It was an elegantly simple, but thought-provoking question that opened – and framed – the 2018 Bernard J. Tyrrell, S.J. Lecture in Philosophy of God and Theology at Gonzaga University.
Randall S. Rosenberg, Ph.D., asked the assembled audience of students, academics and Jesuits, “What is it about saints or models or exemplars that awaken the human spirit?” It was the type of compelling question that opened minds while furthering the legacy of the lecture series.
Rosenberg, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology in the Department of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University, was rightly introduced as “an original Catholic thinker.” He lived up to the billing and, in doing so, paid homage to Tyrrell and Fr. Bernard Lonergan.
Tyrrell, the former Professor Emeritus at Gonzaga who taught for many years in the Religious Studies department, is the namesake of the lecture series. He, along with colleague William Ryan from the Philosophy department, edited a volume of the collected works of Bernard Lonergan, S.J. (1904-84), a respected Canadian thought leader who gave the inaugural lecture in the long-running (former) Saint Michael’s lecture series at Gonzaga back in 1972.
The aim of the lecture series is to explore the intersection of religion and theology. Rosenberg’s lecture did so, tying it all together adeptly at a deep academic level that provoked excited follow-up questions from the theologians, philosophers and Jesuit priests in the room.
Rosenberg explored the lives of Holocaust victim Etty Hillesum and French saint Thérèse of Lisieux as models of holiness who can speak to our lives in the secular age. He contrasted the varied backgrounds of his subjects, yet compared the commonalities of how they managed to find and emulate holiness in difficult times – and how that speaks powerfully to greater ideals.
Rosenberg is the author of “The Givenness of Desire: Concrete Subjectivity and the Natural Desire to See God” and teaches courses on the topics of Theological Foundations, Love and the Human Condition, Christology, Theology of the Human Person. He was introduced by former doctoral classmate Joseph Mudd, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Gonzaga.
“He’s really good at bringing the larger context of the Catholic intellectual tradition together with systematic theological concerns – to be able to talk about the lives of the saints and think about larger theological questions,” Mudd said of Rosenberg. “… I’ve always been inspired by him as a colleague and a classmate: his creative synthesis and integration of a variety of different disciplines into this theological and philosophical conversation.”
The thought-provoking discussion included several questions from students in attendance, a level of intellectual engagement that reflects an intentional approach of holistic education at Gonzaga.
"The great potential of it is to have a great conversation about synthetic thinking," said Mudd. "What we need to model for the students is how to do that, because for them their courses are disparate… It can seem very disjointed. I think some of these co-curricular events are an opportunity to model for the students how you might bring some of these things together."
– Jeff Bunch