Thursday, December 27, 2007

Who is your favorite theologian?

I am currently on retreat, and I know that there may be something questionable about blogging in this context, but this reflection is not disconnected with my vocational discernment.

Most of my fellow retreatants are students of philosophy, theology, or both; interestingly, none that I know of are current or former seminarians. Earlier today, one of them asked us about our favorite philosophers, to which I personally answered William James--I have never gotten over my undergraduate admiration for this melancholy, supernatural-obsessed psychology professor who charismatically contended against the positivism of his day.

But later on in the same day, the subject of monks' chosen names came up (a favorite among monastic discerners), and I asked whether there was yet a Brother Robert. There is none. This left me intrigued, and so I looked up Robert Bellarmine on the good old Wikipedia.

I don't know why, but I have a tremendous love for this saint; more than for any other Doctor of the Church or any other intellectually-gifted holy man or woman that I've encountered. It isn't because of any cultural, national, or ecclesiastical affinities; and it isn't because I love his writing (I haven't read it yet). But the sheer fact of his influence in the Council of Trent, in the Galileo affair, and in the ideological struggle with Protestantism makes me believe that he exemplifies the little blurb I have on the upper-right corner of this page. St. Robert was a first-rate controversialist, and he worked unreservedly in the service of reason--a reason which, coolly and confidently, affirmed and defended Catholic faith with a surgeon's precision.

Is this my exemplar? Is St. Robert the model of how I am being asked to serve God? I cannot adequately answer this question without becoming more acquainted with him. Suffice to say that I am far (very far) from the cool-headed, sublimely Platonic machine of logic that I sometimes fantasize about being one day. But as someone whose faith was forged in the pale glow of computerized debate, and who aspires to fulfill it in a more or less similar capacity, I have a lot to admire in St. Robert.

St. Robert, pray that God leads me as deeply into my true destiny as he led you.

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