“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.

The Marquette theology department is a cheerful sort of place (with friends and adventures and not a few blustery days), much like the Hundred Acre Wood. People here like each other, and disagree, and have lunch while they amiably disagree. Most of us hold to the curiously brave proposition that faith is central to theology – an idea that would be naive if it weren’t right.

Marquette has not always been known for its theological work, though that is changing. Marquette is not Notre Dame; it is not Duke, or Yale, or Harvard. Those are Very Large Animals, and Marquette is a Very Small Animal. But largeness and goodness are not the same thing, and small things can be good as much as large things can be. Despite the odds of much smaller funds, of less flash, less name-recognition, it turns out we are indeed very good. And we are getting better. Not bigger, but better.

People who know, know that.

Winnie the Pooh adores friendship and hunny. (People know that, too.) I do not see how our theology department is very different than that. Those of you devising an argument otherwise must be good friends with Eeyore, which is just as well, since Pooh is good friends with him, too. Few things among the students are cherished more than a meal together, and a lively friendship. What a strange and fun adventure it is to learn books and charity at the same time! The faculty here insist they enjoy one another, too, and if they are lying it is the best-told lie I have ever heard.

One will find few moral relativists here, and yet very many friends. The one is due to the other. With no room for vague optimism or thin opinions, there is lots of room left for friends. And hunny.

The people here are charitable sorts, willing to listen even as they differ a great deal. No one is quite the same. Just as the Hundred Acre Wood has lots of varied inhabitants (from Rabbit to Owl to Tigger and so forth), so the theology department has Catholics and Protestants of all sorts. The variety makes the sun shine a little brighter some days, and makes the skies blustery others. But there is always listening and patience, just as Pooh says:

If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.

Perhaps Marquette should be discounted for its fluffy disposition and tiny paws. But that would be a sad thing, wouldn’t it? Little bears can be so wise, and so good.