Faculty colloquium discusses sacraments from perspective of six disciplines

Veronica Novotny

Assistant Editor

The seminar room of the St. Joseph’s Center was filled to the gills with students and faculty for “God is Everywhere: An Interdisciplinary Colloquium on the Sacraments,” a series of short talks on the sacraments featuring seven professors from six academic departments, Saturday.

Sarah Wear, who holds a doctorate in classics, presented her paper “The Healing Power of the Eucharist: Body and Soul in the Theology of Gregory of Nyssa and Cyril of Alexandria.”

Wear said that Gregory and Cyril taught a view of the human body wherein the bodily elements have been imbalanced by sin and can only be returned to balance through reception of the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist.

Wear’s presentation of Gregory’s and Cyril’s sacramental theology sparked a Q&A discussion among herself, Stephen Hildebrand, who holds a doctorate in historical theology and spoke later in the colloquium, and Theodore Harwood, who holds a doctorate in classics. The trio exchanged interpretations of what Gregory meant by saying that the elements of the Eucharist influence and heal the elements of the human body.

Aaron Urbanczyk, who holds a doctorate in English, spoke on the view of the Eucharist and the human body in Flannery O’Connor’s short story “A Temple of the Holy Ghost.”

Hildebrand followed with a paper on “The Sacraments in the Theology of St. Basil the Great,” focusing on Basil’s view of baptism and limited writings on of the Eucharist.

Matthew Breuninger, who holds a doctorate in psychology, gave a talk entitled, “Safe and Secure: The Role of the Liturgy in Shaping God Attachment.”

Breuninger said the psychological concept of attachment, which is established between a child and a caregiver, is when the caregiver provides attuned, warm and consistent care for his or her child. Breuninger then associated this type of care with the sacraments and liturgy and how the two provide for the spiritual needs of the Catholic.

John Bergsma, who holds a doctorate in theology, spoke on the early forms of the sacraments as found in the Dead Sea Scrolls and how the scrolls can influence the Catholic understanding of the Jewish roots of Christianity.

Robert Doyle, who holds a doctorate in history, spoke on chaplain prisoners of war in the American Pacific during World War II. Despite a lack of resources concerning chaplain POWs, Doyle said that the bravery and sacrifice of military chaplains during this period made a significant impact among POWs during this period.

Doyle gave the example of one chaplain who, amid a cacophony of noise and despair while aboard a Japanese hell ship, led the men in an Our Father and died once the prayer ended, leaving behind an air of quiet and respect among the POWs.

To end the colloquium, Brandon Dahm, who holds a doctorate in philosophy, spoke on the virtue of sleep, which he referred to as “somnience,” and how sleeping virtuously relates to faith and humility.

“Sleeping as we should can be an act of faith and humility,” Dahm said. “(Temperance) often involves a trust in divine providence.”

Dahm ended his talk with the first public announcement of his new podcast with Breuninger and Robert McNamara, who holds a doctorate in philosophy. The podcast “Published at Franciscan” interviews university faculty about their recent publications; its first episode, featuring John Crosby on the personalism of Pope St. John Paul II, was released Oct. 4.

Every seat was filled before the colloquium started at 9 a.m. and more chairs were set up throughout the morning.

Wear organized the colloquium as part of the faculty Step in Faith academic talks, which are put on by faculty in lieu of receiving off-campus speakers due to travel restrictions.