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“Changing course,” “Freeze frames,” “A new prescription,” “Vatican II revisited,” “History lessons,” “Government agency,” “Identity check,” “Oral history”
Many thanks for the article on the work of Daniel Harrington, SJ, and Christopher Matthews in producing New Testament Abstracts every four months (“Abstract Artists,” by William Bole, Fall 2013). Dan was one of the finest Jesuits, priests, and people I’ve ever met. It’s not a stretch to say that his courses on the New Testament changed my life—as they did countless others at the Weston Jesuit School of Theology and the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Today I see the Gospel through his eyes. Your article was a reminder of the tireless, faithful and generous work of this saintly man.
James Martin, SJ, M.Div.’98, Th.M.’99
New York, New York
BCM has received word that Daniel J. Harrington, SJ, died February 7 at the Jesuits’ Campion Center in Weston, Massachusetts, after a four-year battle with cancer.
Re “Soul on Ice,” by Dave Denison (Summer 2013): The only thing more captivating than the cover story on James Balog was seeing him in action in the NOVA special “Extreme Ice,” which originally aired in 2009. The documentary included video that was awe-inspiring as a testament to the climate changes taking place.
Balog should be commended for the lengths to which he goes to tell this impportant story.
Jeff Pelletier ’94
A new prescription
Re “Healthy Regard,” by Zachary Jason (Fall 2013): Congratulations to Boston College on the establishment of an interdisciplinary minor in medical humanities. For 10 years the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities has been promoting the application of literary and other humanistic perspectives in medical contexts by sponsoring semester-long literature seminars at hospitals in the Boston area. Called “Literature & Medicine: The Humanities at the Heart of Healthcare,” the seminars bring doctors, nurses, social workers, hospital administrators, and other medical professionals together around a common set of literary works—novels, memoirs, short stories, poems—selected to illuminate issues they confront on a daily basis.
Ongoing evaluation of the program demonstrates the efficacy of the humanities in helping healthcare providers to better understand the needs and concerns of patients and their families. Boston College students who take advantage of the medical humanities minor and go on to careers in healthcare will be better at what they do and will find their work more rewarding.
The author is the executive director of the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.
Vatican II revisited
A central theme of my colleague Lisa Sowle Cahill’s lucid piece (“Being of This World,” Fall 2013) is one that concerns all Catholics: how Catholic identity has been understood since Vatican II.
Cahill sketches a typology of three approaches to the issue. A first is designated “Augustinian” and is associated with popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. A second is termed “neo-Thomist” and is associated with theologians such as the Jesuits Karl Rahner and John Courtney Murray. To these categories, and derived from other, younger theologians, she adds a third: “neo-Franciscan.” It prioritizes “small faith community and personal devotion and service.”
Professor Cahill suggests an “either/or” choice among the three, whereas each of the directions and individuals mentioned represent, for the most part, a Catholic “both/and” approach. Often they are distinguished more by emphasis than by rejection. Thus there is the real possibility of fruitful discussion and discernment among these three approaches.
For such discernment to be both faithful and creative, it must be founded on the Church’s witness to Jesus Christ. In this regard Pope Francis’s new Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, (“The Joy of the Gospel”) can serve as salutary challenge. The pope insists: “By his coming, Christ brought with him all newness. With this newness he is always able to renew our lives and our communities.”
Jesus Christ, Francis continues, can “break through the dull schemas with which we would imprison him and he constantly amazes us by his divine creativeness. Each time we return to the source and recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new paths open—creative methods, different forms of expression, more eloquent signs, words filled with renewed meaning for today’s world.” For Pope Francis, the true joy of the Gospel is Jesus himself.
Rev. Robert P. Imbelli
Associate professor of theology, emeritus
Bronx, New York
Re “Object lessons,” by Dave Denison (Fall 2013): As a graduate student of Robin Fleming’s, I witnessed her vision and energy at first hand. Professor Fleming’s innovative approach to interpreting material sources has transformed historians’ understanding of the pivotal and transitional post-Roman period in Britain. Working with someone willing to embrace evidence that disrupted the traditional narrative of the Middle Ages was both challenging and profoundly inspiring.
Sally Shockro, Ph.D.’08
North Andover, Massachusetts
The author is an assistant professor of history at Merrimack College.
Professor Fleming is a fiercely original thinker and an historian of uncommon compassion whose innovative approach to the past brings vividly to life the hopes and sorrows, aches and pains, failures and triumphs of long-dead people. I witnessed her turn many an undecided freshman into a passionate history major and convince more than one graduate student—myself included—to embrace the challenges and rewards of interdisciplinary research.
For those of us fortunate enough to have worked with her, the MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius Grant” hardly came as a surprise.
Austin Mason, Ph.D.’12
The author is an assistant professor of history at the University of Minnesota.
As I read Zygmunt J. B. Plater’s “Fish Tale” (Fall 2013), I could not help but notice the resemblance to a current grassroots movement—the Tea Party—which is an effort to stand up against expansive and invasive government. Those who stood up to the Tennessee Valley Authority were fighting the same battle.
It was extremely refreshing to see this piece, which sheds light on an aspect of the government many seldom see or acknowledge.
Akash Chougule ’12
East Greenwich, Rhode Island
This story about the overreach of the federal government for the “common good”—to the detriment, and over the protest, of the local people affected—only to be challenged by a small endangered fish, is a forecast of what will be written 40-odd years from now about Obamacare and the federal government forcing us to do something else for the common good.
Martin Toomey, MBA’66
The attempted aerial bombardment of Holy Cross with fliers (“Oddities and Endings: The Spirit is Willing,” Fall 2013) calls for further explanation. My dad (Mike Hirrel ’49) told this story many times, so I think I know it by heart. Dad was recruited for the mission because he was a pilot and John Duff ’49 because he had been a bombardier. But neither of them had ever been to Worcester, or seen the College of the Holy Cross, so Dick Riley ’49, JD’52, was recruited to identify the target. Riley, unfortunately, had never been in a plane, much less a small one. He became quite ill and wasn’t able to pay much attention to the ground. As a result, Worcester Polytechnic Institute wound up showered with the leaflets that Holy Cross so richly deserved.
Mike Hirrel ’73
The story “Nom De Plume” mentions a Lakota name given to Thomas Gasson, SJ, in 1909. I was working in the Pine Ridge and Rosebud communities in South Dakota in the 1980s when a young Jesuit friend told me he had been given a name by the Lakota teenagers he was working with for the summer. Fr. Gasson’s name (in current spelling) was Zintkala (bird) Wankatuya (up high) or High Bird. My friend’s new name was Zintkala (bird) Nasula (brain). Because Lakota teenagers are known for their humor, he knew the translation was intended.
Jim Green ’68
Wilmot, South Dakota
Clarification: In “Agency” (by Ben Birnbaum, Fall 2013) it was stated that Max Weber wrote “Bureaucracy” in 1922. The essay by that title, from Weber’s book Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, was published posthumously. Weber died in 1920. Our thanks to professor of political science, emeritus, Marvin Rintala for bringing this to our attention.
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