National Catholic Reporter
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Issue Date:  October 31, 2003

From the Editor's Desk

Public pursuit of holiness

David Gibson, at the end of his new book, The Coming Catholic Church: How the Faithful are Shaping a New American Catholicism (reviewed in NCR’s Oct. 17 issue), writes that John Cavadini, chairman of the Notre Dame theology department, “has noted that scandal is always public, whereas holiness is often hidden in the dailiness of life.”

It is fitting that that insight should come from one of our leading universities because, the silliness of mandata and what some call the chill in theology departments aside, our colleges and universities remain a positive, productive Catholic presence on the American landscape.

That presence, and in many ways public pursuit of holiness, is celebrated in the special Catholic Colleges and Universities section in this issue.

One of the most unlikely compliments to Catholic education occurred last spring when literary critic Harold Bloom announced his decision to leave his personal papers and immense library to a small, little-known college in Vermont. In choosing St. Michael’s College, Bloom praised its “continued upholding of humanistic study to which I have devoted my career as teacher, writer and editor” and credited that and his longtime friendship with professor emeritus John Reiss for his gift. In her article, Claire Schaeffer-Duffy describes how an acquaintance that began over books developed into something more personal. The younger Reiss wanted to get to know the brilliant and prolific Bloom; the Yale scholar and self-described “professor of nothing” found comfort in Reiss’ admiration and appreciation. A friendship blossomed, which both valued. As Bloom once told Reiss, “All there is are our friends and our loved ones and even that is breathing in the dark.”

The well-known young theologian Tom Beaudoin writes of the issues confronting his generation of theologians, those raised in the ’60s and ’70s. It may be that the current crop of younger theologians will find their chief responsibility is not to advance theological discourse so much as preserve it for another generation, Beaudoin writes, paying tribute to the earlier, Vatican II theologians.

Vatican II theologians may be becoming as rare as Catholic women’s colleges. In her article, Patricia Lefevere explores how those colleges survive on commitment and tenacity (though that might also be said of the theologians). Only 20 women’s college are left of what used to be hundreds, but those that remain do so by putting women first. Dynamic leadership, innovative programs and increasing attention to fundraising and women’s sports are giving these colleges the competitive edge they need to stay afloat.

Finally, Jeff Guntzel describes how college students are getting an education in real life when they participate in a Catholic social teaching internship program that has them working as labor activists. The on-the-job experience is immediate, eye-opening and for many of the students gratifying.

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More readers’ thoughts on hope, this one from Mary Kavanagh Sherry, author of Sometimes I Haven’t Got a Prayer … and other ‘Real’ Catholic Adventures (Resurrection Press): “Hope is the spark that leaps from our need for God’s mercy at the end of the day, makes us set the alarm for morning, and reassures us that God’s mercy will be at the end of that day, too.”

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A reminder: Next week’s Health Beat coverage will be a report of Arthur Jones’ candid conversations with noted author M. Scott Peck, perhaps best known for The Road Less Traveled, who suffers now from Parkinson’s disease.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, October 31, 2003

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