was very cool today to see four of my former student be honoured for academic excellence by the Department of Theology. Christopher Owen, Fran Hurtado, Tim Rank and Michael "Mick" Cannon are all members of Theta Alpha Kappa who received honor cords and monogram pins as signs of their achievement. Theta Alpha Kappa
is an honours society for students in religious studies and theology, and even though I had nothing to do with the society and its workings itself on Marquette's campus, I certainly wanted to make an appearance in order to honour the students themselves. I suppose that's part of shifting back into total "faculty" mode in my thinking again: I know that just being present
can be a significant acknowledgment of an achievement. It was a small affair when I received my undergraduate honours years ago, but it becomes a line on a CV – some distinction that can at least be noted that starts to separate an excellent student from the crowd, and to encourage those in the future to gamble their time and resources on a student or potential employee who has already shown some ability to stand out. Theology in particular is probably one of the fields were tangible rewards are least likely, and so making the time to appear and stand witness seemed the least I could do.
I had a cool talk with Tim afterward, who asked about my impression of Grace's First Communion
, which I'd mentioned to him, and so I repeated some of the stuff I had written here a few days back. I was glad I had jotted those thoughts down before I lost them, and this spontaneous "review" might help make them something I can more easily make use of in some unknown future context, just be engraving them more fully in my brain. There were some other interesting thoughts about talking theology with children in an article called "Is God Mad at Us? Helping children cope with global tragedy" by Pat Fosarelli in the April 26, 2010 issue of America
that I meant to note for Leslie. I would hate it if the article was read as just ending in agnosticism, but I don't think that that need be the case. Suffice it to say, I'm still in awe of anyone being able to communicate to children anything of Christianity, which seems hopelessly adult a subject to me. I just don't think that teaching anyone below the age of 15 is my real charism, even if I can succeed here and there.
I got to talk a bit with Drs. Wood, Dempsey, Massingale and Mueller, who were all in attendance, and listened to a good-natured debate between Massingale and Wood about whether or not I was really a doctor yet, after Massingale had greeted me as such. Bryan was of the opinion (which I'd always understood to be the case) that one was a doctor of the discipline once one was hailed as such by the members of your committee at the end of the dissertation defense: that that was the moment of entry and acceptance into the guild. Wood was of the opinion that it wasn't official until the commencement itself and the degree being handed out, which was the sort of properly administrative viewpoint one would expect from the Chair of the Department. Either way, it still sounds a bit surreal to me, no matter how much time I've put into obtaining the thing. I did get to profitably pick Wood and Mueller's collective brains, as they have both taught undergraduate ecclesiology courses, and I wanted to hear any recommendations they had regarding texts for the Introduction To Catholicism courses I have coming up next fall at Loyola. So I grabbed a stack of books by Larry Cunningham, Thomas Rausch (who also has something for students that I might be able to use for my Christology course), and Richard Gaillardetz from the library afterwards and am scanning my way through them, even though my card only works until Saturday and I have to return them all right away. Gotta get an alumnus card.....
Theology: A Very Short Introduction by David Ford
The College Student's Introduction to Theology by Thomas P. Rausch, et al.
The Catholic Faith: A Reader edited by Lawrence S. Cunningham
Catholicism in the Third Millennium by Thomas P. Rausch
Who Is Jesus? An Introduction to Christology by Thomas P. Rausch
An Introduction to Catholicism by Lawrence S. Cunningham
By What Authority? A Primer on Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Sense of the Faithful by Richard R. Gaillardetz
I couldn't find the library's copy of Cunningham's older (but still in print) and cheaper The Catholic Faith: An Introduction
, but I ordered a used copy of that and I'll give that a once-over, too. U
nfortunately, I got to end the day with the opposite experience of my applauding the students who are graduating Theta Alpha Kappa. As I was working on the final stack of grading for my Introduction To Theology class, I found that one of my current students had plagiarized an extra credit
assignment I had offered. Honestly, the amount of work that you have to go through now to bust a student (which can mean multiple levels of administrative hearings) almost makes me want to not bother. But really; an extra credit assignment? Where all I asked for were the student's own impressions of a museum display? This is worth gambling your whole academic career over?