Does God speak to us through nature and natural events? According to the biblical psalmist, the earth and all its creatures declare the glory of God as well as God's love and fidelity. Many people wondered whether God was sending quite a different message with the devastation of Hurricanes Sandy, Irene, Katrina and other recent natural disasters. Were those events God's judgment on human beings or some kind of test from God?
Beyond disputes about what God is saying through nature, there is a more fundamental challenge to Christian faith coming from those who insist that there is no connection between God and the events of nature. This lecture will explore the claim of early Christian and Medieval theologians that the Book of Nature is one way that God speaks to us if we are open to listening. But like books, the Book of Nature needs to be interpreted. The focus of the lecture will be on how the Bible and the Book of Nature can each shed light on the meaning of the other and how the Book of Nature can contribute to the preaching of the Gospel.
Mary Catherine Hilkert, OP, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Peace, is a Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame where she has taught courses in Christology, Theological Anthropology, and fundamental theology at the graduate and undergraduate levels since 1995. She is author of: Naming Grace: Preaching and the Sacramental Imagination (Continuum, 1997), Speaking with Authority: Catherine of Siena and the Voices of Women Today (Paulist, 2008), The Praxis of the Reign of God: An Introduction to the Theology of Edward Schillebeecx (co-editor; Fordham University Press, 2002) and numerous articles on theology, preaching and spirituality. A former president of the Catholic Theological Society of America, Dr. Hilkert was awarded honorary degrees from Providence College in 2002 and from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in 2012. She was the first recipient of Washington Theological Union's Sophia Award for Theological Excellence in service of ministry in 1997 and was awarded Barry University's Yves Congar Award for Theological Excellence in 2011. Dr. Hilkert was awarded a grant from the Louisville Institute for the 2012-2013 academic year to support her present research project, a book titled Words of Spirit and Life: Theology, Preaching and Spirituality (based on the 2010 Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale).