Theologian gives Gospel writers Meyers-Briggs personalities

ANDERSON – When the Franciscan Friars of St. Mary of the Angels went looking for a Lenten speaker, they wanted someone who knew the Gospels and who had an interesting approach to preaching about them. They found Sister Madonna Hoying, a Franciscan Sister of the Poor.

Sister Hoying has two master’s de-grees, one in theology from Notre Dame and one in biblical spirituality from the Catholic Theological Union Seminary in Chicago. She spoke to parishioners in Anderson on March 26 and 27 about the passion narratives in all four Gospels; she also gave each of the evangelists a personality test to help listeners understand the viewpoint of each one’s writings and spoke about the phenomenal film, “The Passion of the Christ,” in light of the passion narratives.

“Mel Gibson relied mostly on Mark for his movie,” she said. “His theology is pre-Vatican II, and he showed mostly the agony of Jesus’ passion, cause of the violent portrayal of the suffering of Christ, but admitted that Gibson helped people with his movie. Sister Hoying especially liked the flashbacks and Gibson’s sensitive portrayal of Mary.

She spoke about Mark’s passion narrative first on Friday evening, because of its tie-in with the film, and then covered Matthew, Luke and John on Saturday morning.

Many scripture scholars say that the four narratives vary because they were written for diverse audiences at various times after Jesus died, but Sister Hoying sees the different renditions primarily as a result of distinctions in the personalities of the four writers.

“They had Jesus dying in four different ways,” she said, “but the beauty of the differences is that the passion brings clarity to life. Life looks different when one is facing death.”

The Catholic Church proclaims one of the renderings in each of the three rotating years of the church calendar, although John’s Gospel is always read on Good Friday.

The word passion means strong emotion or feelings, but also suffering.

Sister Hoying said that Mark shows Jesus in agony in his last hours on Earth, Matthew portrays him as trusting in a God who is just, Luke as a forgiving, compassionate being, and John as a royal symbol of God’s love.

The professor said that the personalities of the writers colored their renditions of the passion narratives, so she gave each of them a post-mortem Meyers-Briggs, which is a popular personality test.

According to her findings, Mark was mostly sensate (S), a practical and realistic man, who uses numbers and chooses his words carefully; John was mainly intuitive (N), creative and imaginative, a writer who sees possibilities in the passion and who gives essentials without worrying about the details; Luke is predominantly a feeler (F), who cares a lot about other people’s feelings and who is tactful as he writes; and Matthew is a thinker (T), a logical writer who is honest and needs a sense of fairness and justice in his account of Jesus’ suffering and death.

The Franciscan nun spoke to a full house in the parish hall, and the crowd warmly received her interpretation of the passion narratives.

That didn’t surprise parishioner John Taylor: “Father David (Hyman, OFM, pastor) is always encouraging things like this, and he wouldn’t be pushing her if she wasn’t good.”

St. Mary of the Angels is a medium-sized parish (500 parishioners), about evenly split among white, black and Hispanic Catholics, according to Sister Elise Gorman, an Immaculate Conception Franciscan from Newton, Mass.

She is the pastoral associate of the parish, which she said is an active one.

“We try to bring in an expert every Lent and Advent for reflections and retreats for the parishioners,” Sister Gorman said.

With Sister Hoying they found a popular and unusual analyst of the four different passion narratives.