Love and Education

On Father’s Day, I posted a piece on God’s paternal love for us, drawing from both the Hebrew Scriptures (Ex 34:6-8) and the New Testament (Lk 15:11-32). Recently, I read a presentation delivered by Pope Francis, then Cardinal Bergoglio, entitled “The Educational Process” which describes the relationship between teacher and student in similar terms. In this paper, Pope Francis describes the difficulties which teachers, especially college and university professors, can encounter that derive from the contemporary culture which we inhabit. These difficulties include facing special interests within the educational system which “are alien to education itself,” and the ever-increasing phenomenon of the participants in the educational process (i.e., students, teachers, and parents) becoming disengaged with their own formation and the formation of those in their charge. “We have become spectators,” Pope Francis writes, “and ceased to be protagonists of our personal history and our life.”

Supper at EmmausTo bridge these divisions, Pope Francis proposes a pedagogy of “encounter.” By this he means that the educational process ought to be characterized by a type of love. Drawing from the New Testament, and the Greek learning inherited by the early Church, Pope Francis distinguishes between three types of love. Eros is a type of love which seeks its own satisfaction. Naturally, it has come to be associated with romantic love but is certainly not limited to that sphere. Whenever we have a deep desire which seeks consummation – and many of the mystics speak of the transformation and sanctification of this desire for God – it is, so to speak, erotic. Agape, on the other hand, is a type of love which is self-sacrificing. It expects nothing in return, but wills the good of the other. Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross is the example par excellence of agapic love; so much so that, in the early Church, the commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist was referred to as the ‘love (agape) feast.’

School of AthensBut education is not built upon either of these senses of love. A third type of love, which is the foundation of a pedagogy of “encounter,” is philia. Derived from the Greek word for ‘friend,’ philia is a love which is neither totally self-seeking nor totally self-sacrificing. Rather, philial love is given with the expectation of reciprocity; thereby forming a communion of persons. “It is a love of relationship,” Pope Francis writes, “participation, communication, and friendship.” Pope Francis is not advocating, however, that professors become “BFF’s” with their students. Philial love in this context is characterized by a concern for the good of the student and a recognition of the good in the teacher. It is much closer to the relationship between a parent and a child than the relationship of peers to each other. It is, one might say, covenantal.

Pope Francis sees this love as the foundation of a pedagogy of “encounter” because it is only within this type of friendship that both teacher and student can “encounter” each other as persons. Within this friendship, the student is not simply ‘student x,’ but Joseph. The teacher is not simply ‘my professor for subject y,’ but Dr. Mary. Again, as Pope Francis writes: “For this educational encounter to happen, we teachers […] need affection. Trust in your affection. Love what you do and love your students.”

Christs Charge to PeterIn closing, the type of love which Pope Francis speaks of as the foundation of education is most uniquely illustrated at the end of St. John’s Gospel (21:15-19). After his glorious resurrection, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Naturally, and as one reads in every scriptural commentary on this passage, Jesus asks this question of Peter three times as a way of redeeming Peter’s three denials of him on Holy Thursday. But what is lost to the English reader is that Jesus asks Peter if he ‘loves’ (agapas) him twice. The final question to Peter is: “Do you love (phileis) me?” In other words, Jesus twice asks Peter if he would sacrifice himself for him, but on the third occasion he asks Peter: “But are we friends?” It is not enough for Peter to repent of his denials by offering himself for Jesus. No. In order to “tend Jesus’ sheep,” the two must have an active, living relationship: a friendship. In order to form others in Christ, one cannot simply view one’s ministry as a sacrifice. There must be present a friendship with Christ that one wishes to share with others. Similarly, a true education cannot be founded solely upon the idea of serving the other – let alone the simple communication of data – but upon a living and relational encounter: a friendship.

Anthony Coleman teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

Forget the Past and Push On to What is Ahead

During my doctoral studies in Rome, when the going got rough, I would head over to the church of Sant’Agostino near Piazza Navona to ask Saint Monica’s intercession. Monica is buried at the church named for her son, and she is for me a source of inspiration for what it means to grow in holiness.

Monica_of_Hippo_by_GozzoliWhat I learned from Monica is why the church honors many of its sons and daughters with the title of “saint.” Their lives really have a timeless dimension that teaches, inspires and encourages Christians in every age. Monica, whose feast we celebrate today, is a testimony to the strength that comes in keeping God at the center of one’s life and making God one’s reference point in all things—in other words—never losing sight that holiness is the journey of life.

Whenever I am asked to lecture on the theme of the universal call to holiness, I begin by asking people to name people who they think are models of holiness. Always, always, Mother Theresa is the first or second to be named (no surprise there)! As names are added, we move from saints, to loved ones, to friends, but never does anyone ever name themselves! And yet, by virtue of baptism, all of us are called to holiness. We are much better at naming what disqualifies ourselves than recognizing that holy is what we are in the process of becoming. Monica teaches us that we need only to fix our gaze on God and holiness becomes possible.

From what little we know of Monica’s life, it would not be on any list of optimal environments for holiness to flourish. She discovered the enticement of alcohol as a teen, she married a man who was a drinker and known to be violent and unfaithful. She had a son who was too smart for his own good and a difficult mother-in-law who tried her patience. One could understand if the mark of Monica’s life was that of despair and yet her story is quite different.

Monica was raised in a Christian family. Her strong sense of self was grounded in her relationship with God. She was devout and committed to serving others. It is said that her husband, not a Catholic when they were first married, would criticize her for her piety and generosity, but she continued to be faithful, to be true to herself. She was faithful in the face of infidelity; she was kind in the face of ridicule. She loved her children with the love we learn only from God. In her love for her son, Augustine, we see that she saw something in Augustine that he did not see in himself. Trusting God’s providence, she prayed and prayed! She stayed close to Augustine, reminding him of what he could be rather than what he was. Monica entrusted him to God, knowing that she could only do so much. Tomorrow, the church celebrates how the story of Augustine ends!

Like, Augustine, Monica’s husband also saw the authenticity of Monica’s faith and her love for him and their children. He began to see the power of a faith that never wavered. He too converted. Monica’s patience and love and realization that she had God on her side became an irresistible invitation for her family.

Augustine writes in his Confessions, that shortly before his mother died, they were enjoying a conversation in the presence of The Truth–that is God– and speaking about the promise of eternal life. Augustine writes that in the conversation, “They were forgetting the past and pushing on to what is ahead” (Phil. 3:13). It is a good reminder to us that God is not as interested in our past as he is in our future. In Monica, we learn that we are most true to ourselves when our lives are oriented toward God and trusting of his providence.

Susan Timoney is the Assistant Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns for the Archdiocese of Washington and teaches spirituality for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

The Beginning of Knowledge

It’s the end of August, and that means just one thing for a teacher: course prep.

I’m doubly blessed—that’s the word, right?—to be preparing both for homeschooling and for my graduate theology classes. A friend asked me if I was ready for the new homeschool year. No, of course I’m not. But it always starts anyway.

Homeschooling is actually the most fun right now. That’s right, before the year has started. All is promise. All is potential. All is sweetness and light. The curricula I have picked line up in shining rows; the books practically glisten. Visions of docile and happy children working industriously intrude into my mind, despite my intimate knowledge of what it all really looks like. (“Mom, Joseph looked at me funny while I was trying to read!” “Mom, can I just tell you my essay rather than write it out?” “Mom, why do I have to do math? I’ll never use it!” Ignore him, no, and … oh, just do it.)

In fact, I do enjoy homeschooling, or we wouldn’t do it. I love having the kids around and giving them the chance to interact with each other in longer snatches than a few stressful hours before school and before bed. And nothing beats the thrill of seeing a young mind open up with the space and quiet to explore the really exciting things.

But there is no denying that the beginning of the year is always the most exciting. What really stinks is February. By then, the snow seems to be up to the deck railing, the books have grown stale, and I can see all the flaws in the curricula I so lovingly handled six months before. February is a great time for field trips and snow days. (Yeah, I know homeschoolers can’t actually have snow days. We make them up. The homeschool police haven’t arrested us for it yet.) February is not a beginning. February is a stuck-in-the-middle month. It lacks the freshness and potential of a beginning.

Despite all that, however, Proverbs 1:7 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The wisdom we seek in study always has a beginning, and I don’t mean August. The beginning is the step taken into the depths: “Put out into the deep!” as Pope Saint John Paul II always exhorted us. When we “fear the Lord,” we trust that He is God and we are not. We put out into the depths of His loving wisdom. We trust that He really is running the show. We are, in other words, humble. Only the fool thinks he doesn’t need to be instructed. The wise person knows how little he knows.

The beauty of this is that we can reclaim the freshness of the beginning of knowledge any time. Every day is a new start, pulsing with the potential that is as infinite as the triune God. Every hour can be the beginning of wisdom. We can start again … and again … and again. Even in February.

In any case, this year February will be just fine. You see, there’s this new curriculum we’re going to use…

Angela Franks teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

Don’t Just Stand There

Pope St. Pius XOne hundred years ago today, August 20, 1914, Pope St. Pius X died. The so-called “War to end all Wars” had ignited less than a month previously, and just two months after the Sarajevo assassination of Austrian archduke Ferdinand. With a hundred years hindsight, we see anew just how influential that conflagration really was. Ethnic and religious tensions since 1991 in Bosnia, Kosovo, Ukraine, and even Syria and Afghanistan can find their roots directly, more or less, in the “Great War.” Pius died watching the world he and the rest of world had known begin to crumble.

A gloomy consideration, to be sure. It is worth noting that Pius X, when his pontificate began, realized that such an end was quite possible. His first encyclical, E Supremi, set out the framework for his papal motto: “Instaurare Omnia in Christo” (to renew all things in Christ). After stating his unworthiness for the papacy, especially having to follow Pope Leo XIII who had reigned for twenty-six years, Pius declared his pontificate would serve God, not earthly partisanship (#4). The odds, Pius admitted, did not look promising. Even in 1903 he saw the pursuit of peace rendered fruitless due to the secular dismissal of religion (#7). Nevertheless, committed to bringing humanity back to God, Pius stated flatly: “Now the way to reach Christ is not hard to find: it is the Church. “(#9) Renewing all things in Christ thus meant the Church needed to get its own act together. Pius then encourages bishops to rekindle pastoral vigor among the clergy while nurturing seminary education. It started, he claimed, with holiness (#11). Secure that first, and then theological and moral rectitude would fall into line. Furthermore, religious instruction of the laity and those outside the Church depended on this proper spiritual orientation.

Pius’ focus might appear strikingly different from our modern view. After all, think of the reminders—and justifiably so!—to consider the plight of the poor. A glimpse at the Catechism #773 indicates the Church has not strayed far. The Church’s Marian charism—an inward holiness and purity—necessarily precedes the Church’s Petrine charism of external authority and leadership. (And thus, here at his pontificate’s beginning, lie the foundations for Pius’ better-known efforts to purify the Church, which these days tend to be viewed as intrusive thought-control.) Furthermore, St. Pius X himself recognized that, as one of my French-Canadian in-laws said, honey attracts more flies than vinegar. “… it is vain to hope to attract souls to God by a bitter zeal. On the contrary, harm is done more often than good by taunting men harshly with their faults, and reproving their vices with asperity.” (E Supremi #13—and here Pius cited I Kings 19, the Old Testament reading for August 10) With that in mind, Pius X wanted Catholic action—yes, a group so-named but more importantly Catholics actually doing something to bring about the renewal his pontificate sought.

For truly it is of little avail to discuss questions with nice subtlety, or to discourse eloquently of rights and duties, when all this is unconnected with practice. The times we live in demand action – but action which consists entirely in observing with fidelity and zeal the divine laws and the precepts of the Church, in the frank and open profession of religion, in the exercise of every kind of charitable works, without regard to self-interest or worldly advantage. (#14)

Quite frankly, this might be why theologians and others preoccupied with an “academic apostolate” find St. Pius X discomforting. Don’t just stand there—do something, for God’s sake! (literally!)

One hundred years later, though, we actually like to hear such injunctions. We continue to enjoy “the Francis effect.” Pope Francis’ recent trip to South Korea met, not surprisingly, with glowing accolades. Vatican insider John L. Allen, Jr. now calls Francis “a truly global papacy” and rightfully so. But at least some of the foundations for the world’s current Francis enthusiasm lay a century ago with a saintly pope that we too often remember quite differently.

Guest blogger Jeffrey Marlett blogs at Spiritual Diabetes.

The Joy of Consecrated Life

“In the world there is often a lack of joy. We are not called to accomplish epic feats or to proclaim high-sounding words, but to give witness to the joy that arises from the certainty of knowing we are loved, from the confidence that we are saved”
(Rejoice! (Letter in Preparation for the Year of Consecrated Life), n. 3)

Pope Francis LaughingLast month, on the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Pope Francis went for lunch at the Generalate of the Jesuits. As I reviewed the pictures from his visit, joy and happiness are very evident. He appears very comfortable and relaxed with them, even though he may not know them well individually. Why is he comfortable? As a member of a religious community, I think that I can venture an answer. He is among those who shared a similar formation as he did as a member of the Society of Jesus. Technically, he formally ended his time as a Jesuit when he became a bishop. Bishops cannot be under the authority of the superior of a religious community. They can, though, ask to continue to use the religious initials of their community as well as wear the habit. Cardinal O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, continues to use the initials of the religious community that he came from, the Capuchin Franciscans, as well as wear the habit. Many religious communities even officially continue to count bishops among their membership. Some might think this strange, but the reality is that once a person is part of a religious community, it is part of who that person is and how the person approaches God, life, ministry.

When you share a common formation and lifestyle from a relatively young age, that formation does not simply go away. It is a lifestyle that one freely chooses and it forms and informs the person. Once committed to, consecrated life (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 913-933) is not something that can easily be cast aside. Even those who have left religious communities often continue to live the spirituality of that community as a single or married person or diocesan priest. I have seen it time and time again.

Twenty-eight years ago today, I made my First Consecration of Promises as a member of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottine Fathers and Brothers). Our six promises of poverty, chastity, obedience, sharing of resources, spirit of service, and perseverance have provided me with a way, within the context of our community life, to live the charity of Christ. I make no claim to live it perfectly, but I try to live it as authentically as possible. The way that I live more authentically is through the assistance of the members of my community who “urge me on” to live more fully in Christ’s love.

This summer, more than most, I have had to even more deeply reflect on the quality of my life as a member of the Society. Am I living as an apostle, as St. Vincent Pallotti called all to do, reviving faith and rekindling charity? Have I fully surrendered, given, and offered myself to God, as the form of consecration of my religious community challenges me to do? If not, then why not? These questions have been very much on my mind as I form, with the help of God, a new member of the Society who began Postulancy only a few days ago. Thirty years ago last month, I did the same and have grown and developed spiritually and otherwise in ways that I would have never thought or imagined. As I work in formation with our Postulant, Brandon, I try to teach, but once again God causes me to learn and for that I am full of gratitude and joy.

Pray for those in consecrated life, especially as the Church prepares for the Year of Consecrated Life that will begin this coming Advent!

Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C., is Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center and teaches for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

Ancient Faith – Contemporary Devotion

For me, ancient faith and contemporary devotion pair beautifully on this upcoming Feast of the Assumption of Mary.

For some, the Assumption of Our Lady is a difficult theological notion to understand. As catechists, it is important for us to be faithful to the doctrine without overwhelming the student. That reminds me of this little story…

The pastor was quizzing the third grade. “Can anyone tell me what the Assumption is?” An enthusiastic little boy raised his hand. Encouraged, Father called on him, “What can you tell us, young man?” The little boy stood and proudly announced, “Mary was Jesus’ Mother and we assume she went to heaven.” Now, as cute and humorous as that is, it doesn’t sufficiently address or define the mystery of the Assumption of Mary.

Among the Marian doctrines, the dogma of the Assumption stands with the dogma of the Immaculate Conception as a kind of contrast of balance and scope of God’s power and goodness in His loving regard for the human condition. By that I mean that in the Immaculate Conception, we see that God has intervened in human history with a miracle that has an essentially spiritual core, that is, sin and the efficaciousness of God’s mercy/grace. Mary is preserved from sin from the moment of her conception “in view of the merits of her Divine Son”, as the definition of the doctrine proclaims. On the other hand, the mystery of the Assumption is a miracle whose core is a physical reality. Her body and soul are the locus of God’s grace and power. Since no one could bear the idea that Mary died, or worse, decayed after death, the commonly held and persistent faith of the people has been that God took the Blessed Mother to Himself whole and entire, body and spirit when, as the solemn definition declared, she had “run the course of her life”. Even though the proclamation of this beautiful dogma is so recent, the belief in the Assumption of Mary is ancient. At the time when it was being considered for solemn definition some argued that there was no need to formally declare it since it was a prevailing and universal belief.

The dogma of the Assumption, promulgated as the wave of Marian devotion was cresting in 1950, stands as an expression of faith and devotion for some and as a stumbling block for reunion and interfaith dialogue for others.   Among our friends in the East, this holy mystery and feast day is expressed and celebrated as the Dormition of Mary, the Mother of God. As a dogma of our faith and as a holy day of obligation, we observe the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th.

HolinessMarian devotion today is fostered and fed by the modern voices of contemporary writers and artists.   Nowhere is this clearer or more powerfully illustrated than in the works of the contemporary artist Janet McKenzie. Most prominent for me is the evocative effect her Marian imagery has had on contemporary women. Her voice is one that speaks what so many would say if only they had the words, the talent. Janet McKenzie’s images of Mary resonant with the faith, spiritual sensibilities and experience of so many of the voiceless and marginalized of our world. This is profoundly evident in two recent works. The first book is Holiness and the Feminine SpiritThe Art of Janet McKenzie (Orbis, 2009). This wonderful book of paintings by Ms. McKenzie is graced with the pithy evocative essays of many contemporary writers, including Sister Wendy Beckett, Sister Joan Chittester, and Sister Helen Prajean. The second is the profoundly inspiring Way of the Cross by Sister Joan Chittester and Janet McKenzie (Orbis, 2013). The power of Sister Joan’s words is perfectly paired with the images of Ms. McKenzie.  It is a real meditation. My personal spirituality is continually stirred by Ms. McKenzie’s images. I recommend them to all who love to pray with images and experience them as channels of grace and meditative dialogue. I can think of no better way to celebrate the Marian Feast of the Assumption of Mary, the Mother of God.

Susan O’Hara teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

Integrity: An Uncommon Good in Service of the Common Good

A slide presentation by Daniel Sheridan.
(Note: Presentation will download to your computer for viewing.)









Daniel Sheridan is Professor of Theology at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and former Director of the Online Theology Program.




Choosing your mountain

No matter where you are in the United States you may have seen a car proudly displaying the bumper sticker, “This car climbed Mt. Washington.” The majestic mountain boasts the tallest peak in the Northeastern United States, and scaling it by car (much less on foot!) is no small feat. One can especially imagine how tough it might be in a vehicle worn by age and run through thousands of miles of terrain, both smooth and rough. The pay-off, however, is worth it. The scenery on the way up is breathtaking, and reaching the peak promises a view of stunning beauty and tranquility. One could visually sweep the landscape and experience a kind of theophany – a manifestation of God in the awesomeness of His creation.

TransfigurationThe Gospel also tells of a particular mountain climb that yielded an unexpected yet magnificent view. The evangelists Matthew, Mark and Luke each recount the ascent of Jesus and His three closest disciples (Peter, James and John) to Mt. Tabor. What might have been a routine hike to get away from the crowds and find a quiet moment became a theophany to rival any experience of beauty or wonder previously experienced by the three. While on the mount Jesus’ appearance changed suddenly and radically. His garments become white as snow, and His face shone with a heavenly glow. As if this were not amazing enough, Moses and Elijah appeared on either side of the Lord! The three carried on a conversation which seems to have been heard, at least in part, by the surprised apostles. Peter – always first to defend the Lord, or to put his foot in his mouth – tells Jesus how great it is to witness this miracle with his brother apostles! In fact the whole thing is so awesome that he suggests they all just hang out together on the mountain, and offers to set up tents for Moses and Elijah. Just as Peter finishes speaking a voice booms from above, proclaiming, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Mt 17:5). And that quickly the excited apostles fall down in fear. This party was not what they’d planned on, and they knew it! A moment later Jesus touched them and when they had the courage to look up everything was as it had been before. There were no heavenly visitors or other-worldly voices. All that remained was Jesus, their teacher and friend.

Much could be said about the theological truths we learn from this incident in the Gospel, but one of the most important is that Jesus gives the apostles – and us – not only a glimpse of His divinity, but a foreshadowing of our destiny. We are meant to one day radiate with the light of God’s Love in eternal unity with the Trinity. This is what we were made for and the end toward which we walk on our earthly pilgrimage. But this great theophany also warns us that we will be confronted with mountains along our way, and with choices about how to scale them.

I think we encounter lots of mountains in our lives, chief among them that gargantuan peak called “sin.” It’s the one always found on our road, constantly before us as we traverse the highways of our pilgrimage. Each of us has mountains that lead us “off road,” or block us from moving forward. Each one of us must identify those mountains and choose the way that will allow us to scale and conquer them; or to find a road that leads us in a new direction.

This requires reflection (the kind that Peter was missing on Tabor), and willingness to acknowledge what is preventing us from progress. So what are your mountains? Could one be envy over what you lack, or a grudge tightly held against another? Perhaps you are held fast by a mountain of pain over a hurt committed against you. There are so many mountains, great and small, but when it’s your mountain it may seem insuperable.

How do we find the road that leads us over, through or away from these mountains and finally place them in our rearview mirror? That’s the easy part. God gives us the GPS to direct us: the free gift of Himself in the Sacraments, prayer and worship, and the support found in the communal life of the Church. What’s often hard for us is finding the courage to program our personal coordinates into that GPS and get started on the journey. Sometimes we’re hesitant to follow the directions because it’s too hard or painful, or we just don’t trust that we won’t get lost or hurt. Or the way can look good on its face as it did for Peter; but like him we get overwhelmed and lose our nerve. And yet, as He was for the brash, then frightened Peter, Jesus is there for us. He is always there. The mountains will still show up along the way, and the climb won’t be easy. Following Jesus doesn’t make the climb easy; but He makes it possible, and He is with us for every step we take.

“Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Mt 17:20

Ann M. Koshute teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.

Prayer, St. Francis and Self-transcendence

Human beings are creatures whose meaning and purpose to be achieved is a goal beyond what they presently are. We are creatures on the move and we make ourselves through our own thinking and deciding. Paradoxically, however, a human life cannot be conceived in terms of self-sufficiency; no one lives a fully human life by pursuing a merely human goal. To put the same thing somewhat differently, to be human is to be on the way to a life that is more than what it is at any stage on the journey.

St.FrancisPreachingtotheBirds_GiottoIf the goal of human life is not the merely human, what is it? To be human is to be oriented toward God in knowledge, action and love. To be human, in other words, is to desire God, and prayer is an expression of that divine longing. Actual prayer expresses our awareness as dependent creatures. Any explicit acknowledgement of one’s creaturehood is a form of prayer, but when one turns to God with the intention of giving glory to the Source and Goal of all existence, there is a prayer of praise. Francis of Assisi was overwhelmed with the sense of God’s transcendent goodness:

Let all of us

            wherever we are

            in every place

            at every hour

            at every time of day

            everyday and continually

believe truly and humbly

and keep in [our] heart

and love, honor, adore, serve

            praise and bless

            glorify and exalt

            magnify and give thanks to

the most high and supreme eternal God

Trinity and Unity

the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit

Creator of all

Savior of all who believe in Him

            and hope in Him

            and love Him

Who is

            without beginning and without end

            unchangeable, invisible,

            indescribable, ineffable,

            incomprehensible, unfathomable,

            blessed, worthy of praise,

            glorious, exalted on high, sublime,

            most high, gentle, lovable,

            delectable and totally desirable above all else

            forever. Amen.

Francis and Clare: The Complete Works, translated by Regis Armstrong and Ignatius Brody (Paulist, 1982), 133-34.

Francis has captured the essence, not of God (that would be impossible) but of the human being as made to love God. Praise, as the explicit giving of glory to God, defines us because human desire wants what is “delectable and totally desirable above all else forever.” All of creation gives glory to God simply by existing; the human creature praises God by being human. People praise God, in other words, through their intellectual, moral and religious self-transcendence. Prayer expresses our deepest and truest meaning; human beings are pray-ers, and each human life is some sort of prayer.

 David Hammond teaches theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.