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Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is a one-day conference hosted annually by the Department of Theological Studies.

Keynote speaker Adele Reinhartz
People gather in a circle to discuss during Maundy Thursday

2024 edition schedule

Thursday, March 28, 2024

8:30 a.m. - Meet & Greet; coffee, tea and snacks will be served

8:50 a.m - Welcoming Remarks by General Secretary Jaime A. Mora, p.s.s. and Dr. André Gagné, Chair Theological Studies

9:00 a.m - Session 1: Ethics & Spirituality moderated by Sara Terreault

  • Ridge Shukrun - "Towards an Authentic Secular Spirituality"
  • Brian Almeida - "For a Sacramental Anthropology: New Frontier in the Liturgical Sciences"
  • Gabriel Casola - "Certain Contributions to Christian Spirituality by Thomas Aquinas"

Coffee Break

11:00 a.m - Session 2 : Historical Theology moderated by Nandom Gunen 

  • Efstathios Fokas – "Thomas Becket: Defender of the Church, Scourge of the English Reformation"
  • Carmelo Tartaro – "L'Évangile de Nicodème: une catabase chrétienne"

11:45 a.m -  Lunch is provided and take a library tour with Patrick Dionne

13:15 p.m. - "Faith and Scholarship - An Exploration in Conversation: A Panel Discussion"

  • Moderator: Rev. Jennifer Bourque of the Multi-Faith and Spirituality Centre

14:15 p.m. - Session 3: Religion, Politics and Society moderated by Ernest Okyere-Twum

  • Jason Piché - "Aum Shinrikyo and the Myth of Religious Violence"
  • Christopher Dagher - "Catholic and Evangelical End-Time Theologies and their Socio-political Importance"
  • Matthew Shanahan - "Religion as an Accessible Public Good and the Tyranny of Laicité"

Coffee Break

  • Teri Di Gennaro – "Exploring Far-Right Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, and her Grievances, using a Comparative Approach within a Feminist Framework"
  • Zackari Bourgeois – "Laugh and the Lord Laughs With You: The Neo-Tribal Theology of r/DankChristianMemes"

16:15 p.m. - Keynote Address by Dr. Richard Bernier - "Impossible Things Before Breakfast: On the Uselessness of Studying Theology"

17:45 p.m. - Restaurant outing

*All events take place at Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice, 2065 rue Sherbrooke West.

*The schedule is approximate and subject to change.  

Speaker bios and abstracts

For a sacramental anthropology: new frontier in the liturgical sciences

Carrying out my doctoral research in liturgical theology and ecclesiology, I am interrogating the contributions of 20th-century theologians in the context of the liturgical movement with the main aim of elaborating the concept of "natural sacrament" following a deepening, revision, and updating of the nature-grace relationship. This concept emerges from a tension between fundamental theology and liturgical theology, accepting a fracture between nature-grace, liturgy-life, praxis-subject, and Church-world. To overcome these fractures, the Christian anthropological turn in this period develops a broader conception of sacramentality, articulating the Church's "ritual sacraments" with the "natural sacraments" of everyday life. We want our presentation to (1) illustrate a brief history of the emergence of this sacramental paradigm and (2) clarify the epistemological consequences of this anthropology on Christian personalism and ecclesiological experience. These objectives will permit us to actualize an understanding of new frontiers that we need to continue to clarify within the theological community.

Brian Almeida, PhD Student, Laval University

Laugh and the Lord Laughs With You: The Neo-Tribal Theology of r/DankChristianMemes

This paper looks at the subreddit r/DankChristianMemes as a site of neo-tribal theology. The term “neo-tribal” refers to the work of French sociologist Michel Maffesoli, who conceptualized in 1988 that late-stage capitalist societies were defined by fluid gatherings of affinitive peoples sharing an aesthetic. Scholars in liturgical studies have used this theory to study small groups of primarily adolescent Christians, noting that they likewise gather fluidly, adhering to a plural authority structure and an eclectic appropriation of cultural resources in worship and religious identity. My research looks to fill a relevant gap in this field, using neo-tribal theory as scholars in liturgical studies have adopted it to study Christians on the internet, focusing on the platform Reddit and its Meme sub-culture. Reddit is a social news aggregating site where users create topic-specific forums called “subreddits.” In these subreddits, users post, comment, and vote on content, allowing content that garners strong reactions from a subreddit’s users to have higher visibility. Memes, in particular, are a popular communication genre on Reddit, where users combine text and visual aids to communicate a humourous message. However, scholars who have studied religious memes note that these are powerful tools of negotiated, lived religion and should be studied more in-depth to analyze how meme-makers communicate institutional doctrine on the internet. Utilizing theme and multimodal discourse analysis methods, my research uses the top 100 most popular memes of r/DankChristianMemes to analyze their use of pop culture and humour in creating an implicit theology of power. As my research will show, this implicit theology of power imbues pop culture and humour with liturgical power and Redditors with the means of re-inforcing, re-contextualizing, or challenging institutional doctrine and hierarchies.

Zackari Bourgeois, MA Student Theological Studies, Concordia University

Faith and Scholarship: an Exploration in Conversation

This facilitated conversation examines the points of intersection or lack thereof between faith and scholarship, particularly for students and scholars working in Theological Studies and cognate areas. Faith here is understood broadly to include any spiritual, religious, or philosophical commitments. The conversation will focus on lived experiences and aim to build community among participants, as well as share strategies and supports used to meet challenges posed by intersections of faith/spiritual and religious practice and academic work. It will be facilitated according to Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre’s guidelines for respectful conversations. 

Certain Contributions to Christian Spirituality by Thomas Aquinas

Some of the contributions Thomas Aquinas provides to Christian spirituality are ideas about charity and faith, participation as grace, and the necessity and perfection of the Trinity. Roberto Di Ceglie writes about the charity and faith ideas of Aquinas. Di Ceglie thinks that there are tensions and clarity lacking for Aquinas to characterize the treatment on the subject of charity and faith. However, Aquinas seems to have believed faith is not possible when there is charity intervention, regardless of how small that intervention is. Di Ceglie explains the account of Aquinas’s faith which has a role that is crucial and that is charity. Aquinas’s idea about participation as grace is explored by Melissa Eitenmiller. Eitenmiller explains that the idea of grace as participation operates according to what Aquinas thought and wrote about it. She explains that idea is within the understanding that is Catholic about the relationship of individuals that pertain to God about grace that is sanctified. Higgins explains that Aquinas thinks that perfection could not be absolute if three individuals in the Trinity did not share that perfection. Higgins explains approaches to acknowledge Thomas Aquinas’s idea of perfection in the Trinity that does not violate any limits Aquinas establishes about reason that is natural.

Gabriel Casola, MA Student Theological Studies, Concordia University

Catholic and Evangelical End-time Theologies and their Socio-political Importance

It is very difficult to dissociate Christianity's influence on the United States from American culture. The two Christian denominations under the scope are Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Baptist Christianity and their eschatological (end-time) views are examined to explain how and why each group works for they call the salvation of humanity. To be precise, millennialism, the doctrine of the 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ after His Second Coming (as written in the New Testament Book of Revelation), is strongly debated between both groups. Roman Catholics hold an Amillennial view where Christ's return will not be preceded by the Rapture (the sudden “taking up” of faithful humans into heaven) and will not literally last 1000 years, but rather happen in one event with the final judgement. However, most Evangelical Baptists believe in the Rapture, the Great Tribulation (scourging period for humanity), and in Dispensational (stepwise) Premillennialism where Christ will return just before His millennial reign. 

This theological divergence leads to practical differences in political or societal activities. Regarding activism, Evangelicals are at 82% for “working hard to set a Christian example whereas Catholics are at 57% in this category. However, the percentage for communicating “a lot” with elected officials is 4% for Evangelicals and 7% for Catholics. For not communicating at all, Evangelicals scored a 50% which is lower than for Catholics at 61%. Hypothetically, this may imply that Christians are not as directly in touch with elected politicians (in lobbying) as people may suppose. Catholics scored a 62% on "religion is a private matter that should be kept out of public debates over social and political issues" against 25% for Evangelicals. In sum, Evangelicals (more so than Catholics) would affirm that Christians should concern their faith with everything “from the White House to the poor house”. Overall, despite undeniable abuses committed in society by members of both denominations, they have also contributed positive work (like Caritas and Christians Against Poverty) to aid causes aimed at bettering humanity. In all cases, the implication of Christians in the political or societal spheres of everyday life is conduct, according to them, for the purpose of achieving a moral outcome. 

Christopher Dagher, MA Student Theological Studies, Concordia University

Exploring Far-Right Prime Minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, and her Grievances, using a Comparative Approach within a Feminist Framework

In October 2022, Italy elected Giorgia Meloni as their new prime minister. Meloni is a far-right, Catholic woman who holds traditional values surrounding abortion, same-sex unions, and immigration. By exploring Meloni’s influences and inspirations, this paper seeks to understand her grievances which developed from ideologies, arguing that these grievances are tied to her specific interpretations of her religion and the traditions from which they emerged. This paper delves into ideologies such as conservatism, fascism, and feminism which is central to correctly understanding her reaction towards the objections she holds. Likewise, some of Meloni’s reasonings are resulting from her faith, so it is vital to research where she is getting her information, if her claims hold, or if she is cherry picking specific information and using it out of context. Furthermore, the objective can be achieved by successfully comparing her political and personal values to those of other influential far-right female politicians in Europe. Therefore, a comparative methodological approach is used throughout this paper, while staying within a feminist framework. The paper links Meloni to similar figures in Europe to grasp other political situations and how gender is factored in. This unique research aims to expand the information available on women in far-right politics and the oppression that women and visible minorities endure in Europe, thus allowing for novel conclusions regarding the impact that politicians like Meloni are having and will continue to have in far-right societies.  

Teri Di Gennaro, MA Student Theological Studies, Concordia University

Thomas Becket: Defender of the Church, Scourge of the English Reformation

Thomas Becket was a controversial figure while he was alive, but even more-so after his death. Becket’s violent murder at Canterbury Cathedral in December 1170 was the culminating event after many years of feuding with King Henry II, who may or may not have been responsible for his death. News of his death sent shockwaves throughout medieval Europe, but eyewitnesses, which were the people who later became his biographers, claimed that Becket’s life had changed once he was invested as archbishop. His modus operandi had shifted completely. Disregarding Henry II’s threats, he chose to defend the church from those who would make it subordinate to the crown. Upon his death, his biographers considered him a martyr for the faith, subsequently leading to a massive influx of pilgrims who wished to pray to the “blessed Thomas”. Becket’s canonization in 1173 resulted in Canterbury Cathedral becoming the site of one of, if not the most, popular saintly cults in the Middle Ages. Its popularity decreased at around the mid-14th century mark, only to become very popular again in the early 16th century.

This presentation will discuss Becket’s role as a beacon of light for disgruntled Catholics during the English Reformation, and how Becket’s saintly cult was instrumental in causing Henry VIII serious problems during his political and religious campaigns in the 1530s. Important elements of Becket’s life, his political rise to the role of chancellor and then to archbishop will be discussed, as well as recent historiographical interpretations of why the feud with Henry II occurred. Becket’s defence of the Church against royal encroachment was one of the reasons why news of his death and martyrdom shocked the intellectual and religious spheres of medieval Europe. In addition, this presentation will showcase how Becket was caught in the crossfire of a vehement suppression campaign in the 1530s, and as Henry VIII proceeded to reform the English church to suit his own needs, the removing of saintly cults, primarily targeting Becket’s cult, was one of his main prerogatives.

Efstathios Fokas, MA Theological Studies, Concordia University

Aum Shinrikyo and the Myth of Religious Violence 

On the 20th of March 1995, chemical weapons were used against a civilian population for the first time since the Second World War. The chemical weapon was not deployed on a field of war but was instead used in the Tokyo subway by an esoteric religious group named Aum Shinrikyo. In the aftermath of the attack, which killed 12 and injured several thousand Japanese commuters, scholars discussed the nature of Aum’s theology as its motivation for undertaking the attack, focusing on the megalomaniacal nature of its leader Shoko Asahra, and the apocalyptic beliefs it propagated. The incident of the 20th of March 1995, called the Aum Affair by most scholars, came to be understood as a typical incident of religious violence. 

The notion of religious violence, though still widely accepted in academic circles, has been questioned by scholars aiming to better understand the motives of religious groups committing violence, indiscriminate or otherwise. One such scholar is William T. Cavanaugh, whose theory is laid out in his seminal work The Myth of Religious Violence. Cavanaugh argues that the notion of religious violence oversimplifies violent acts and ultimately misleads people into believing that religion is the sole cause of instances of violence.  

My presentation will apply Cavaugh’s theory to the Aum Affair. Though the esoteric, bombastic, and “cultish” nature of Aum as a religious organization has led scholars and the public at large to believe that its religious beliefs were the primary motivation for its violent outburst, an analysis of the group and its history of violence reveals a much more complex picture. 

Jason Piché, MA Student Theological Studies, Concordia University

Religion as an accessible public good, and the tyranny of Quebec’s laicité

This presentation explores personal research that aims to distinguish between perceived positive and negative elements of religious education within high schools. From a pluralist perspective, my research will aim to prove that despite recognizing intrinsic biases in both religious and secular education of religion, a greater sense of unity can be brought about through further inquiry into what constitutes a ‘good’ education of religion. The reasons why shall be explored in minor detail.More information on the new developing program on the Ministry of Education’s proposed religious curriculum will also be briefly discussed. These pieces of evidence will ideally be present and scrutinized in my assessment of the program in relation to it being a public good or not.

 In light of this, it is imperative that because the context will undoubtedly focus on the Quebec scene, understanding the concept of laicite, and its grand historical impact on how Quebec assesses issues pertaining to religion will be explored. A couple of its central themes include the reality that it cannot exist in a neutral safe-space, but rather only as a consequence and rejection of an aggressive divorce from a powerfully conservative Catholic culture. Furthermore, it is an incompetent view of secularism, when dialoguing with non-Catholic faith traditions, leading to an inability to address the core question of my research, on determining a public good within the education of religion.

Matthew Shanahan, MA Student Theological Studies, Concordia University

Towards an Authentic Secular Spirituality

This paper will attempt to answer the following question: what is an authentic secular spirituality? To do so, we must first define these three terms. This paper will begin by drawing upon the work of Charles Taylor, who gives both a definition and an account of the emergence of the secular. This first section will explain how today we can hold a worldview which is purely humanistic when, for example, in the year 1500 it was impossible to adopt such a view. The next section will give a contemporary definition of spirituality using the work of Galen Watts in The Spiritual Turn and explore some examples of contemporary spiritual practices through the work of Tara Isabella Burton in Strange Rites. Our contemporary understanding of spirituality seems to distinguish itself from ‘religion’, so this paper will also draw upon Wilfred Cantwell Smith’s genealogical exploration of the term religion in his book The Meaning and End of Religion. Finally, once both the secular and spirituality are properly understood, the third section of this paper will draw upon the work of Bernard Lonergan through primary and secondary sources to explain his notion of authenticity and how it might enrich our understanding of spirituality in the secular age.

Ridge Shukrun, MA student Theological Studies, Concordia University

L'Évangile de Nicodème: une catabase chrétienne

L’apocryphe universellement connu sous le nom d’Évangile de Nicodème est un texte aussi riche que controversé, caractérisé par un fascinant halo de mystère entourant sa forme et son contenu, son origine et sa transmission. Le cœur de cet apocryphe réside dans le vibrant récit de la Descente du Christ aux Enfers (cc. 17-27), dépeinte comme une quête héroïque suspendue entre mythe et vérité de foi. Le thème de la descente aux Enfers – ou plus simplement de la catabase – a toujours suscité un profond intérêt anthropologique au sein des civilisations anciennes, qui ont décliné, sous des formes diverses et selon leurs propres exigences eschatologiques, le motif littéraire du voyage infernal. À la lumière de ces réflexions, cet exposé propose une première analyse de la relation complexe entre le Descensus Christi ad Inferos et les différentes sources – aussi bien canoniques qu’apocryphes – qui abordent le thème de la catabase du Christ. Dans cette optique, il faudra mettre en lumière la réception de la tradition catabatique antérieure au sein de l’Evangile de Nicodème, dans le but de démontrer comment et pourquoi le Descensus Christi ad Inferos constitue un unicum littéraire, destiné à jouer un rôle crucial dans le développement théologique d’une catabase « proprement chrétienne ».

Carmelo Tartaro, PhD Student, INDI Program, Concordia University 

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