How doing what I want to do helps others to do what they want – a tribute to the outgoing President of the Dominican School of Theology and Philosophy in Berkeley, CA Several years ago, I attended a short lecture series offered by Fr Michael Sweeney, who was president of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology a member school of the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley). It was called Re-Visioning Society and was offered as part of their summer session and explored Catholic social teaching and the common good. I am reminded of this now, in 2015, because I have stayed in touch with Fr Sweeney ever since. He has just stepped down from his role as President after 10 years. I am sure he will continue to have a profound affect people’s lives in this next phase of his life. I hope also, of course, that the incoming President continues and even builds on the good work that has been going on at the school.
I was interested Fr Sweeney’s course I because this idea of the common good has been referred to by Pope Benedict in a recent encyclical. What I didn’t quite realize beforehand how important what I learned would be on my thinking subsequently. I was excited to realize, as happens so often when I learn more about one aspect of Catholic teaching, that it would have an impact on my understanding of everything else in the Faith. One of those in particular relates to the idea of personal vocation. I had written an article about discerning personal vocation just before this. Here is the article I wrote after the course, 5 years ago, in which (with the aid of Fr Sweeney’s lectures) I hoped to place that idea of personal vocation in the context of God’s vocation for the whole human race, the common good:
The questions I was hoping to resolve ran as follows: how can I act in ‘solidarity’ with the ‘common good’ and fulfill a personal vocation at the same time? Does acting for the common good mean that I have to think about how every action is in part, for example, going to contribute to alleviating famine in the world? Or, put another way, if I do nothing directly to help alleviate famine in Africa, am I ignoring my obligation to act in accordance with the common (Read More)