|Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on September 4, 2018 at 3:20 PM|
To begin the new school year, Benedictine University freshman students participated in the Opening Liturgy at the Abbey. The Mass was followed by a fellowship picnic on the front lawn of the Abbey. Following the photos, is the homily that Abbot Austin gave at the Opening Liturgy.
Following is the homily that Abbot Austin gave at the Opening Liturgy:
Meanings of Religion
ABBOT AUSTIN G. MURPHY, OSB·THURSDAY, AUGUST 30, 2018
Homily for Mass of the Holy Spirit to open the school year at Benedictine University, Aug. 30, 2018, St. Procopius Abbey
According to the document Ex corde Ecclesiae by St. John Paul II, a Catholic university is called to dialogue. It is to have a dialogue between Catholicism, on the one hand, and other religions, on the other. But also, the dialogue is more broadly to be between Catholicism and the wider culture. In the contemporary west, dialoguing with the culture means especially dialoguing with secularism.
Now, while the dialogue is not only with other religious traditions, still that is very important. This inter-religious dialogue has indeed been a strength here in Lisle. Our own Fr. Julian and Br. Gregory have done much in the area of inter-religious dialogue. Also, Dr. Rita George-Tvrtkovic, in the theology department, is an expert in inter-religious dialogue.
Why is inter-religious dialogue important? Some would say that it is important in order to avoid conflicts. We want people of different religions to get along -- to "coexist" as those bumper stickers say. Avoiding conflict is, of course, good. But there is a deeper reason for inter-religious dialogue. And besides, religious differences are not the only cause of conflicts.
The deeper reason for inter-religious dialogue is that all human beings have religious aspirations. Whether or not one subscribes to any particular religious tradition, still one has these religious aspirations. One naturally longs for the divine or transcendent, and seeks the meaning of life.
The different religious traditions -- Catholicism, Protestantism, Judaism, Islam, etc. -- propose answers to these religious aspirations. Some of those answers are similar to each other; some are different from each other. Still, by providing answers to our religious aspirations, they all acknowledge those aspirations. That is, they all acknowledge that human nature has within it a religious dimension. In a way, this religious dimension is prior to any particular religious tradition or system.
If then we have these religious aspirations within us, then it is important to talk about religion. And that's why inter-religious dialogue is valuable.
With all this in mind, it is worth reflecting on what we even mean by the word "religion." From the perspective of secularism, religion is often defined as a faith or a faith-system. But the word "religion" does not mean faith, or at least not necessarily. After all, some religions do not have a faith-element or, at least, not a prominent one.
Secularists often define religion as faith because they consider themselves to be non-religious. They live by reason, they say, whereas religious people live by faith. But again, that is not necessarily the case.
The word "religion" can be taken to mean a faith-system, but there are other meanings as well. In particular, I want to talk about two other meanings that are very important. According to one meaning, religion is a matter of justice. And according to the other meaning, religion is a matter of salvation. Religion as justice and religion as salvation -- I want to say some things about these meanings of religion.
In ancient times, even before Christianity, religion was thought of as a matter of justice. Remember here the classic definition of justice -- it is about giving another what you owe to the other. So, here religion is seen as a matter of giving to God or to the gods what you owe them.
To explain this, the ancients started with human analogies. They said to think of your parents. Your parents gave you life, and in normal circumstances, they also gave you a home, with food, shelter, an education, and so on. In turn, you owe them -- as a simple matter of justice -- a certain devotion, honor, respect.
Next, the ancients went on to say, consider your nation, that is, the people to which you belong. Your nation gives you a culture with various values; it gives you a language, and other social benefits; it provides a system of law and also protection from those who would harm you. In turn, you owe your nation a certain devotion, honor, respect.
Bringing this to the level of the divine, the ancients then said that we owe to God (or the gods) an even greater devotion, honor, respect. After all, God gave us existence and God created this wonderful world with all its goods. In turn, we owe God devotion, honor, respect.
And this devotion is greater than the devotion we owe to parents or nation. After all, our parents or our nation can make mistakes and do what is wrong. But not so with God -- and therefore, our devotion to God is total.
Now, to speak succinctly about the devotion owed to God (or in polytheism, to the gods), the ancients spoke of it as worship. What we owe to God is worship. Or they spoke of it as sacrifice. We owe God sacrifice -- not in the sense of giving something up, but in the sense of offering something to God that is pleasing to God. Therefore, as a matter of justice, we owe God worship or sacrifice.
It is very interesting to look at the Old Testament and the New Testament through this lens. The scriptures speak to what kind of worship or sacrifice is owed to God. In the Old Testament, God tells His people that He does not want human sacrifice. That is an abomination to Him.
And while He allows animal sacrifices for the time being, He leads His people to see that this also is not the sacrifice He wants. Instead, God wants praise and thanksgiving offered from a pure heart. And God also wants us to offer Him just actions toward each other.
Jesus in the Gospels summarizes all this when He says that fulfillment of the law and the prophets comes down to two things: loving God and loving your neighbor. This is a teaching about religion as a matter of justice. What is owed to God, what sacrifice or worship is to be given to God? Jesus teaches that we owe it to God to love Him and to love our neighbor. Citing the Old Testament, Jesus puts this very succinctly in one passage when He says, "It is love I desire, not sacrifice" (Hos. 6:6; Matt. 9:13).
So, that is religion as a matter of justice. But the word "religion" can be also understood in terms of salvation. Here we want to remember that the word "salvation" comes from the Latin word for health, or wellness. So, here religion is understood in terms of what makes for human wellness -- what makes us alive and fulfilled, what makes us flourish.
When people think of religion in terms of salvation, then they are thinking of what human fullness looks like. This is a good question to ask ourselves: what do we think being fully well, or fully alive, looks like? We might not have a very clear, or well worked out, idea of this, but we have some notion of it. What is that notion?
When we think of religion in terms of salvation, we also think of how we are to attain human wellness. That is, what manner of life will lead to attaining human fulfillment? So, when religion is understood in terms of salvation, there is an idea of what human fulfillment is and an idea of how to get there.
In this sense, even philosophies or worldviews are religions. After all, philosophies and worldviews propose ideas about human fullness and how to get there. To give an example, the ancient philosopher, Cicero, had a religious system in this sense. He held that human fulfillment was to be found in the contemplation of the divine. And he said that in order to reach this, one had to do two things: one had to get what one wants, but also to want what is right.
Christians, such as St. Augustine, came along later and agreed with much of this. But among other things, they found fault with Cicero's view of human fulfillment. Yes, it consists chiefly in the contemplation of God, but it also consists in getting back your body after death. That is, human fulfillment is not attained until the resurrection of the body. It is not attained until, after death, we get immortal bodies, which are no longer subject to suffering or death.
When we think of religion in terms of salvation, secularism is also a religion. Again, secularism claims not to be a religion, but it is one in this sense of the word "religion." This is because it too has an idea of what human fulfillment is and an idea of how to get there. The secular view of human fullness involves a radical individual autonomy. And to get there, you must be free to do whatever you want, as long as you don't hurt another.
When we look at today's gospel, it speaks to this notion of religion as a matter of salvation. It speaks to the question of what it means to have life, true life. In particular, it says something about how to attain this true life. Jesus does not say that, in order to attain life, you should do whatever you want, as long as you don't hurt another. Rather, Jesus offers a paradoxical answer: to have life, you must lose your life. He says: "whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 16).
So, what about religion as a matter of faith? I have spoken of religion as a matter of justice and religion understood in terms of salvation. Where then does faith come in?
I don't think you can understood well religion as a matter of faith, unless you appreciate these other meanings of the word "religion." And I think these other meanings of "religion" help us to do inter-religious dialogue, and also help us to dialogue with the wider culture.
Religion, then, is first of all a matter of justice and a matter of salvation. But here is the thing: when we are left to ourselves, we distort these meanings of religion. Thus, left to our own designs, we distort religion as a matter of justice. We end up offering to God the wrong sacrifices. History has shown that we even can go so far as offering to God other human beings in sacrifice. Or we see the worship given to God as a sort of crass quid pro quo exchange.
Left to our designs, we also misunderstand religion as a matter of salvation. We get wrong what being fulfilled really means. Or even if we get this right, we get wrong the way of reaching this fulfillment.
What we need, then, is instruction from above, instruction from God. God therefore has revealed to us what is owed to Him. And God has revealed to us what salvation consists of.
This is where faith comes in. Faith is a matter of accepting this revelation, this instruction, and living by it. So, from a Christian perspective, we accept in faith what is said about religion in terms of justice. We accept that the worship we owe to God is to love Him and to love our neighbor, with all that those things entail.
And we accept what is revealed about salvation, that is, about human wellness. It is found in the next life, when we know God perfectly and have risen bodies and live in a new heavens and a new earth with God's people. And we accept what has been revealed about how to get there: in order to find your life, you must lose it.
|Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on July 16, 2018 at 7:05 PM|
Our Br. Paul Ritt took his first vows on July 11th, the Feast of St. Benedict. As well as his parents, a number of oblates and other friends of the Abbey joined the community on this happy occasion!
|Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on March 1, 2018 at 4:20 PM|
On Saturday February 24th, Gail Archer performed "Meditations on the Mystery of the Holy Trinity" by Oliver Messiaen in the Abbey Church on the Moeller organ. Gail Archer, www.gailarcher.com, is an international concert organist, recording artist, choral conductor, and lecturer who draws attention to composer anniversaries or musical themes with her annual recital series.
Comments from those who attended the performance include:
The beautiful architecture of the abbey church along with the live acoustics made for an ideal venue for Messiaen’s music
The organ seemed to work quite well for Messiaen’s music
It was great to hear the entire organ cycle of the Trinity rather than excerpts
The organist was able to convey the composer’s vision of the work with a superb reading of the score
Thank you for hosting this concert
I found it to be a truly spiritual experience
We are grateful to Gail Archer for her performance. The event flyer is provided below.
|Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on January 22, 2018 at 10:45 AM|
Abbot Austin joined 142 Benet Academy students, faculty, staff, and parents at the March for Life in Washington D.C., 2018. The group marched and prayed together to defend the lives of the unborn.
Recession after Sunday Vigil Mass, 2018-01-20, at National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (photo by Vilma Kari).
|Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on January 4, 2018 at 1:15 AM|
Abbot Austin, Fr. James, and Br. Paul attend the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, FOCUS - SLS18, event at McCormick Place in Chicago, January 2-6, 2018. FOCUS is a Catholic outreach whose mission is to share the gospel with college students. Details about the SLS18 Conference and the ministry of FOCUS can be found at https://sls18.com/.
This year's event promises to gather over 8,000 attendees.
Abbot Austin visits with Becca Siar (Dir. of Campus Ministry) and students from UIC and an alum of Belmont Abbey College.
Abbot Austin with Bishop Robert Barron, renowned theologian and alumnus of Benet Academy, at this year's FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) event. Bishop Barron gave the keynote at FOCUS on Tuesday night.
|Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on December 15, 2017 at 11:50 AM|
On December 13, 2017, John and Mary Mickus received the 4th annual Kucera Catholic Leadership Award. The Kucera Catholic Leadership Award is given to individuals in our region who have demonstrated leadership in the Catholic Church by extraordinarily serving others as people in whom Christ is received. John and Mary Mickus both worked some decades at Benedictine University, Mary as the education coordinator of the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum, and John as Professor of Biology and eventually Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Abbot Austin's introduction remarks in the presentation of the award to John and Mary Mickus:
The Archbishop Daniel W. Kucera Catholic Leadership Award was begun four years ago. Archbishop Daniel died this past May and, so, this is the first year we are giving the award not only in his honor, but also in his memory.
Archbishop Daniel was a monk of St. Procopius Abbey who used his talents to serve the Church generously in many ways. As our community’s fifth abbot, he led our community through an important time of transition.
Archbishop Daniel also served as president of our college, Benedictine University, then called Illinois Benedictine College. After this, he served as an auxiliary bishop of the Joliet Diocese from 1977 to 1980. In 1980, Archbishop Daniel was asked to serve as the bishop of Salinas, KS, and then, in 1984, he was installed as the archbishop of Dubuque, IA. He finished his term as archbishop in Dubuque in 1996.
The Kucera Catholic Leadership Award is for a Catholic in our region who has demonstrated leadership in the Church by extraordinarily serving others as people in whom Christ is received.
JOHN AND MARY MICKUS
Now, to begin introducing this year's recipients, let me note that one of the blessings that has been enjoyed by the Diocese of Joliet has been its Catholic schools. And a large factor in the success of these schools has been its educators -- some priests, some men and women religious, and some lay persons. Tonight's recipients of the Archbishop Daniel Kucera Catholic leadership award are a married couple who have done much for Catholic education in our area, particularly through their work at Benedictine University.
Mary Mickus served for two decades as education coordinator at the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum at Benedictine University. If you do not know it, the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum is a little gem in DuPage County, offering in a small space an amazing collection of specimens -- animals, insects, and all things biological or concerning natural history. Over the decades, many thousands of school children have visited the museum and learned from it. This was thanks to Mary's work. As education coordinator, she coordinated this educational outreach of the museum with focus, hardwork, determination, and good organization. Also, after she finished serving as education coordinator, Mary served for many years on the advisory board of the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum.
In his apostolic exhortation, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, St. John Paul II speaks of the mission of a Catholic university. When people think of this mission, they often think of what is taught and how it is taught in the classroom. Sure enough, this is at the heart of a Catholic university's mission. But St. John Paul II also says that the mission of a Catholic university includes serving the local community from its intellectual and other resources. Mary Mickus contributed especially to this part of the mission of Benedictine University, working so that the wonderful collection at the Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum would be an educational resource to the wider community.
Mary's husband, John, contributed to the mission of a Catholic university especially in the classroom. John Mickus served as a biology professor at Benedictine University from 1978 to 2011. There he earned the respect of his colleagues. In his 33 years at Benedictine University, he would serve as departmental chair twice and also as Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. To the expertise he had in his field, John brought a genuine concern for his students. He was known to work patiently with students, helping them in and outside the classroom.
I have often heard it said by experienced educators that students remember how you taught them more than what you taught them. There is no doubt that what John taught his students was of high quality and substance. Their success in their chosen fields bears witness to the quality of his instruction. But John is also remembered for how he taught -- namely, with a gentle, caring soul that truly sought the well-being of his students.
John and Mary first met in Carbondale, IL, and have been married since 1971. They are members of St. Joseph Parish in Downers Grove. It is my pleasure to give this year's Kucera Catholic Leadership award to John and Mary Mickus.
|Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on November 30, 2017 at 11:05 AM|
In early November, Abbot Austin and Fr. James visited the Benedictine University Mesa branch campus. Abbot spoke to the faculty and staff on the Benedictine hallmark of hospitality.
|Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on November 22, 2017 at 2:05 PM|
On November 20th, the Benedictine Monks of St. Procopius Abbey hosted the 27th Annual DuPage Inter-Faith Thanksgiving Service. The event was sponsored by the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Lisle, IL and included prayers, music, and sacred texts. An event recap is provided below by Rev. Julian von Duerbeck, OSB, KCHS, Abbey Liturgist.
Participation by eight religions in which we use the Asissi model of Saint Pope John Paul II, and that is praying in each others' presence songs and prayers of thanksgiving. Only at the end does everyone sing "America the Beautiful". Pictured here singing Gregorian chants are Fr. Julian, Br. Augustine, Prior Guy, Br. Elias, and cantors of the Abbey Schola from Benet Academy. Venerable Pope Paul IV entrusted to the Benedictine and Cistercian Orders the task of monastic inter-religious dialogue.
|Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on November 4, 2017 at 1:55 AM|
Students from Naperville North High School visited St. Procopius Abbey. Abbot Hugh welcomed the students and provided a tour. Abbot Austin shared Benedictine spirituality and prayers in the Lady Chapel.
|Posted by Jeanine Jelinek on November 3, 2017 at 9:05 AM|