My childhood years growing up in Mattoon, Illinois certainly deserve to be a part of my story. As in the case of so many other believers–as it was for Jesus himself–it is these “hidden years” above all in which we are formed to be the persons we are. Thanks be to God, my parents were amazing examples of Catholic living, and I owe to them the faith that I still confess today. But to get to the point for those who want a little insight into who I am and what has formed my thinking, I’m going to focus on my academic biography beginning in my college years…
I actually began my tenure as an undergraduate studying not theology but biochemistry and French at the University of Illinois. However, experiencing a deepening of my faith at the campus Newman Center led me to change direction after my sophomore year. At that time I moved to Rome to begin philosophy studies at the Pontifical Lateran University and discern the priesthood with the Apostles of the Interior Life, a Catholic religious community founded in Rome and now with a vibrant ministry in the United States. This was a new and exciting stage of my life.
My Roman adventure came crashing to a halt on the feast of Epiphany, 2003 when I suddenly fell intensely ill and incapacitated. After having spent over a month in a Roman hospital in excruciating pain but still with no diagnosis, I was able to return to the States and was soon diagnosed with the chronic auto-immune disorder called systemic lupus erythematosus (sometimes called SLE or just “lupus”). Today I continue to deal constantly with lupus issues–hip necrosis, a detached retina, and kidney failure–to name a few. The positive side of this is that I get to be sort of a bionic hybrid: I have artificial lenses in my eyes, a left hip of ceramic and metal, and an aortic heart valve made of space shuttle material, and before long I will be acquiring someone else’s kindey:) By the grace of God, however, my condition does not generally prevent me from doing my day to day activities more or less how I wish. I can still wrestle with my children; what I can’t do anymore is run a 5k, dunk basketballs, or catch fly balls.
But to get back to the academic story: after sufficiently recovering from my initial acute lupus symptoms upon returning to the States I was eventually able to complete my undergraduate degree in Religious Studies and Philosophy at the University of Illinois. Upon graduation I continued to discern with the Apostles of the Interior Life and worked in campus ministry for students at Illinois State University and the University of Kansas among other institutions. During my time in Kansas I pursued further philosophy studies at Benedictine College where I wrote a thesis on contemporary theories of natural law.
Over the course of those years I discovered my vocation to married life and to the life of a Catholic theologian. I thus went on to earn my M.A. at Franciscan University of Steubenville and a Ph.D. at Ave Maria University, during which time my wife and I began to date, courted, and married. I finished my dissertation, “Towards a Theology of Scripture: Joseph Ratzinger’s Method C Hermeneutic and Sacra Doctrina on the Afterlife in the Old Testament,” while teaching Religious Studies at the University of Illinois immediately before being hired at Benedictine College in 2009.
Today I am blessed to teach a wide variety of different courses as Associate Professor of Theology at Benedictine College and also as adjunct instructor at other institutions where I am invited to teach. My research and writing concentrates on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI, biblical exegesis, and the development of papal doctrine. I have blessed to be the author, contributing author, or co-translator of several books, including the monographs Dark Passages of the Bible: Engaging Scripture with Benedict XVI and Thomas Aquinas (Catholic University of America Press, 2013) and Jesus, Interpreted: Benedict XVI, Bart Ehrman, and the Historical Truth of the Gospels (CUA Press, 2017). I have had articles appear in a number of scholarly journals including Nova et Vetera, Scripta Theologica, Cithara, and Homiletic and Pastoral Review as well as popular online venues such as Strange Notions, The Gregorian Institute, and Crisis. Interviewed by news outlets including the National Catholic Register and First Things, I have made periodic appearances on the EWTN programs Catholic Answers Live, Catholicism on Campus, and The Son Rise Morning Show. I live among the rolling hills of Atchison, Kansas, overlooking fields of corn and wheat while enjoying life and journeying toward God with my wife, Jen, and five children.