MASS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT 2021

There is always a joy in starting afresh in any rewarding activity. Yesterday, with great joy and excitement, professors and students of the Studium Theologicum Salesianum (STS), Jerusalem Campus, Faculty of Theology, Salesian Pontifical University, experienced the opening of the new Academic Year, 2021-2022 through the celebration of a Holy Mass presided over by Rev. Fr. Prof. David Neuhaus, SJ. The Principal of the Institute, Rev. Fr. Prof. Andrzej Toczyski, SDB welcomed all professors and students, and thanked them for their numerous services to the STS.

It was a new beginning that saw the exchange of refresh ideas and fraternal welcome along the corridors of the Institute. Also, during the Eucharistic celebration, the Professors present made their renewal of their faith in Christ and the teachings of Mother Church.

The participants were reminded that, the Word of God should be known and shared among people for His kingdom. This should be done voluntarily but with a kind and loving heart, says Fr. David. He continued by saying, we are back to continue working on this Church project of building God’s kingdom. Indeed, studying Sacred Theology in Jerusalem is an opportunity for students to seize the chances that are available through their learning experience in the Holy Land, so that through it more graces may be obtained and the Church may shine in living Christ’s message which always calls us (Christians) to be the light to others. As Christians, the faith that we profess is meant to be lived and practiced and the studying of theology should be accompanied with great love. Let us continue to keep our hope and love in God, the goodness par excellence and the source of all that is good as we envision having a successful Academic Year at STS.

By: Amani Amadeus, SDB

- September 20, 2021

MASS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT 2021 (HOMILY)

When Father Andrzej asked me to celebrate today’s opening liturgy, he asked what readings I would like for this mass. I replied that I thought the readings of the day were perfectly appropriate.

The first reading celebrates the return to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile. You have returned too, perhaps not from exile but rather from home visits and summer activities, but this wonderful text can fill us with the right spirit as we return to another year of studies and formation at STS. The exiles are returning to build a house for the Lord in Jerusalem and we too return to continue this ongoing building project, building up the Church by forming ourselves. Indeed, it is good to remember that theology studies here at STS are not an individual project, depending on personal desire, capacity and inclination, but rather the project of building up the Church, a Church that can bring all men and women to God. For this purpose, we must constantly study the Word of God and the world of humanity created by God in order to find our place at where the Word and world converge. This convergence depends on our fidelity to the Word and our love and knowledge of the world, a convergence that Cyrus, king of Persia, points to in his epistle that permits the return of the exiles. May this year be a year of inspiration, a return to even more energetic pursuit of knowledge that brings a deepening of faith and a love for God and humanity.

The psalm echoes the theme of return. Indeed, the Lord has brought us back as captives of Zion, like those dreaming. We can and must repeat with the Psalmist: “The Lord has done marvels for us!” We come to learn how to praise and thank Him. Our studies must indeed be a deepening of our thanksgiving for our lives and for the mission entrusted to us. This mission is to speak rightly about God – theology – so that others can believe too. The labor is great but the promise is clear: Although we go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown. We shall come back rejoicing, carrying our sheaves.

The Gospel too seems particularly appropriate to our project of building as we return to STS. Jesus says to us at the beginning of this academic year: “Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.” Undoubtedly this is not the promotion of an economic principle of the market place of capitalism: the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. Rather, it is a crystal- clear reference to our faith and our reason applied to deepening our faith. Let us listen with care so that what we have grows and expands, fills us and deepens our groundedness in the divine life. Let us not miss out on this opportunity.

To conclude, I want to cite from the writings of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon. Today we remember the Korean martyrs, him and his companions, who died for the faith. They were called to one form of martyrdom, we to another – the witness of study. We ask them to intercede for us, as we begin a new year of study and deepening of our faith. Saint Andrew wrote: “In this world of perils and hardship, if we did not recognize the Lord as our Creator, there would be no benefit either in being born or in our continued existence. We have come into the world by God’s grace; by that same grace we have received baptism, entrance into the Church, and the honor of being called Christians. Yet what good will this do us if we are Christians in name alone and not in fact?”

By: Rev. Fr. Prof. David Neuhaus, SJ.

- September 20, 2021

CONCLUSION OF THE YEAR 2020-2021

Allow me to congratulate each of the 4th year students who have graduated with a Pontifical Bachelor Degree in Theology and all those awarded with a Pontifical Diploma, in Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism, or in Biblical Geography and History. May God be with you and guide you in your coming ministries at the service of the Church and of your Congregations.

May I also take this opportunity to thank everyone with whom I had opportunity to serve here during my first year as the Principal of STS. I would like to thank each academic member, particularly the Registrar, Sr. Angela, the Academic Councilors, all Professors, the Student representatives and all students, for your availability, collaboration and support.

I thank the Rectors of the Seminaries, especially Fr. Stan and Fr Dave, for their constant support and encouragement.

Words of thanks - even if only virtually - go to our Chancellor and Rector Major, Rev. Fr. Ángel Fernández Artime, the Dean of the Faculty of Theology Fr. Antonio Escudero Cabello, and the Secretary General, Rev. Fr. Jarek Rochowiak.

With that I may proclaim the End of the Academic Year 2020-21 and I wish you all a serene holiday!

- Fr. Andrzej Toczyski SDB

June 9, 2021

BACCALAUREATE EXAMS: JUNE 4

The presenters for the Baccalaureate Exams on June 4th were:

Dc. Amit Xess SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; THE EUCHARIST: THE SOURCE AND SUMMIT OF CHRISTIAN LIFE. He will be ordained in Kansbahal India.

Dc. Nishanth Stephen SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; CHRIST'S RESURRECTION AS THE FULFILLMENT AND THE NEW BEGINNING OF THE MYSTERY OF SALVATION. He will be ordained in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, and will be a teacher in Sayalkudi

June 4, 2021

BACCALAURTEATE EXAMS: JUNE 3

The presenters for the Baccalaureate Exams on June 3rd were:

Dc. Calvin Akunga M.Afr, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; BE HOLY FOR I AM HOLY: THE SUPREME DIVINE COMMANDMENT. He will be ordained in the Archdiocese of Nairobi, Kenya; and is appointed for mission in the Province of Maghreb.

Dc. Steven Demaio SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; CREATED, ACCOMPANIED AND DIVINIZED IN TRINITARIAN FRIENDSHIP. He will be ordained and ministering in New York

 

June 3, 2021

BACCALAUREATE EXAMS: JUNE 2

The Baccalaureate Exams Continued on June 2nd .  The presenters  were:

Dc. Leonard Carlino SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; CONSECRATION AND THE RECAPITULATION OF ALL THINGS IN CHRIST. He will be ordained and ministering in New York.

Dc. Albino Sacanjila Sabonete SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; CHRIST'S OFFERING ON THE CROSS FOR THE SALVATION OF HUMANKIND. He will be ordained in Luanda City, and will be ministering in Huambo City.

Dc. Michal Jeszke SDB, he presented and successfully defended his synthesis titled; CHRISTIAN REVELATION THROUGH THE PARADIGM OF FAMILY. He will be ordained in Rumia Poland, and will minister in Bydgoszcz.

June 2, 2021

BACCALAUREATE EXAMS: JUNE 1

The Baccalaureate Exams Commenced on June 1st.  The presenters  were:

Dc. Craig Charles Spence SDB, he presented and  successfully defended his Synthesis titled; SHEPHERDING AT THE HEART OF THE CHURCH FOR THE GOOD OF ALL HUMANKIND.  He will be ordained in New Orleans and has been assigned to teach in Washington D.C.

Dc. Tresor Lulenga M.Afr, he presented and  successfully defended his Synthesis titled; THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, MOTHER OUR SAVIOUR, MODEL OF OUR CHRISTIAN LIFE. He will be ordained in the diocese of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo; and will be appointed for mission in the province of Ghana/Nigeria.

 

June 1, 2021

MY ORDINATION: REFLECTION

In two months, I will be ordained a Catholic Priest with the Salesians of Don Bosco. It has been an 11-year journey of formation and preparation. My grandmother has stopped asking me when I will be ordained because it always seemed like it was years away. Now it is only a matter of months. Traditionally, as part of the preparation, it is common to choose an image and a quote that would be a symbolic representation of this moment of ordination. I will take this opportunity to explain the image I have chosen because I find it to be rich in spiritual and theological content. It is not a typical image and, in fact, it is not something I thought I would choose. Yet I was captivated by it. This painting can be found above the altar in St. Stephen’s Church in Wasseralfingen, Germany, painted by Father Sieger Koder.

St. Peter, on the left, is painted in the water after hearing the insight from St. John; “It is the Lord.” (Jn 21:7)  He leaves the disciples in the boat and swims in haste to the Risen Jesus who waits for him on the shore. The hand coming out of the sea symbolizes the event of the walking on the water, when Peter, soon begins to drown the moment he takes his eyes off Jesus. “Lord save me!” (Mt 14:30) This is the hand of surrender, the acknowledgement our weakness, of our need for a Savior. Now, Peter has his eyes fixed on the Lord. There is nothing else. No one is more important. It is the Lord! 

On the other side, St. Mary Magdalene, who is face to face with the brightness of the Risen Lord, has her hand opened in the same surrendered prayer after hearing her name pronounced by her Rabbouni. (Jn 20:16) Her life has been a difficult one. Cleansed of seven demons, she knows what it means to suffer. She knows how difficult this world can be. The road behind her is filled with death, injustice, pain and suffering. Yet on this road there is also beauty. Jesus brings the fullness of this reality. We will suffer, we will die but neither of them can have any power over us. Death and suffering are not the last word. The last word is always love. Love conquers even death. 

The center piece is a dynamic representation of the disciples on the road to Emmaus who have met the risen Lord in the breaking of the bread. (Lk 24:13-35) Yet another reality is added. This risen Lord is the transfigured One, surrounded on either side by Moses, who receives the manna from Heaven, and Elijah who is sustained by the bread brought by the ravens. The coming together of heaven and earth. The old and the new. The human and the divine. Jesus, the first-born from the dead, the new creation, gives us the new covenant in his very own body and blood. The one disciple is fully immersed, his hand raised in surrendered prayer. Metanoia. Repent and believe in the Good News. (Mk 1:15) The other disciple is still holding on, unwilling to be swept away by the abundant grace freely offered yet necessary for this promised new life of the Kingdom. The two women coming back from the cross are contemplating the stone that separates them from their beloved Friend, Brother and Lord. Who will roll away the stone for us? (Mk 16:3) Even in this tragic moment, their love continues to bind them to Jesus. This love continues to urge them forward in service. They continue to seek him. To ask questions. To desire to be close with him, even in the presence of the painful separation. They will soon realize that he is closer than they could ever imagine. 

The three people on the bottom left are said to represent our fallen humanity. The sinner, the tax collector and the prostitute draw near to the warmth and brightness of the Resurrection. Their restless hearts seek a Love that will finally satisfy. On the top right, the window of the Papal apartment is wide open. There is to be no more hiding, no more darkness. It is time to allow the fresh air of the Spirit to move freely, to blow where It will. St. Paul just below has had his life turned upside down. His hand raised in the surrendered prayer that is now common throughout the painting. It is the encounter that changes his life and sends him out on mission. He, at the very core of his being, his very person, becomes a mission on this earth. (Evangelii Gaudium 273) There is nothing left to live for than to preach Christ crucified (1 Cor 1:23), the one who loved him and gave his life for him. (Gal 2:20)

The last of the characters are up for debate. The Pope is most surely St. John XXIII. The older gentlemen according to one description is Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, an influential theologian before Vatican II. However, in my interpretation, the image more closely reflects the person of Jules Isaac, the Jewish historian from France who had a brief but intimate friendship with John XXIII and was very influential in Christian-Jewish relations and an inspiration for the document Nostra Aetate. Jules knew suffering, he knew love, he knew the cross, even if it was hidden within his heart. It is in the context of friendship, even between people of different religions, that will allow each of us to be prepared to encounter the risen Lord. 

For me, this entire painting portrays the dynamic life of faith. A faith of beauty and pain. Life and death. Betrayal, forgiveness, surrender, doubt, peace, war, sadness and joy. It is within all of this that we encounter the Risen Lord. It is with our burden and our weakness that He raises us along with his own body. He invites us into his very own passion, death and resurrection. This is the upward calling in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14). The life of the Spirit towards the Father. All are invited into this Mystery. In my own encounter with the Risen Lord, I have been called to follow him as his priest. I have been called to break the bread, to open up a space for an encounter with Him. It is not my priesthood. It is HIS. My hands, lifted in surrendered prayer, must always be ready to do the will of the Father. To allow his love to move me to action. To listen as he calls my name, day after day, accompanying me as I carry the cross I have been given. Yet, the cross is not a symbol of death, but of unconditional and total love given freely. This love transforms. This love offers us the gift of becoming partakers in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4) I am not yet sure what I shall be, but when it is revealed, I do know that I will be like him, for I shall see him as he is. (1 Jn 3:2). The call is to abide; to abide in Love; to abide in the great Mystery of Faith and as we abide, we become. May our hearts be surrendered and may we enter into his glory. (Lk 24:26)

- Steve Demaio SDB

May 26, 2021

STUDY TRIP TO EILAT

It doesn’t happen every day... it’s hard to convey in one page the beauty of the experience we had together, right at the end of the semester of classes. Southern Israel was still an unexplored land for many of us until recently. Three days were enough to let this corner of the earth, made up of history and nature, into our lives.

We set off on Sunday morning, leaving the mild climate of Jerusalem for the decidedly hotter one of the Negev. The first great fortune we had was to have a guide who is deeply in love with this area of Israel, with its desert, its sea, its history and people. Fr. Piotr was waiting for us at his home, in the parish of the Hebrew-speaking Christian community, in Beersheba. It was from there that we left for our first destination: the archaeological site of Tamar, in the Arava valley, whose layers speak of a history that began in the period of the First Temple (10th century BC) and survived until the Arab period (7th century AD). Accompanying us along the ancient ruins was Yoanan, a young boy who calls this place “home” and whose voice reveals a great passion for archaeology and Bible history. After all, living here, on the edge of the desert, with one’s family cannot be explained otherwise.

It is often thought that a bus trip consists of successive stages, between which nothing interesting happens or is seen. Nothing could be further from the truth in our case. Road 90, which accompanied us to the far south, cuts through the Arava and then the Negev desert and is a perfect observatory for this unique landscape, made up of a plain surrounded by mountains that go from the ochre of sand, to the silver of rock, to the red of copper. Copper! The same mineral that had already attracted ancient civilizations 6000 years ago, also attracted us there, to the mines of Timna. Here, from the marriage between wind and water came to light an incredible scenery, where the red earth takes on the most impressive forms, from the bizarre and giant mushroom to the elegant and majestic arches and pillars of a temple. Evening came and morning followed, the first day.

It does not seem inappropriate to use the same formula here as in the creation story. What we experienced was a real journey through the beauties of creation that are concentrated in this small piece of land. The second day of our adventure was dedicated entirely to the sea and its life. The coral reef of the Red Sea is a unique and precious spectacle and you don’t have to be a diver to witness it. A visit to the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat kept us busy and “underwater” all morning. Of the many attractions here, two deserved our full attention: an underwater glass-walled chamber and a large
pool with a name as fascinating as it is disquieting: the “shark pool”. Corals and fish of all varieties awakened in us that sense of admiration and meditation on the wonders of creation, which became even more real in the afternoon, thanks to the snorkelling experience. Mask and snorkel and then two hours in the water, spent looking closely at the colours of the fish that we had only seen through the glass in the morning. No sharks, fortunately: those are best seen only in a pool and from a distance! A good dinner at the hotel and a long night’s rest gave us back the energy that the sea had demanded as the price for so much beauty. And so, ready for the third day, we set off on the road back home. Leaving Eilat, a few kilometres away, more animals awaited us in the Wildlife Reserve of Hai Bar Yotvata: no more fish and corals, but ostriches, oryxes, addaxes, gazelles and ibexes. A short safari in this desert area brought us close to these curious creatures, who wanted to get closer to the bus to “see us a bit more closely.” Once again, an immersion in nature, a prelude to the spectacle that was waiting for us... in Makhtesh Ramon. A crater of 40 x 9 km in a red and arid land that gives the impression of having landed on another planet. The view of this landscape from the village of Mitzpè Ramon was as breathtaking as the story the museum tells: that of Ylan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut to give his life on a space journey. All that remained was to conclude with a salute to the true “masters” of the Negev, those men and women who proved that life in the desert is possible: the Nabateans. Today, the city of Mamshit is in ruins, but it gives a glimpse of the splendour of a civilization that knew how to organize its existence to adapt to these scenarios. The signs of Christianity are also present here, in the two churches built when the inhabitants of this and other villages in the Negev became Christian, Byzantine. It is difficult to forget the harmony of these buildings, whose colour and elegance seem to have risen from the desert with almost no effort, naturally.

And so, with eyes full of all this beauty, we returned to Jerusalem, grateful to Fr. Andrzej for having conceived this great project for us and to Fr. Piotr for the passion with which he made it come true.

- Matteo Vignola, SDB

May 14, 2021

UNDERSTANDING OF DEATH

      My reflection about death begins with an illustration of a valid syllogism, 'All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.’ The mortality of Socrates is correctly inferred from the two premises, the major and the minor, linked together by their middle term. The fact that Socrates is long since dead may have helped manoeuver his argument. Death (מוות (remains an abstract proposition to which we give, to use Cardinal Newman's expression, a 'notional' and not a 'real' assent. It is always the mortality of Socrates, or someone else's, that is the matter under consideration, not mine. Metaphysics, according to Aristotle, should not be taught to people under the age of thirty. Moreover, given today's much greater longevity, Aristotle would no doubt extend the age limit considerably. Because they would not be mature enough to comprehend it, so death is not an appropriate subject for the young's mental, psychological and spiritual capacities due to their innocence. Being a Christian and not only that, but also a theologian student of which I am aware that theology is not simply a matter of interpreting scriptures. The Bible or the Quran bring the amazing concept of a metaphysical force that death is a physical universe being, that gives hope only in the risen Lord. I make it clear that I have never been close to death so I am not giving a first-hand experience and a total objectivity of it. But my emotions exists in it and only hope compromises my rationality and balance. I have come to the affirmation that, this ‘death mysticism’ by dying in baptism which every Christian dies, buried with, rises sacramentally to a new life in Christ (Trinity). However, death is a participation in Christ's death. Our physical death, besides being a natural physical end, is also a punishment for sin. Therefore, dying to sin is already a preparation for and overcoming physical death. This journey from death to life is sustained throughout our lives by other sacraments, especially by the Eucharist which has been called the Medicine of Immortality, deepening the Christian's companionship with Christ in suffering and death.

      Moreover, in all these ministries, the Church often holds out the passion and death of Jesus as the model of patience and obedience, urging the sick and dying to unite themselves with Christ and to 'die like Jesus' (ישוע כתו למות .( The two cries of Jesus on the cross, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' (Mark 15:34) and 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit' (Luke 23:46), comforts the dying in their conflicting experiences of remoteness from and nearness to God, doubt and faith, despair and hope, defiant rebellion and loving obedience in the face of death. The Church also recommends that the dying 'offer up' their sufferings to God as a way to merit eternal life. In conclusion, death is the permanent, irreversible cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. Therefore, it is in the light of the kingdom of God that the resurrection of Jesus and ours must be understood. Resurrection is not coming back to life, being 'reunited' (התאחד ( with our bodies. The core of Jesus' resurrection does not lie in his regaining his former body but in his new and transformed life with God and in God, in the peace and love of God's reign for which he lived and died. So too will our own resurrection be: we do not live and hope for the reunion with our bodies after death, rather, we live and rejoice and suffer and die for the reign of God, and in this way hope for a new, transformed life in God and with God, in the company of Jesus and all our sisters and brothers, in a new heaven and a new earth.

- Nelson Mwale SDB

May 10, 2021