I've mentioned before that along with the community life and the ministry, I spend a good 2 hours a day in class here at the friary. Learning things from the life of Francis of Assisi, Liturgy, Biblical Criticism, the Catechism, and other important aspects of life as a Capuchin, my plate stay pretty full just with academics. There's never any grading done; at this stage of our formation I think they just want to make sure we'll do the work when it comes time for college and seminary.
So if you're looking to do some interesting reading, or you're just wondering what exactly I'm learning, here's a brief list of what I'm currently working on.
Catholic Social Teaching - One of the most important aspects of being a Capuchin is learning to be in community with all people, especially those that have been marginalized by society. Catholic Social Teaching is an integral part of how we choose to live out our charism and spread the Gospel message.
Rerum Novarum - Papal Encyclical from Pope Leo XIII in 1891. This is the basis for Catholic social justice today. It's relevance remains as we continue to see the effects of urbanization, polarization of classes and cultures, and the oppression of people in this world.
Along with Rerum, I've also read through Octogesima Adveniens, otherwise known as the "Call to Action" Encyclical from Pope Paul VI. Not only does this show the relevance of Rerum at the time of it's writing (1971) but gives specific directives for the faithful to engage in social justice. Paul VI is critical of Free Market society, leading to Individualism, but also warns against the siren song of Socialism and Marxism.
After reading both encyclicals, I realized I wanted to know even more about these systems, and why The Church always seems to have this "middle of the road" approach towards Capitalism and Socialism. So, for better understanding, I bought 3 more books:
For a better understanding of the ideology and to better digest why The Church gave it's critical description to both Communism and unchecked Capitalism, I thought it best to go to the source. For Christmas, my mom bought me The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital by Karl Mark and Fredrick Engels. For the other side of the spectrum, I bought the "Bible of Free Market Thinking": The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. I'm still awaing their arrival from Barnes & Noble.
Over Christmas break, I also had to read and discuss a more recent encyclical, this one from Pope Benedict XVI. Deus Caritas Est (God is Love) was a surprise for the Pope's first encyclical. Many in the Catholic community thought he would write something more about the Magisterium or Truth, rather that something about eros and agape. Nonetheless, it is an excellent encyclical to understanding love in the grander scheme of faith, to recognizing the need not only for justice but for charity, and towards understanding how "Love of God" and "Love of neighbor" are much the same thing.
Along with these books, we're reading in preparation for Biblical study and criticism. This does not mean we're going to start tearing the Bible down, but it does mean that we will start looking at it through a better lens and try to understand when it was written. The metaphor for this process is "getting behind the Word." This stack of books could easily be found in any seminarian curriculum:
Interpreting Scripture by Walter Vogels. An introduction to understanding the need for exegesis and the different ways that is possible for us.
Interpreting the New Testament by Daniel Harrington. A more in-depth look at form criticism, redaction criticism, literary criticism, parallel texts, and the different tools available to get at the meaning behind the text.
New Testament Fundamentals by Stevan L. Davies. This is the application of exegesis on New Testament scripture. I'm still finishing the book by Harrington, so I cannot give you a further description, other than it takes the tools we've learned and begins to apply them to the Gospel, epistles, and to the Apocolypse text.
Reading the Old Testament by Lawrence Boadt is the biggest book we have to read, and for obvious reasons. This book is much like Davies book, except for the obvious difference. Thankfully we only have to read selected chapters from this book.
Last, but definitely not least, we have a book that needs to be read before the end of January. We in Milwaukee will spend a few weeks with the guys in the New York province at their friary (I haven't been to NYC in years!) While we are there, we will have a week long course regarding the Eucharist. Before that time, we need to read From Age to Age: How Christians Have Celebrated the Eucharist. I haven't even thought about picking up this book yet, however I'm eager to read it just like everything else.
I would suggest all of these books (yes, even the ones about Socialism and Communism!) if you are looking to gain a better understanding of your faith, living your faith in a sometimes troubled world, or if you're interested in Scripture and would like to gain a better understanding of the Word.
Wish I could write more; but as you can see I'm quite busy.