I've been incubating this post for a couple of weeks, and now I realize that it will have to be a series of posts. It has to do with a shift I've been going through in my internal sense of the trajectory of my own vocation within the Order.
Since the time of my perpetual profession four years ago, I have had a certain sense of how the brothers saw my assignments unfolding. I was to finish my licentiate degree, be ordained priest, spend three years working in a parish, and then return to studies to attempt a doctorate. As I begin to come close to completing those three years in the parish, I have come to notice some of my own internal assumptions about this plan and how they now demand revision. I guess I had thought that I would learn the presbyteral trade, file it away among my credentials, and then return to the library to pick up my reading where I had left off. But now I have had to admit to myself, with some difficulty and resistance, that I can't just go back to school as if nothing has happened. My experience here in the parish will have a significant impact on what I want to read and the questions I will want to write on. In other words, I didn't foresee that working as parish priest would have an effect on my life of theological reflection, but it has, and in a big way. Experience has come into the equation for me in a way I have not known before. "Knowledge without mileage equals BS," as Henry Rollins says.
It reminds me of something one of our teachers used to say. In taking up a theological question, she would challenge us to think about 'what's at stake.' What were the 'real world' implications of our reflection, and for whom? I admit that at the time I was resistant to this and sometimes found it annoying. The conceits of my Ivy League upbringing and my native love of purity of concept made it hard for me to want to think this way. (If I had not allowed myself to be distracted from mathematics towards the end of freshman year of college, perhaps none of this would have happened!) I also think that I didn't understand exactly how much is at stake for the Church and the world, and even for belief, or life itself. After three years here in the parish I'm ready to reflect through 'what's at stake.' Even more, I know that I have to if I want to ever achieve even a token level of responsibility as a steward of the mysteries of God.
This is all a little disconcerting, because it means that I have even less of a good idea of how I might approach the opportunity of going back to school. On the other hand, it's not bad because it's the giddy kind of liminality that makes you feel curiously alive because you know it's from God.
So, my thought is to try to write a series of posts on what seems to me to be at stake in my theological reflection. These are subject to change, of course, but right now I think that the topics will "Populations," "Reverence/Life," "Belief/Practice," "Catholicity/Orthodoxy," and something about the meaning and implications of sexual abuse within the Church.
The posts will begin with experiences of my ministry. These are particular to my location and moment in the Church's pilgrimage through history and geography.