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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

An Interview with Emilio G. ChAvez

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

By Gordon Nary

Gordon: When did you join Our Lady Queen of Peace and how has the parish contributed to your spirituality?

Emilio: I have been attending this parish for some eight or nine years. It is a former mission parish still in the care of the missionary Scalabrini priests, and most of the congregation is from Latin America. Many are poor and undocumented, and have that deep faith of the poor even amidst all the problems that they face, especially in these times of division, fake news, fear and even hatred. They are an inspiration to me.

Gordon: You have a fascinating background that I hope you will share with our readers.

Emilio: I was born in Cuba and grew up in the Miami area. I studied to be a priest in the Dominican and Discalced Carmelite Orders, in Mexico and the Dominican republic respectively. I am “Americanized” but Latin to the core. I went to Rome to finish my theological studies, and love all things Italian.       

Gordon: Please provide a summary of the theological significance of the “temple cleansing” in Mark’s gospel.

Emilio: In Mark’s Gospel most of all the so-called “cleansing” of the temple by Jesus really the enactment of the cessation of its cult and its eventual destruction, as Jesus himself predicts in Mark 13:2. Jesus gives the temple a “heart attack” in Mark, symbolized by the sandwiching-in of his action within the two fig tree episodes (the cursed tree is completely dried up). Perhaps the most original thing about my dissertation on Jesus’ “temple action” is my comparison with a real temple-cleansing in the Books of Maccabees, where seven elements are found, too, only in reverse (in the opposite sense)

Gordon: Please provide an overview of your teaching career.

Emilio: I really enjoyed most of my fourteen years teaching Sacred Scripture in the Catholic regional major seminary for Florida. I got great reviews and was perfectly matched, given my expertise in Scripture, my deep Catholicism (“imbibed with my mother’s milk”) and my life-long cultivation of spirituality and theology. Unfortunately, the US Catholic Church has taken increasingly narrow-minded, nostalgic overtones, quiet the opposite of what Pope Francis is calling for, and the new rector has put in line a new faculty with a different bent than before, and I was seen as not fitting in with this new orientation. It was quite a time of suffering for me, and not just because of my predicament (out of work at age 60), but I also suffered for the Church.

Gordon: You are fluent in and a translator of documents in several languages. What languages are they?

Emilio: I am perfectly fluent in English, Spanish and Italian; I read French and other languages useful for theology. I can translate English, Spanish, Italian and theological French into written  English and Spanish.

Gordon: You are also a popular lecturer and conduct workshops. What are some of the topics that you address?

Emilio: I have cultivated a holistic, canonical understanding of the whole Christian Bible, and can give workshops so that it can be understood in the theological significance of its main parts (for this I use the Jewish canon, the one Jesus had). I also have given talks on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Judaism and spiritual subjects. I am an expert in Thérèse of Lisieux and Catherine of Siena and the Spanish sixteenth-century mystics (Ignatius, Teresa and John of the Cross).  

Gordon: Thank you for an insightful interview.

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