Saturday, March 24, 2007

Monky business at SMU

One of the highlights of my Dallas trip was sharing my conversion story with the students of Dr. Elaine Heath's "Intro to the Theory and Practice of Evangelism" class at Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology on Thursday morning.

As she drove me to her class, Dr. Heath told me about her interest in contemplative prayer. She had long had an interest in it and studied masters of Catholic contemplative tradition while getting her doctorate from Duquesne. That evening, she said, she and some of her students were beginning a new chapter in SMU religious life, hosting the first common meal of their "neomonastic order" devoted to contemplative prayer.

It is called the Contemplative Order of St. Julian of Norwich.

Y'know, Dallas in many ways was down the rabbit hole for me. When I walked into SMU's Catholic ministry headquarters, I was greeted by copies of Commonweal and the Houston Catholic Worker. A workbook-sized commentary on the year's readings was available, but no stack of Magnificats or anything similarly devotional.

Then I meet Professor Heath, an elder of the United Methodist Church, and she's talking to me about Teresa of Avila while acknowledging Julian of Norwich as not only a great contemplative, but a saint.

Seems you just can't keep a good saint — or a good tradition — down. Now, if those students could only have the opportunity to learn such devotions from a Catholic as well ...