18 January, 2019

Sojourner's Notes from a Sabbatical

Back in the day when I was still a young priest, I used to have the opportunity to augment my meagre clerical salary by filling in as a supply teacher at the local Catholic High School. One day a young lad, eager to establish his bona fides with his fellow ‘back of the classroom’ mates, decided to challenge me to prove that heaven and hell were realities we would face when we departed this mortal coil. “If they really exist” he asked, “tell me what they are really like.” After explaining that I had as yet no first hand experience of either eternal state I said that I could only answer his question by using earthly analogies that we both could relate to. “Hell” I said “was a never ending litany of wedding rehearsals while heaven was a library that held more interesting books than I could read in an eternity.” Using that paradigm, I am currently experiencing a taste of heaven as I enjoy a sabbatical at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Maryland where I am spending many blissful hours each day in their library researching a topic I’ve given much thought to over the years: ‘Friendship as a model of the moral and religious life’.

Friendship (filial love) has long been held as the least important type of love. Christian theology holds agape love (total self-giving) as the highest form of love that believers should strive to emulate. Post-modern Western culture lifts up sexual love (eros) as that penultimate goal of human existence guaranteed to bring one fulfillment in life. But many wise sages through the years have argued that friendship stands at least as their equal as the means of living a virtuous and fulfilled life. Aristotle declared in his signature work The Nicomachean Ethics that friendship was the one essential thing that a virtuous person needed to possess a life worthy of living. Others as noteworthy as Cicero and Thomas Aquinas offered similar arguments expounding on the vital role that filial love plays in the good life. Modern philosophers and theologians from Paul Wadell, C.P., to Michael Pakaluk, and John M. Cooper have also offered a vigorous defence of this oft-denigrated mode of love. Having the luxury to be able to spend as many hours as I desire each day to read the works of such notables in the comfort of a modern university library is truly a foretaste for me of the promised New Jerusalem of paradise.

So what has this paradisiacal experience taught me about friendship? Stay tuned to the blog and I'll post whatever nuggets of wisdom I'm able to digest.

1 comment:

  1. Father Tim i am so happy for you....it sounds like this sabbatical was just what you needed and we will all be richer for it.....hugggggggs

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