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Personal/Theological Notebook: Wrapping Up The Week; My Charismatic Research and Donald Gelpi; Julie

I seem to be discovering that the more-structured approach I'm taking toward teaching my new course this semester, Theology Through the Centuries, is paying off in me having a bit more time to work on my dissertation than I'd found during previous semesters while teaching. So I spent the day in Raynor Library, as I did last Saturday, mostly working on my current chapter and digging around in the literature to see what has previously been done on the topic of "an ecclesiology of charisms," or as it's more often (and maybe more misleadingly) put, "charismatic ecclesiology." I say "misleading" because it's my contention that what now seems a more "dated" movement in the Catholic Church, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal" from the 1970s and 80s, actually has come to seem to me just the opening and confused act of a much more significant phenomenon. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal imported a number of negative things from classical Pentecostalism in America, particularly its sectarianism – the tendency to become a "church within a church" – and the tendency to identify charismatic gifts too much with the (again) classically Pentecostal emphasis on "speaking in tongues" as indicative of the experience of "baptism in the Holy Spirit," thus sorting people out into "charismatics" and "non-charismatics" depending on whether you participated in such prayer groups. A close reading of Paul in the New Testament, particularly in his First Letter to the Corinthians on just such matters, as my subject Francis A. Sullivan undertook in his Charisms and Charismatic Renewal (1982), paints a very different picture. The proper reading rather minimizes such displays and recognizes what his fellow Jesuit Donald Gelpi calls the proper identification of "baptism in the Holy Spirit" with any person and gifts that draw people into the person and mission of Jesus.

Donald L. Gelpi, S.J. has been my big discovery the last week, though I've known his name for a long time. My Notre Dame buddy Greg Zuschlag, now a professor of Theology and Environmental Ethics at Saint Thomas University, did his doctorate with Gelpi out at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, which is part of the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley. Greg always thought very highly of him, which was high praise in my book, and though I've seen his name around for years, this was the first time I'd really sat down and tried to work my way through some of his work. An article of Gelpi's in Pneuma, The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies from 1992, “The Theological Challenge of Charismatic Spirituality,” Pneuma 14:2 (185-197), was especially valuable in just hearing someone else discuss this theme of how the Charismatic Renewal became a particular subgroup within Catholicism rather than being a consciousness of the Holy Spirit that could be incorporated throughout Catholicism in a great variety of ways. So I ended up having a developed affirmation of one of my key assumptions for my current chapter, which I can use on its own merits, as well as a useful set of references to other literature. A number of Gelpi's books looked to be useful to me at some level, and so I picked up a few of those, including a recently-published memoir, Closer Walk: Confessions of a US Jesuit Yat about his life-journey and its role in developing his formal systematic theology, starting from his native New Orleans (which I discovered is what it means for him to be a "Yat") and through his professional career. While certainly interesting in its own right, it also might provide a useful comparison for how I incorporate the biographical and experiential aspects of Francis Sullivan's life in my dissertation, which is more specifically focused on the potential for a constructive ecclesiology of charisms to be found within his work.

Friday once again featured my now regularly-scheduled downtime with the gang. We used to get together regularly on Fridays back when that was the regularly-scheduled showing of the Sci-Fi Channel's Battlestar Galactica, given how irregularly we had all been getting together the last few months, we decided to make Friday the night again. Actually, it's become more of a day-long thing now, with Donna taking Renee and Zeke over there in the morning, helping out by watching the Lloyds' kids, too, while Amy has her regular tele-commute upstairs, and thus freeing up Dan to join Mike (and sometimes me) on campus for a full day of work at the library, which was more than he was regularly getting. This arrangement seems to be working out alright, and so I rode with Dan and Mike over there after finishing up at the library around 5pm, stopping at our favourite, Discount Liquors, to buy some bottles of wine. We had some homemade pizza, veggies, wine, and lots of talk with the girls before putting the kids down for the evening. Amy was having trouble with the increasingly-bedtime-fussy Owen, when I hopped up and kept my magic-Owen-streak going by just walking through the door and saying, "Dude, you've got to go to sleep now." Boom. He was down. I don't get it, but it still cracks me up. I shushed him for a minute and then walked out and shut the door. At some point Amy won't roll her eyes and be amused as much as hate me, I fear. We then relaxed with wine, popcorn, and a showing of The Prestige, which we had all been keen on seeing last year, but I think never made it to because of rotating sicknesses among us all. A fabulous piece of writing, and great fun, which I won't spoil here because it's very much a movie that can be spoiled with a careless comment. Some more late-night talk afterwards and nothing but good times.

I still haven't gotten together with her, but after being delayed a day by our big storm, my buddy Julie came back to town from her doctoral program interview at SUNY Stony Brook to the news from the professor that had been trying to recruit her, Nancy Franklin, that they were making her an offer, so she was flying when she left me a voice mail with the news, and we'll have to go out and celebrate soon. Franklin works in the same area that grabs Julie's interest, theoretical models of human cognition, and sounds like she'll be great fun to work with, personally. I'm excited to see where her grad work takes her, and Julie's interests in Psychology are quite different than those of Erik and Kevin, my close friends who've also gone the Ph.D. route in Psych. They were both much more "traditionally" interested in the counseling side of the discipline, while Julie is much more inclined toward pure research. It makes for a fun variety of insights between the lot of them. So that was great news to get this week.
Tags: books, bsg, catholicism, class-theology through the centuries, dissertation, ecclesiology, food, francis a. sullivan s.j., friends-marquette era, friends-notre dame era, jesuits, movies/film/tv, mysticism/spirituality, personal, pneumatology, systematic theology, theological notebook

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