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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Theological Notebook/Personal: Great Student Moments at Loyola 
15th-Dec-2011 02:34 am
Loyola University New Orleans
With things wrapping up on a different timetable than I'd planned, I've had some extra time with students that's been kind of grand. While I have the usual last minute rush of students suddenly concerned with their final grade or asking for last-minute extra credit opportunities, more of it is cooler than that. I was able to squeeze in a session with my independent study student Chris, a senior who is studying "20th Century Systematic Theology" with me this semester, when we had thought I would actually be unavailable. So we got some extra time in on his plans for his project on using Karl Rahner's "Theology of the Symbol" as a tool for analyzing the Incarnation. We've gotten pretty chatty as we've gotten to know one another over the semester, and one thing that's cool about Chris (especially in a New Orleans context) is also that he works as a line chef in one of New Orleans' better restaurants, and so he's well-educated in matters of food. Some conversation when were done with our proper work turned in this direction, and I told him of my discovery of Patois the previous week, and that conversation quickly become unbearable temptation for me. So we relocated to Patois and carried on the conversation there, where I once again found myself visiting the flounder even though there are other things I want to try on the menu. But that served for a bit of an end-of-the-semester celebration for a great dash through the 20th century together. And they had my driver's license, which I had dropped when I was leaving the previous week!

An artist named Sarah in my Catholicism class got to talking with me after class on our last regular session, and showed me some amazing photographs of a display she had recently done in ceramics, but of a very striking nature. She had made some beautiful vases in clay, but had not fired them, then using thin wires, she had suspended these vases from a framework so that at first glance, you saw what looked like several vases frozen in mid-air in the act of falling to the ground. Then she had arranged for water to slowly drip onto the vases, causing them to dissolve while the display was being shown, all because what she really wanted to get at was the ephemeral nature of things. So I thought that that was both compelling and clever, and we had a long chat on art, on track (she turns out to be one of our star sprinters, and I always find it fun to talk to someone who runs seriously, even though I can't anymore with my bum knee), and then later, after the final today, she was asking me a bit more on my own road to Catholicism itself. So that made for a cool mix.

Then I've had three students approach me about changing their major to Religious Studies, and one about doing a Catholic Studies minor, all of which is great fun, although I feel like I have to apologize for disrupting people's lives when such things happen. It's really kind of terrifying to have a noticeable impact on students, when you think about it. I exchanged a few notes the last few days with Jessica C., a former student from my first semester teaching at Marquette, who ended up switching from Bio-Engineering or something lucrative like that to being a Theology and Philosophy double-major, and who is now working on her M.Div. at Vanderbilt, and I'm still kind of freaked out by that, even after having had plenty of time to get used to the idea as we got to be friends over the years. Two other students spoke to me about the effect of the class on their faith lives. One of my older non-traditional students, wryly and ruefully said something about how her finding a deeper connection to her faith through the course had pleased her Catholic mother, and another student, from a Baptist/Lutheran background, talked to me about how I had managed to address all the questions he had been thinking about with regard to his faith without him specifically having to ask about such things in class. So I hope that that means that I'm getting something of the balance right in speaking in an academic course on Catholicism while still providing students an existential understanding of how all this "data" then affects people in their actual spiritual lives.
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