Friday, January 13, 2017

Seminary Community Honors Vietnamese Martyrs

by Phillip J. Shifflet

On Friday, November 18, in St. Joseph Chapel at Mount Angel Seminary (MAS), the Rev. Joseph Nguyen, OSB, a monk of Mount Angel Abbey, celebrated a Mass in honor of the Vietnamese Martyrs, St. Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions. The seminary community was joined by many others from the Vietnamese community in the Salem and Portland areas.

After the altar was incensed at the beginning of Mass, Fr. Joseph and the newly-ordained deacon, Br. John Vianney Le, OSB, offered incense before an icon of the 117 Vietnamese martyrs, who were canonized in 1988 by Pope St. John Paul II. The act of offering of incense is a sign of respect and reverence in the Vietnamese culture.

Commenting on the Gospel passage proclaimed at Mass (Matthew 10:17-22), Fr. Joseph noted that with these words, “Jesus announced the persecutions that his disciples would have to undergo. He spoke to his apostles and to his disciples of all times. He spoke very frankly, telling them what they may expect if they choose to follow him. Jesus did not present to his followers any false promise, but in the fullness of truth that always accompanies his words, he prepares his disciples for the words: Brother will hand over brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents, and have them put to death.”

“What Jesus announced in the Gospel reading today,” Fr. Joseph continued, “happened in the apostolic times and has been repeated in different ages of history in various locations. That is also what happened in the time of the religious persecution of the Vietnamese Christians. Since 1533, . . .  throughout three centuries, with some periods of tranquility, the Church in Vietnam has undergone persecution . . . Over 130,000 Vietnamese Catholics were martyred.”

“You and I may not be called to shed our blood because of our faith in Jesus Christ,” he concluded, “but we are all called to be witnesses of the Gospel message. Each day we are challenged to be faithful to the vocations which God has given us. Each day we are called to live with Christian integrity, to speak the truth with love, and to be sacraments of God’s presence and love to one another and to the whole world.”

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 128 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.

Theological Symposium on Christology and Trinitarian Theology

Photo and story by Phillip J. Shifflet

St. Benedict, Ore. — On Monday, November 21 and Tuesday, November 22, Mount Angel Seminary (MAS) held its annual theological symposium as part of the newly established Archbishop Robert J. Dwyer lecture series. This year, Rev. Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M.Cap., was the keynote speaker.

Fr. Weinandy is a Capuchin priest and renowned scholar in the fields of Christology and Trinitarian Theology. He holds an M.A. in Systematic Theology and a Doctorate in Historical Theology. Over the last forty years, he has held various academic positions at institutions such as Georgetown University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, and the University of Oxford, and two years ago was appointed to the International Theological Commission by Pope Francis. His doctoral dissertation was entitled The Immutability and Impassibility of God in Reference to the Doctrine of the Incarnation, and he is the author of dozens of popular books and articles.

Fr. Weindandy’s symposium was entitled “Issues in Christology,” and spanned across three conferences: two morning conferences and an afternoon conference. All conferences were followed by a period for questions and discussion.

Rt. Rev. Jeremy Driscoll, OSB, Abbot of Mount Angel Abbey and Chancellor of Mount Angel Seminary (left); and Rev. Thomas Weinandy, O.F.M.Cap. (right)

In his first conference, he reflected on a contemporary question in Christology, namely the human consciousness of Christ. In his second conference, he presented the traditional doctrine of God, while noting some difficulties he saw in the formulation and proposing a new Trinitarian ontology which has ecumenical significance. In his final session, he addressed the question: “Does God suffer?” In this conference, he offered counter arguments to the claims of process theology, which, for various reasons, denies God’s immutability (i.e., God cannot change) and impassibility (i.e., God does not undergo passionate changes of state).

It goes without saying that these issues are of utmost importance in the life of both seminarians and priests. Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests, makes reference to this when it quotes the fathers of the synod that met in 1992 to discuss “the formation of priests in circumstances of the present day”: “The priest’s identity,” they wrote, “like every Christian identity, has its source in the Blessed Trinity.” If our identity is staked on and has its source in the Blessed Trinity—how important it is, then, to be familiar with the doctrine as such.
   
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. William Holzinger and Sr. Mary Timothy Prokes, FSE, who presented on “Social Media and Virtual Realities.” Last year’s theological symposium was focused on the meaning of the cross in Scripture, with conferences by Rev. Donald Senior, CP.
   
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 128 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.

Day of Recollection Focuses on Four Last Things

by Phillip J. Shifflet

On Wednesday, November 2, 2016, Mount Angel Seminary (MAS) hosted its bi-annual day of recollection for all diocesan seminarians. Seminarians attended the morning Mass in the Abbey Church, so that the hilltop community could celebrate All Souls Day in common.

Two conferences were given by Fr. Thomas Reeves, OCD, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Fr. Thomas, an alumnus of Mount Angel Seminary, serves as a spiritual director for the seminary and the rector of the House of Studies for the California-Arizona province of the Order of Discalced Carmelites in Mount Angel, Oregon.

Fr. Thomas began his conferences with a quotation from Cardinal John Henry Newman’s sermon, “The Second Spring,” noting that the Church invites us during the month of November to pray for the souls of the dead, but also to never despair of God’s mercy. Responding to this invitation, his conferences focused on the traditional four last things: death, judgement, hell, and heaven.

In the morning, he reflected on death and judgement. “The reason that we have hope when facing death,” he said, “is because Jesus Christ has given new meaning to death . . . And now the souls that walk through the door of death with Jesus will have the light of life.”

“In the presence of Christ,” Fr. Thomas said of judgment after death, “the truth of each man’s relationship with God will be laid bare. The Last Judgment will reveal, even to its furthest consequences, the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life. And everyone will see the grace of God’s design and his plan for humanity.”

In the afternoon, he reflected on hell and heaven. “In the Book of Genesis the Lord asked Adam after he had sinned, ‘Where are you?’ And that’s a question we’ve tried to answer today . . . Where am I personally in my relationship with Jesus Christ? We began this morning by reflecting on death and judgement that we shall all pass through; and this afternoon we’re concluding with the two possible ends, either life with or without God; and we go now to the rest of the evening considering where we are.”

The day was spent in silence to encourage personal prayer and devotion. Fr. Thomas was available throughout the day for individual spiritual direction.