Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First Anniversary of My Doctorate

Today is the 901st anniversary of the birth of St. Anselm into heaven. It is the 1st anniversary of my birth as a Doctor of Philosophy in Theology!

And, so, it was on the great nonacentennial anniversary of the Father of Scholasticism that God blessed me extraordinarily. It was a real movement of grace and mercy, because things were stacking up against me. I had the wrong adviser - great guy, but not an expert in the field in which I was writing, which was a huge mistake! There was a lot of crankiness in my board of examiners. My thesis was pretty good - not great - and so I had do a lot to push it through. It could have gone either way. I am grateful to God that it succeeded. The PhD. is everything to an academic career. There are no physicians without MDs - no matter how talented and knowledgeable they are - and there are really no professors without PhDs, and me with absolutely nothing else to fall back on after 15 years as a student of theology...

I had cause to reflect on this situation, a situation which had huge implications for me and which I could do very little to control. How funny life seems at such times, and how clearly does it then appear that it is in God's hands. It is then that one could really analyse the whole phenomenon of prayer. Do you ever pray for something really concrete? If you are a Protestant you probably do (ha, ha!). If you are Catholic, chances are you pray for double-edged, but vague, things like humility. So, as a Catholic, praying for something uncustomarily concrete, I wondered about how things like 'deserve' fit into it. 'Did I deserve this?" I asked. No, not by any means! There is no deserve with God. So, how could I even ask?I did not then pray to succeed because I deserved it. But I prayed that I might succeed because Anne-Marie deserved it, after suffering for so long emotionally and financially for this.

I don't want to get into the nitty-gritty too much, but with my good friend, Archbishop Prendergast, by my side, I succeeded. As a sign of the huge toll this process was taking on me, I immediately fell ill, despite my great joy and sudden sense of freedom. It was a complete physical collapse. Apparently this is common after a great ordeal. Not that this is equivalent (it is all relative!), but Anne-Marie tells me that the same thing happened to the servant of God, Katherine Doherty at the War's end.

I know that in all this my 'St. Lucy' was St. Anselm - and I never knew it! By 'St. Lucy', I am, of course, referring to Dante's spiritual patron in the Divine Comedy. And Dante knows all about '9s' doesn't he! (Read his La Vita Nuova for this reference). For someone to attain his doctoral degree on the 900th anniversary of the death of one of the most important theologians ever is pretty special, and a pretty clear sign of God's and Anselm's great blessing to me. This being that case, I know I have a debt to Anselm that I will try to repay. I shall endeavour to make every April 21st an occasion to glorify God in that saint.

Nor have I forgotten my earthly patrons. So many: Anne-Marie, my mom and dad, my kids, my brothers, Archbishop Prendergast, Archbishop Currie, Fr. Hattie, so many friends, especially Peter and Melody Murphy... OLSWA... God bless all of you forever!

Of course, I owe so very much to St. Augustine, my dear friend. I don't know why, but I just have this sense that, in his great humility, he sought this favour from God for St. Anselm, his little brother, so to speak.

I think of my dad on this occasion. Although he died a few month before he could see this chapter of my life come to a successful conclusion, I am blessed for his having been able to contribute to the work itself as a proof-reader. This is for you too, Dad!

Quick Facts on St. Anselm

Born in 1033 in Burgundy, was Archbishop of Canterbury, and died on this date in 1109.

He was the author of the very famous works, Monologion, Proslogion, Cur Deus Homo, as well as a slew of others.

He invented the 'satisfaction theory of atonement' and the 'ontological argument' for God's existence.


  1. For what it's worth, you also received your PhD on the 867th anniversary of Peter Abelard's passing. The Father of Scholasticism and the Father of Astrolabe. What better patrons can you ask for?

  2. Astrolabe is one of the worst names ever. The Middle Ages had some pretty poor names, but that one takes the cake.