Category Archives: Theological Learning Resources

Living out the Faith : Christian Discipleship and Witness

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile”

– Blessed [Mother] Teresa of Calcutta

In the setting of the university, particularly a Catholic university, it may seem easy to get ‘caught-up’ in the dogmatics of Catholic-Christian principles.  Between orienting professional work with a university’s doctrinally-influenced mission, and balancing fidelity to the faith with dialogue and conversation with those who disagree with constitutive teachings of the Church – remaining confident, motivated, and convinced of the integrity of Christian discipleship may seem impossible, or at least, often difficult and confusing!  Concisely, having to abide by certain codes and rules may seem limiting on our ability to actively ‘live out’ principles of good Christian practice through simple professional relationships.

This seems to pose a particularly poignant set of questions, including : what is it to be a Christian disciple?  What does it take for me to be a Christian disciple in the 21st century?  What is it take for me to be a Christian disciple in the setting of a university in the 21st century?

Pope Benedict, in a recent Angelus (3.6.2011) {VIDEO HERE}, spoke of the necessity to ‘listen to [Jesus’] words and put them into practice…[Jesus] places the disciple and his journey of faith in the perspective of Covenant, constituted by the relationship God weaves with man through the gift of his Word, entering into communication with us’.

This relationship of Jesus’ authority (and that authority’s presence in Christ’s Church) and love is at the center of growing in a more robust understanding of what it is to be a Christian disciple.  Benedict continued in his statement, ‘Jesus is the living Word of God.  When he taught, people recognized in his words the divine authority itself and they felt the Lord’s closeness, his merciful love, and praised God.’  It is precisely this notion of authority as communicated through love that might allow a renewed understanding of what it is to be Christian in practice.

It is Christ’s precedent by which we might understand what it is to be a disciple.  That is, to be Christian is to practice those actions by which Christ’s love is communicated (or ‘witnessed’) through gentility, patience, and gratitude (or, as Blessed [Mother] Teresa of Calcutta might say, ‘kindness’).  It is these simple practices that allows others to discover and experience the loving authority of Christ, now present in His Church – which for all of us at Boston College, is inextricably tied to our professional work setting.

On Tuesday, October 18th at 5:30pm, Terrance W. Tilley, Chair and Professor of Catholic theology at Fordham University will speak on ‘Practices of Discipleship’.  This presentation explores the Gospels and the Creed to understand in part how disciples’ practices embody and transmit the faith.  This event will be held in the Heights Room, located in the Corcoran Commons.  It is sponsored by the School of Theology and Ministry.

In many ways, Christ kept it simple.  Through His free choice to commune and enter into relationship with humanity, He provided the most basic template by which we might imitate His example – precisely through relationships.  Perhaps it is in this way that we, as professionals in the Boston College community, might renew our sense of simple loving, not manifested primarily through long-winded explanations of how particular departmental goals are bound to university and ecclesial mission, but rather, through our attentive love through simple, personal, and often mundane relationships.  Yes, it seems it is in this way that we might best witness to Christ’s example as we strive to be faithful Catholic-Christian disciples in the 21st century.

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Ecology and Catholic Teaching: Learning Resources

“Do unto future generations as you would have them do unto you.”
-Robert Gillman

Sustainability – often defined as the concern to meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs – is at the forefront of students’ minds.  Thanks to a variety of student-led initiatives like Real Food BC, as well university-wide thinking and action groups like Sustain BC, this concern is taking root and growing within the Boston College community.  To learn more about what’s happening here at BC, visit our sustainability website.

Do these sustainability efforts have any relation to the Catholic and Jesuit mission of Boston College?  What does Catholic teaching have to say, if anything, about the responsibility of humanity to the environment and future generations living on this earth?  In what ways are Catholic leaders – bishops, the Pope, etc. – responding to growing, global sustainability concerns?  John McCarthy, S.J., writes,  In the light of growing environmental concerns we are witnessing an integration of ecology into the fabric of Catholic social thought. Catholic social teaching (CST) has traditionally focused on economic and social development, encompassing issues related to human work, the economy, peace, human rights, the family and national and international political development. In the light of the ecological crisis, that focus is now expanding.”  McCarthy has authored a short, accessible Catholic Social Teaching and Ecology Fact Sheet, which is a helpful introduction to the development of Catholic social teaching on ecology in the last thirty years.  To learn more, you might also check out the website of  The Office of Mission Effectiveness at Villanova University, which contains a page devoted to resources on Catholic teaching and ecology.  You might also explore the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ latest public policy briefing paper on global climate change (The paper is much more accessible than its title sounds!)  Finally, think about signing up to receive Ecology and Jesuits in Communication, a monthly electronic newsletter designed to bring together information from around the world about the importance of engaging in ecological concerns.

The Ignatian Way: Learning Resources

Would you like to know more about Ignatian spirituality but aren’t sure where to start or how to find the time?  Well, look no further.  Ignatian Spirituality.com (an online service of Loyola Press) has produced a series of free, short (8-15 minutes each) multimedia slide presentations based on the materials written by Brian Grogan, S.J., of the Irish Jesuits.  The site promises that, once you’ve finished the series, “you should have a good idea of what Ignatian spirituality is all about, and how it can help you to grow closer to God.”   So far three presentations are available for viewing:

#1 What Is Ignatian Prayer?
#2 Ignatian Spirituality: An Overview
#3 Finding God in All Things

Forthcoming presentation include:

#4 The Spiritual Exercises
#5 The Daily Examen
#6 What Is Discernment?
#7 Decision Making
#8 Men and Women for Others
#9 The Life of St. Ignatius

To access the video presentations, visit The Ignatian Way web page.  While you’re there, you can sign up to receive alerts when new presentations become available.

Catholic Social Teaching: Learning Resources

“The central message is simple: our faith is profoundly social. We cannot be called truly ‘Catholic’ unless we hear and heed the Church’s call to serve those in need and work for justice and peace.”
Communities of Salt and Light, U.S. Bishops, 1993

 We often hear the phrase “Catholic Social Teaching” tossed around as if it is common knowledge, especially here at Boston College.  But what does it really mean?  Is Catholic Social Teaching (CST) a synonym for social justice?  Is it a concise set of principles…and if so, what are they?  Does it refer to a specific collection of documents written by Catholic bishops and popes…and if so, what are they about and where can they be found?  Is it a catchphrase for a broad array of ideas about social life that have evolved over the Catholic Church’s long history?

In Responses to 101 Questions on Catholic Social Teaching, BC Theology Professor Kenneth Himes, O.F.M. writes, “the expression CST is elastic, sometimes designating an expansive body of material and at other times used in a more constricted sense to identify a limited number of papal and episcopal writings dating from the papacy of Leo XIII.  Perhaps we can understand the term Catholic Social Teaching as an effort by the pastoral teachers of the church to articulate what the broader social tradition means in the era of modern economics, politics and culture.” (5)  Himes’ book – just over 100 pages with a bibliography for further reading – provides an excellent, accessible and brief introduction to CST.  Organized thematically in question-answer format, the book can be read quickly, digested slowly as time allows, or used as a handy reference guide when specific questions arise.  It covers general background information, key themes and seminal documents regarding what many have called “the church’s best kept secret.”  But perhaps the most interesting section is the final one – “Specific Concerns” – in which Himes tackles questions such as: What does CST have to say about women in society?  Does CST say anything about racism and race relations?  Has CST made any difference in the real world of American politics, economics and culture?

Another excellent online resource for learning about CST comes to us from the Office of Social Justice (OSJ,) which is a Program of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis.  The Catholic Social Teaching page  on the OSJ website highlights major themes (with two concise handouts that you can download and use), major documents, notable quotations, and a Q-A section based on Himes’ book.  It also contains a “teacher’s toolbox” with many more use-friendly resources for learning and teaching about CST.

Finally, you might check out “The Busy Christian’s Guide to Catholic Social Teaching,” a very short resource which contextualizes the CST tradition within history by providing a useful timeline of key CST documents alongside a broader timeline of major world historical moments.