Discipulus Institute: The Theology of Suffering

Discipulus Institute: The Theology of Suffering
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The Theology of Suffering: Theory and Practice

Perhaps one of the greatest questions we face in our lifetime is why God allows suffering. Oftentimes it seems we are never given a clear answer. In five-week course, Dr. Ed Hogan will walk us through an understanding of suffering in theory and practice using the writings of St. Augustine, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and C.S. Lewis.

This course will meet on Monday evenings at Kenrick Glennon Seminary at 7:00-8:30pm from October 1st to October 29th.


Theology of Suffering: Theory and Practice


I can’t forget the day a high school student looked up at me and asked: “Dr. Hogan, God does everything for a reason, right?” Her 17 year old brother had just been incapacitated – probably for the rest of his life – by a major stroke.

You have 15 seconds – how would you respond?

If you say “Yes,” how is she supposed to love the God who struck her brother?

If you say “No, God has nothing to do with this,” how is she supposed to find God in the suffering?

This class will attempt to provide some tools for steering between a rock and a hard place by addressing three inter-related questions:

1) Why is there suffering?

2) How do we walk and talk with people who are suffering? 3) How do we put our own suffering to use?

Each day we will: 1) Consider one section of CS Lewis’ A Grief Observed – so that our theoretical explorations are always set in the context of real suffering; 2) Explore the philosophical and theological question of why suffering exists – with a special eye toward the interaction of theology and science; 3) Consider some deeper angles on how to unite our suffering to Christ, and put it to use.


The following quotes from CS Lewis may provide some introductory food for thought:


Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.


The real problem is not why some pious, humble, believing people suffer, but why some do not.


Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.


When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.



Students will be responsible for weekly reading and reflection. One final paper (2 pages) will be based on watching the movie Arrival and reflecting on the relationship between our experience of time, our experience of suffering, and the choices we make.


Week 1

Book: A Grief Observed, Foreword by Madeleine L’Engle.

Article: Living, Suffering, Dying … What for? (Catholic Organization for Life and Family)

Explanation: Theology of Suffering, Part I: The Problem of Evil

Student Questions


Week 2

Book: A Grief Observed, Part I

Article: Hospitalland and the Divinization of One’s Passivities (Bishop Robert Barron)

Article: Evil. (From Exploring Reality: The Intertwining of Science and Religion by Dr. John Polkinghorne.)

Explanation: Theology of Suffering, Part I-II: The Logic of Free Will

Student Questions


Week 3

Book: A Grief Observed, Part II.

Article: The Sufferings of Christ are Not in Christ Alone (St. Augustine)

Article: God, the Problem of Suffering, and the Natural Sciences. (From Science and Religion: Beyond Warfare and Toward Understanding by Dr. Joshua Moritz.)

Explanation: Theology of Suffering, Part II-II: The Logic of Free Process

Student Questions


Week 4

Book: A Grief Observed, Part III.

Excerpts: Time and Hope in the Theology of Pope Benedict XVI (selections from the encyclical on hope, Spe Salvii)

Explanation: Theology of Suffering, Part III: The Logic of Christ

Student Questions


Week 5

Book: A Grief Observed, Part IV.

Exercise: Student Papers on Arrival.



Ed Hogan is a former Jersey Shore lifeguard whose loves to bodysurf. He is the Academic Dean at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, and has a PhD in Systematic Theology from Boston College, where he specialized in the relationship between theology and science. Ed is the Project Leader for a team at Kenrick-Glennon that recently won a $75,000 grant from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for the integration of science into the Seminary curriculum. Prior to life in Saint Louis Ed served under (then) Bishop Carlson in the Diocese of Saginaw, MI, as Director of Deacon Formation, Director of the Center for Ministry, and Director of the Department of Formation. He has taught theology on the high school, college, and graduate school levels. Ed is a lector and EMHC at Saint John Paul II parish in Affton. He and his wife Jen have been married for 25 years and have 6 children.


Course Text

The text for this course is C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed which can be found at the St. Louis Pauline Book Store

The book can also be found on Amazon here.

Event Details

Date(s) - August 8, 2018 - October 1, 2018
All Day

Kenrick–Glennon Seminary

Presented by:
Discipulus Institute

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