One of the things I have been concerned about is the methodology we use in formation for ministry and in theology at the Tepeyac Institute. Methodology, the strategy used in teaching to reaching objectives, is often confused and directionless. However, over the years we have given shape to our methods of teaching. For example, adults learn better through sharing in small groups, rather than with lectures, a "sage on the stage" sort of approach. So where does one begin in improving such methods?
When talking about methodologies and ways of thinking and understanding, there is no one better than the study of the Canadian Jesuit Bernard Lonergan (d. 1984). His two monumental works are Insight: A Study of Human Understanding and Method in Theology. I was once told that Lonergan is about "thinking about thinking." I felt like a "deer in headlights of a car" when I first heard that expression. Then I realized I was "thinking," or trying to understand plain English. I also remember reading the Vatican II retreat notes of the Italian Jesuit Riccardo Lombardi who made the comment "There is violence in the world today because people do not know how to think." So, it is in this area I intend to dedicate time to study.
The entry point into this vast field begins with the fundamental problem. In the Catholic Christian tradition the Eucharist is the "source and summit" of the believing person and faith community. The Eucharist is the focal point for transformation of persons and for the world. But is it? Is there a disconnect between what we celebrate in our liturgies and sacraments with our every day life? Why is there still so much violence?
Last week the news media covered the terrible terrorist attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices. People were motivated around the world to demonstrate their solidarity with the ideals of free speech. A ripple effect of positive energy moved like a tsunami around the planet. I ask how does Eucharist have a similar ripple effect throughout the world? Is the Holy Spirit part of that effect? Does the Spirit, the "wind that blows wherever it feels," figure in?
The focus of this research is the disconnect between the transformative power of symbols (sacraments, Eucharist) and ordinary life. The specific symbol I will look at, along with others, is the liturgical year. My hypothesis is that if the community understands better the patterning of experience, rhythms, and symbols of the liturgical year, faith can develop, mature, and be the bridge of transformation with everyday life. But understanding the symbols is not sufficient; one must undergo a conversion and surrender to the Spirit who is the transforming, spiritual energy. For this reason, the title of this blog is "Symbol & Spirit."
This blog will mark out my progress and integration of this theme with the ideas of Lonergan. The first paragraph of Insight speaks about Descartes breaking down big problems into little parts. What I am doing here is one little part of a larger problem of decline in civilization. I end by quoting Lonergan:
So decline continues unabsashed. The intractable problem keeps growing. Rationalizations multiply, accumulate, are linked together into a stately system of thought that is praised by all who forget the adage: Whom the gods would destroy, they first make blind.
Can a people, a civilization, recover from such decline? To my mind the only solution is religious.
(Frederick Crowe, ed., A Third Collection. Papers by Bernard J. F. Lonergan, S. J., 158.)