As I write the last column in this series on the meaning and mystery of the human person and prayer, I think that reflecting on the topic has been a very important learning experience for me.
The more I reflect on the meaning of the human person and the meaning of prayer, the more aware I become of an important relation between the two.
Years ago, when I first studied the Vatican Two documents, I suspected that at the heart of many of the changes that were happening in the Church was a new concept of person.
In every philosophy course that I teach at St. John’s University at some point in the course I sketch a philosophy of person that I have borrowed from contemporary philosophies such as existentialism, personalism, phenomenology and contemporary Thomism.
Every spring semester at St. John’s University I teach an elective philosophy course entitled “The Problem of God.” I don’t like the title, which I inherited, but teaching the course has been a wonderful educational experience for me.
I am having a really interesting experience as I re-read sections of Robert Johann’s “Building the Human” (New York Herder and Herder, 1968, pp. 192), a book I first read about 50 years ago. Re-reading Johann’s reflections on the mystery of a person, I find him expressing views about the meaning of a person that I have come not only to embrace but to believe deeply.
Perhaps someday I will look through the hundreds of books that I have accumulated during a lifetime of teaching philosophy and count the number of books that deal in some way with the mystery of love.
That I see the virtue of hope as central to living as a follower of Christ may have something to do with the process of aging. I know that in recent years hope has seemed to me to be at the heart of the Christian mystery and at our vocation to enter more deeply into our relationship with God.
As this Easter approaches, I am recalling an experience I had more than 60 years ago when I was a student in the major seminary. I was reading in chapel a book entitled “Christ in His Mysteries,” by Dom Abbot Marmion. I even remember the color of the book’s cover.
It’s that time of year when I am involved with two “adult education programs”: the ongoing Monday evening Catholic novel series and the Friday Film Festival. Each program has been going on for more than 30 years. A few months ago, because attendance at each had dropped, I thought about terminating both.