Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Matthew Minerd

Where are you from originally?

I’m a native of Western Pennsylvania—the little city of Connellsville in Fayette County.

What is your area of research and teaching?

I teach primarily in the areas of philosophy and moral theology at BCS.  

There are four main areas of my research.  The one closest to my dissertation (and the most esoteric among them) pertains to 14th-16th century discussions surrounding the metaphysical status of the objects studied in logic.  (e.g., “What exactly IS a syllogism?  What IS a proposition?  What IS a definition?  Where do these fit into our overall metaphysical framework?”)  Needless to say, this topic doesn’t get much traction in seminary formation!  However, I do continue doing work in it.  Second, I occasionally do work derived from this in relation to questions surrounding the metaphysical foundations of moral reality and technical / artistic reality.  Thirdly—and most closely related to my work teaching—I am in the midst of several projects (researching, translating, and writing) on the nature of moral discourse, especially in relation to the nature of conscience.  Finally, I do a good deal of translation work related to Francophone Catholic authors in the late-19th and early-20th century.

What attracted you to this subject?

It was one text, actually: Jacques Maritain’s The Degrees of Knowledge.  I was assigned this text by Fr. Sebastian Samay, O.S.B. in an epistemology course.  I was stunned at how Maritain managed to discuss the character of human knowledge from the most empirical level of the discoveries of the physico-mathematical sciences of his day all the way up to the heights of mystical contemplation in the supernatural order whereby the mystic tastes—without yet clearly seeing here-below—the Goodness of the Lord.  The book remains a well-worn companion for me, and no matter how much I have grown beyond Maritain, I owe to him an infinite debt of filial gratitude.  Eternal memory!

How did you come to teach at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary?

I received a phone call from Fr. Christiaan Kappes because a mutual acquaintance sent him my CV.  When we started talking, I realized that Fr. Kappes was doing work on the same obscure 14th century figure on whom I wrote my dissertation (Hervaeus Natalis, or, if we wish to translate the name with slavish literalism: Harvey Christmas).  Of course, he was doing fun work with Hervaeus, researching how his work influenced thinkers in the Byzantine East in the 15th century concerning questions related to the Trinity and Divine Simplicity.  I, on the other hand, did work on that boring topic mentioned above: the metaphysical underpinnings of logic.

In any case, it was an unexpected blessing, as I had been for some time attending a local Ruthenian Catholic parish in the midst of my own spiritual “journey eastward.”  God is amazing in how He weaves together our little tales by His Providential guidance!

How many years have you taught at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary?

I’ve only been here for two years, but they have been a time of great grace thus far.

What is the most challenging part of teaching for you?

If we are honest, my greatest challenge lies is trying to be sensitive to the exact status of “Eastern Theology.”  I suspect this is easier in many purely dogmatic matters, as the Fathers are a deep and profound resource for our theological knowledge about the two great and central theological mysteries: the Trinity and the Redemptive Incarnation.  In Moral Theology, however, we find that many relevant questions and ecclesial arguments are more “modern,” and historically, many of them have arisen in Western contexts.  These various detailed discussions and Church pronouncements need to be integrated into the ascetic and mystical wisdom of our particular tradition, especially under the central theme of theosis.

State one thing you wish you had known in your undergraduate days.

I wish I had known how tribal academia can be.  This a very disappointing thing to me and something that I really wish I had spent time personally preparing to deal with.  We live in a very divided time.  I’m a man of strong opinions, but I find this kind of tribalism quite unfortunate.  God has provided me a great home, however, as BCS really doesn’t have this kind of atmosphere thankfully.

What experiences have shaped you spiritually?

The single most formative experience in my spiritual life was a three-year period that I spent living as a Benedictine monk.  As a happily married man, I can say that the monastic life was definitely not my vocation.  Yet, I owe an inarticulable debt to those years, above all to the aforementioned Fr. Sebastian Samay, who was my novice master and a true spiritual father.  Eternal Memory.

What do you do to de-stress?

Run.  I love skiing as well and would do so if I could eek out the time away from home.  Unfortunately, our household schedule hasn’t allowed for it for the past few seasons.  Also, household projects are always an option for de-stressing, actually.  Alas, my wife seems to wince when I mention my next indoor project: tearing off the walls in a storage room so that I can replace them with new drywall.

Cat or dog person? 

Neither.  I didn’t grow up with animals and in my cheapness I can’t justify the cost.  My wife would prefer a dog.  My relatives all think I’m heartless in this regard.  Perhaps I am: in this regard.

If you are interested in having Dr. Minerd—or any of our faculty—speak at your next event, visit www.bcs.edu/faculty-directory.

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