During the second week of January Dr. Fritz Bauerschmidt of the theology faculty of Loyola University in Baltimore came to Mepkin to offer classes in Christology to the men in formation. Having begun a relationship with the Mepkin community back in the 1990s when studying for his doctorate at Duke, Fritz has visited the monastery quite a number of times, and was with us last year for an abbreviated time as a monastic guest.
The material for his presentations to the men in formation was largely drawn from his book, Catholic Theology: An Introduction. Published in March of 2016, this work is a result of a collaboration with James Buckley also of the theology faculty of Loyola. Attention was given to our understanding that Jesus is one person having both a divine and a human nature. How we derive this from scripture and the early church teaching. Emphasis on the teaching of the Council of Chalcedon and related councils occupied significant tie in the classes. Each class was well received, and was followed by the opportunity for expanded conversation.
With the opportunity presenting itself, the abbot asked Fritz to prepare two sessions to offer the entire community in the evening. For the first chapter talk, Fritz spoke about Al-Ghazali – a Muslim theologian, jurist, philosopher and mystic of Persian descent. Our community has been concerned with the fear developing in the broader society related to terrorist attacks associated with Muslim groups. It has drawn us to desire to educate ourselves to better understand those who identify as adherents of Islam. Fritz helped us to consider the rich tradition of which Al-Ghazali is one representative. Striking for us that he died in 1111 and Citeaux was founded in 1098. For the second chapter talk Fritz developed some thoughts on the topic of ‘religious freedom’ or ‘religious liberty’. Going back in history he invited us to think of imperial Rome and attitudes toward allowing others freedom to practice from their own understanding of God. Taking us through history and consequences as political realities changed up into the present time. He pointed out the desire to correct error as an aspect of refusing to allow others to practice their understanding of God. And mentioned the work of Locke on “Tolerance”. In contemporary times the influence of Father John Courtney Murray, SJ in the document emerging from the Second Vatican Council was noted.