Thursday, June 23, 2011

A particular sanctity.

Here is another perspective on today's anniversary, courtesy of my Georgetown contemporary Andrew Staron:
Rev. Thomas M. King, S.J. died of a heart attack on June 23, 2009. Despite the fact that he had broken his hip some seven years prior and had undergone several painful surgeries over the intervening years in a never-fully successful attempt to repair the damage done that day he slipped on the ice, he had continued his service to the Georgetown University community until his death. He had taught a couple of theology courses that previous spring term: Problem of God and Teilhard and Some Theologies of Evolution — the latter course on the theology of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, will undoubtedly not be continued at Georgetown. He had just completed another of his forty academic years of celebrating Mass at 11:15 pm six nights a week — a tradition also not to be continued. He was scheduled to teach in the coming autumn. And on May 9, 2009, he celebrated his eightieth birthday.

I met Fr. King in 1998. Having failed to get into his Problem of God course, I began attending Mass a couple of nights a week, although I don’t remember exactly why I began going. My attendance ebbed and flowed over the next four years. I was never a regular, yet I met some of my closest friends at the post-Mass soirées — "not just a party," Fr. King would always remind us, "a high class party." There was something about Fr. King softly, but intensely, leading the congregation in the celebration of the Mass in the flickering candlelight that made it just a little easier to believe. There was no doubt in my mind that he believed in what he was doing. And he seemed to live his life close enough to all things mystical that he made me want to trust him. He was always fully himself, always faithfilled, always open to the students around him. The more clearly he was himself, the more clearly he was pointing away from himself. I trusted Fr. King, and Fr. King believed.

Try as he did to convert me into a Teilhardian, I was neither scientist enough nor mystic enough to understand what the paleontologist/theologian/Jesuit was doing. However, what did strike me — and strike me deeply at that — was the courage Fr. King attributed to Teilhard. Fr. King painted a picture of a deeply religious man whose faith drove him toward creation itself in a passionate search for the fingerprint of the Creator. Nothing that was true was unrelatable to God and theology. Fr. King himself embraced such a perspective, too. That courage is one of the main reasons I began to study theology and one of the main reasons I have continued to do so. In fact, it was his professorship that I have held, for ten years now, as a model for what I would hope my own career would grow to become. I feel fortunate to have been able to tell him that on his eightieth birthday.
To read the rest of Andy's post, click here. AMDG.


At 6/23/2011 11:35 AM, Blogger Robin said...

All wonderful - both of your posts and Andy's in its entirety. Makes we wish I'd gone to Georgetown!

At 7/30/2011 1:23 PM, Blogger Joseph said...

I went to a Catholic high school in Massachusetts and a teacher would try to introduce us to Teilhard. I believe she was attracted to his poetic mysticism, perhaps like father King. I went to a retreat at the Jesuit Retreat house in Gloucester and the Jesuit retreat master gave me a pamphlet by another Jesuit debunking Teilhard, although I still made some attempts to read him while I was an undergraduate at Harvard. It was Maritain's "The Peasant of the Garonne" that eliminated any further temptation as well as my shock at many dissident Jesuits (although I did know Father Avery Dulles, who was at Weston at the time, and whom I respected.)

I went to Georgetown Law School. There were no Jesuits there at the time, but it hurts me to say that I brought dust cloths to clean the dust off the tabernacle in the chapel there, where there were oftentimes other things going on, such as play rehearsals.


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