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Theological Notebook/Personal: Dissertation Defense Eve

It's an interesting, quiet night as I re-read parts of my dissertation in preparation for my defense tomorrow afternoon. Earlier in the week, I felt more of the anxious, acid-in-the-stomach, pre-race kind of jitters that I remember from more athletic days. Now, as the night goes on, I'm just feeling more and more relaxed: like I might as well just set aside the dissertation, pour myself a glass of wine, and open up the pages of Desolation Island, the next of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels on my list.

I stopped by Alumni Memorial Union room 380 this afternoon after printing out the program for my defense, just to eyeball where the event was going to take place. The door was unlocked, so I let myself in and turned on the lights. It's an enclosed room, not too big or too small. I've been there plenty of times through the years: the graduate student Bible study from my first few years at Marquette met there more than once, occasional meetings of the Seminar on the Jewish Roots of Christian Mysticism, maybe even another dissertation defense or two – it's hard to remember the details, as these sorts of rooms are all meant to be interchangeable and are reserved and used by all sorts of groups for all sorts of occasions. Nevertheless, I found myself, in what I suppose is a not-untypical sentimental and Irish kind of way, feeling as though I ought to have known through all these years that this room is where I would come to the climax of my education: that I should have somehow known or recognized a sort of solemnity associated with the place that I had inadvertently neglected. Not very logical, I suppose, but pretty typical of my sense of place itself.

So I've been doing the other things necessary: getting things printed and stapled, cleaning the apartment a bit in preparation for family or friends who may stop by (my Dad is the first arriving, probably around 10am), and ironing clothes for tomorrow. Even academia takes place in the mundane.

In the meantime, here's the abstract for the dissertation, augmented with suitable Wikipedia links: that horrific exercise of trying to sum up your book in 350 words or less:

Michael Anthony Novak, B.A., M.A.
Marquette University, 2010

Francis A. Sullivan, S.J. (1922–) is a “Vatican II” ecclesiologist. Although he began his academic ministry at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1956, shortly before the Second Vatican Council, his chief work has been to explore the theology of the Church fashioned at and proceeding from the Council. He is a preeminent scholar on the topic of authority in the Church, and much of his writing has addressed this subject.

Less well known are Sullivan’s theological efforts on topics related to a theology of charisms, and to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. As a young professor, he made a modest contribution to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church at the Council, framing its articulation of a theology of charisms and its significance for the Church. Subsequently, he worked toward the production of a monograph on the topic, which appeared in 1982. After this, he turned to address other topics within ecclesiology.

This dissertation argues that the possibility of an ecclesiology structured upon the category of charisms can be discerned within Sullivan’s work and from its Catholic theological context. The possibility of such an ecclesiology began to be explored around the period of the Second Vatican Council, but it never materialized. Investigating the promise of such an ecclesiology, this dissertation first explores the experiential and historical basis of Sullivan’s encounter with a theology of charisms and with the Charismatic Renewal by means of a biographical study. Proceeding from this is a systematic exploration of Sullivan’s formal theology of charisms as developed within his academic research and also in his pastoral ministry. The potential within an ecclesiology of charisms is then assessed by examining preliminary work done on the idea by other Catholic theologians of the period, and through comparisons to the dominant ecclesiological forms now in use. The dissertation argues that Sullivan’s subsequent work was influenced by his understanding of the Church as constituted by the possession of charisms. Other aspects of Sullivan’s ecclesiology thus become points of departure for demonstrating the viability and desirability for finally engaging in the project of constructing a full ecclesiology organized upon charisms.
Tags: books, dissertation, ecclesiology, francis a. sullivan s.j., marquette, personal, theological notebook

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