Post: Readers Respond

Dear Reene the Green: I am hardly what I’d call a gardener and I have never heard anyone say that I am one. Nevertheless, I could become one and I do read your column. I want you to know that I did some “deadheading” this morning for the first time and I see what you mean. In doing so I cleaned up the plant. It looks better and it felt good to do it. Thanks for your advice. Joe Smith, Dawson, Minnesota.

I read the review of Burge’s Heloise and Abelard with much interest and profit. I didn’t know that Abelard was the godfather of the University of Paris. Quite an achievement. It reigned as the intellectual seat of Christendom for a very long time.

More impressive is Heloise. It is sobering and astounding that French women of the Upper classes (nobility and Bourgeoisie) managed so early to get an education. And the women writers! I am amazed to see regularly slotted on the metal racks at train stations, the prose and poetry works of Louise Labe and Christian de Pizan, late Middle Ages and Renaissance, in the pocket book editions popular in France. No other European country produced such a fusion of independent female writers so early. Heloise leads the pack. She must have been a mighty assured 20-year-old to have bucked her uncle in so fundamental a matter. Heloise is almost a contemporary of Eleanor of Aquitaine, another educated, political power house.

Neither the English, the Germans, the Spanish nor the Italians can make so early a claim to female writers as an independent species. I find this odd, especially with the Italians, who were the first to claim the vernacular as their own. We “hear” of educated prostitutes (courtesans), in Venice, who walked around with editions of the classics in their pockets. But nothing concrete is known of them. Certainly no female writers of note existed in England, Germany, or Italy before the 17th century—except for St. Theresa of Avilla’s and Sister Joanna’s religious works.

Mr. Bowman [“A Man’s Best Friend”] sees Catholicism through somewhat rosy glasses. Except for papal infallibility in matters of faith and morals, everything else is up for grabs. Catholicism has and will continue to change outside the framework of faith and morals. Thomas Aquinas allowed for abortion—up to the first three months under very specific conditions. The ordination of women is a tradition, not of faith and morals, thus, not a matter of papal infallibility.

Tradition has changed over time. Slavery is a classic case. In 1526, Pope Pius II forbade the enslavement of baptized Christians. Nothing was said again on the subject till 1835, when the slave trade was condemned but not the institution—something Southern Catholic bishops were quick to point out. Slavery as such was not condemned by the Vatican until 1952! If Pope Jean Paul II said he did not have the power to change the practice of the ordination of women, he was playing fast and loose with his authority. He cannot change faith and morals, as set out, but he can change everything else. For example, Pope Jean XXIII removed that expression “perfidious Jews” from the very Gospel of St. Matthew. If you can “tamper” with a gospel, then everything else is up for grabs.

Finally, Mr. Bowman argues that “Questions about sexuality and the sanctity of human life are not propositions to be submitted to church assemblies for consideration and vote.” To the contrary, that is precisely what Vatican II (and all church councils) was about. Robert Thompson, New York, New York.

Exercising our rights implicit in the “Freedom of Information Act,” we were able to preview this Summer issue of Pietisten. In addition to “proof-reading” the most excellent articles, features, and letters, we read with great interest the Annual Report for 2005. The financial audit (see page 4 ff.) was a wonderfully disturbing epiphany. It showed a deficit of nearly $3,000.

Since we consider Pietisten an irreplaceable treasure and we have the highest regard for its editors and staff, we feel compelled to attempt, with your assistance, to greatly reduce and hopefully eliminate this deficit. We invite you to join us in making a contribution (tax deductible of course) to insure the continued publication of this unique, inspirational, informative journal. Joyce and Ralph Sturdy, Jackie and Art Mampel, Kate and Tom Tredway, Karen and Arvid Adell.

Dear Companions: My 91 years of age makes me a “walking relic” and this letter is accompanied by many memories.

Memory is a marvelous gift that I put to use daily as the present historical—or is it hysterical—moment unfolds as history. I could go on and on but my former companions remind me that history reveals its own relentless process and any stirring that I attempt will only “mess me up.” However, and thankfully forever, companionship and North Park are synonymous.

I was embraced by companionship the moment I stepped on campus and Aaron Markuson (now retired Covenant pastor) greeted me. I was 23 when I began study for the ministry. North Park patiently and lovingly took me in and sent me on and the “journey is still going on.” Education has been a collective activity. A few incidents shed some light.

I remember a lecturer who repeated again and again that sympathy is the combination of the two Greek words “sym” and “pathos” meaning “to suffer with.” That, however, was over 60 years ago and no one dared ask what it meant. Did we know that ministry would reveal the meaning, as it did with David Nyvall’s repetition of “Via Dolorosa” (the way of pain) when he taught his final course “The Life of Jesus” at North Park? And oh! how that has been true as so many incidents are called forth by compassion.

I remember July 2, 1954, Fort Ord, California. At the end of the duty day, I paused for a moment to greet the post chaplain. He put the phone down with the remark, “Now the General wants me to formulate an Honor Guard to post the colors at the Charles Fuller service at Mt. Hermon Bible Camp on Sunday”—Sunday was the Fourth of July in 1954. I said “The answer to that is very easy. Appoint me as Officer in charge and I will formulate the Guard and include the Mission Springs (Covenant Campground) service in the afternoon.” An ordinary day became extraordinary. It was the beginning of a valued friendship and, yes, companionship. I met Mel Soderstrom (North Park Director of Development) who was a member of that honor guard.

I add another incident. As I walked through the campus gates waving my diploma—evidence of my theological degree, Dean Hawkinson stopped as I bade him farewell with words of gratitude. I added “that’s a big job out there and I wonder if I am ready.” He said, “take each moment as it comes and it will tell you what to do.” How True! How True! I have a life-time of ministry that attests to it.

May God guide young graduates as they step through the gate with their diplomas to take each moment as it comes and discover what He will have you do. L. Edward Nelson, Air Force Chaplain.