My childhood years growing up in central Illinois certainly deserve to be a part of my story. For so many of us–as it was for Jesus himself–it was above all these “hidden years” that made us the persons we are today. 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 how I think, I’m going to focus on my academic biography beginning in my college years…
I spent quite a bit of my undergraduate years 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 directions (even as the dialogue between faith and science remains a key interest of my thought, writing, and teaching). After finishing all of my non-major science requirements, I moved to Rome to begin philosophy studies at the Pontifical Lateran University while discerning the priesthood. This was a new and exciting stage of my life.
For better and worse, my Roman adventure came crashing to a halt on the feast of Epiphany, 2003 I woke up ncapacitated with pain searing throughout my entire body. After having spent over a month in a Roman hospital in excruciating suffering but still with no diagnosis, I was able to return to the States with the help of a kind religious sister and friend. Not long thereafter, I was diagnosed with the chronic auto-immune disorder called systemic lupus erythematosus (also called SLE or just “lupus”). Living with lupus informs everything I do in one way or another. It’s an incredible cross but also an immense blessing.
Today I continue to deal constantly with lupus issues–hip replacements due to necrosis, a retina that has detached multiple times (with eye surgeries that made me look like Rocky Balboa), and kidney failure that required a transplant made possible through the gift of a dear friend. 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 someone else’s kidney:) 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, catch fly balls, or dunk basketballs (let’s be honest–I never managed to do that).
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 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 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, Adjunct Professor for the graduate program at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, and lecturer at various other universities and institutes who invite me to teach. My research and writing concentrates especially on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI and biblical exegesis, but it extends to a variety of other topics as well (see my Curriculum Vitae page for more).
I am blessed to be the author, contributing author, or co-translator of several books, including 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), The Experiment of Faith: Pope Benedict XVI on Living the Theological Virtues in a Secular Age (CUA Press, 2020), and a number of others I am currently writing a monograph tentatively titled From the Dust of the Earth: Benedict XVI, the Bible, and the Theory of Evolution. I have also been appointed a Scholar Associate of the Society of Catholic Scientists.
I also write articles for a variety of academic and popular journals and enjoy making periodic appearances on podcasts and programs of various sorts, such as the EWTN programs Catholic Answers Live, Catholicism on Campus, and The Son Rise Morning Show.
Most importantly of all, I enjoy living my Catholic faith with my wife and five children among the rolling hills of Atchison, Kansas, overlooking fields of corn and our backyard orchard and pets. For me with my lupus and everything else I suffer along with other humans, this contact with nature is–along with contemplating higher things–my best medicine. While my family enjoys traveling to foreign countries and U.S. National Parks and beaches, in the end there’s not much more fulfilling for me than making homemade pesto with my wife, whipping up omelets with our very own green chicken eggs, and watching my kids devour the blackberries and figs we harvested in our back yard!