Novak (novak) wrote,

Theological Notebook/Personal: Dissertating In A Window

Late night Milwaukee: it's quiet. The snow has stopped falling after a constant 18 hours or more, leaving only a few inches on the ground, it was so fine or so mild out. The miniature plow/tractors are clearing the Marquette campus sidewalks for tomorrow's business. The wind is still blowing, causing small drifts here and there, but the night is now clear and the buildings stand stark and lit against the night sky; a few hours ago I looked out and the entire Gesu Church was invisible behind the pinkout of the falling snow against the city lights.

I'm up sketching out the final two examples of my dissertation. They are going to be longer examples: the ideas of leadership and of teaching authority in the Church as conceived or re-conceived in terms of charisms, and I have been taking a lot of time to walk away from the computer today and to go back to my major sources, reading and re-reading texts. It's the leadership example and discussion that has got me wrapped up in thought. So much of what I am thinking about regarding leadership is simply about the episcopacy, which is the formal leadership principle in the Catholic Church and has been for nearly two millennia. But then I do a hard shift and I'm also looking at utterly informal leadership – leadership based upon personal natural and spiritual gifts – and the contrast is a difficult one, I'm finding, in thinking in a formal theological way within Catholicism simply because leadership is so habitually formalized in the episcopacy.

I've been doing a lot of re-reading in Sullivan’s From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church (2001), which is concerned with precisely how the leadership structure of the Church evolved from one based on personal charism to one of formal structure. As an historical inquiry, From Apostles to Bishops goes a considerable way toward addressing two issues raised in Sullivan's Charisms and Charismatic Renewal: the relation between these two forms of leadership and, even more importantly, a possible future integration of both charismatic leadership and formal leadership within the Church. I guess what I've been trying hardest to do is to follow the text through the historical sources and to imagine that shift, myself. I've avoided words like "imagination" for a long time because I have to deal with enough weenie relativism of the "you can't know anything for certain" kind that it's just politic to stay with the strictest "physical sciences" kind of language regarding historical investigations. But I find that I'm perhaps getting more sensitive to just the sheer experience of how I have to bring my imagination into engagement with all the pieces of evidence while doing my historical detective work: there's almost a process of letting my conscious mind sit back and watch sometimes while my unconscious mind works faster than I can consciously, picking up the various pieces and trying to fit them together in logical ways. That's too much of a contrast to describe the truth of it – there is always a much more constant interchange between conscious analysis and instinct – but I'm increasingly appreciative and respectful of the latter. And so letting my mind "chew" has taken up a lot of my time today, along with more concrete and conscious tasks such as re-editing the next-to-last chapter.

And the city lights blink, the wind blows "snow devils" down the newly-cleared walkways, and no car, bus, or pedestrian moves in the winter night....
Tags: books, dissertation, ecclesiology, francis a. sullivan s.j., patristics, personal, theological notebook

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