Sunday, December 13, 2009

Study for God's Sake

Many of us attracted to the spiritual life want to find ways in which we can learn more about past traditions, Scripture, ways of prayer and relationship with God etc. From what I can gather there are numerous options these days for study in theology and spirituality. The picture above is of the previously known Centre for Christian Spirituality(CCS) in Randwick, Sydney. It was the first centre to initiate Catholic distance learning or correspondence type courses back in the 1970s with the intention of deepening faith in students and lay people. The Centre for Christian Spirituality has since moved and gone on to bigger things as the Broken Bay Institute, recently forging a link with the University of Newcastle in New South Wales. For more info visit here. The old building pictured is now a Catholic accommodation facility with some magnificent art in the foyer and hallways. The Masters study I undertook in 2002 was with this lot and at the completion I received the inaugural CCS Award in Spirituality which acknowledged the initial vision of making theological study more accessible. Certainly study in one's home has enormous advantage in relation to accessibility but it can also be isolating and lacks the physical community of students within which ideas can be tested. However, distance learning was for the most part nurturing and I learnt much. In fact I learnt much about the riches of Christian practice and traditions and of placing myself in this lineage. The great turning over centuries towards the Presence that is felt in the midst of life, sometimes barely perceptible but worthy of our attention and love, has led to incredible outpourings of faith and practice. I felt a much greater grounding in this background and renewed enthusiasm to dialogue ecumenically and with people of all sorts of backgrounds. Above all though, formal study becomes an invitation to include a little study in the everyday. The monastic emphasis on balance provides the essential technology of nurturing our minds through study in conjunction with practices that expand the heart and value the body. In reality we love God and others with our whole self and study, formal or otherwise, is simply one aspect in our overall growing as persons.