The Communion of Angst

A very nice essay from Jim Keane, S.J., over at The Jesuit Post. Jim is studying theology in California, and served at America as an associate editor:

If you’ve been a student in a Catholic school over the past half-century and you’ve spent any time studying the documents of Vatican II in English, chances are you used an edition of those documents edited by Walter Abbott, S.J.  It’s a paperback with a red cover, it’s probably falling apart a little bit these days (let’s just say that America Press didn’t splurge on quality paper), and it no doubt has someone else’s notes and underlines in it.  A few weeks ago, while preparing for my Master of Divinity comprehensive exams (which, ahem, is not to say I started preparing a few weeks ago… do my professors read this?), I realized an interesting fact about my own weatherbeaten Abbott text: It’s my mother’s copy.


I don’t know how I ended up with it, so we’re going to assume charitably that she lent it to me years ago and I intend to return it some day (this is clearly a lie; I have written all over it, and some slob spilled Top Ramen on the explanatory notes).  I know that she was not the original owner, because her name on the inside cover is preceded by those of three other students at her undergraduate college, all signed with the immaculate penmanship of young women trained in the Palmer Method by a series of Catholic nuns.  I’m not sure if my mother knew those denizens of rooms 301, 302, and 316, though one of them had a name that is letter-perfect for Vatican II and the movements it inspired in the church: Chris Liberator.  Don’t you want to look her up and introduce her to Leonardo Boff?

During Vatican II, Abbott himself was an associate editor at America magazine, a fact I like to point out to my pals because it’s the same job I had from 2007-09.  I also point out to my increasingly annoyed pals that I may have lived in the same room Abbott occupied in the 1960s (he died in 2008).  I do this not only ad majorem Jim gloriam, but because I always took great pride in being a small part of the impressive tradition of churchmen who have lived at America House, the residence attached to America magazine on 56th Street. At my first evening in the house years ago, I met Jesuits whose names I had seen and heard endless times—Vinnie O’Keefe, Roger Haight, Tom Reese, Drew Christiansen, and many more—all within five minutes of each other.  Then I turned around from shaking their hands and Jim Martin had taken my seat.

But what does all this have to do with Vatican II or my mother?  Did we all read 200 words into this essay just to discover that this has been an elaborate setup to take a potshot at Jim Martin?  While I do not reject the worthiness of such an effort on principle, my point is otherwise: that in our lives as Christians we inherit and enter into a tradition that both buttresses and takes us beyond our own faith in the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ, the one who lived and died as a human being and rose on Easter morning.  Those familiar phrasings of our belief, which have sustained many through life and into eternity, are no longer the sole expressions that sustains us.  We post-moderns jump in and out of millennia (yes, that’s the plural) of expressions of human joy, sorrow, rage, and perplexity in our lives as Christians.  These days our every intellectual endeavor and every emotional wandering is of a piece with those of countless others who have gone before us… and not just fellow Christians even.  Or, to quote that pesky Vatican II again, for us who are followers of Christ, “Indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in [our] hearts.”  (That’s Lumen Gentium I, in case my professors actually are reading this).

Read the rest here.

Tim Reidy


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