I've just finished reading 38 papers from my "Exploring Catholicism" course. They are a take-home final: an effort to encourage the students to bring the semester's readings and presentations together into a synthesis that is both faithful to the material covered, yet also personal. Reading them is sometimes tedious, but more often stimulating, even thrilling.One of the requirements is that, on the title page, they place an "epigraph," some excerpt from one of the semester's readings that conveys a particular insight they carry away with them. Here is a sampling of what they chose and the authors from whom the quotes come:
"The Word of God, the eternal Son of the Father, became man; God became part of what he created. But this work of God was not an event that occurred once and then receded into the past; the Incarnation was meant to change creation and to change history, and to do so in a way that the change remained palpably present" (Robert Sokolowski)"For Christians, Jesus Christ is the center of everything: our meaning, our hope, our self-understanding, our church lives, our theologies, and our spiritualities ... What Jesus wants of us is that we undergo his presence so as to enter into a community of life and celebration with him" (Ronald Rolheiser)"He did not say: You will not be assailed, you will not be belaboured, you will not be disquieted, but he said: You will not be overcome" (Julian of Norwich)"We should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone" (Benedict XVI)"I saw the scattered elements unite, bound all with love into one book of praise, in the deep ocean of the Infinite" (Dante Alighieri)"Here ceased the powers of my high fantasy. Already were all my will and my desires turned -- as a wheel in equal balance -- by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars" (Dante Alighieri)
Post Scriptum from a student:
"I thought you should know that the piece we read by Andre Dubus, "On Charon's Wharf" had a profound affect on me. It made me appreciate the time I have with my friends and the ones I hold close to my heart. I continually re-read the piece throughout the semester, and went as far as sharing it with a few people. I do hope you continue to pass out that small, but important piece for future classes!"

Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is a longtime Commonweal contributor.

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