Sunday, February 01, 2009

Father Taft at St. Vladimir's.

On Friday evening, I had the good fortune of hearing Father Robert F. Taft, S.J. give the Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary a few miles north of Fordham. Given annually at St. Vladimir's since Father Schmemann's death in 1983, this year's memorial lecture doubled as the keynote address for an academic symposium focusing on the impact of Schmemann's work for contemporary liturgical theology. Readers who may be interested in what Father Taft and the other speakers at the symposium had to say may listen to the various lectures online. For my part, I found Father Taft's reflections challenging, enlightening, and often very humorous (including many memorable one-liners, such as his confession that "my Christology is so high it'd give you a nosebleed" and the opinion that "canon law is the bad side of the Good News"). Later this week, I hope to post some more specific thoughts responding to the lecture.

Hearing Father Taft speak was a great joy for me, partly because he played an indirect role in my own vocational discernment. One of the things that helped to draw me into the Society of Jesus was the great variety of ministries that Jesuits engage in, including work in ostensibly secular fields that many would be surprised to find priests and religious engaged in. The Jesuits I knew at Georgetown included scholars engaged in disciplines as diverse as biology, economics, German and political science as well as the expected professors of philosophy and theology. In time, I became aware of three Jesuits far away from Georgetown whose commitment to very different forms of learned ministry gave me further inspiration. The three members of this unlikely triptych were astronomer Guy Consolmagno, film scholar Marc Gervais and, last but certainly not least, Byzantine liturgical scholar Robert Taft. What struck me about these men was that they were interested in very different things - meteorites, the films of Ingmar Bergman, and Eastern Christianity - but all were members of the same Society, inspired by the same charism and serving the same mission.

Having had the chance to meet the other two members of my triptych at different points of my Jesuit journey - Consolmagno in Santa Clara, Gervais in Montreal - I'm glad I finally had a chance to meet the third as well. My meeting with Robert Taft was brief and perfunctory - an introduction and a handshake - but it still represented the fulfillment of a longstanding wish. Readers who may want to read more about Taft after this post might start with some of his many interviews, including this 2004 chat with NCR's John Allen and earlier talks for the journal Diakonia and for a Spanish Jesuit publication. As long as you're willing to scroll through some brief biographical information in Russian, taking a quick look at an online bibliography of Taft's published writings will give you a sense of just how prolific Taft has been over the past fifty years. Finally, if you have any doubts about Taft's own legacy in this new millennium, check out his fan club on Facebook. AMDG.


At 2/02/2009 10:01 AM, Blogger Byzantine, TX said...

Thanks for the pics and insight.

At 2/15/2009 10:00 AM, Blogger Macrina Walker said...

Many thanks for drawing this to my attention - I'm halfway through Fr Taft's address! I don't suppose that there is a text version available?

At 2/15/2009 11:03 AM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Sister Macrina,

Thank you for the comment - unfortunately, I haven't seen any texts from the conference available online yet; I think the texts of all of the talks are going to be published in a special issue of St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly, so they wil eventually be available in print.


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