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February 2013

Feb 22, 2013

I didn’t know much about Catholicism when I started working at Catholic Theological Union.  I’m Jewish, and Catholicism has always been outside the realm of my experience. Although some might find it unusual that a Jewish person would be on staff at CTU, it’s not really that unorthodox to me. I grew up with a faith background, and it feels comfortable to be around religion, even when it’s not my own tradition. I come to CTU with a respect of all religions and a curiosity about other cultures and faiths. Likewise, everyone here has welcomed me with open arms. Interfaith is not just a word at CTU; it’s something that is truly practiced.

That said, working at CTU has made me think quite a bit about differences and similarities. There are some days I am reminded of our differences, especially when I encounter unfamiliar aspects of Catholicism. I’m full of questions: "What is Advent?"; "Why are you bringing in palm fronds on Ash Wednesday?"; "What exactly is the Eucharist?" My questions may seem basic, but I’m starting at ground zero. I’m quite appreciative of my fellow coworkers who patiently explain aspects of the religion to me.

I have also have had the privilege to dialogue not only with Catholics, but Muslims as well. I’ve filmed lectures where Muslims have spoken about interfaith. I have had discussions with a Muslim student about the recent discrimination she faced in Israel. This was challenging to hear, especially given that my father’s family is Israeli. However, I am grateful that CTU offers a safe space where we can explore these issues.

Being at CTU is also a reminder of our similarities. I share CTU’s values of justice, love, and peace. At a recent work retreat, both a fellow staff member and I remarked that Jerusalem is one of our most cherished places. We both commented on the religious history and the sacred spiritual feeling within the walls of the Old City. I love Jerusalem; the city feels like home.

I feel truly blessed to be at CTU. This is a place of deep learning and growth. I look forward to continuing the interreligious dialogue as we all honor and respect our differences and similarities.

Ronit Bezalel | Webmaster/Media Manager |

Feb 15, 2013

Lent came early for CTU this year, just three days into our Spring Semester.  With all the sudden frenetic activity—welcoming new students, greeting colleagues and classmates we haven’t seen in weeks, reveling in new class material yet unburdened by assignment deadlines—it seemed incredibly unfair to contemplate entering this stereotypically somber season.  Or so I thought. 

When I woke up this Ash Wednesday, I honestly wasn’t planning to rebel, but I couldn’t help being…well…happy.  I moved through the day feeling energized, and while some attributed this to the ounces of coffee I consumed (not a wise way to fast, my friends!), I sensed something more at work.

“I just can’t get excited about Lent! I don’t want to be all gloomy in my sackcloth and ashes,” a typically vibrant student lamented to me.

“But you don’t have to be,” I gushed, with other-worldly/caffeinated energy.   “Lent is so exciting!  It’s a time of possibilities, for us to grow more fully into the people God invites us to be, which is our most authentic selves!”

Growth.  It’s a loaded word. It can indiscriminately become a euphemism for any painful and necessary process we would rather avoid, and I wished it hadn’t escaped my lips in that moment….until our Ash Wednesday Liturgy, when Prof. vanThanh Nguyen reminded us in his homily that Lent comes to us from the Old English word for spring.

Gloom or not, these weeks leading up to Easter are filled with slow awakenings and tentative shoots, as we cross over the threshold of an earthly season and prepare our hearts for a new season within.  On Wednesday morning, I noticed that my peace lily plant, which often chooses to remain flowerless for years at time, is preparing a bloom.  In the next weeks this white oval will emerge from its stalk, turn toward the sun, and slowly unfurl itself to its understated brilliance.

And there, a work of creation can catechize us further.

Whether we call it growth, conversion, or transformation, the work of Lent begins with the willingness to let God in – to be “petal-open,” as the author Zora Neale Hurston called it.  Admittedly, there have been times that this realization has made me wince.  This week it makes me smile.  Broadly.

Will we become “petal-open” this Lent?

Angela Paviglianiti | Director of Admissions |


Feb 11, 2013

This morning's news of Pope Benedict's resignation shocked the world. His bad health, he cites, is just too severe to carry on the responsibilities of the office.

Thank you, Benedict XVI, for your service and Catholic witness. Whether a fan or not, he committed himself to the cause. It's not an easy job, especially in today's increasingly complex world.

We pray, too, for his health. Retirement will allow him to better attend to his personal and physical needs. Be well, Benedict.

As you read pundits everywhere weighing in on today's developments, you can't help but ask, "What's next?" To be sure, there will continue to exist disagreements over liturgy and theology, ecclesiology and science, ethics and morality, dogma and tradition. Conservative and Liberal. Orthodoxy. Heterodoxy. And, everything in-between.

Will he be charismatic? A good communicator? Have the right vision? Pastoral prowess?

Depending on what's important to you, the questions abound. I know I've made a "short list" in my head of what I'd like to see in the next Pontiff. I imagine many are crafting similar lists. These things matter. It's important. Our faith - today, tomorrow, and in the future - depends on it.

Even so, let us not meet this moment with a hyper-intensity (and sensitivity!) that overshadows our reliance on the Holy Spirit's agency. In the end it will be the Spirit's in-dwellings, working in tandem with Cardinal electors, that will call forth and elect a new Pontiff.

The moment we find ourselves in - amidst conjecture and spin, news coverage and blogs, articles and radio segments - shouldn't only be about our human tendency to speculate and prescribe. The fanfare, hoopla, ornate caps, gowns, and shoes of it all will no doubt be reason to get excited. There's greater depth than this, though.

This is a moment for prayer. Reflection and contemplation. Discernment. Deep thinking. Recollection and remembrance. 

Our pause to do the inner work required of faith matters, too.

The Holy Spirit is beckoning us forward.

Are we listening?

Come, Holy Spirit!

Ryan J. Hoffmann | Senior Director of Enrollment Management |