Saturday, September 24, 2016


CARDINAL AVERY DULLES, SJ, (1918-2008) was the first U.S. theologian to be named to the College of Cardinals. Avery Dulles was also the first American Jesuit to receive that honor.
Avery Dulles was the son of former U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, (for whom Washington Dulles International Airport is named). While his parents’ religious background was Presbyterian, Dulles was raised in a generally secular household
His religious doubts were diminished during a personally profound moment when he stepped out into a rainy day and saw a tree beginning to flower along the Charles River; after that moment he never again "doubted the existence of an all-good and omnipotent God." 

He noted how his theism turned toward conversion to Catholicism: "The more I examined, the more I was impressed with the consistency and sublimity of Catholic doctrine."  Reading the Gospels led him to the loving and merciful God who redeemed us in Jesus Christ. He converted to Catholicism in the fall of 1940. 

He continued his studies and was led closer to the Catholic faith through them. He especially admired Thomistic philosophers Etienne Gibson and Jacques Maritain. Dulles was also attracted to the active Catholic liturgical life he observed in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Finally, Dulles asked a Jesuit priest to instruct him in the faith, and he was received into the Church in 1940.
Cardinal Dulles entered the Jesuits in 1946 and began a life of studying and teaching theology. He taught at the Jesuit House of Studies at Woodstock College, the Catholic University of America, and finally at Fordham University in New York.
Cardinal Dulles’s aim as a theologian was to present the Catholic tradition as it speaks to contemporary culture. He did this in 22 books and over 700 articles and reviews. His book Models of the Church (1974) has had a lasting influence on how the Church is perceived and remains a useful guide for exploring the nature of the Church.
So the theologian must participate in the prayer life of the church and be a praying person himself or herself in order to think the thoughts of God, as we theologians try to do. Cardinal Dulles acknowledged that the foundation for teaching is a life of prayer.
 At the time of his elevation to cardinal, he was not raised to the rank of bishop, as is normally the case, as he had successfully petitioned the pope for a dispensation from Episcopal consecration due to his advanced age.
In his later years, the cardinal suffered from the effects of polio from his youth. In addition to the loss of speech, the use of his arms was impaired but his mind remained clear and he continued to work and communicate using his computer keyboard. The cardinal reflected on his weakening condition:
“Suffering and diminishment are not the greatest of evils but are normal ingredients in life, especially in old age. They are to be expected as elements of a full human existence.
Well into my 90th year I have been able to work productively. As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity”.
Cardinal Dulles died on December 12 (My birthday and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe), 2008 at Fordham University in the Bronx, where he had lived for many years. He is being considered for canonization.

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