Briola was recognized for his essay entitled “Praise Rather Than Solving Problems: Understanding the Doxological Turn of Laudato Si’ Through Lonergan,” which was published in September 2020 by Theological Studies, a journal of theology published quarterly by the Jesuits of the U.S. and Canada.
Briola’s essay examines why Pope Francis, in his 2015 encyclical Laudato si’, makes doxology and the Eucharist central for the care of our common home and the implementation of internal ecology that answers the pleas of the earth and the poor. The essay emerged from his doctoral research and also previews his upcoming book, The Eucharistic Vision of Laudato Si’: Praise, Conversion and Integral Ecology,” which will be published soon by The Catholic University Press.
“I hope the article starts to capture the complexity and radicality of Pope Francis’s vision in Laudato si’ for readers,” Briola explained, “demonstrating how the full scope of Pope Francis’s call to care for our common home only becomes apparent by attending to the Eucharistic, doxological framework of the encyclical. I also aim to bridge emphases often estranged from each other in polarized times, like liturgy and justice, life issues and environmental issues, systematic theology and pastoral care.
“As I suggest in the article,” he continued, “the synthetic, theological framework of Bernard Lonergan can offer the liturgically-cast social theory to make these connections apparent in Laudato si’ and the Church’s social ethic writ large.”
Briola said that this argument that he presents serves as a focal point of his course Green Discipleship.
In this course, he says, “students start the semester by reflecting on the power of listening and they conclude it by reflecting upon the theme of praise in Laudato si’ and the meaning it holds for their lives as they care for our common home. My aim in the course is for students to articulate a Benedictine vision of caring for our common home, so this emphasis aligns nicely with the priority that Benedictines place not only on listening, but also on praise – the Opus Dei. Making those Benedictine connections explicit, however, is the topic of future writing!”
Briola was encouraged by his colleagues in the Theology Department to submit his essay to the College Theology Society for award consideration and was both surprised and honored when he received word that he had won.
“I was honored to receive this award,” he said. “In particular, I saw it as an affirmation of the wonderful teachers I have had, not the least of which the ones that date back to my time as a student at Saint Vincent, like Dr. Chris McMahon and Dr. Jason King. This honor provides yet further confirmation of the terrific work of the Theology Department.”
Briola is an active member of the College Theology Society (CTS), which, he said, makes this honor even more humbling and gratifying.
“The very first CTS convention I attended was after my senior year at Saint Vincent, as it was hosted at SVC,” he recalled. “I have attended every one since, and each year I always look up to these award winners as role models. So, it is truly an honor and a surprise to join the list!”
Briola earned bachelor’s degrees in both theology and history, with a minor in philosophy, from Saint Vincent College in 2013. He went on to earn a master of theological studies at Boston College and a Ph.D. in systemic theology from The Catholic University of America. He joined the SVC faculty as a lecturer in 2018 and was elevated to assistant professor in 2019.