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This article examines biblical allusions in Simone Weil's “On the Right Use of School Studies,” in which she argues that study can train our attention to God and neighbor. Focusing on Weil's use of Jesus' teachings that mention bread, meals, and table service, this article reveals an underlying theme of Eucharist (communion) in Weil's essay on study. Together with Weil's comment that studies are “like a sacrament,” this analysis suggests that Weil offers a “eucharistic pedagogy” shaped by her mystical theology of Eucharist, a theology itself shaped by George Herbert's English-language poem “Love.” Throughout, the article compares Weil's original French with its English translation, noting where the translation obscures her use of the Bible or her theology, and it also examines the Greek biblical text, since Weil read the New Testament in its Greek original. The article concludes with a critique of Weil's educational vision, which relies on a dyadic vision of eucharist, and suggests that a communal vision of eucharist can support a social vision of education.
Jean-Luc Marion is often interpreted as a thinker of the purely invisible and apophatic, in tension with the rich forms of mediation found in Christian practice. I will challenge these assumptions through a close reading of one of Marion's rare concrete examples, the “icon”— not his philosophical use of the term, but the holy image that initially inspired it. Marion defines the sacred image by its “transparency,” “self-effacement,” or “kenosis.” This seems to indicate that the icon must cancel itself out to make room for God, an iconoclastic attitude with troubling consequences for the believer who prays to the icon and for the rest of the finite world. By rigorously developing Marion's understanding of this word “kenosis,” I argue that, counter to initial impressions, this account of the sacred image is deeply faithful to the essential aspects of the Byzantine icon understood as a “window into heaven.”
In recent decades, the use of metaphor in ecclesiology has been broadly critiqued on the ground that metaphors are too abstract and idealized to advance our understanding of the concrete church in history; consequently, ecclesiology has embraced an “empirical turn,” incorporating fields like ethnography and social sciences. In this article, the author argues for a positive function of metaphor in ecclesiology drawing from the work of Janet Martin Soskice. Metaphors link various associative networks of meaning and in doing so open up new imaginative horizons. This theory allows ecclesial metaphors to be examined for their adequacy in light of other empirical or nontheological fields of knowledge. In turn, this invites the theologian to explore other associative networks of meaning such that a metaphor leads to new insights into the nature and mission of the church. The metaphor of the church as the body of Christ serves as a test case.
In “its deepest intuitions,” Vatican II was a missionary council whose stated purpose was to renew the church spiritually and institutionally and so prepare the Catholic community to evangelize a changed, more complex world. Church leaders’ subsequent failure to correctly understand the council's biblically sourced, trinitarian view of mission's object, its method and agency, led to a failure to implement Vatican II's practical pastoral aims. Although the conciliar vision was committed to and embedded in the reformed liturgical rites where it continues to nourish and inspire Catholic life today, the absence of the institutional, ministerial supports needed to complete what the liturgy instills forever blocks achievement of the council's aims. The experience of the US church provides a ready example of how Vatican II's pastoral vision was waylaid and goes unrealized yet today.
De la vie d'oraison is an early and neglected work by Jacques Maritain. Exploring its major themes and biographical context reveals a tension in Maritain between his commitment to orthodox Catholic mystical theology and his belief in his godfather Léon Bloy's unique, tripartite vocation of lay mystic, prophet, and artist. This tension, I argue, has been overlooked due to Maritain's public image as an esteemed Thomist philosopher, but becomes clear when we study Maritain's defense of Bloy, especially in his dialogues with his Dominican peers and church authorities. I suggest that this tension reveals two deep-seated convictions at work in Maritain's life and writings. The first is that the reasons for the necessity of lay Catholic mysticism, and the diverse forms it may take, need to be spelled out more clearly. The second is that for Maritain, his godfather is an exemplar of such lay Catholic mysticism. Understanding Maritain's reasons for these convictions can open up a pathway for Catholic mystical theology to better accommodate and conceptualize alternative forms of mystical life among laypeople whose mystical and artistic experiences spill over traditional theological categories.
There has been an increasing interest in classical and late antique studies on the existence of something approximating the modern concept of race in the ancient Greco-Roman world. Scholars of early Christianity have also debated the presence of prejudice based on skin color. The following study seeks to broaden this conversation by including late antique contexts outside of the Roman Empire as well as marginal language communities within the Roman Empire. This paper will demonstrate that anti-Black prejudice—or racism—did indeed exist in the late antique Roman world and that such racism was more pronounced in Roman literature written in Greek and Latin.
Claiming Voice: Ordained and Laypeople Co-Creating the Church
This theological roundtable has stand-alone articles that are complementary and together trace a flow toward ecclesial participation, of movements of bodies and voices, toward full inclusion in the Catholic Church. These works, taken together, can shed light on the dynamism and development of the church when it responds to pressing social and cultural needs—from official development of structures within the ordained magisterium in response to poverty and economic crises (Yount) to students moving together for change and participatory inclusion (Ahern) and from lay adults forming social action communities for racial justice (Rademacher) and, building on the experience of lay LGBTQ+ Catholics, to demand ecclesial participation (Flanagan). It is movements such as these that call and enact development in the church, and knowing what has come before can prompt our own reflection on what needs to come next and the role of each of us in that.
In his 2019 post-synodal apostolic exhortation, Christus Vivit, Pope Francis identifies an important challenge for the church today. “Youth ministry,” he writes, “has to be synodal; it should involve a ‘journeying together’ … through a process of co-responsibility … Motivated by this spirit, we can move towards a participatory and co-responsible Church.”
Eileen Fagan's and Janice Thompson's thoughtful and provocative call for papers in the Mysticism and Politics section of the 2021 College Theology Society (CTS) Annual Meeting prompted me to think anew about the complex legacy of the Friendship House (FH) movement in the United States. Fagan and Thompson invited papers that would help CTS members reflect on how we might “approach our world with a ‘mysticism of open eyes’ and an ‘attitude of encounter’” and to “think of and act on behalf of a future that shows Christianity embracing human dignity and common good for all God's people.” A look to the past can help us work more effectively in the present for that kind of future. The history of Friendship House, a mid-twentieth-century Catholic interracial movement, combined spirituality and action for justice in ways that merit a closer look. More specifically, the archival and published material from the Friendship House movement in the 1940s illustrates the legacy of one Catholic action initiative centered on racial justice that combined spirituality and political action for the common good. This history can help contemporaries track ways that Catholics have been involved in such movements and might be engaged in similar efforts today.
As the other articles in this roundtable suggest, Catholics in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century were able to draw upon a long tradition of lay involvement in various lay apostolates, the renewed teaching on the role of the laity proclaimed at the Second Vatican Council, and the worldwide presence of forms of international lay organizations, including Pax Romana and Catholic student movements. Additional contributions to this discussion could easily include some of the other official and institutionalized forms of lay involvement that proliferated in the twentieth century—the rise of various new ecclesial movements such as Opus Dei, Focolare, and the Communità Sant'Egidio; the Catholic Family movement and other forms of lay-led renewal at the national and parish level that pursued the conciliar vision of the universal call to holiness with enthusiasm and persistence; the entry of thousands of laypeople into ministries and teaching roles previously restricted, in practice if not always in statute, to the ordained and to members of religious communities; and the particular roles of lay Catholics with historically oppressed or marginalized racial and ethnic identities in finding a voice in postconciliar Catholicism.