Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Collegium on Faith and Intellectual Life: Day Five

This was a great day full of stimulating experiences. We of course started with prayer and as usual we learned a new prayer technique.

We had our first of two Discipline Groups. I lead this group. I was surprised at how comfortable I was. I guess it is just clear that everyone wants this to be a successful experience and so my defenses are down. Our group is a “dance”. We cannot be Polly-Anna-ish” or we won’t address any real issues in our schools. Neither can this turn into a gripe session. Within those parameters the group identified areas of concern and how to authentically address Catholic identity. I felt like what I was, a group-facilitator. I kept folks on task, I made sure people had time to talk and I touched base with those who were quiet. Now, in all fairness I was able to do all of this because I had the assurance that Karen was in the group with me and would take over in the event the group unraveled. It was a good group.

Small Group was also good and it was different. We switched from our heavy articles on Vatican II and how Catholic identity is or is not part of campus life to Jesus in art. We all read The Illustrated Jesus by Pelikan. Group spent time talking about which images of Jesus fit their idea of Jesus. Our group walked around the building looking at art and responding to it. Our group also started with a reflection, in this case a brief video called Face of Jesus that fit in with the topic.

Face of Jesus

In the afternoon we took a bus over to the College of Saint Benedict. The two colleges share on academic program. They are separated by six miles. The place was beautiful. I loved the gardens, cemetery, statues and the buildings. First we had a talk on dealing with evil. That was certainly a sobering conversation. Our group expanded it to include pain and suffering. After the conversation we all walked over to the chapel for Eucharist.

Now, it is called a chapel but it is a beautiful church. It is white with sky lights, four sections of seating, kind of church in the round! The sisters recently celebrated 150 years in Minnesota. They lit candles for each decade and read the names of the sisters who had died. I was told that while this was happening an eagle circle the church twice.

When a sister dies the casket lies beneath the skylights in the room outside the church. The window acts as a mirror so when the sisters circle the casket and look up it looks as if they are seeing all the saints. What is clear from all of this is that the atmosphere is so different from Saint James Abbey Church. There is far more emphasis on relationship. This is a warm, inviting place while St. John’s gets one in touch with the vastness of God.

After Mass many of our members walked around the gardens and cemetery. We then had a reception in a building that had once been the library. Finally we had an eloquent banquet. The food, the wine and the company were great. The setting was beautiful, full of original wood work, chandeliers, stain glass and mirrors.

Afterward we went back to St. John’s and enjoyed open mic and one another’s company. It was a good day.

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