Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Grace odyssey

Although I'm still officially on hiatus from blogging, I would like to thank those of you who still check on this page and who pray for me, and let you know how my graduate studies are going.

I am overjoyed to report that not only am I set to graduate Dominican House of Studies, with an M.A. in theology in May, but I will also be entering the moral theology PhD program at the Catholic University of America in the fall.

[Update, 8/1/10: Since writing this post, I have decided, rather than entering CUA's program, to take the longer and more arduous track towards a pontifical degree (Sacred Theology Doctorate). Doing so will enable me to remain in the Thomist tradition that I grew to love through studying at the Dominican-run Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at Dominican House of Studies. So I am returning to Dominican House in the fall to begin studies towards a licentiate in sacred theology (a necessary prerequisite for a pontifical doctorate), and hope to transfer to the University of Fribourg for the doctorate.]

It is hard to describe how it feels to have gone from being a rock journalist whose crowning achievements included conducting the last interview with Harry Nilsson, to being a graduate student in theology whose crowning achievements include a 70-page thesis titled "Towards a Climate of Chastity: Bringing Catechesis on the Theology of the Body into the Hermeneutic of Continuity."

When I was younger, lacking faith and suffering from depression, life seemed to progress painfully slowly. Now that I am over 40 and have survived cancer, it goes by so quickly that I can hardly catch my breath. When I do pause to think about all the things God has done in my life, what strikes me is how He has loved me through other people.

I think of the Australian psychology professor, Dr. Peter Birrell, who rang me up from Sydney after being impressed by an article I had written about my book The Thrill of the Chaste came out. At that time, I was still working as an editor and occasional writer for the New York Daily News. After some conversation, Dr. Birrell, who is Catholic, told me that, with my facility for language, I could learn to read Aquinas in the original Latin.

Newspaper journalists—not to mention chastity authors—do not receive compliments like that often.

I remember my response, because it was automatic and surprised even me. "I'd like to read Aquinas in the original Latin."

It came back to me today when I received my Latin midterm back—a translation of St. Thomas's sermon Ecce rex—the grade being an official confirmation of the doctor's prophecy. Dr. Birrell believed in me, and it is through his faith and encouragement, as well as that of my family and others I am blessed to know, that I have been able to achieve what I never imagined I would achieve.

Also coming to mind today, and just about every day, is Father Francis Canavan S.J., my beloved friend and mentor who, before passing away just over a year ago, urged me to continue my studies so that I might one day be a professor at a small Catholic college. I still miss him dearly, to the point of tears, and wish I could phone him to tell him the news of my acceptance into CUA.

There is much more that I would like to write, especially about how blessed I am to know the students and faculty at Dominican House, but I must get sleep for class tomorrow. If you are among those readers who have prayed for me, please know that I am very, very grateful.

A few quick notes:

  • As mentioned in my previous post, I would still like to make good on my promise to send a free copy of my book to any Catholic priests, seminarians, or religious who would like one. If you requested one and I did not follow through, or if you have never requested one and would like one, please write me via my feedback form.

  • A friend has suggested I post a link for anyone who might be moved to donate to help support me in my education. So, if you are so moved, here is a link to donate online, or you can write me at P.O. Box 57449, Washington, DC 20037.

  • If you would rather donate to a real charity, my favorite is BeyondMorningSickness.com, an apostolate of author Ashli McCall, whose book Beyond Morning Sickness is a lifesaver for pregnant women who suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum. BMS is technically not a nonprofit, but it's not a moneymaker either; Ashli sends a free copy of her book to anyone who requests one. Read the article I wrote about her or watch her on CNN.

  • I still give talks from time to time. For the latest tour dates, see my home page or the Appearances page at thrillofthechaste.com.