Ecumenical Inter-Religious Notes

Our Lady of the Angels Province friar, Rev. Dr. Edward J. Ondrako, OFM Conv. is a Visiting Scholar in the University of Notre Dame – Magrath Institute for Church Life. In May of 2017,  Friar Ed successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in the field of History of Christianity, at the University of Notre Dame and was awarded a PhD in Theology.  His dissertation was: “Rebuild My Church:” Peter Damian Fehlner’s Appropriation and Development of the Ecclesiology and Mariology of Vatican 2. Fr. Ed already holds a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Humanities/Humanistic Studies ~ Syracuse Univ., Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.), Humanities/Humanistic Studies ~ Syracuse Univ., Master of Arts (M.A.), Theology/Theological Studies ~ St. Bonaventure University, Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) ~ State University of New York at Albany, and a Master of Theology ~ St. Anthony of the Hudson Theological Seminary.
{Side note: Fr. Peter Damian Fehlner, OFM Conv. is another friar of our province who currently resides in our St. Joseph Cupertino Friary and con-celebrates most noon Masses at our Shrine of St. Anthony, in Ellicott City, MD.}


Here are a few reflections from Friar Ed, after viewing The Sultan and the Saint.

(First Entry)
The Sultan and the Saint, PBS Dec 26, 2017 (1)
The PBS documentary is evocative. Today, we try as St. Francis to proclaim the truth of the Gospel which is charity even as he found charity in the Sultan. The difference is that he proclaimed the triune God, and Jesus Christ, the Savior of all, the mystery of charity begun here and consummated in heaven. May we carry forth with imagination the wish of the Second Vatican Council to make common cause with Muslims to safeguard and foster social justice, moral values, peace, and freedom” (NA 3). “The Church looks with esteem upon the Muslims. They adore one God, revere Jesus as a prophet, and honor his virgin Mother; at times, they call on her with devotion.
Little was said about The Major Life of St. Francis by St. Bonaventure who narrates St. Francis’ ordeal by fire before the Sultan (ch 9, 8). This is a powerful point for theological imagination, to stretch without breaking. The trial proves St. Francis prays better than us and differs from the rest of us in his transparence to God’s will.

(Second Entry)
The Sultan and the Saint, PBS Dec 26, 2017 (2)
In discussing the PBS documentary, the historical view of St. John Paul II assists us. “An accurate historical judgment cannot prescind from careful study of the cultural conditioning of the times, and many factors that converged to create assumptions which justified intolerance and fostered an emotional climate from which only great spirits, truly free and filled with God, are in some way able to break free.” “The Catholic Church does not exonerate herself from profound regret for the weaknesses of many of her sons and daughters preventing her from fully mirroring the image of her crucified Lord, the supreme witness of patient love and of humble meekness” (Tertio Millenio Adveniente 35).
Vatican II underscores: “The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it wins over the mind with both gentleness and power” (Dignitatis Humanae 1). Happily, the Rumi Forum is committed to a common platform of education and information exchange.

(Third Entry)
The Sultan and the Saint, PBS Dec 26, 2017 (3)
The PBS documentary and its candor are the folly of violence as a lasting solution triggers our Franciscan anthropological premises. Everyone has a causal capacity, an independence that translates into freedom to act rightly. There is a natural inclination toward transcendence of the human person via one’s own power. There is a causal capacity that is unlimited and unrestricted and implies an independence of the subject from the object and this independence translates into a freedom to act. Sin weakens a person’s being, not essence. There is a constant relationship in a person between being a cause, having a practical potential, and possessing freedom. The reduction in causal power by evil acts frustrates the potential naturally possessed, and, by connection, a lesser freedom occurs in achieving the objective end proper to the person.
Using our anthropological imagination, we can implement the peace oriented principle in The Sultan and the Saint, lower the international temperature, and redirect the turn to violence to resolve religious questions.  The Rumi Forum joins us with their goal of interfaith and intercultural understanding.


Here are a few more reflections from Friar Ed, created after attending Friars’ Days:
These days are held throughout the province a few times a year. These events provide time for friars to catch up on information, share about their ministries, enjoy presentations and strengthen brotherhood, fellowship and community bonds.

(Fourth Entry)
What is the “lens” we Friars look at the Church and World in an “emergent generation”?
Friars’ Days identified the challenge of identifying a lens and the emergent generation for our Provincial Chapter 2018. Will we address the Ecumenical Inter-Religious imperative of Vatican II on a surface or level of repentance? Lumen Gentium (dogmatic) and Gaudium et Spes (pastoral) – the God/world relationship and freedom as a central issue.
As we identify the “lens,” the higher view of Plato to discern ultimate purposes and meanings and Aristotle’s view of practical wisdom, which fuels our Franciscan tradition, will help us to negotiate the complexity of our modern world in knowing how to recognize and cultivate good judgment because all of us are part of the emergent generation. We do not want to be taken by counterfeits.
Yes, in identifying the emergent generation, we will avoid rushing to judgment, but judgment is always something of a rush. Time often does not allow us the luxury of fastidious deliberation. The prize we seek is that faith will be made stronger and become mine. Christianity is a deeply meaningful form of prose with the conclusion suspended.

(Fifth Entry)
“Rebuild My Church” and the emergent generation.
Let’s call it by name. Modernity has torn apart the unity of faith and reason that was the real symbol of the medieval university in the time of St. Francis, Bonaventure, and Duns Scotus. The reunion of faith and reason is one of the fundamental forms of the demonstration of the power of Christianity after being torn apart. This is one of Catholicism’s great ventures and the university is the crucible where its fundamental conviction is tested. The youth of the emergent generation in the West have boundless educational possibilities. The emergent generation in the rest of the world is rapidly catching up. [E.g. One hears many different languages while walking on Notre Dame’s campus.]
Let’s admit that we moderns have lost a sense of sin, and the consequence, any sense of redemption, or any sense that we are meant to be better than we are and could be. The restoration of the relationship between ourselves and God in Christ is not simply a repair, but a second chance. An excessive God gives everything again for no reason except Love which is God’s form of thought and of will. For us Franciscans to “Rebuild the Church” leaves no room for mediocrity to give it cover.

(Sixth Entry)
Rebuilding the Church, Reformation, or Revolution?
The emergent generation intuits that there is, what we may call, an architectonic form of freedom. Some may think it is a radically arbitrary form of self-will (Kantian) that is found in prevailing libertarian strains of thought. Our reply is: Bl. John Duns Scotus got it right. The power to initiate, to “self-determine” is the characteristic of the will. The perfect will acts freely and loves the perfect good.
“God is a debtor to his own generosity and in his creative action his volition is most orderly” (Duns Scotus, Ordinatio IV, dist. 46). Freedom that is generosity has its own order, a massively important point calling for further interpretations of Duns Scotus’ doctrine of freedom, with promise for substantive Ecumenical and Inter-Religious dialogue. Call it by name. Here is the profound abyss dividing the theology of the cross of St. Francis and his theologian disciples from Luther and Calvin.
Yes, Luther overcame much, but not the law of unintended consequences. His individual believer experienced through his preaching the accusing word of God. The modern individual believer, who owes much to him, experiences through preaching an “ego” that will never be decertified. The Reformation is not a reformation, but a revolution. It not only tore down, it tore up. We keep looking for the causes and ways to heal.

(Seventh Entry)
The Emergent Generation [a]
The Church is open to every emergent generation with a vastly expansive cultural engagement. The Church is directed toward Christ and outward not toward herself, and the sacramental definition of herself at Vatican II, opened itself to inflections of Catholic principles. She does not renounce her institutional and hierarchical definition or qualify in any serious way her claims to jurisdiction.
If the power of assimilation of Christianity is constant, the theology of St. Bonaventure represents more than a fairly successful form of assimilation. A reflective emergent generation thirsts for Franciscan wisdom centered on the mystery of the most Blessed Trinity. Their critique of the times deals with the ever-emerging radical autonomy of the will. Pope Francis calls it modern libertarian or pelagian strains of thought.

(Eighth Entry)
The Emergent Generation [b]
Ecumenical dialogue in the emergent generation takes into account that too often overlooked is a Protestant critique that judges the emergence of Roman Catholicism to represent the eclipse in history of authentically biblical Christianity. While the Church of Vatican II does not emphatically insist on its prerogatives, fairness requires that we hear the other or specifically Catholic side. This is not difficult and does not prevent ecumenical progress.
Franciscans turn to a full scriptural-theological (patristic) framework, the Journey of the Mind to God of St. Bonaventure who teaches that the enlightenment coming from the light of nature and from acquired knowledge has to include entering into oneself to delight in the Lord. This is possible only through the mediation of Christ. The image of our soul is clothed over with faith, hope, and charity, by which the soul is purified, enlightened, and perfected.

(Ninth Entry)
The Emergent Generation [c]
The God/world relationship and freedom are central issues to the emergent generation. Franciscan freedom, as formulated by Bl. Duns Scotus, falls between two polarized positions, that God is bound to respect the requirements of nature (Aristotelian necessitarianism), and voluntarism in its radical form that emphasizes the arbitrariness of God’s dealings with the world. Duns Scotus insists the Divine Will is always ordered and causes finite things to exist and to persist as they do.
Freedom in relation to reason is massively important for the emerging generation. In this context, Franciscan freedom is the glue of the universe. St. Francis exemplifies the marrow of freedom: “God is love, the highest good, charity, wisdom” (Praises of God). He understood and praised Divine Love both within the mutuality of the Trinitarian Persons and in God’s relation to creation.

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