A Holy Cross religious since 1955 and priest since 1969, I was born in Akron, Ohio (in 1933) as the fourth son, to be joined a year and a half later by the only sister in our family of five children. After completing high school in Akron at St. Vincent's I came to Notre Dame in 1950, enrolling in a new program modeled after St. John's (Annapolis) and the "Great Books" program at the college of the University of Chicago: the General Program of Liberal Education. We attempted to learn everything we could from the classics of the respective fields--being initiated into analytic geometry via Descartes' papers, for one instance. There was great rapport among us, as we felt privileged to be receiving such an education, particularly in philosophy and theology, in an environment where we could parade our difference! After graduation I followed what had been a nagging call to serve God as a priest and teacher into the novitiate of the Congregation of Holy Cross. That path led me shortly to Rome for theology, where we were privileged to encounter Bernard Lonergan as teacher and mentor, and learn in a genuinely intercultural environment. A year of counseling and teaching at Notre Dame (1960-61) followed ordination, at a time when the University was seeking to open what had been a classic French boarding-school regime to something more appropriate to college students.
Higher studies followed, with an initial year at Laval University in Quebec, where the texts of Thomas Aquinas formed the curriculum, followed by a concentration in logic and analytic philosophy at Yale, where a dissertation on analogy and philosophical language completed doctoral studies in 1965. I had already joined the faculty of philosophy at Notre Dame in 1964, and begun teaching as well as informal counseling in residence halls, a dimension which assumed greater prominence as student response to American involvement in Vietnam reached a critical phase in the 1969-70 academic year. The October 15 moratorium was to be followed in the spring by a cessation of classes accompanied by campus-wide reflection on the issues, in the wake of the incursion into Cambodia and widespread denunciation of the war. These years offered an object lesson in the viability of the "just-war theory," whose "proportionality" component to my mind eventually turned American sentiment against this war. Just as the churning level of controversy began to subside, I was asked to chair the department of Theology, and so invited to move my philosophical interests in discourse about divinity in a more substantively theological direction. The turn this eventually took was one of interfaith reflection, as we worked to rationalize our graduate offerings, and especially to incorporate a Judaica position into our teaching of early Christianity and Hebrew scriptures. With the notable assistance of Joseph Blenkinsopp, Stanley Hauerwas, Robert Wilken, and John Howard Yoder, we set the department on a track for further development, and by 1980 I was able to launch into comparative studies in an explicit way.
The occasion was a year serving as rector of the Ecumenical Institute for Theological Research in Jerusalem, an initiative undertaken by Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., president of Notre Dame for the Holy See. That year deepened our initial foray into the relation of Judaism to Christianity, and laid the groundwork for a subsequent year of Arabic study and intensive reading in Islamic and Jewish philosophies of the medieval period. A recent book on Aquinas had prepared the way, but I was fascinated t at each step to discover the extent of interaction among these societies at that time, confirming my hunch that the classical Christian synthesis of Thomas Aquinas was already an interfaith, intercultural achievement. Subsequent summers spent with Dominicans in Cairo, enjoying the able mentorship of Georges Anawati, O.P., allowed me to complete a comparative study of emanation and creation in Moses Maimonides, Avicenna, and Aquinas. The need to secure my tenuous hold on Arabic led to a translation project of aI-Ghazali's commentary of the "99 beautiful names of God," completed during a semester teaching Islam to Bangladeshi seminarians in Dhaka. That experience, to be repeated six years later with another book of Ghazali's, "Faith in Divine Unity and Trust in Divine Providence," allowed me to embrace something of the cultural amplitude of the Islamic world, extending as it does far beyond Arab hegemony, and assured that attention to Jewish-Christian-Muslim relations would be more than a matter of study, and animate subsequent inquiry and teaching.
Interests of this sort inevitably lead one into the heart of contemporary concerns as well, so part of my reflection is fruitfully shared with colleagues in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, whose concerns are increasingly identified with intergroup relations and potential conflict among cultures. These concerns nicely dovetail with current preoccupation in continental philosophies with "difference" as well as generally "postmodern" fascination with "otherness," by contrast with more characteristically modern orientations to consensus and "shared values." In short, questions of comparative understanding in matters religious seems to be at the heart of much of what is taking place in our world, and as stereotypes evaporate under the light of contact and acquaintance with "others," we are continually challenged to enlarge our own implicit horizons regarding what is deemed to be the human ideal. Our inquiry and teaching takes place in response to these demands, which call for an enlargement of heart as well as continuing enhancement of our intellectual perspectives.