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Tapestries

Rather than an in-class final exam, I give my students a take-home final in an effort to allow them to bring together and appropriate the material of the semester. This year I gave them as a title for their paper: ""Exploring Catholicism: A Tapestry of the Journey." I also reminded them of some of the overarching principles that structured our journey and that they might use as threads for their tapestry.Reading their papers (some of them quite fine) prevented me until this morning from catching up with yesterday's New York Times. There I found Peter Steinfels own account of the tapestry he has woven in the course of writing 486 "Beliefs" columns. He also identifies some of the "threads" that have distinguished his weaving.He identifies six, and one will immediately recognize the nuanced Steinfels' pattern. Each of us will appreciate one or more of the six in a particular way. Here is one that especially resonated with me (for obvious reasons):

Third, intelligence and critical reasoning are essential to adult approaches to faith. In short, theology matters. It is curious that so many otherwise thoughtful people imagine that what they learned about religion by age 13, or perhaps 18, will suffice for the rest of their lives. They would never make the same assumption about science, economics, art, sex or love.

The one downside to the column comes at the end:

The next Beliefs column will be the last.

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.

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It is curious that so many otherwise thoughtful people imagine that what they learned about religion by age 13, or perhaps 18, will suffice for the rest of their lives. They would never make the same assumption about science, economics, art, sex or love.And yet, one of the great paradoxes of the Faith is that we have to unlearn much of that "adult" learning and become like children. We have to learn the hard lesson that the Tree of Knowledge did not make us smarter or more wise, it made us dumber and more foolish. As good as it is to be Augustine or Thomas, it is equally important, if not more so, to be Bernadette. It is important to learn with the head, but even more important to learn with the heart, to restore the innocence lost by learning the many counterfeit "truths" of adulthood.

It is also important to distinguish between childlike simplicity and childish simple-mindedness. The former is a gift from God, and like all divine gifts highly to be prized; the latter an impatient attempt to cut short the search for truth. Intellect does not suffice for the former, but it can became complicit with the latter.

A marvelous piece - I just thought that all six points kind of hang together and should be viewed as a unified point of view we'd all do well to take with the greeatest seriousness.

It is also important to distinguish between childlike simplicity and childish simple-mindedness.The problem here is that the devil is in the definitions. This in turn depends on who's formulating the definitions.

"The problem here is that the devil is in the definitions. This in turn depends on whos formulating the definitions."I am not sure what the reference of "This" is but that apart, I would say that what is difficult is the discernment of the virtue of childlike simplicity and and the corresponding perverse quality in others, of course, but above all in oneself.

I suspect conservatives who dislike Peter Steinfels' formulation would be more likely to heed the Successor of Peter, and Benedict XVI (as well as John Paul II) has consistently cited faith AND reason as two pillars of a mature faith.

Ah, Peter identifies one of the great dilemnas of Catholic education. At its best it teaches critical thinking. And then, so often I have felt that when I exercised that ability, I've been criticized for not being truly Catholic. This is particularly true of Catholic women's education, btw.

Obeying vs Thinking"Damned if you do, damned if you don't."

Okay, Peggy, give us the lowdown. He is tired of the Times or vice versa, gonna devote more time to Fordham, going to create his own blog, retiring ????????

I will miss the Steinfels presence in the Times, and the Times will be the poorer for it. This penultimate piece does a offer an excellent pulling together of key issues dealt with through the years. But Bill, best to let Peter Steinfels have the last word next time. I am sure it will be worth waiting for. :)

I'm realy glad the last few posts have focused on the loss of the Beliefs column.I thought it might be the most important part of the thread, instead of all the stuff at the beginning from a few.What would be really good would be a post from Peter himself talking about what he'll do going forward.

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