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Lecture discusses ‘occasions of grace’

Alicia Smith | Wednesday, March 24, 2010

With some Catholics in a state of “disenchantment and disillusionment,” scholar Colleen Mary Mallon said Catholicism is currently at a crossroads.

Mallon spoke to members of the Saint Mary’s College community Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Stapleton Lounge in LeMans Hall. Mallon is assistant professor of Theology at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis.

Her lecture, “Near Occasions of Grace: The Gift and Task of Thinking Catholic,” discussed several components of Catholicism including Catholic theological tradition as well as intellectual distinction.

In order to remain faithful in this time of uncertainty, Mallon said Catholics must live responsibly and creatively.

“The life of the mind is a place where grace happens and that the wholeness of grace, the gift of God’s own life for nothing but love comes to us as an integral, embodied and critical intelligence,” she said. “That is, the livingness of divine love is a gift that animates our choices even as these choices are fully our own, our path.”

According to Mallon, beliefs can be seen through actions. Actions, she said, allow one to understand more deeply what it is he or she believes.

“If you want to know what I really think and believe, watch what I do,” Mallon said.

Mallon relayed an account she once had with a student who had recently lost some friends in a terrorist attack in her homeland of Iraq. Mallon said although this student was struggling, she was able to come to and understanding of the situation because of grace.

“I watched how the act of struggling to make meaning is a holy practice, where grace meets us and helps us to stretch to limits we cannot obtain without the accompaniment of the sacred spirit of God,” Mallon said.

Mallon also discussed globalization and its effect on the Catholic faith. She spoke about four theological global flows attached to globalization. These flows are the theology of liberation, feminism, ecology and human rights.

“The sinking of these global theological flows through the local water table into the roots of our social lives has met with both reception and resistance,” she said. “While some have experienced these … as rivers in dry land, others have experienced these as contaminated waters.”

During her lecture, Mallon asked the audience to participate in a discussion. She told the audience to consider two groups of scientists. The first group gathers around a telescope and is scanning the night sky, searching for something. The second group is gathered around a crater. She asked the audience to discuss which of the groups of scientists were more like Christians. 

After a short discussion, she explained that the group of scientists that best approaches the Christian search for God was the group who was studying the crater.

“Christian faith does not primarily concern the human search for God but is ultimately a human answer to God in search of human beings,” she said.

Mallon said Catholics have an important task that must be faced.

“This is our task: The work of bringing what we say and believe as Roman Catholics into congruency and alignment with how we actually behave,” Mallon said.