Monday, September 28, 2015

Food for Thought

By Sr. Laura Coughlin

This post is written as a thankful offering on the sixteenth anniversary of my entrance into the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.  The vigil of St. Vincent de Paul’s feast day marks my entrance into postulancy along with that of Sister Karen Cunningham, who ministers at a home for the elderly run by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Pittsburgh.  Happy anniversary Karen!

Although this date is special to me personally for what it represents of my own history, I offer here a slice of life from my present experience as an MDiv student at Boston College.  Enjoy the ride through some of the more interesting quotations gleaned in readings during the last few years.  My commentary is shown in red. 

“We should be average preachers in order for all of us to be uniform; for each man can become average, but few can attain loftiness.”

St. Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents
* * *

“By vigils and fasts she mortifies her body…By a cold chastity she seeks to put out the flame of lust…by a deliberate squalor she makes haste to spoil her natural good looks  Let her treasures be not silks or gems but manuscripts of the holy scriptures…let her think less of gilding than of…accurate punctuation.  Let her begin by learning the psalter…Let her follow the example set in Job of virtue and of patience…Let her pass on to the gospels…Let her also drink in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles…the prophets…the books of Kings and…Chronicles…the rolls also of Ezra and Esther. 
When she has done all these she may safely read the Song of Songs…”

St. Jerome, advising his associate’s daughter-in-law on how to raise her little girl - Letter to Laeta
* * *

“It is possible to enjoy sad feelings.”

Augustine, Confessions, in a section entitled, Student Years at Carthage, Sex and Shows
* * *

“To put it as simply as possible: the old Easter Vigil was a very sexy affair, and the modern one looks as if Mrs Mary Whitehouse has been getting at it.”

Herb McCabe, O.P., in God Matters (Such a great book)
* * *

“Freedom cannot be sustained without a certain amount of dogmatism.”

Philosopher Slavoj Zizek in Spiegel Online, March 31, 2013
* * *

“Do you remember the beautiful penultimate scene in Manhattan where Woody Allen is lying on his couch and talking into a tape recorder? He is writing a short story about people who are creating unnecessary, neurotic problems for themselves, because it keeps them from dealing with more unsolvable, terrifying problems about the universe.”

Bill Joy in a Wired Magazine editorial, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us”, April 2000
* * *

“To liberals, fundamentalists and evangelicals often seem like na├»ve Bible thumpers.  Haven’t they heard about modern science or biblical scholarship?  Don’t they care about the truth?  Yet in the broad perspective, the fundamentalist stance – occasional anti-intellectualism and all – has succeeded in preserving much of what is most basic about the Bible, the ancient approach to reading it.”
(good Jewish news for my Adventist relatives)

James Kugel in a chapter entitled After Such Knowledge, from his book, How to Read the Bible
* * *

“Thanks to the qualities of the Christian message itself and the many signs given in history, the Christian religion may be described as ‘evidently credible’ “ (Vatican I, DS 3013).
(evidently credible?!)

Avery Dulles in Systematic Theology, Roman Catholic Perspectives, Fiorenza et al.
* * *

“We who have gone out from the world to God, return with him in his entrance into the world, and are nearest to him there where he is furthest away from himself in his true love of the world; there and in this we are nearest to him because, if God is love, one comes closest to it where, having given itself as love to the world, it is furthest away from itself.”
(what a romantic vision of mission)

Karl Rahner, The Humanity of Jesus
* * *

“On falling from the horse, he lost consciousness; when he recovered it, the present was almost intolerable it was so rich and bright; the same was true of the most ancient and trivial memories.”

Description of Ireneo Funes, fictional character of Jorge Luis Borges’ Funes the Memorius
* * *
And finally, lest you should think I would leave Vincent with only one quote encouraging the religious order he founded toward a mediocre standard, I offer this final thought from our dear patron.   Let us notice that the saint’s desire for “average” preaching was yet one more way of acknowledging that….

“Our Lord had made vows, not as God, but as man.”

St. Vincent de Paul, Conferences to the Congregation of the Mission

To the Sisters of Charity – thank you for a wonderful sixteen years, and thank you for those still to come!

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