Last week's absence from blogging has been due to our being engaged in a four-day series of lectures, "THE CHRISTIAN DISTINCTION: THE GOD OF FAITH AND REASON," given by Sr. Gabrielle Nguyen, S.C.C. Sister is a member of the Sisters of Christan Charity, and recently completed graduate studies in philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
In these lectures, Sister introduced us to the thought of Msgr. Robert Sokolowski, Professor of Philosophy at CUA, and an internationally recognized scholar and author. Msgr. Sokolwoski has drawn on the philosophical resources provided by phenomenonology, the study of the way things present themselves to us in human experience, to propose a form of Christian thinking which he terms "the theology of disclosure" "Philosophical reflection can help us appreciate the distinctiveness and Christian faith and make that faith and its object more clearly present to us; but the faith precedes the understanding that it permits." Before the lectures began, Sister had us read several articles by Msgr. Sokolowski, and also an excerpt from his book, The God of Faith and Reason.
Sr. Gabrielle took us on a whirlwind philosophical exploration of our faith, beginning with the importance of making distinctions, to the formation of natural religion and the development of philosophy to the differences of paganism and Christianity, with the Incarnation acting as the "stumbling block" to pagans, ancient and modern, to the Metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas to the harmony between faith and reason. Sister concluded the lectures with Msgr. Sokolowski's treatment of the Sacraments, notably the Eucharist, as presented in his book, Eucharistic Presence: A Study in the Theology of Disclosure.
Sister's lively teaching style, enthusiasm for discussion (a trait much appreciated by us Dominicans!), mesmerizing slides and deft blackboard drawings made the heavy (and heady!) subject matter both comprehensible and enjoyable. This view of philosophy as relevant and necessary to understanding our faith has important consequences for responding to so many contemporary issues in our society. For example, an inability to make distinctions cripples our knowledge and mires us in muddy thinking on ethical and moral issues, something we see every day in the media.