciousness.” Both of these articles included brief treatments of a theme more broadly treated in the book I was writing on Faith in God through Jesus Christ, namely the place of apocalyptic in the early Christian interpretation of the kingdom Jesus came to offer believers. In his early ministry, Jesus proclaimed the kingdom in continuity with the Old Testament expectation of a Messiah, though in fulfillment of this. Later, when it was obvious that the leaders of the Jews would not accept his gift, he began to proclaim the kingdom more in continuity with the apocalyptic expectation expressed in Daniel, chapter 7. For Daniel, the kingdom of God is not an expansion of a kingdom in process in Jewish history, but rather an overturning of an age dominated by evil, and a kingdom that was much more transcendent, universal and final than usual interpretations of the Messianic kingdom. It was this that the first disciples’ experience of the resurrected Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit led them to look forward to – the return of Jesus in glory to save and judge the world. It included their call to seek to transform the world, but the horizon of their hope was the apocalyptic kingdom. I thought the recovery of this whole early Christian expectation was necessary to inculturate the Christian message in today’s world of historical consciousness.
In January 1993, President Clinton was inaugurated and I wondered whether this would make the Church more marginalized. – During the whole 1992-1993 academic year I did not get much work done on my manuscript. Aside from my academic work during the second semester, I took an evening adult education course on “Introduction to Classical Music” at Georgetown University, appreciating the excellent teacher and content very much. In March I was invited to be a spiritual director for a pilgrimage of 30 people going to Fatima, Lourdes, and then returning to Spain, e.g. Avila and Toledo, from April 20 to May 4 – an invitation I promptly accepted and profited from. And on March 25 I was invited to be on the Diane Rheem, WAMU radio talk show on the theme “Weeping Madonna of Northern Virginia,” a claim which I think was authentic, that our Lady had shown her presence a number of time to a priest in Woodbridge, VA and elsewhere, through the weeping of statues of our Lady in churches he visited. Another speaker on this show was the vice president of the Washington D.C. “Skeptical Society!” I prepared for this, and the majority of those who called in were in sympathy with the possibility of miracles.
On May 14, the feast of St. Matthias, I was asked to be vocation director for my community, and I accepted. I tried to prepare myself for this by reading. Also, later in the year I attended a Benedictine Vocation Director’s Workshop given at Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas, led by Fr. Raymond Carey, a clinical psychologist who helped many Benedictine communities in the United States in different ways. And I became a member of the Coalition of Religious Vocation Directors in the Washington – Baltimore area. With them, I put on a display at Georgetown University, hosting a table and handing out literature to disinterested and half-curious students.
During the summer of 1993 I was able to get back to writing. Part of my time was taken up by trying to raise the question of contraception publicly in the Church. I did write Cardinal Bernardin, who had a bishop friend of his answer me, encouraging me to try to keep the question alive, but saying that bishops could not do much about it. – I also got back to my manuscript, completing a draft of chapter 5 on Christian interpretations of salvation and revelation in apostolic times, and then getting into chapter 6 on “Soundings in Christian History on the Understanding of Revelation, Faith and Salvation.” – In August we had our community retreat from Fr. Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., and I wrote at the end of it:
Perhaps the deepest grace I received in this retreat was a shift from the sense: “How hard trust is in the dark!” to “Why Lord trust your cares to me?!” – the sense, along with this, that all of worth I have accomplished in the Lord’s work in me. He risked asking me to do this!
Unfortunately, this shift in perspective did not prevail generally in the years ahead.
In November, my computer collapsed, and with the help of friends, I graduated to a Packard Bell 386 SX and a Panasonic KXP 4410, learning Word Perfect to enable me to work with this new computer. I paid someone to transfer 380 double space pages of my current draft on Faith in God through Jesus Christ and other material to this new computer hard drive.
Before Christmas, one of our priests, Fr. Columba, was dying of cancer and we took turns staying with him. When I was with him, I was in the process of reading Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas. I asked him whether he was interested in speaking about what was facing him, and he said no. Then I asked him whether he would like me to read to him from the book I was reading. He was interested in that, so I read him Merton’s famous account of “Fire Watch, July 4, 1952,” which could be considered a metaphorical account of the highs and lows of life, climaxed by a vision of the night sky filled with stars from the tower at Gethsemani. Columba asked the next monk who sat with him to find out what book I was reading, to read that passage again and then start from the beginning. He died shortly after the beginning of the new year.
Besides my regular teaching in the Spring semester of 1994, I taught an extension course on “Thomas Merton’s Spirituality Twenty-Five Years after his Death” at Georgetown Visitation, a task I found enjoyable and instructive and most students did as well. And I gave a talk at St. Anselm’s on the Fathers of the Desert to some Duke University students preparing to visit Egypt and the Holy Land. The preparation for this and then giving the talk and holding a discussion with the students was very helpful for me, because for years I had done little reading about the Desert Fathers.
In early May I wrote in my journal about my manuscript, Faith in God through Jesus Christ:
I have felt at times I really did not intend to write a book on this issue, but Michael Glazier would not give me a contract for volume I unless I signed a contract that included volume II! – However, I do think there is a very real need for this book. People, especially those preparing for ministry of the Word, need to understand salvation in a way that integrates their concerns rather than bypasses them. . . .
Also, they have to have an understanding of Christian revelation that is modeled more on an integral Christian message, e.g. Peter in his stages of faith, and integrally human than Neo-Scholasticism. True, much contemporary Catholic theology of revelation has gone far beyond Neo-Scholasticism, but this should be integrated, e.g. with an understanding of salvation as apocalyptic, and an understanding of the human person.
At a session of the CTSA convention in early June I made a presentation on my book, Belief in God in our Time, and Professors Thomas Guarino and Peter Phan responded to it. They basically agreed with the book, but had reservations that were somewhat mutually opposed. Guarino thought I should begin with post-modernism, while Phan thought I should begin with the Trinity. I thought that my essays in God’s Word in a Changing World and the integration of that material did deal with post-modernism’s scepticism, and I looked forward to writing on the Trinity.
Later in June my brother Father Toma or Tommy visited me as part of his visit to family for the first time since 1976. We spent an enjoyable week together in June and a few further days in early December. The community here was very warm and welcoming to him, though he looked so unique with his long beard and some odd manners. He has with Ya’aqov Willebrands built a community in a very resistant place and environment – a community that does witness to God and Jesus. In fact some decades ago Abbot Leo von Rudloff, a former Abbot of Dormition Abbey in Jerusalem, who knew the community well, said that if it disappeared tomorrow, it would have been well worth it. –In early August I completed a draft of my book, Faith in God through Jesus Christ, having completed chapter 6, and written chapter 8 (Christian Revelation and Faith) during the summer months free from teaching.
After a little vacation and our community retreat I attended, with 50 other Benedictine men and women, the annual Benedictine Vocation Directors’ meeting at St. Scholastica’s Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. It was a great help. In early October I gave a talk to the community about vocation ministry, indicating that it was a responsibility for the whole community, and we watched a short video on community involvement in vocation work. In the discussion that followed, they made many suggestions of what further I could do. This job had turned out to be much more frustrating than I had anticipated. It put one at the center of the concerns of a monastery, and a sign of division at times in how a monastery must change to be worthy of vocations. – In August a man had entered our “candidacy program,” but later before the novitiate transferred to the Trappists and out of them. Years later I met him by chance at an airport, and he said that a major part of his problem at St. Anselm’s was some other young monks. He was at this time preparing to enter an Austrian monastery, for which he had been accepted. – Also, I was part of a committee here on formation, and that too put one in the midst of conflict. At times I was rather blunt, but at the Benedictine vocation directors’ meeting someone said that there is a measure of denial in monasteries as well as elsewhere. At times, even when I asked someone to read a homily I was about to give and they approved it, I got rather strong negative reactions from a few brethren. In early November, I wrote in my journal:
There is a spider who wove a complex web outside my window – with some 30 concentric strands – and has been waiting for a couple of days for some food to come his/her way. At one point the wind seems to have tattered the web, but he has restored it. And I saw a flying fall leaf caught, and then the spider disentangling it. But he is patient, though, no doubt, by this time hungry.
I later wrote in my journal:
What I experience right here at St. Anselm’s is the present condition of the Church.” Our community, like many religious communities, was the Church in miniature.
In the Spring semester, I offered a course on eschatology at Wesley (Methodist) Seminary to their students and also to students from De Sales and the Catholic University. I continued revision of my manuscript, and began to think about taking a sabbatical during the 1995-1996 school year and what I could do with it. Should I offer to teach, and if so where? Or, should I try to get ahead with my next writing project? And what should this be? I raised the question of my sabbatical with Fr. Abbot, who was supportive of it. I wrote in my journal:
This can help me – when I come back – to be less agitated by some things that go on here. – A little distance on their part from me and my part from them may well be good for perspective for all of us.
When I spoke of the sabbatical to the Academic Dean at De Sales, Fr. Frank Blood, O.S.F.S., he asked whether I would go to Rome for a change of scene. – Even before Frank’s question, I had begun to think of Rome, initially about asking to teach at a theology school there, but eventually about using my sabbatical to get ahead on my next writing project. Even when I tilted toward the latter option, I wondered whether I should try to write a third volume on foundational theology, on Christian norms of faith and life and the nature of theology, or a book on the Trinity. When I put this question to my students toward the end of the semester, they unanimously thought I should write on the Trinity. And, if I had only one more book in me, that is what I preferred to bring to completion. Frank Blood kindly offered me the hospitality of the Generalate of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, of which he was to be director the following year at the request of the Superior General of their congregation. Later I accepted this kind invitation.
Together with this, I had been asked through De Sales School of Theology, which had extension courses in Eastern Europe funded by the American Bishops, to give some talks on theology in Budapest toward the beginning of my sabbatical. They wished to help the Hungarian Church that had for years been largely cut off from the mainstream of the Church by Communist repression. I was happy to do this, and I got in touch with Father Martin Hernady, a Hungarian who had ministered in a diocese in Ohio for decades and was now returning to Hungary. I received a firm invitation from Fr. Tamas Ferrai, S.J. in Hungary, suggesting mid-September for my seminar in Budapest at the Faludi Ferenc Akademia – an invitation I accepted.
Also, as a member of the American Academy of Religion, I had received an invitation to go with an academic group to Russia for two weeks in late September and early October as part of the “Citizen Ambassador Program,” during which there would be opportunity to dialogue with Russian Orthodox theologians. At the CTSA convention in early June, I asked Fr. Michael Fahey, S.J., who was on the Orthodox – Roman Catholic official dialogue, whether this would be worthwhile, since I wanted the book I proposed to write on the Trinity to be particularly relevant to this dialogue. He countered with the suggestion that I go from Budapest to Istanbul and try to get an audience with Patriarch Bartholomew! — When I later mentioned this to Fr. George McLean, he said that if I were to do that I should prepare for it through visiting and chatting with two theologians who were involved in this dialogue, Professor Hryniewicz in Lublin, Poland, and Father Galeriu, an Orthodox priest in Bucharest. I wrote the Patriarch and these two theologians, and later received an invitation to an audience with the Patriarch on October 7, a message from Professor Hryniewicz that he would be out of the country at the time of my visit, and from Fr. Galeriu that he would be happy to meet me.
During the summer I gave a week retreat to Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, together with some Sisters of Social Service and Franciscan Sisters, at Christ the King Seminary near Buffalo, on “The Trinity Active in the Church and in Us.” Happily they felt the retreat was helpful, and I found it helpful as preparation for writing on the implications of the Trinity for Christian spirituality. July 26 was the 100th anniversary of my mother’s birth, and I wrote in my journal:
Thank you Lord for her life. I owe an immense amount to what you gave me through her and my family. Her faith, deep, and her culture and her sensitivity and her enormous generosity. How much that I have written on the “feminine” – especially on symbols of the Holy Spirit, do I owe to you, Lord, through her and the balance between her and Dad.
I completed revision of my manuscript on Faith in God through Jesus Christ. Foundational Theology, II, on the feast of St. Augustine, August 28, and sent it off to Liturgical Press on August 30.
The summer was filled with frenetic preparation for my departure for my sabbatical. And on September 2, I did leave with a footlocker and suitcase for New York and Kennedy Airport where I took Finn Air to Helsinki, staying a night there. I had an opportunity to do a little sightseeing. The very large Orthodox Church and the similarly large Lutheran Cathedral with its immense pulpit and minuscule altar made lasting impressions on me. From there I flew to Rome, where Fr. Frank Blood kindly met me and took me and my luggage by taxi to their Generalate on Via Dandola in Trastevere. It was a lovely mid-sized building set in gardens. The former Superior General, Fr. Roger Balducelli lived there. He had taught for years at the Catholic University before being elected to two terms as Superior General, and was a good conversation partner and a great help to me in many ways. There was also Fr. Testa, rather taciturn, and Maria, the cook, living there, as well as frequent visitors. My room was on the third floor, from which I could see a park and excavations of a 2000 year old Syrian temple. I took a walk around the area with Frank, tried to prepare for the talks I would give in Budapest and for my audience with Patriarch Bartholomew, changed money and bought my train ticket to Budapest. On reflecting on all these arrangements, I wrote in a journal, “All of this is not in character for me. I trust it is God’s work – and frequently wonder in prayer that he has risked split me.” On Thursday, Sept. 7, I took a night train with a couchette for Vienna. – I include as an appendix (#6) a brief account of my travels and meetings in Middle Europe and Istanbul (September 7-October 13), previously published in St. Anselm’s Abbey Newsletter, 1996.
A day or so after returning to Rome, I had a dream of a man who was indignant that no one was helping a little girl who was sick and needed help. And the next morning I noted that in the Liturgy of the Hours:
the first reading was from Haggai, indignant that the people were concerned for their own houses but were leaving the house of God or temple in ruins. And the 2nd reading from Cyril of Alexandria quoted God as saying through Haggai that I will . . . give peace of soul to save all who lay the foundations to rebuild the temple. . . . I took these – dream and readings – as addressed to me. Jesus’ Church in a way lies in ruins, and I am asked to accept the burden of helping rebuild it. . . . Those who believe in God through Jesus Christ are divided, split, sundered, torn. How can I help, with the gifts and opportunities God has given me, to overcome this division? . . . I strongly suspect that a writing on the theology of the Trinity and specifically, or with concentration, on the Holy Spirit can contribute to ths purpose.
I started studying Italian for an hour or so a day, wrote a lot of thank you letters to those with whom I stayed on my travels, and began a routine of using during the weekdays the library at the Gregorian University, that I was kindly allowed to use at no charge. They had an excellent collection of books and periodicals very relevant to my current research. But the books had to remain there. I also used the Pro Unione library near the Piazza Navonna, a library that specialized in books and periodicals that were relevant to the ecumenical movement. Starting this big job prompted my usual concerns, but I wrote in my journal:
A weakness that has plagued me again and again for years is uncertainty, insecurity, about whether the enterprises I was undertaking really came from God or from self. . . . Maybe through this experience I am showing a concern vast numbers of people have in our age – the search for some activity and relationship that is “meaningful,” that is fulfilling, that gives them a sense of worth. My sense of a “numbness” and lack of a sense of direction – of “lostness” at times . . . manifests this lack of being fulfilled on one level. But the very effort to do some little thing for others and for the Church in some need they have that is apparent releases me from this self-concern – and in that way is “saving.”
Later I wrote that “I have found peace in simply praying, ‘Lord, I do not understand!’”
After mass and prayer in the morning I would take two buses to the Gregorian, work there in the morning, have a little lunch nearby and return for a few more hours of study. My initial reading was on books relevant to the Scripture’s teaching on the Trinity, and a month later on the early Church’s search for an articulation of the mystery of the Trinity. The main book on this theme was the Anglican, R. Hanson’s The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God. The Arian Controversy ,318-381. After finishing this massive book by Hanson, I read Augustine’s De Trinitate, sections of other Fathers of the Church on the Trinity and other books and articles, e.g., parts of two volumes on Credo in Spiritum Sanctum on Western and Orthodox theology of the Holy Spirit, expecting to begin writing early in January.
It was not all work. Several times a week I would go to the very large Doria-Pamphili park not far from the Generalate and take a long walk for exercise and a change of pace. I met a Jesuit, Fr. James Spillane, whom I had previously met in Indonesia and then again at a wedding he and I concelebrated for a distant relation of mine, Behan Maris. I also met some Jesuits who were teaching at the Gregorianum, and later a highschool classmate of mine, Fr. James Swetnam, S.J., who was professor and administrator at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. On one evening I had dinner with the President of the English Benedictine Congregation (E.B.C.) and seven monks of the E.B.C. who were living and teaching or studying at the Benedictine international theology school in Rome, San Anselmo. Also, Frank was a great host. At times in the evening, he and I would sit on the roof of their Generalate drinking some wine and having some cheese and crackers, and sharing a good deal as friends. On a Saturday in early November, Frank and I visited the very extensive catacombs of S. Priscilla that contained the earliest painting of Mary and other very early Christian frescoes – an inspiring example of early Christian faith. On other Saturdays we explored churches and renaissance art works in Rome, or I did this on my own. Frequently, Frank and I would visit different churches for Sunday Mass.
And my sister-in-law, Dede, widow of my brother John, who had been separated from John and lived in Rome for decades but had been out of Rome when I returned from my travels, invited me to spend an enjoyable weekend with her and her adult daughter and son, Elizabeth and James, at a house in Umbria. We visited Assisi on the way back – a very moving experience of a largely medieval town with beautiful frescoes by Giotto and others, and where one still felt the presence of St. Francis. Later she took me to Subiaco, the mountain where St. Benedict was a hermit and then established his first monastery. During my stay in Rome I frequently visited Dede for a meal on the weekend or major feasts, at times with Frank.
In late November I attended a conference on the Porvoo statement at the Pro Unione Center. This statement was in preparation for a mutual recognition of ministries between Anglicans and the Nordic Lutheran Churches that had kept the episcopate. There were prominent ecumenical theologians who gave lectures there, including Anglican Ms. Mary Tanner, Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas, German Lutheran Dr. Harding Meyer, Catholic William Henn, O.F.M. and Gerald O’Collins S.J. – the latter two professors at the Gregorian. In my journal I wrote that Zizioulas gave:
an excellent talk on two interpretations of “Apostolic continuity and succession in the early Church” – a linear historical one, used by the West, and an eschatological one that saw bishops in the community acted upon from the future by Christ who is to come – confirming in part some of my own use of eschatology.
Frank and I went to midnight mass at St. Peters with 30,000 others in attendance, a very moving experience, and we walked back to via Dondola after the mass. Several days later, I went with other pilgrims below St. Peter’s to the first century level and, on very good archeological evidence, St. Peter’s tomb and bones. I commented: “It, like midnight mass, reflects the depth of faith on which our Catholic life is based. And it strengthens my faith.” And at the same time I wrote:
Some nights ago I had on two successive nights dreams of losing my way – a type of dream that has been recurrent in my life. . . . Perhaps this is due to the “in between” time on this writing project, and uncertainty about how I will write it up – or if I can! This feeling is no less uncomfortable for being so familiar.
I wrote down one of these dreams:
“I was in the sanctuary of a cathedral and was supposed to do the first reading. But when I went to the book I could not find the appropriate reading and soon I was going elsewhere to try to find it but without success, and then I couldn’t even find the place where I was supposed to read it from!”
At the beginning of 1996 I took a several day retreat at San Anselmo, reading primarily on and by the Christian mystics in Light from Light. An Anthology of Christian Mysticism, written and edited by Louis Dupré and James Wiseman. I reflected:
My prayer: Life with you, Lord, fills my wants! – I prayed this in part because reading these mystics reinvigorates this sense as does the mystery we celebrate in the Christmas season. But also because contrary desires recently flared up in me unexpectedly, and it surprised me, took me unawares, and was not easy until I turned to the Lord to disown them, at least as what I would embrace. – A kind of love was offered me out of the blue – but then I came to recall that our Lord has loved me 365 days X 68 years! – each day!
This was not the first time this occurred in my life and was very different from an attraction that developed over an extended friendship. But it provoked my following comment:
I owe so much to the daily presence of prayer in my life, and particularly to the contemplative payer that has virtually always been a part of every day – directly restoring my “being in touch” with God. I would have been swept away without this, as so many people were, by the urgency a part of myself felt for some need of fulfillment or satisfaction, taking myself too much as identified with that need and level. . . . So many are not in touch with their deeper selves and sacrifice that for their more superficial selves.
I still did not claim to be beyond this tension in my daily life.
In early January I began typing out the first chapter of my manuscript, a chapter on the present problem posed by different Christian theological interpretations of the Trinity. I thought this introduction would give an appropriate framework for an attempt to retrieve a classical Trinitarian theology and then express the mystery in a way that was both faithful to it and faithful to people of our different culture, enabling us to assimilate it into our lives by faith as well as into our minds. I spent about a month on this chapter.
In mid-January I sent a copy of my article on contraception, “The Principle of the Family Good,” to Professor J. Fuchs, S.J., at the Gregorian, asking him whether he could comment on it. I chatted with him later, and he said “‘You have no problem.’ But he added that ‘if you think you can come to Rome and push for change, you are wrong. Try that and they will condemn you.’” The next day I heard a lecture given by Cardinal Cassidy on Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Ut Unum Sint,” with the Pope’s expressed willingness to explore a different mode of exercising papal leadership, though in accord with Catholic belief, and his invitation to church leaders and their theologians to contribute to this effort. I wondered whether I should make some effort in this direction through sending my articles on contraception to some Vatican official. I asked a professor at San Anselmo whether I could consult him on a “possible ecumenical initiative,” and he kindly said I could. In early February I wrote a draft of a letter on the issue, and took it to this professor to have him read and evaluate it. Though he had not read my articles on contraception, he said of the letter that “this has the ring of truth.” I wrote in my journal: “He suggested a few minor changes, but basically was in accord with my sending it – as long as I do not care what happens to me!” So, after modifying the letter, I took it to the Vatican post office and mailed it.
In the letter, after recalling Pope John Paul’s encyclical, “Ut Unum Sint,” and Cardinal Cassidy’s lecture, I said that in accord with that invitation I enclosed two articles on the subject of contraception for his possible consideration, noting that the principles used were not those of proportionalism or moral reasoning rejected by the Pope’s, “Veritatis Splendor.” I wrote in part:
This issue is very closely tied to the Pope’s exercise of his ministry as a “service of love recognized by all concerned.” It is closely tied to the question whether authorities in the Church can listen to views which, while differing from their own, may well be calls for a genuine development in the Church’s teaching . . . Some 80% of the Catholic laity in the United States who regularly go to mass do not accept the Pope’s teaching on this issue. . . . I do not question His Holiness’ good will, though aspersions have been cast on those who differ from him in this. I question his theology and philosophy.
A couple of nights later I woke up with anxiety about what would result from my letter, and wrote to two cardinals with whom I had been in contact in the past, sending them the documentation I had sent to the official of the Curia (the central administrative body of the Vatican) and asking for a contact in Rome in case there was a second step. Happily, in a couple of weeks a letter came from the secretary of the Curial official stating that my articles would be “studied and duly noted.” When I sent on this information to the two cardinals, one wrote back that I had still better get myself a canon lawyer, since in the present climate in the Church there would probably be a further response from the Curia. But I fortunately heard no more.
I began writing the second chapter of my opus, this one on the witness to the Trinity in Scripture. – And on weekends I continued to explore Rome. On Ash Wednesday, I went to San Anselmo, where, as was his custom on that day, the Pope came and began the “Latin Stations, ” that is, presiding at masses at different churches in Rome during Lent. From San Anselmo, there was a procession to the nearby Santa Sabina, a Dominican church, where the Pope presided at mass, blessed the ashes and distributed them to Benedictines and Dominicans, while others distributed them to assembled clergy and congregation. It was a good and compelling beginning for Lent. – Frank and I took part in a group trip to Siena on February 22 – very impressive Tuscany scenery and especially impressive witnesses in Siena to its great saint, St. Catherine who was a contemplative and a ‘force of nature’ in the 14th century, a very troubled time for the papacy and Church.
After finishing a draft of chapter two, I was feeling very tired and decided to take a trip to Salzburg and other spots by a Europass. I took a train on Saturday, March 16, to Innsbruck and walked to the Theology Faculty building of the University of Innsbruck where Karl Rahner had taught for so much of his life. I met Fr. Edmund Runggaldier, S.J., whom I had met in Taiwan in 1988, and we had a good chat about the use and lack of use of philosophy in Catholic theology. Then I took a train to Salzburg, and from there to Braunau am Inn where Dietmar and Carmen Krisai met me. Dietmar’s mother, Dietlinda, had stayed with my family in the early 1950′s as an exchange student and had kept in touch with the family ever since. I had visited her in 1976; and her son and Carmen had visited me in Washington D.C., when they spent a year in New York City. They were living in a house built in 1450! And their family business, initially in transportation, began in 1702! They were facing business difficulties due to Austria’s entrance into the European Union. The only part of the business that had not declined was the funeral business! Dietlinda was a lovely and charming and talented woman; she had been elected to the parish council for the last 26 years. It was an enjoyable visit. The next afternoon Carmen decided to return by train with me to Salzburg, where we walked around, she pushing a tram with her youngest child in it. We had a coffee in a coffee house that had started in 1707. I am sure Mozart drank coffee here. I stayed that night in the large St. Peter’s Abbey. Their liturgy was in German. They were very welcoming.
The next morning I explored more of Salzburg, and then took a train to Zurich, from Zurich to Luzern, and thence to Engelberg to visit Engelberg Abbey where Fr. Thomas Blättler, a Benedictine who had spent a couple of years at St. Anselm’s studying English, lived. Their Abbey had been founded in1120 and was in continuous existence since then, with many differing fortunes. It was located in a valley surrounded by high snow covered mountains, one of which I ascended via a ski lift through several levels the next morning. There were many skiers there. The next evening was the first vespers of the Feast of St. Benedict (March 21); their German chant was quite prayerful, strong and attractive. Thomas and I had a long talk in the evening. The next morning they had a very celebratory mass of St. Benedict with a choir, primarily from their school, of 60 singers, using a polyphonic ordinary composed earlier in the century by one of their monks. And they held a reception later for their large congregation. I was shown around their monastery and school and had another long chat with Thomas. The next day I took the trains back to Rome.
On March 25 I started the third chapter of my book, this one on the early development of theologies of the Trinity in the Church leading eventually to the Councils of Nicea (325) and First Constantinople (381). But the following weeks were to be interrupted by some trips, so I hoped to finish this chapter before returning to the USA on May 26.
In Holy Week, I attended mass on Holy Thursday at San Anselmo; Frank and I attended the Good Friday Mass of the Pre-Sanctified at the English College, a seminary for English seminarians. And on Good Friday evening, we went to the area near the Colosseum where the Pope led the stations of the cross. On Saturday evening we attended the Vigil Mass at the English College; and on Easter morning we did the same. All of these were beautiful and moving liturgies and very renewing for me.
The following weeks were interspersed with a few side trips with friends and relations, But, due to my reading some months earlier, I was able to finish a draft of my chapter on the development of the Church’s doctrine of the Trinity up to the First Council of Constantinople (381) in mid-April. And I began researching the beginning of a further chapter, this one on some major developments in understanding the mystery in Western Christianity from the time of Augustine.
On May 7, I met Fr. Ya’aqov Willebrand and Brother Kees, members of my brother Tommy’s community in Galilee, near S. Maria Maggiore, and we chatted for a couple of hours. I was very impressed by F. Ya’aqov, whom I had earlier met in 1972 on my trip to Israel. He is a gentle man, filled with Christian faith and dedication to being an instrument of peace in the place where he is. – On the 8th I conducted a funeral service for Dede’s good friend, Myra, a Christian Scientist who did not get early enough medical treatment for her cancer. This service was in the Protestant cemetery, and was attended by about 60 of Myra’s friends. Picking the readings and saying a few words was somewhat difficult, but I did not think I offended anyone and I may have touched a few hearts.
In late May, I did some more work, making some progress on chapter four, but basically prepared to return to St. Anselm’s, which I did by Finn Air on May 26th, stopping for an overnight in Helsinki.
Back at St. Anselm’s I wrote:
Thank you Lord for the great gift this sabbatical in Europe – and specifically in Rome – has been. . . My sense on coming back to St. A.’s is that this is good. I am glad to be back; being away further would have been unreal. The style of life here is much better and more native to me than that of 49 via Dondolo and the Roman scene.
Also in reference to my work:
I thank him [God] if my search for a ‘centrist’ theology in accord with my limited lights . . . seems a more long term project with fewer immediate returns than approaches to theology based on more fragmentary perspectives. . . . I thank you for leading me in the past decades by a path that embraces a theology more inclusive, more rooted and more adequate to today’s needs than many theologies I know. . . . May I not glory except in . . . genuine love of you – which is your greatest gift.
I thanked Fr. Abbot for the sabbatical and chatted with him about it.
In June I attended the CTSA convention, corrected the galleys for my book, Faith in God through Jesus Christ, and I got back to the Trinity manuscript. That I had written drafts of three chapters and part of another during my sabbatical was quite encouraging. I wrote:
I was only able to discern and respond to God’s call in my life at crucial times in the past through an acceptance of an insecurity and emptiness in part of myself – listening to the Spirit rather than to those cravings for reassurance and a kind of aliveness that comes from others’ affirmation.
Nothing much had changed at St. Anselm’s. There were a few blasts against me in homilies, and so I felt that there are a few here who do not want me to speak even in ways that others sensed were appropriate. I wrote: “I do not want to give up the freedom of spirit I had developed to some further extent in Rome.” This and criticisms of me made at the last official visitation made me wonder whether I should accept the position of vocation director again, as the Abbot had requested. I consulted Fr. Alban on this, and he said that I should not feel guilty if I decline the invitation, if Fr. Hilary is willing to take it. Actually, Fr. Hilary did not want to continue it. And at times, I was suspicious that others were negative toward me when in fact they were not. So I did accept Fr. Abbot’s invitation, and took up the job again in late summer. – I wrote toward the end of our August community retreat:
A very important part of this year is realizing daily that my life is far more than this community – God is my life and the world is my parish! What Br. X does or does not do can assume an importance for me that is enormously greater than it actually has. With God’s help I can preserve the freedom of spirit he gave me on my sabbatical.
At the end of August, Fr. Crossin, the President of De Sales School of Theology, came to inform me that the Provincial of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales and his Council had decided to close the School of Theology after the 1996-1997 academic year. They did this though the school was in the black and was attracting more lay students and seminarians of other religious congregations. I was disappointed, but not deeply so. Fr. Crossin was, on the other hand and understandably, deeply disappointed. So, this would be the last year of my regular teaching, and I began to wonder whether I should apply to be a visiting professor elsewhere. I did get permission to apply, and did so, particularly to a university in Brazil that was in the practice of inviting a visiting professor who would give lectures in English, and which showed interest in an enquiry I had made a few years earlier. But the times had changed, and they were no longer open to this, at least as far as I was concerned.
I had a colonoscopy in the fall, not my first, and it was discovered that I had a “villous adenoma,” a kind of blanket growth in one area of the colon that was pre-cancerous and that the doctor could not take out as he could a polyp. The doctor asked me to return in 6 months. When I told this to a friend of mine, Helen Stanbro, who indexed articles for the National Library of Medicine, she looked up on the internet and found that there was one authenticated case of cancer being removed from the colon by a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug called piroxicam. My regular doctor said I might try this up to three months. Having done so, when I went to the surgeon the next May and he performed a colonoscopy, he found that the “villous adenoma” had disappeared. This was something to be very thankful for to God.
I was able to do some work on my manuscript on the Trinity and completed a draft of chapter 4 by late October; but other than that, I was not able to get to work on this till the following Spring, because of my regular teaching, my work as vocation director, my proof reading of the galleys for my book and preparing indices for it, and my search for a way forward for the following academic year. I was, however, selecting, editing and collecting many homilies I had given on Sundays of the Year and feasts, thinking that they might be of service since many people had said that they found my homilies helpful. My sister Cordelia had encouraged me to do some writing in a more popular vein than my usual publications.
I did thrash around about what academic work to seek for the following year. A number of options came to me, realistic or not. For example, Fr. George McLean suggested that I could teach for 6 weeks in their seminary in South Africa or at Fudan University in Shanghai that had received permission to start a program on Christianity. I did think that completing the book on the Trinity should take priority, but also that perhaps teaching for a while elsewhere would not be an obstacle to that. — On Good Friday , as usual, I picked a thorn from a thorn tree in back of the school, and I found a pencil below the thorn tree: “after picking the thorn I just picked up the pencil – and then it came to me that probably the main cross our Lord asks of me this coming year is continued writing of this book on the Trinity!” I did express to Fr. Abbot Aidan that I thought my priority should be to finish the book on the Trinity, and he accepted this. – - I told myself that Fr. Thomas Verner Moore had retired from teaching when he was 69 years old and entered the Carthusians. So I did not have the responsibility to search for another regular teaching job.
On May 2nd, the feast of St. Athanasius, I taught my last class at De Sales School of Theology after 27 years of teaching there. On May 7th I received copies from Liturgical Press of my book, Faith in God through Jesus Christ. Foundational Theology II, for which I thanked God. I dedicated it “To my colleagues and students at De Sales School of Theology, past and present, in friendship.”On May 10, De Sales School of Theology had its final commencement celebration. I gave the commencement address on “The Service of Ministry,” using the period between the Councils of Nicea and First Constantinople (325-381) to help us understand something of the plight of the Church now: “A number of people expressed appreciation – and claimed ‘I could understand it.’ Apparently I exited keeping my reputation intact! But it is good for people to raise their minds to the context of what they more immediately experience, and this is the way I think!”
I began my ‘retirement’ with a private retreat at Priestfield, West Virginia in late May, reading particularly Angela of Foligno. Complete Works (Classics of Western Spirituality), because of the vividness of her recognition of Christ’s love for her and of her expressions of love for him. One thing that came to me forcefully was that:
Everybody lives with things they cannot change. Even Jesus was not able to change some people. And he lived abandoned to the Father and to the consequences in these conditions. . . . I have been overly concerned about people’s negative reaction to me when I have in conscience – and at times with advice – spoken God’s word.
As usual, a retreat for me was a great grace, giving me once more a sense of being in touch with God and my own deeper self, and thus too a sense of peace and direction for the immediate future.
During the summer I attended the CTSA convention and the Lumen Orientale Conference, a symposium of Latin Catholics and Orthodox on common issues. I also took an illuminating course from Sister Constance Fitzgerald, O.C.D. at the Washington Theological Union on St. John of the Cross. And I drove to Long Branch, New Jersey, to hear a lecture by Cardinal Danneels of Belgium on the priesthood today at the “Summer Institute for Clergy,” an excellent lecture.– I was given a new and more advanced computer by friends.
I was able to start chapter five of my manuscript on the Trinity, a chapter on the Trinity in relation to the orders of salvation and creation. For the theme of the Trinity’s relation to creation I had to read some contemporary science, and was particularly helped by Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature’s Creative Ability, especially his analysis of how the evolutionary process reflects both a downward causality and a searching thrust on the part of active matter. I found this very helpful in modifying a classical interpretation of the Trinity’s relation to physical creation.
Toward the end of August we had our annual community retreat preached by Abbot Jerome Kodell of Subiaco Abbey, Arkansas. It was an excellent retreat, beginning by a reminder that we “feel that we – - like Israelites of old – are in the wilderness – but everybody is in the wilderness. It is good that we are in the wilderness. . . . It is a question of trust. Wilderness is a place of danger – from wild animals, from plants and water that were poisonous.” Among other things, he pointed out how people try to escape the wilderness, e.g., by denial or by keeping control, adding “we are all moving toward death and diminishment. We can in trust give up control of our lives to God or we can wait till it is taken from us.” Toward the end of the retreat, I wrote: “I have felt I never said anything tougher.” I was not the only one in the community, however, to say things that some others initially reacted to. As an example, a notice appeared on our bulletin board shortly before the next Epiphany, with the heading “The prayer of Helena to the Magi”:
“You are my special patrons” said Helena, “and patrons of all late-comers, of all who have a tedious journey to make to the truth, of all who are confused with knowledge and speculation, of all who through politeness make themselves partners in guilt, of all who stand in danger by reason of their talents. For His sake who did not reject your curious gifts, pray always for all the learned, the oblique, the delicate. Let them not be quite forgotten at the Throne of God when the simple come into their kingdom.”
Someone accused me of putting up this notice; but actually it was Abbot Alban, without any indication of targeting anyone. Perhaps he was including himself in this prayer.
Early September I wrote a letter to the brethren, telling them what we had done to encourage vocations to St. Anselm’s since I had returned from my sabbatical, recognizing the community’s rightful concern with this issue – and documenting our activities in anticipation of possible future criticism of me in this regard. — There was a young man who entered the community as a postulant. He remained until simple vows but later withdrew. Another was in simple vows, but became more and more isolated from the community and was later asked to withdraw.
During the fall I continued work on the manuscript and did complete a draft of chapter five on December 8th. I had attended a convention of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature earlier in November, hearing some excellent lectures on the Holy Spirit that helped me later in writing on this theme. I also answered an add for a position as visiting professor in religious studies at a university – but the position was given to one who had more background in Jewish studies than I had.
In the new year, 1998, Abbot Aidan was re-elected to another eight year term as Abbot, and I congratulated him and thanked him for accepting it. – Also, I had a day of recollection, and wondered on paper:
Perhaps my ‘besetting’ sin is doubt about the path I am taking. Does it come from God? And so I am divided in mind. Frequently in the past when I took up a writing project – and in the process I did not know whether it was from presumption or in response to God’s invitation – whether it would succeed or fail.– I feel this way once more about this book on the Trinity. E.g., am I still capable of this sustained work? Do I have something distinctive to say that the Church needs? Should my time be directed more to other things?
But on the feast of St. Gregory of Nyssa, January 10, I had a clear grace or insight:
that my having philosophical and theological insights I have had and having written them up is no more due to me than the visions of the children at Fatima . . . were due to them!! So I can both proclaim them – I can’t deny them nor do I have to present them as beyond question – and take no credit for them. . . . In so far as they are true they are God’s gift and I should be a good steward and make them known. That is their purpose.
In mid-February I started giving an adult education course on my book, Belief in God in Our Time, which I enjoyed and the attendees seemed to appreciate. I also gave a couple of lectures, on Merton and on the Holy Spirit. — In Holy Week we gave a retreat for six young men who had expressed a possible interest in monastic life. A couple of these men made multiple visits to St. Anselm’s, but finally did not enter.
At the invitation of my sister-in-law Dede I took a two week vacation in Rome, April 14-28. It was delightful being back there at the Generalate of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales with Fr. Frank Blood, with more sightseeing of the treasures of Rome, and with a good number of meals with Dede and her adult children Elizabeth and Jimmy. I also had pleasant meetings with Fr. Gerald O’Collins, S.J. and with Fr. James Puglisi, an Atonement Friar who was a student of mine in the early ‘70s and was now director of the Pro Unione Library, where a number of ecumenical events are held. He was living with his small community in a building that was constructed in 1432! Both of these priests were concerned about recent initiatives of the Vatican that seemed to dampen the Church’s ecumenical commitment. – One old Italian priest whom I had met before and who had three doctorates confided in me that it was very hard for him to believe in the Holy Spirit as a person, and in the immortality of the soul. Now his interest was in gardening! — One of the main reasons for my visitation to Rome was to baptize Ludovica, the daughter of Dede’s son Francis and his wife, Alessandra. Francis and Alessandra were not married in the Church but they promised to raise Ludovica Catholic, and other priests in Rome assured me that it was customary to baptize children in such circumstances.
On returning to Washington, I learned that three women I knew had died while I was in Rome! – In late May I finished a draft of chapter six of my manuscript, this one on “The Father’s Generation of the Son,” in which, among other things, I suggested a modification of Thomas’ interpretation, so that the knowledge by which the Father generates a Son is understood by analogy more with our act of faith than with our simply objective knowledge. And in explaining this kind of personal knowledge, I used the first article I had ever published, on “Existence, the Intellect and the Will.” Then I started preparing to write a draft of the next chapter, on “The Procession of the Holy Spirit within the Trinity,” which I completed in late July. It dealt with a theology of the Holy Spirit in the economies of salvation and creation and within the Trinity. And I accepted an invitation to teach a course on “Theological Anthropology” at the Catholic University in the Fall – a substitution for Professor Peter Casarella who was to be on sabbatical.
We had a good community retreat in late August from Archabbot Lambert of St. Meinrad, and once more the question haunted me:
Why do I feel so little – and writing or preparing a homily comes usually only after feeling numb and a blank mind and a semi-death of feeling? . . . I don’t feel an enormous thirst for God so much as a numbness and blankness and emptiness. . . . [After giving some possible answers to the question, I wrote] I do not have to know. God knows. I should have some compassion for myself – and encourage myself, knowing I am a split person and Satan would be happy if this feeling of deadness pulled me down and made me slack off from a responsible and hoping use of my time, leaving the outcome to God.
Counter to this, on Saturday, September 19, I celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of my monastic profession with a joyous buffet supper after Vespers to which I had invited some fifty relatives and friends. Four of my siblings were there (Edward Scott, Frank, Peter and Julia), three sisters in laws (Dede, Joy and June), and two nephews and a niece (Mark, Sean and Ellie). The next morning I was main celebrant at our Sunday Conventual Mass to which many of these same friends came. I include as an appendix (#7) the homily I gave.
Aside from teaching a course on Theological Anthropology, I continued work on my manuscript, reading for and writing on chapter 8, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit as Three Relational Persons in One Being.” I completed a draft of this chapter on February 5, 1999. And I began reading for the next and final chapter, “A Trinitarian Spirituality.” I gave a couple of talks, one on Benedictine prayer and another on life as a Benedictine. And I prepared for a trip to Israel organized by “Catholic Travel Office” that I was asked to lead as spiritual director. Several couples from my “Team of our Lady” and sixteen other people were taking this from April 16-April 25. On Easter Sunday, April 5, I wrote in my journal:
One thing that strikes me this morning is that our Lord has ‘raised’ this insignificant kid to a union with him and a task for his people totally out of proportion to any worth or response of mine.
I have on my desk a picture taken of 11 of us kids in 1936 – summer, when I was 8 years old! – a totally unprepossessing kid!
It is impossible to do justice to the grace that our pilgrimage to the Holy Land was for all of us. We were fortunate to be there in an interlude of peace. Our visits to different places graced by the presence of Jesus, Mary and the disciples were accompanied by readings from Scripture appropriate to the location and, usually, a mass. It was a great gift for us and a very moving experience to be present and celebrate mass together at such places as Nazareth, Mt. Tabor, and, later, Bethlehem in the “Grotto of the Nativity,” and in Jerusalem in the chapel of the Crucifixion in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. I had prepared homilies for all these masses beforehand, and a few times I was so overcome by emotion that I could scarcely continue with my homily. I included these homilies in a collection of homilies, God’s Word Calls and Nourishes. Homilies for Special Occasions, which will be published. – We had an excellent guide from Shepherds’ Tours, Ryad, who was a Catholic Arab and who informed us of both the significance of ancient sights and the circumstances of Israel of the present, with the great injustice done to the native Palestinians. When we as a group were in Galilee, we went to visit my brother Tommy’s small monastery, Lavra Netofa. The group was moved by the austerity of the community, the beauty of their chapel and the spectacular view from their mountain top. When the group returned to the USA I spent an extra five days with my brother and his community, returning to St. Anselm’s on April 30th.
I returned to working on chapter nine of my manuscript on the Trinity and to revising earlier chapters. – St. Anselm’s had its usual quadriennial canonical visitation from the Abbot President of the English Benedictine Congregation in early June. One major concern of the community was, appropriately, vocations; and some complained that I was not doing enough as vocation director. I gave the visitators information on what we had been doing on that front (e.g., advertising, letters in response to enquiries, visits by searchers and interviews, and a Holy Week retreat for such men), how four had applied to enter in the last few years, one had entered and left, two had entered and stayed, and one – a diocesan priest – had been asked by his bishop to put off his entrance for a year. (Actually, of the two who stayed and were in simple vows, one eventually left and the other was asked to leave because of his self chosen isolation and increasingly bad health. The priest finally did not follow up his interest.) Our dearth in vocations was rather common to many Benedictine communities. – In the summer I gave a series of six lectures on Thomas Merton for the Smithsonian Associates to some 120 who attended. – a series for which I did a good deal of preparation. And I used what time I had to continue trying to complete the manuscript on the Trinity.
In mid August we had our annual community retreat given by Fr. Eugene Hensell, OSB from St. Meinrad Archabbey. Fr. Hensell had done some work with religious communities seeking a new start — invited even when he told them that they would get angry with him. He spoke with occasional self-mockery, but the retreat was centered on an experience of community we could all identify with. He spoke, for example, of Jesus getting discouraged because few people responded to his proclamation of the good news, how the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed rather than a cedar of Lebanon, as we would like it, how in a community discussion different people speak from their model of how the world works, how A and B may have different models and so each speaks past the other’s view. This is different from dialogue — proven to be dialogue when one can repeat what another has said to his satisfaction. He spoke of how if you put a frog into boiling water it will resist mightily, but if you put it into slightly warm water and then the pot over a small flame, it will stay until the water boils and he dies – a reference to how communities can slide imperceptibly into death. And he concluded by citing Jesus’ example of washing his disciples’ feet after the Last Supper and calling us to love one another.
In the fall I taught a mini-course on Christology to Junior Sisters at the Little Sisters of the Poor, attended a conference on post-modernism at Villanova University at which Jacques Derrida spoke, and an American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature in Boston. – On November 18th I completed a draft of the ninth and final chapter of my book on the Trinity. I noted: “Today is a memorial for St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, R.S.C.J., founder of St. Charles Academy” where some of my sisters went to school. I added, “This completion is a first degree miracle – and I am sure I owe it largely to the intercession of Mom, Dee, Doots, and others in my family . . . who are in the presence of God.”
In early 2000 I once more taught for the Little Sisters of the Poor, this time on ecumenism, taught an adult education course on Jesus, using my book Faith in God through Jesus Christ, and revised chapters of my manuscript on the Trinity. On Good Friday I wrote:
Yesterday evening praying before the altar of repose, I once more felt split in prayer — part of me in faith and part not. But, certain in faith of Christ’s presence, I accepted the contrary feeling as cost of trust and love. This same split occurs again and again in differing circumstances – with my work, my brethren, decisions, etc. – Part of the prayer I have each morning is, “Lord, help me first to accept joyfully any situation I am in and only then seek to interpret it – above all my brothers and others I encounter, and my own interior and exterior condition.
I completed the revision of my manuscript in mid May, and Professor Peter Phan of the Catholic University School of Theology very kindly read it for me. He read it over the summer, was very positive about it, and suggested a change in the first chapter to make it more user friendly for students who have very little knowledge of the historical course of the development of the doctrine in the Church, a recommendation I accepted.