Novak (novak) wrote,

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Theological Notebook: Feast of Augustine

My former student and now friend Jessica sent out an email that I just got, wishing a bunch of us a happy Feast of Augustine, as today is the 1579th anniversary of his death in 430. As it turned out, I ran into our great Augustine scholar Professor Barnes this afternoon while picking up my syllabi and so ended up with dinner plans with him, which we took at the excellent Miss Katie's Diner, one of those classic American diners that happens to be just off of campus and is somehow entirely off the radar of Marquette undergrads. So we marked the Feast together by having good diner breakfasts for dinner. I've never gone to a place that gives you not just the token two pieces of bacon with your order of eggs, but a whole pile of bacon. Good stuff. So that was just the latest of the spontaneous invitations I've been getting since I returned from Boston, along with dinner with the Harrises at the Lloyds', coffee with Erin F. before she returns to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, along with such tasks as getting my syllabus ready for the new school year.

Anyway, just thought it cool to get such a Feastday reminder from a student, period. I sat through Barnes' undergraduate Augustine course last spring with Jessica and other former students like David and Ryan, and it's cool to see people internalize something from that encounter with such a great personality, even across the continents, cultures and centuries.

I even learned something new today from Barnes, in finding out that Sebastiaan Tromp, who is a scholar I've encountered in my dissertation research, seems to have been responsible for single-handedly coining the understanding of Augustine's ecclesiology at the Second Vatican Council. And, as it turns out, that understanding was based on about five repeated quotations from Augustine, all taken out of context and applied to an understanding of the Holy Spirit that seems to have nothing to do with anything else Augustine ever wrote about the Trinity. What the effect of that has been, I'm not certain; but it certainly doesn't help us refine our understandings in the present when our scholars mess up their representations of the past upon which we are building. I'm always conscious, as an historian, of a responsibility to both the past and the present (and thereby the future, I guess) to try to make sure my characterizations are as correct as possible, regardless of any use I might have thought to make of history for some present cause.
Tags: augustine, barnes, dissertation, ecclesiology, friends-marquette era, historical, historiography, milwaukee, patristics, restaurants, second vatican council, students, theological notebook

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