by Patrick Angiolillo
As one semester comes to a close and another opens its doors, students and teachers alike are gearing up for their continued quest for knowledge. With all the buzz of applications, papers, and conferences, it is not difficult for me, a Masters student, to lose opportunities to reflect on what exactly it is I and my fellow students—especially we students of religion or theology or divinity—are doing when we engage new semester with new texts and new questions.
I have come to no deep conclusions, no profound realizations about this process, this career, even. On one level—quite superficially, perhaps—we are engaging in historical investigations. Myself, especially, as a student of biblical studies, or the even more obscure Second Temple Judaism, am easily claimed as one chiefly concerned with the production, reception, and interpretation of ancient texts. As are my closest colleagues, although some perhaps prefer the dirtier side of things, digging through archaeological remains in order to answer sometimes the same but often quite different questions of our shared historical investigation.
But on a deeper level, I often wonder what it is we are doing, for ourselves or for our churches, or our communities. Perhaps some of my friends in ethics have more practical answers, as ethics—or at least my impression of it—is principally concerned with, well, generating an ethic, a code, an understanding of things such that we can prescribe and proscribe with the effect of bringing about the good (or The Good). Maybe that is a simplistic or stuffy, dated impression of ethics, but it nonetheless implies the fundamental practicality of the discipline. Those friends engaged in studies of divinity, too, have a practical edge over me. Training for CPE or learning the essentials of pastoral care, as well as engaging in broad theological study, have wide ranging applicability and very practical use. Helping a parishioner struggle through the death of a loved one, or helping a student understand an explanation of the Trinity are, for instance, beautiful expressions of the practical dimension of these disciplines.
But then there is the biblical scholar. Continue reading The Role of the Catholic Biblical Scholar: An Ongoing Consideration