Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Mount Angel Seminary Holds Theological Symposium on the Cross of Christ

Photo and story by Phillip J. Shifflet

St. Benedict, Ore. — On Thursday, November 12 and Friday, November 13, Mount Angel Seminary (MAS) held its annual theological symposium. This year, Rev. Donald Senior, CP, was the keynote speaker. Fr. Senior is a Passionist priest and renowned Scripture scholar who holds both a licentiate and doctorate in sacred theology from the University of Louvain in Belgium. For 23 years, he served as the President of the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, one of the largest theologates in the country. In addition to teaching courses in New Testament Studies, he currently serves as Chancellor of CTU. He is the author of numerous publications and books, including Jesus: A Gospel Portrait, The Catholic Study Bible, and most recently, Why the Cross?

Fr. Senior’s symposium was entitled “The Memory of the Passion,” and it concentrated on the meaning of the cross. The symposium spanned across three conferences: two morning conferences and an afternoon conference. All conferences were followed by a period for questions. In his first conference, he reflected on the process and meaning of crucifixion in the first century (i.e., what the contemporaries of Jesus would have understood about crucifixion). In his second conference, he showed how the meaning of the cross was transformed from an instrument of torture and death to “the sign of life and unconditional love.” He made frequent references to New Testament texts, especially to St. Paul and to the Gospels of St. Mark and St. John. In his final session, he spoke of the theme of the cross in relation to discipleship. The Christian community, he said, “is to live in the shadow of the cross and let it have an impact on the way we deal with each other… We are to live in the spirit of self-transcending and self-giving.”

From left to right: Deacon Owen F. Cummings, Academic Dean of MAS; Rev. Msgr. Joseph Betschart, President-Rector of MAS; Rev. Donald Senior, CP; and Rev. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, Professor of Theology at MAS.

Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests, discusses the role of the cross in a seminarian’s formation: “Spiritual formation has its roots in the experience of the cross, which in deep communion leads to the totality of the paschal mystery.” In his conferences, Fr. Senior helped the community to enter more deeply into the experience of the cross. Affirming this in his closing remarks, Msgr. Betschart thanked Fr. Senior with these words: “The incredible insights that you shared with us… I think we will never look at the cross the same way again, as a result.”
Symposia are a standard part of the formation program at MAS, and typically focus on theological or human formation-related issues. Last semester, MAS held a formation symposium with Fr. Michael Casey, OCSO, who presented on lectio divina. Last year’s theological symposium was focused on the liturgy, with conferences by Msgr. Kevin Irwin.
Mount Angel Seminary began forming men for the priesthood in 1889 and is now the oldest and largest seminary in the western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.  Since its inception 126 years ago, MAS has educated and formed thousands of priests, and many qualified religious and lay men and women as well, for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.

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