My thoughts and reflections on my Catholic Faith, Fulton Sheen, the problem of suffering, and books

Friday, May 27, 2011

The meaning of "Theological" and "Librarian"

Like most children, I wanted to be many different things when I was younger.  However, the only one of those dreams that I have kind of “fulfilled” has been one that was originally based on a misconception.

Around the age of 5, shortly after I learned how to read and became a perpetual bookworm, I wanted to be a librarian.  Except…I thought librarians just sat around and read all day. What more could you want???

I have, obviously, outgrown that delusion.  The summer before coming to Christendom, I volunteered briefly at our local public library.  In the children’s section.  I didn’t learn any permanent cataloging skills for children’s books, or anything about the Dewey Decimal System.

And in a recent case (a Rummage Sale benefiting a wonderful History Professor) where children’s books needed to be loosely organized—according, it turns out, to whether they were picture books, hardcover, board books, etc.—I was lost.  I had moseyed over to the books, because my organizational skills in the field of dishware are non-existent; in regard to clothes, they are at negative-nine-thousand; but I was pretty confident in my book organizational skills.  After all, I have worked in a library for five semesters, almost two summers, and two Christmas Breaks.  (And one day over Fall Break Freshman Year...thanks to Dr. Townsend, who recommended me and gave me an “in” to the library.)  But, organizing books according to the Library of Congress Cataloging System is a far cry from organizing children’s books…

Anyway, this is not about book organizational skills.  It is about the fact that—contrary to popular opinion—librarians do not sit around all day reading books.  There are tasks: books to shelve, shelves to dust (and organize…case in point: the Reference Section this Summer), books to repair (thank you to Mr. Janaro for first showing me how to repair books, and to Mr. Pilon for buying that wonderful Book Repair Kit!), spine labels to print, barcodes to print, lost books to find, patrons that need new library cards or need help finding books or setting up Interlibrary Loan accounts…it’s a full-time job.

And I love it.  For one thing, it gives me a chance to tangibly, though in a very small and insignificant way, pay back to our Professors some of the immense debt I owe them.  One of the perks of shelving see them shortly after they've been catalogued, and, when you know that a professor was in the library the day before looking for books on that subject, you can email him and say: "Such-and-such a book was just catalogued, if you’re interested!"  I can’t do much, but checking out a book to one of them, or helping one of them find books is, I guess, a way of helping them, and I like to think that maybe it pays a tiny, tiny part of that debt.  Because they have done more for me than I can ever repay.

Another benefit of working in the library: I’m not an organized person normally—but then I step inside the rotunda of St. John the Evangelist Library, and I’m a different person.  Seeing books carelessly shelved, shelved wrongly, falling all over the place because a patron didn’t push the bookend back against the books—bothers me immensely.  And I turn into an order freak in the library.  That’s why I’m a Crazy Librarian.

The other half of the title of this blog: “Theological.”  Why “theological”?  Because I’m a Crazy Theology Major.  I.E., I study Theology.  Don’t expect me to answer hard and profound theological dilemmas…I hate answering dilemmas.  I intend to be a hermit after college.  (Whoops, what about the mission statement of this place I love?  WHAT ABOUT “Instaurare Omnia in Christo,” Emily??  That’s another topic for another day, though.)  Anyway, the theological knowledge isn’t at the tip of the tongue, and a lot of it, sadly, has become “deciduous knowledge” (©2009, Mr. Eric Jenislawski)…the knowledge from each class survived just long enough to get a barely-passing grade on a test, and then slipped into oblivion.

So why am I a Theology Major?  NOT because I want to teach, contrary to the opinion of many relatives and friends.  I majored in Theology because…  It’s about God.  It’s the “Queen of the Sciences.”  It deals with the highest subject-matter…some of it knowable by unaided reason, some through faith alone, and some through Faith guided by reason.  “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves,” said Blessed Pope John Paul II, in the quote posted at the front of the Library Rotunda.

Everyone constantly asks me: "But what are you going to do with a Theology Major?  Why are you majoring in Theology unless you want to teach it?"

I could list the way in which I weeded out the other five majors here at Christendom, why I ultimately decided on Theology, but that might be rather complicated and boring.  Ultimately, though, I am a Theology Major because I love the subject-matter.  Yes, it is lofty; yes, it is challenging at times; and, yes, it’s not doing very good things for my grades; but…it’s about God, the End of my life, the Reason for Whom I was created.  And maybe, eventually, it will start to have an impact on my life…if I let it.

Dr. O’Donnell told us a maxim of someone (it might have been Blessed John Paul II) in Ascetical and Mystical Theology: “Theology is best done on your knees.”  If that’s the measure of a good theologian, then I’m a darn lousy one.

So, why, again, am I majoring in Theology if I’m not even putting it into practice, if I’m not even using it to draw me closer to its infinite Subject?  (No, I’m not trying to defend my lazy semi-non-existent prayer life, here…I do not need to defend that.)  Does going into the Chapel and just ranting, telling Our Lord, “This, and this, and this, and that, are on my mind; and please heal these wonderful people, particularly an awesome Professor, and help me stop freaking out about that other thing”—does that count as prayer?  I don’t know.  It seems more like “raising one’s tongue” to God instead of “one’s heart and mind.”

Anyway, this Summer’s goal: pin down more exactly why I’m a Theology Major, and try to put that Theology into practice.  Domine, ut videam!

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