What Our Students Say
Jordan O'Brien OP
"I’m reminded of Anthony de Mello’s story of the ‘little fish’ asking the other fish ‘where is the ocean?’. They swim past without answering. What a stupid question they muttered to themselves. Finally, a dolphin answers in a friendly and most intelligent way, ‘this is it, this is the ocean….’"
The Priory Institute allows us to swim in the vast ocean of theology no matter how small we may be or how stupid our question. I would never count myself a theologian even having studied formal theology, even to being granted a degree – which more than surprised me!
I was all at sea for many a long year. I bought the books, I preached the Word, I even wrote some articles reflecting theologically, but I never claimed to be a theologian. Yet that is what I am. Like Jacob I wrestle with God, I ask questions, I search the scriptures for answers, I preach my homily weekly and daily too. I am a theologian thanks to my awakening to the quest for God through the Priory Institute.
I began my adventure in those early days of the Dominican response to the New Millennium, and dare I say it the New Ireland. I connected with distance learning, wrote up my notes, made a stab at an essay or two and then ran into heavy traffic, the demands of parish life. I tried again later and this time the traffic of administration forced a diversion and I postponed my ‘theological study’.
Once more I swam around in circles just like the little fish, before realizing that I was in the ocean. With new determination I set my programme to link the modules of scripture – 4 in all - and to stay the course, come what may. Now that I am finished my chosen modules, I am more than satisfied with the experience and I can now take down those books of scripture I had bought over the years and begin my ongoing formation, again. I am still that ‘little fish’ in terms of scripture, but I know for certain that I am in the Great Ocean that is God’s Word. The only question that remains is, ‘where to next’?
I loved the challenge of the distance learning method that provoked thought. Not simply to progress the study of theology but to take the question aside and into everyday life in terms of the Church in Ireland today. One of my insights – which may not be very theological, is that we need to be born-again into the second Vatican Council. A baptism not by water and the Spirit but by study and reflection. While I admit that you can read your own theology into the documents of the second Vatican Council, it still challenges us to rethink on many fronts, indeed on all fronts, about the role of the Church in the Modern World.
The Priory Institute offers such a challenge in the deep waters of the ocean by leaving the sandy beach and the sheltered harbour to launch out into deeper waters. The first words of Jesus to his would-be-disciples were “pay out your nets for a catch”. Yes, we have all laboured long into the night to understand a situation or a biblical text, or again, to prepare a homily, but it is not too late to cast out the net and see what the result will be with a little help from the Priory Institute – perhaps an awaking to what Pope Francis calls the Joy of the Gospel, namely, to proclaim the Gospel to today’s world and the people of our time.