I am so excited about Pope Benedict-Francis’ new Encyclical on Faith that completes Benedict XVI’s faith-hope-charity trilogy. I gave it a quick read tonight and one quote especially captured my attention as a theologian, especially as I am heading to Omaha now to teach at the Institute for Priestly Formation where one of our core goals is to help foster in future priests a deepened awareness that studying theology is never “just” academic, but is in its “soul” a means of entering in a living way into the secret depths of the divine Mind. Theologians are called to acquire the “mind of Christ” in a real way, and not just become collectors of revealed data about God. Gasp: we are called to know God with God. To think His thoughts, or as my Ignatius retreat director said to me last day during my 8 day retreat: “When you pray as a theologian, Tom, let Jesus think his thoughts in you, let him inhabit your thinking with his own.”
But only a theologian who is in love with God can conceive thus of his or her theological labors.
In 1995, my grandfather (aka Pop) wrote a letter to me and my soon-to-be wife Patti of his love for my grandmother (aka Nana). I have shared from this letter before in NealObstat. Pop captured powerfully the intimate and inseparable relationship between loving and knowing, and the truth that knowing another in love leads to an ever-deepening union:
From now on, it is up to you, Tom, and you, Patti, to love together, to laugh together, to cry together, to respond together, to be joined together. When one is cut, the other bleeds; when one wants, the other gives. There are no rules; there are no formulas; there are no singular pronouns. There is no “I”, “me”, “my”, “mine”. Only “us”, “ours”. I don’t know where Nana begins and I end, or where I begin and she ends. There is and always has been the union of all singular pronouns into a composite image of joy, happiness and fidelity which floods our togetherness … And for over 66 years of oneness, each year has been an exponential factor, a geometric multiplier, that carries our fidelity way beyond the puny magnitude of E=mc2. Long ago we have outscored the dimension of such a feeble concept as infinity.
The reality my grandparents lived is an image, an icon of the divine-human interchange of minds and hearts that the gift of Faith opens up to us, as the new Encyclical so beautifully reminds us theologians:
It follows that theology is more than simply an effort of human reason to analyze and understand, along the lines of the experimental sciences. God cannot be reduced to an object. He is a subject who makes himself known and perceived in an interpersonal relationship. Right faith orients reason to open itself to the light which comes from God, so that reason, guided by love of the truth, can come to a deeper knowledge of God. The great medieval theologians and teachers rightly held that theology, as a science of faith, is a participation in God’s own knowledge of himself. It is not just our discourse about God, but first and foremost the acceptance and the pursuit of a deeper understanding of the word which God speaks to us, the word which God speaks about himself, for he is an eternal dialogue of communion, and he allows us to enter into this dialogue. #36