3RD ARCHEOLOGICAL EXCURSION – AKKO – ROSH HANIKRA

       

       Intending to understand the Scriptures in depth by exploring the land where much of it took place, our third Archeological Excursion brought us to the northern part of Israel, where we had a chance to visit two aesthetical historical sites namely Acre (Akko) and Rosh Hanikra respectively. With a delay of about an hour from the scheduled time of our departure, it took us approximately three hours to reach our first destination. 

ACRE (AKKO)

      Acre, geographically is set in the Mediterranean bay across from the major port of Haifa city, also known by the named as Akko and found in the book of Judges. It is a tiny spectacular peninsula dated from the 18th -19th century. The city carries many periodic developments, the prominent ones being the Canaanites, Hellenistic, Roman and Modern periods. Akko is a sacred home for four religions in the Holy Land; Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Baha’i. 

     However, the most fascinating and outstanding history associated with the City is its connection to the era of the Holy Crusaders. They conquered the city five years after conquering Jerusalem from the Muslims. The Crusaders fought for the place, for it was easy for them to connect with Europe and Asia through the seaport.  Several orders of knights built their headquarters in Akko, such as the Knights Templar and the Benedictine Knights Hospitaller, whose service was to care for the sick and wounded. Much of what the Crusaders built is still standing underground the modern city. The underground city is an impressive excavation with a modern restoration to display the reality of that time. It shows the marvelous story of the life, rise, and fall of the Crusaders. The Crusaders were defeated and driven out in 1291, making it the last place of their era in the Holy Land. Their fortress was left in ruins until the end of the 1700s when the Ottoman Turks took Akko and built on top of it. 

      Outside the Underground city, there is a beautiful modern city where we had the privilege to walk across it, allowing us to interact with the citizens at the marketplace. The majority of the population is Arabic Muslims. Walking across it, brings to mind the historical transition from the underground Christian historical city to the modern Islamic Akko. Across the city, there is a Tunisian Synagogue, that stands as a strong visiting place for the religious Jews. Next to it, is an eye-catching Museum of the ancient Turkish Bathhouse, constructed during the time of Ottoman, the ruler of Akko. The museum provides a visual excitement with the well-molded statues closely associated with the Byzantine Culture, showing how at the time bathing was by steam and not in pools or tubs. 

      In conclusion, Akko provides the living tradition, ideals, culture, and the art of outstanding significance of the history of the Holy Land. However, despite it being a beautiful phenomenal city, with the entire historical stories that surround it, it is a city that offered us deep insights towards our theological diploma in Holy Land Studies, particularly on the effectiveness of the historical developmental in understanding inter-religious relations. The historicity of the city provides axioms for a good understanding of the current political and religious realities in the entire Holy Land. Thus, our excursion at Akko was worth it, both aesthetically and theologically educative. 

ROSH HANIKRA

      At the furthest end of northern Israel along the Mediterranean Sea, just meters from the border with Lebanon an incredible geological creation known as Rosh Hanikra is to be found. The experience with the camber car taking you down to the sea grottoes gives already a humbling exciting experience of descending to meet a fascinating reality of Mother Nature. The audiovisual display, which takes about 15-20 minutes gives an appetite of going inside the tunnels and experience the amazing screened phenomena. The video shows that Rosh Hanikra is a beautiful love story between the sea and the mountain, a love story that is a result of thousands of years of the power of the sea. A scientific Historicity shows that the grottoes are formed as a result of underground shocks that opened up the gaps within the rocks, then water penetrated these gaps forming tunnels and caves that have continued to expand due to the strong waves that continually strike the rocks. Going down the tunnels, there is an unusual noise as the sea water meets itself with the rocks forcing the waves of the sea into a different direction. 

      Walking through the tunnels, a question of wonder immediately strikes the mind. How on earth is this reality possible? Can the human mind grasp and explain this breathtaking reality? The site brings to mind some speculative thoughts on what nature is capable of being and again vice-a-visa the capacity and limits of human reason. Rosh Hanikra, voices out loud the Call of an inter-relationship between nature itself and with human beings. One comes to realize that Nature breathes and is capable of giving birth to another nature in a spectacular way that is known only to itself. Nature has the reasons and logic of its operation that human reason cannot fully explain and understand. No matter how much human intellect can explore and give some logical and scientific explanation to the wonders of nature, there is and will be always an element of limitedness to such a disposition. Indeed, at one point, our rationality needs to bow and embrace the vastness of nature, and at Rosh Hanikra it is one of those places that bears witness to the transcended attribute of nature. 

      However, despite that nature works in its natural givenness, it opens up and invites the human mind to recognize and nourish the hidden richness in it. Thus, human reason does not only bow to the wonders of nature, but the mind has a primary duty to enhance the mysteries disclosed in nature. Rosh Hanikra shows how human beings in their creative and good application of reason, have nourished and enhanced the love story of the sea and the rocks. To another level, the experience one gets from this site moves you from just the question of the possibility of being (such a reality) to thanking a Being (God) i.e. it provokes a feeling of gratitude to the giver of both Nature and Human Reason. How wonderful it is that the One (God) in His love and wisdom has shared the gift of beauty and reason to our earth. Rosh Hanikra is the place that reason tells reason that there is something more to reason. 

      The beauty of this place satisfied not only our eyes but even our stomachs, to the extent that we missed our usual time for meals, but yet we were still energetic enough to explore the wonders of nature, giving us a testimony as to what a beautiful love story can do. We ended the day with a beautiful meal and a birthday celebration of the Principal of our University (Fr Andrzej) and two of our brothers (Celestine & Enrico). This Archeological Excursion was the last one in this academic semester, and it was certainly a worthwhile ending to the semester. 

November 25, 2021

2ND ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXCURSION 2021 NIMROD – BANIAS – DAN

          The second Archaeological Excursion with the Salesian Theological University of Ratisbonne, took us to the north of the Holy Land in the territory of the beautiful Golan Heights. After a three hour bus ride from Jerusalem, we reached our first stage: Nimrod. Nimrod is the biggest and grandest fortress from the Middle Ages in the entire Israel. It was built in only three years, between 1227 and 1230 CE but we cannot be so sure if it was built by Crusaders or Muslims. Architectonic elements from both cultures can be found inside. For sure, the Muslim Sultan Baibars played a key role in that building as we can see in the Baibars’ inscription at the entrance of the fortress: a 6 meters long stone inscription in Arabic. Following the path towards the northern part of the mountain we can find the remains of 21 towers: a very huge number for a fortress, which confirms the primacy that it holds among other fortresses in the Holy Land. At the very end of the path, on the peak of the height, the donjon offers to the visitor an extraordinary view of the surrounding landscape, including the Hermon Mountain on the north. Visiting this place is for sure most pleasant and engaging. The views from the towers are breathtaking, many parts of the buildings are still well conserved: the water cistern, the prison, the main hall, the loopholes, the drainage system, the fountain and parts of the towers with their secret passages. With a bit of imagination all these elements can really take you back in time and to feel how life could have been at this amazing site. 

       Our second visit was located in Banias. This place, really more crowded and visited than the other two, takes its name from the Greek god Pan (in ancient times it was called Panyas). Close to the Banias spring, a broad stairway rises to the Banyas cave. Five niches carved out of the cliff next to the cave are the remains of a shrine built by the Greeks in the 2nd century BC in honour of their god. There are also remains of a temple built by Herod the Great for the worship of the God Pan. This place is really important for us because, according to biblical hypothesis, it must have been the place in the region of Caesarea Philippi where Jesus asked his disciples “Who do you say I am?” and Peter answered: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” [Mt 16:13-20]. This question of Jesus acquires much more meaning in this location. Probably Jesus asked it pointing at the great number of pagan gods present there. 

       After a quick visit of this site we had our usual lunch in Dan, enjoying the shade of the trees, the fresh breeze and the sound of the river. Dan offered us a twofold visit: on one hand, the beautiful and relaxing walk through the nature, especially the springs of the Jordan river, and on the other hand the interesting view of the remains of the city, especially the great access gate, the imposing stone walls and the ruins of a hugh ancient temple. Due to some literal biblical scholars the stone basis found in the temple could have been the podium on which Jeroboam put his golden calf in the book of Judges. The most impressive characteristic of this archaeological site is that some of the remains are from the Neolithic Era (4500 BC). Another important element is that, near to the entrance gate, an important Stele was found (Tel Dan Stele) containing for the first time in history the name of King David (before 500 BC). Now the Stele is conserved in the Israeli Museum. 

       With this third visit, our archaeological trip came to an end. We came back home very grateful for the possibility of going deeper into the Bible and into the history of Israel through these beautiful places, grateful also for the good weather and for the good company, grateful for the people who made this trip possible : to our guide Fr. Piotr and to our Principal Fr. Andrzej. We are eagerly waiting our next excursion! Until next time!

- Matteo Sassano SDB

October 26, 2021

 

 

DIES ACADEMICUS 2021

The annual Dies Academicus brought together the students, faculty and friends of Jerusalem’s Studium Theologicum Salesianum (STS) on Saturday 16th October 2021 in thanksgiving for the past academic year and in a renewed commitment for the year ahead. 

Fr Andrzej Toczyski SDB opened the day by welcoming attendees and thanking the recently appointed Papal Nuncio to Israel, Archbishop Adolfo Yllana, for his presence. An excellent video production reviewed the key moments of the academic year 2020/21 and recalled the challenges and adaptations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the many archaeological excursions made across the Holy Land and the fun and fraternity shared by all those studying together at STS.

All students were congratulated on their academic achievements during the past year by Sr Angela Ridout SJA, who revealed the highest exam scores and presented an award to Matteo Vignola SDB for his achievements in the third year of his studies.

Fr Eric Wyckoff SDB introduced the new STS students who hail from Europe, Africa and Asia. The community welcomed them all and waits in hope for the arrival of those students whose arrivals have been delayed by the global pandemic.

The newly appointed rector of the Tantur Ecumenical Institute, Fr John M. Paul SJ, spoke to the gathering about the work undertaken at Tantur to encourage Christian companionship and unity, promote encounter with followers of other faiths and work for world peace and justice. Father Paul reminded the students and staff of STS that our cultural diversity and experiences of life here in the Holy Land “will be taken back home and put into practice to build bridges.”

After a break for refreshments and the taking of the community photograph, a student choir of Salesians, Brothers of Zion and Missionaries of Africa sang a rendition of ‘Ave Maria’ before Fr Stan Swamikannu SDB, Rector of the Salesian Community, welcomed the main speaker Rev. Fr Dr George Schultze SJ.

Fr George’s talk – ‘Of all things visible and invisible: Postmodernism and Unbelief’ – presented the philosophical and social struggles with permanence and change and how they undermine the foundations of knowledge and boundaries of conduct. Fr George pointed out that “human beings do not invent what is true but rather discover it… yet prideful cultural influencers of every generation try to invent their own truth.” The fascinating talk was delivered with great insight and conviction by Fr Schultze, who urged the gathering to recognise “categories, boundaries, limits, and norms do have good and useful qualities” and use the formula “see, judge, act” for engagement with the postmodern world.

The Dies Academicus is always an important milestone and high-point of the academic year. This year we give particular thanks for our safety and steadfastness during the trials of COVID-19 and we pray for God’s blessing on our studies in this school of His service. 

- Justin Robinson OSB

October 16, 2021

Year Group 2021-2022

Group 2021-22

 

LECTIO MAGISTRALIS 2021

Of All Things Visible and Invisible: Postmodernism and Unbelief

Not for Distribution without Author’s Approval

Allow me to begin this Deis Academicus talk by thanking you for the opportunity to share my thoughts about the love and truth found in our Catholic faith.  I particularly want to thank Fathers Andrzej Toczyski SDB and Stanislaus Swamikannu SDB for their invitation.  Traveling in Latin America and identifying myself as a religious priest (“un religioso”), strangers asked me if I was a Salesian. To my chagrin, I told them “No, I am a Jesuit, and St. Ignatius of Loyola is our founder.”  I can attest to the many alumni and supporters of the Salesians throughout Latin America and the world. God bless the work of you and your companions.

Growing up in Silicon Valley in California, originally named Santa Clara Valley by Franciscan missionaries, my faith and intellectual life coalesced.  I witnessed the Valley morph from fruit orchards to microchip manufacturing, and classroom technology evolved from slide-rulers to calculators to desktops to laptops.  The Director of Research at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories told us in 1983 that handheld computers were the future.  Today we have mobile phones, computers held in our palm.

Mountain View, California, my hometown, is the headquarters of Google.  Facebook’s corporate offices are a 10-minute drive away. They are internet and media titans.  While science and technology have altered the world dramatically, the truth of our faith remains. Today in Silicon Valley, you find Christian faith, hope, and love in the midst of the brokenness of poverty, the woundedness of divorce, the pain of addiction, and environmental distress.  While our faith and reason can embrace the life-giving and life-affirming advances of science and technology, they also point to our sin and its consequences. Aren’t we always in need of conversion no matter our global address or era?  

Decades ago, I came across a short news account about Cardinal Ratzinger speaking to a conference of scientists and engineers at the Vatican aula. Perhaps it was a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.  I don’t recall.  What captured my attention were his questions to the audience.  He first asked rhetorically, “What is the one thing that you require for your work?”  He answered: Mathematics.  He followed with another rhetorical question, “Where does mathematics come from?”  He said: God.   The Church sees no discrepancy between faith and reason.  As you embark on your new school year, remember that your God of love is also the God of truth.  

An interest in mathematics runs throughout Western philosophy and points to logic and reason inside and outside of time.  The mathematicians clearly have perplexing problems they fail to understand, for example the nature of the irrational number Pi and the logical truth of arithmetic and set theory, but my concern is the use of exceptions, rarities, or outliers to question the “structure of structure.”  The fact that professional mathematicians do not fully understand or see mathematics perfectly underscores our profession of faith.  Only God fully understands God’s creation, both the visible and invisible.  But by our faith and reason, we look for our meaning, making at times the invisible more intelligible.

You live in a world that often dismisses faith and disputes reason. Bluntly speaking, schools and the media promote truth as a phantasm and morality as personal.  The world is full of expressive individualists who do not realize they are emotivists.  They think, speak, and live by their emotions.  Their truth is whatever their feelings deem it to be. Study popular entertainment, and you see the emotivism of today’s celebrities leading cultural opinion.
How do you seminarians respond to what lies before you?  Your education and formation in philosophy, theology, and the spiritual life are a gift from God.  Our tradition teaches that faith and reason are united.  Our Profession of Faith, the Nicene Creed, says: “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.”  Our faith acknowledges that we see and we do not see.   Our ancestors, we, and every future generation participate in a pilgrimage of seeing and not seeing, knowing and not knowing.  We live at a time when we can agree that we know much more of our nature and world than ever before but much remains to be seen.  We are trying to see (or understand) all that is invisible to us, but will this ever happen in this earthly journey? 

Human beings do not invent what is true, they discover it.  Historically, many people of faith and reason recognize this fact, but prideful cultural influencers of every generation attempt to invent their own truth.  Aaron mistakenly casted the Golden Calf in the desert and worshiped it.  In the United States neo-paganism is common, and Harvard University recently appointed an atheist as its chaplain.  Yet, whether it is idolatry or denial of God, the world is looking for love and truth but in all the wrong places and in too many faces.

With regard to truth, I am referring to what is outside of Plato’s allegorical cave, the ideas or forms, that is, the metaphysical that we want to know while recognizing our presence in the aula of the Salesian Seminary in Jerusalem.   Recall that Plato said we would never see a perfect circle or a perfect straight line, but we know they exist.  When St. Augustine writes of memory, he is following Neoplatonic ideas of truth.  I can also ask, “Do I know the truth of Aristotle’s four causes: formal, material, efficient, and final, without the metaphysical, that is, the invisible?” At some point we have to refer to the metaphysical, the nonmaterial, the transcendent.  Postmodern thinkers deny the metaphysical, but they also play word games to re-introduce ways of thinking and living that infer a metaphysical framing.

I am speaking in a commonsensical fashion because life, even in dire circumstances, suggests a structured world.  Is it unreasonable to accept a meta-structure based on ideas and realities we do not fully understand—that is, the invisible?  Is it unreasonable to recognize laws of logic and mathematical truths as independent of my mind?  Kurt Gödel, the 20th century mathematician and philosopher, discovered we cannot prove true mathematical statements with logic because at least one proposition in the proof cannot be proven or disproven. He was baptized a Christian and remained a believer in God. In fact, Gödel discovered a proof of God’s existence that according to Fr. Robert Spitzer, a contemporary Jesuit philosopher, improved upon St. Anselm of Canterbury’s proof.  Kurt Gödel spent his life searching out the logical truth of mathematics without discounting the metaphysical.  He also used reason to accept mathematical truths while concluding logic could not prove them. 

Can we agree that some truths are self-evident in our human experience?  Here are two clear ones for me: 1+1=2 and “Do good and avoid evil.” Logicians may struggle to prove 1+1=2, but representationally, one apple plus one apple equals two apples.  For our lives, the point Cardinal Ratzinger made with the scientists and engineers in the Vatican aula was correct. I will add that if the architects and builders of this aula had not followed the truth of mathematics and physics it would collapse.  One plus one equals two, the interior angles of a triangle equal 180 degrees, the two legs of a right triangle squared equal the hypotenuse squared.  And Non-Euclidean geometry also uses reason.

If this building does not have a solid foundation; it will not stand.  The cornerstone guided ancient stonemasons in constructing walls, and the angles were key to a strong building.  Isaiah 28:16 “Therefore, thus says the Lord God: See, I am laying a stone in Zion, a stone that has been tested, a precious cornerstone as a sure foundation; whoever puts faith in it will not waver.”  Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  In Catholic social teaching, the Church continually speaks about people of good will and the common good.  Both Plato and Aristotle spoke of the “good”.  Plato saw the good as knowing and doing what was true, and Aristotle understood the good in terms of fulfilling an end or function, the final cause, being a good person, a good knife and so on.  If you know what a human being is, you should be able to describe a “good human being” to me.

Doing good and avoiding evil suggests we follow what is true, more forcefully and clearly put, not to live a life of lies.  Who is the father of lies in the Gospel of John? The Devil.  Jesus is the logos, the word made flesh, he only thinks, speaks, and acts in truth.  Despite our awareness of the invisible, Christians believe creation came from reason and a plan, and Jesus embodies it.  Jesus encouraged his disciples to preach to others that the Kingdom was upon them.  Our faith and reason make the invisible intelligible, if not visible in the proverbial light of day, because Jesus is the Kingdom.  

I offer another truth for today’s lecture. It is about our engagement of the postmodern moment.  Postmodern thinkers, who are relativists, subjectivists, and non-believers, cannot deny this truth.  It comes through the classical philosophers, and Aristotle is probably the most obvious spokesperson.  We all have to see, judge, and act. Some of you may recognize this triplet from the Young Christian Workers Movement founded by Joseph Cardinal Cardijn of Belgium.  As we move through life, we have to make decisions based on our best data and analysis, make a choice, and act.  Believers and non-believers alike have to go through these same steps.  We can disagree about observations, have unique analyses, and act differently, but we all take these steps.  It is true for every mature human being.

Joseph Cardinal Cardijn’s advice to “See, Judge, and Act” continues to make sense. At a fundamental level, our natural desire is to live life well.  To flourish, as Aristotle taught, requires our recognition of the essence of happiness (necessitating seeing and judging) and our personal decision or election to choose the path of true happiness (our acting).  Philosophy is a resource for everyone, whether theists, agnostics, or atheists, because of the common human longing to understand who we are and how we are to be.  

Cardinal Cardijn’s seminary teacher was Fr. Antonin Gilbert Sertillanges, O.P. (1863-1948), who used St. Thomas Aquinas’ discussion of prudence in the Treatise on the Virtues (Question LVII, Art. 6) to formulate see, judge, and act.  Fr. Sertillanges also borrowed from the work of Ollé-Laprune (1839-1898), a respected lay Catholic philosopher, who used Aristotle’s writing on the virtue of prudence to formulate see, judge, and decide.  The philosophical genealogy of Cardijn’s formula, beginning with Aristotle and passing through St. Thomas, is unmistakable.  Discernment is seeing, judging, and acting.  This is a true for all human beings. We Catholics discern our reality within the understanding of our faith and reason.  St. Ignatius of Loyola discovered the Spiritual Exercises and taught others to use them to discern God’s will. He wrote in the “Rules for Thinking with the Church”:

We must put aside all judgment of our own, and keep the mind ever ready and prompt to obey in all things the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, our holy Mother, the hierarchical Church.

Other descriptions for postmodernism are poststructuralism, anti-foundationalism, and post-foundationalism, which all suggest a lack of stability, orderliness, and purpose. Everything is in a state of constant change reminiscent of the philosophical difference between Heraclitus and Parmenides.  Heraclitus: “Into the same river it is not possible to step twice.”  You cannot know in a complete way because the world is in a constant state of change.  Parmenides believed our world and reality were foundational and stable, but our senses led to the illusion of change.  And Parmenides correctly argued that knowledge was not possible unless there was something that did not change.  Centuries later Plato used the Divided Line in the Republic to address the question of change (the visible) and permanence (invisible but intelligible). 

Not to be labor the point, I am obviously arguing for something that is permanent, an essence, otherwise we never know when an entity remains the same.  In effect, knowledge would be impossible because everything becomes an illusion. But we have to agree that a fire can destroy this building, and therefore we should not start a fire in the aula.  This is a reasonable understanding of our reality and the essences of “building” and “fire” whether it is this aula or one in California.  It is good seeing, judging, and acting. 

Perhaps some of you are thinking, “What if this lecture hall is made of noncombustible materials and a fire cannot destroy it?”  You are making a common postmodern argument by pointing out an exception to the rule.  Today expressive individualism can lead a person with a unique understanding or desire to demand a new rule to fit him or her.  The exception then becomes the rule.  Perhaps an individual or group decides that oppressors have created an oppressive power structure by their rule.  History is full of oppressive people and regimes, but this does not mean that every reasonable and faith conforming structure or rule is oppressive because of someone’s objection.  In our contemporary moment we have a men and women who do not want others to use the pronouns “he” or “she” to describe them.  They want others to call them “they.”  While this is a tragic example of the power of postmodern thought on language, it does not change the essence of men and women.  Although rejected by postmodern thinkers, human experience suggests boundaries, categories, and norms can also help us do good and avoid evil.  God did not call the Ten Commandments the Ten Suggestions.  God gave us the Ten Commandments because God loves us.  Faith is informed by reason.

Without any detailed discussion, but to provide some continuity, Rene Descartes’ thinking led to a mind-body dualism that influenced John Locke’s view that humanity seeks pleasure and avoids pain.  Our faith teaches us that we are raised body and soul, which does not make Locke’s view of nature unreasonable. Our body has a purpose, it is a temple, but suffering and sacrificing with the right discernment have meaning.  Thoughtless pleasure seeking and hopelessness lead to the delusions of addiction and suicide.  Catholics are to affirm life and recognize the goodness of their body, but the pursuit of temporal pleasure alone does not give us meaning.  Catholic social teaching instructs us to respect the dignity of life and care for it.  Our two most basic desires are self-preservation and procreation. For this reason, the common good requires us to protect the vital cell of society which is the family. This implies the protection and support of marriage between a man and a woman, adequate work, education, access to health care, political participation, and a care for the environment. 

Descartes’ mind-body dualism led to a progressively greater focus on the body (the physical) because Jeremy Bentham, an avowed atheist, followed John Locke’ response to Descartes and promoted a utilitarian view of moral life based on the greatest good for the greatest number.  We then had James Mill, his son John Stuart Mill, and Adam Smith who led us to a global capitalist view of our human condition.  Karl Marx, an atheist and materialist, also used utilitarian thinking in his labor theory of value.  

But the Church rejects utilitarianism, in part, because of the problem of proportionalism. The utilitarian has the challenge of choosing between the greatest good and the greatest number, and I refer you to the Papal Encyclicals Fides et Ratio and Veritas Splendor to understand better the mistakes of utilitarian thinking.  Although to its credit utilitarianism promotes individual freedom, and no one can deny its contribution to the extraordinary technological development and economic prosperity of the last two centuries. But are we more loving and truth abiding people because of the utilitarianism manifested by our mobile phones?  Today we unfortunately have a world with a few exponentially wealthy people, far too many poor, rampant consumerism, continued political conflict, and ecological crises.

Immanuel Kant recognized the problem with John Locke’s seeking-pleasure-and-avoiding-pain moral view of the world and Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism.  In such a world, people lived by hypothetical imperatives.  Such thinking mistakenly placed the emphasis on individual desires and will.  Humanity had no moral imperatives, no duties to abide by, no boundaries. In effect, the importance of the Ten Commandments diminished in the wider culture.  Catholics and Protestants lived in internecine conflict. Hypothetical imperatives could not deny intrinsic evils such as racism, abortion, euthanasia, and genocide.  Freedom without responsibility leads to lying.  Who is the father of lies?

Kant said the only thing that is good is a good will and it requires us to act from duty.  His simplest categorical imperative was the universal maxim to never use another person as a means to an end.  He did not rely on revelation for his arguments or the experiences of phenomena to justify faith.  He basically directed us to live as if God and our reason held in both the visible and invisible.  Our understanding was limited to time and space.  Any discussion of the noumena (which was an awareness of Kant’s unknowable thing-in-itself) was always speculative.  It was invisible.

Arthur Schopenhauer followed Kant’s thinking, but argued that Kant’s noumena was our will to live.  Schopenhauer believed our will to live was found behind the veil hiding the invisible.  It replaced Kant’s noumena.  It was a dominating will, and some believe Schopenhauer’s idea of the will led to Sigmund Freud’s theory of the Id.  According to Schopenhauer, our insatiable will to live was the cause of our suffering. Schopenhauer, another atheist, said there were three ways to live in a suffering world: 1) the aesthetic experience that happens when we contemplate superior beauty, art, and music; 2) renunciations, renouncing temporal human desires; and 3) showing sympathy and compassion towards others. Schopenhauer’s study of Eastern religion was very evident.  

The 20th century, in this rapid overview of philosophical developments, was important for our understanding of contemporary society and applied postmodernism.  It was the century of the “linguistic turn”.  Over 2,000 years earlier, Plato wrote that Socrates’ believed the oral tradition was superior to written texts because memory (memorizing) made something a part of us. The 20th century linguistic turn was a further recognition of language’s influence on an understanding of the world. You cannot bracket out language from philosophical thinking.  Remember Descartes’ conclusion “I think therefore I am.”  Descartes played the ultimate skeptic, attempting to leave all preconceptions behind, but he could not, because his statement “I think therefore I am” indicates a clear participation in a particular time and place.” Whether it is rationalism, idealism, empiricism, or any other “ism” language is paramount because ideas require communication.  Descartes’ mind was not wiped clean of language in his exercise of absolute skepticism or radical doubt. Like all philosophers, his culture and context influenced him.  

Friedrich Nietzsche was a student of languages and in particular ancient languages.  He discovered ancient texts had multiple authors, internal contradictions, and historical and cultural biases, especially the Bible.  He also transformed Schopenhauer’s will to life understanding to a philosophically understood will to power.  What existed behind the veil hiding the unknown was humanity’s will to power.  Nietzsche concluded in his study of literature, philosophy, and the arts that the will to power resulted in slaves and masters, influencing the postmodern deconstructionism of Michel Foucault, Jacque Derrida and others. Nietzsche interpreted Kant and Enlightenment philosophy as a will to power by enslaving others with reason and science.  Just as the utilitarian reduction of our humanity to self-interest was mistaken, Nietzsche’s reduction of our humanity to the will to power was a mistake.  Can we judge human behavior with one mega-trait, whether “self-interest” or “will to power”? With, seeing, judging, and acting, our Christian view of the human person offers a more reasonable, fraternal foundation.  Love and truth offer us a solid cornerstone.

Will to power for Nietzsche is a constant striving for growth and development but it can also become crude power seeking.  He rejected metanarratives especially Christianity that he said enslaved people, making them weak through humility, piety, and charity.  He spoke his subjective truth while simultaneously rejecting the existence of truth and, in particular, Platonic forms, Aristotelian logic, and the Enlightenment truths of rationality and science, including Kant’s categorical imperative.  Nietzsche also considered pre-Socratic, ancient Greek culture the epitome of “good living”.  But he clearly made a subjective judgment about “the good” while contending other cultures, including Christianity, were inferior to his preferred culture.  He promoted his own, dare I say, essential good, the will to power. His influence on postmodernism was undeniable.

I mentioned Michel Foucault.  Jacque Derrida also contributed to a dramatic shifting of philosophical and cultural beliefs with a promotion of cultural relativism and individual subjectivism. The writings of linguist Ferdinand de Saussure and anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss shaped Foucault and Derrida.

 Lévi-Strauss used Ferdinand de Saussure’s language studies for his anthropological understanding of primitive societies.  Where De Saussure described language as signs (the signifier, the signified, and the referent) Lévi-Strauss saw the replication of these signs in the relationships forming the structures of societies.  For example, the myths of a society and their impact on culture originate with language, and in the case of a text, the text is the source of meaning (e.g., the Bible for us).  Ludwig Wittgenstein’s analytic linguistic philosophy also had a major influence in the linguistic turn of the 20th century. I am referring to the late-Wittgenstein and the Philosophical Investigations.  In a nut shell, culture and context determine the meaning of words for Wittgenstein.  In the 20th century philosophy was about language.

Derrida read Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger; Husserl was Heidegger’s teacher.  Husserl, a mathematician by training, accepted an inability to prove the truth and logic of mathematics and science. As the father of phenomenology, he turned from trying to find truth in the realm of ideas and looked to our human experience, our consciousness of the phenomena in the lived world.  His transcendental phenomenology in effect provided a Platonic, idealistic realm outside the phenomena of Husserl’s cave that provided “true” ideas or forms (never absolutely provable), giving permanence and meaning to his lived life.  Husserl bracketed or suspended the thought of having proof for truths in a realm outside of the phenomenal. Yet by his bracketing, he affirms something of the sort.  In other words, one can live with a thought of the metaphysical even if the metaphysical does not exist.

Heidegger, like Husserl, questioned the truth and meaningfulness of metaphysics. He went deep into Western philosophical history, however.  He investigated the historicity of philosophical ideas.  Heidegger used phenomenology as a method to investigate the presocratic Western philosophers and identified the Being of being in the phenomena. Heidegger also used the term “destruction” when he rejected the metaphysics initiated by Plato’s writings.  He also thought in terms of intentionality which recognized the subject’s influence on the object of his intention.  Basically, when philosophers “discovered” something about an object, they imprinted their culture and beliefs on the object. In part, in Heidegger’s view, science, reason, and the Western philosophical tradition were prejudiced and subjective from the beginning because all of language is metaphor. Heidegger’s method of destruction is the basis of Derrida’s “deconstruction”.

Derrida used Heidegger’s conclusions with his reading of language to point out prejudices and exclusions in texts.  He also depended on the thought of Emmanuel Levinas, another student of Husserl, who reflected on the “Other”, by implication people often treated as objects not subjects.  We would live an illusion if we were to accept Derrida’s rejection of permanence or certainty.  I use the word “permanence” to describe Derrida’s rejection of presence.  

Derrida wanted no cornerstone in his philosophical thought, but in his humanity, he had to see, judge, and act like the rest of us.   Apparently, Derrida was a decent man.  But what was the source of his decency?  If it was the intellectual life, he needed to deny its foundation as well. Derrida would defeat his work of deconstruction (which is a method) if he were to suggest a foundational source for “justice” or “human rights.”  Unfortunately, when “truth”, “good”, “justice” or “right” become relative concepts than people can shrug their shoulders and do nothing in the face of evil.  

Derrida’s well-known neologism—différance—means words and texts have no permanence.  Every word has traces of other words.  Meaning is always differed. We never really know the speech and text, making Derrida’s own prolific writing uncertain, lacking presence, always becoming something. Such is the understanding of the words “person”, “me”, “you”, “they”.   Following Heidegger’s plunge into philosophical history, Derrida contended that words had meanings that were favored or disfavored in difference: “subject” over “object”, “mind” over “body”, “presence” over “absence”, “man” over “woman” and so on.  In each dichotomy, one word carried more value, importance, and power according to the culture and context.  

This domination played out in relationships, for example, in the man/woman dichotomy, by leaving women oppressed, marginalized, and excluded.  For this reason, activists, academics and politicians argue for non-binary thinking and living.  As one example, the non-binary view calls men and women absolutely equal, but the Church recognizes (sees) the complementarity in our sexes.  Our faith and human reason recognize both the differences between men and women and the equal dignity of men and women.  Even Derrida conceded that in binary relationships dominance is lost and gained, a reversal of the status quo can happen. He acknowledged the good and redeeming qualities of both “equality” and “inequality”.  Why suppress mathematical genius, musical gifts or athletic prowess with demands for artificial equality or deny the truth, beauty, and goodness of the complementarity between a wife and husband?

While not denying oppression and injustice (caused by our sin), Derrida’s understanding of language leads to a pluralistic and fluid way of thinking. It begs the question of our becoming tolerant of the intolerant and accepting every human behavior as protected.  Without permanence or presence, every exception can demand acceptance.  Should demands for inclusion include abhorrent behavior as protected?  Can we speak of injustice when “justice” is a word without meaning?  Both Foucault and Derrida are rejecting limits and championing change, following Heraclitus’ denial of permanence.  

Foucault and Derrida contended that power and the vagaries of language resulted in exclusion and oppression.  Because people commonly want freedom without responsibility, their influence in higher education is extraordinary.  They sowed seeds of unbelief and pride.  This lecture started with ancient Greeks debating change and permanence and ends with Foucault and Derrida arguing for change without permanence.  They would not surrender to the invisible.  Socrates said, “I know that I do not know.” A humble believer surrenders to the all-knowing God.   I see and I do not see.  With faith and reason, I accept the visible and the invisible.

  Foucault needed a cornerstone, something permanent to make his preferred changes meaningful. But he ultimately had no cornerstone.  Nietzsche tried to solve this problem with his idea of the eternal recurrence; it provided the anchor of permanence, his metaphysics.  The eternal recurrence made change permanent; it acted as his cornerstone.  In fact, he borrowed the idea of eternal recurrence from Heraclitus.  Those who recall Nietzsche’s life know he had his eternal recurrence inspiration at the site of a prominent boulder in the Swiss Alps.   Doesn’t a boulder suggest permanence?  While Foucault focused on the marginalized of society, and remember Jesus loved the marginalized or anawim, Foucault saw no distinction in types of marginalization because categories imply boundaries, limits, and permanence.  He denied metaphysics.

Foucault used Nietzsche’s will to power in the books Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason and History of Sexuality.  He made genealogical and archaeological studies of text to understand the historical responses to both madness (insanity) and human sexuality.  He followed the “linguistic turn” of the 20th Century.  The naming and social practices regarding madness and human sexuality were historically and materially determined, according to Foucault.  He offered his critical analysis but obviously gave no metaphysical explanations for madness or human sexuality.  

Foucault embraced only the visible and offered no discussion of the transcendent—the invisible.  His was a critical review of the treatment of the mad in history and the sexual lives of ancient Greeks. He identified social constructs.  His descriptive words were “exclusion”, “refusal”, “blockage”, “concealment”, and “mask”.  He framed as oppressive a traditional depiction of united families, the parental formation and education of children, and the support of extended family and friends.  In his historical study of Ancient Greek sex practices, he stated men-boy sexual relationships were “not contrary of nature.”   Foucault’s use of the word “nature” also pointed to his quasi-formal understanding of “nature”; it was never fully defined in his books.  

 Postmodern thinkers include “quasi-transcendentals” in their writing.  It is hypocrisy for postmodernists to give quasi-transcendental meaning to words like “nature” when they deny essences, forms, or the metaphysical. They are surreptitiously reintroducing metaphysics by calling such concepts “quasi-transcendental”.  They are contradicting themselves and playing word games. 

What does all this mean?  The lack of permanence in postmodernism means knowledge does not exist because of constant change: no permanence and no foundation.  Postmodernists also look at categories, boundaries, limits, and norms as oppressive displays of the will to power, clearly not affirmations of life but pure power seeking.  Derrida much more than Foucault recognized the oppressed can become the oppressor.  My point is that categories, boundaries, limits, and norms do have good and useful qualities.

Recall.  Jesus who made the invisible visible, healed the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the possessed.  He did not say, “My Father made you this way, you need no healing.” He healed them.  He had a normative, bounded, categorical understanding of good health.  Isn’t this true for us?   Postmodernism has promoted genderism among other errors and Pope Francis calls it “ideological colonialization”.  The Congregation for Catholic Education published “Male and Female He Created Them” as a response to the errors of gender theory.  I have tried to raise up some of the philosophical sources of these errors.

I began with Pope Benedict XVI’s focus on mathematics.  This aula is standing because of truth.  I have three slides to share. One shows Jesus handing his adopted father Joseph a carpenter’s square.  Called a “norma” in Latin.  It is the source of the words “normal”, “abnormal”, “normative” and of course “norm”.  The Babylonians knew Pythagorean triplets 2,000 years before the birth of Our Lord.  A constructor, or tekton, knew the importance of the right angle. The norma was an early handheld computer. The second slide is the bell-shaped, normal distribution curve which illustrates how a population will distribute about its mean.  By faith and reason, I recognize both our equal dignity and inequality.  But I recognize the tails of the curve are outliers.  They are exceptions (whether desirable or undesirable), not the norm.   The ancient Greeks studied the proportions and symmetry of our bodies.  Our bodies have a purpose and function.  The Apostles Creed tells us we are raised body and soul.  Jesus healed people.  He and the people he healed knew the norm. Postmodernists say no norms exist because they reject permanence or presence.  There is only change. 

Finally, the last image is a copy of Andre Rublev’s Holy Trinity icon.  I leave us with this icon because it recognizes our constant need for discernment with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We are sitting before love and truth itself, and our discipleship requires us to see, judge, and act well.  Our faith teaches us to believe in the visible and the invisible.  We place ourselves before the Holy Trinity and, with reason and faith, discern God’s love and truth.  

God bless you—administrators, faculty, staff, and students—as you embark on this academic year.  We should all be thankful that despite these challenging times, you are beginning the school year.

Salesian Seminary, Ratisbonne Monastery, Jerusalem  

  • Fr. Dr. George Schultz SJ.

October 16, 2021

 

 

WHAT IS SAINT JAMES VICARIATE FOR HEBREW SPEAKING CATHOLICS?

 

 

The Saint James Vicariate is an integral part of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Our Vicariate gathers the Hebrew-speaking Catholics who live in Israel, those belonging to the Jewish people together with those coming from the nations, including a number of local Christians and migrants. We form one community in Jesus Christ and we belong to one Church. We are in union with Pope Francis, with the Patriarch, his vicars, the priests and all the faithful of the Latin Patriarchate. In the same time, we are at home in the Israeli Jewish, Hebrew speaking society.

Before becoming a Vicariate, the “Association of Saint James” was founded in 1955 as a Catholic association dedicated to developing Hebrew-speaking Catholic communities in the State of Israel. Saint James was the head of the early Christian community in Jerusalem, at the time of the apostles. A pious Jew, he worked to establish a community made up of Jews and non-Jews, united in their common faith in Jesus as the Messiah (see the Book of Acts, chapter 15). According to the Tradition, he died as a martyr in 62 A.D., and he is the patron of the diocese of Jerusalem.

Since 2013, the Saint James Vicariate constitutes an autonomous Vicariate within the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. Today, Hebrew speaking Catholic communities are active essentially in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Haifa, Beer Sheba and Tiberias. The Vicariate includes communities of Russian speaking faithful. The priests and faithful of the Vicariate are much engaged in the pastoral and catechetical service of the Hebrew speaking children of migrants and asylum seekers spread throughout the country.

Four main challenges face the Saint James Vicariate:

  1. Transmission of the faith: Constituting a Catholic minority within a society that has a Jewish majority is a new experience in the history of the Church. Therefore, The Vicariate has a mission to nurture the faith of its small communities, particularly the children and youth, who live and are integrated into the Hebrew speaking Jewish society. 
  2. Serving as a bridge between the Universal Church and the people of Israel: The Vicariate works to strengthen the relationship between Jews and Christians, sharpening the Church’s awareness of its Jewish roots and of the Jewish identity of Jesus and his apostles. The Vicariate seeks to sharpen the awareness of Jews in Israel with regard to the history, teaching and contribution of the Church to society. Our faithful are engaged fully in the life of Israeli Jewish society and in the life of the Catholic Church.
  3. Bearing witness to justice and peace, serving the poor: As an integral part of the Church in the Holy Land, the Vicariate promotes the values of peace and justice, pardon and reconciliation within a context of violence and war. Moreover, the Vicariate has a special mission to the tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who reside in the country.
  4. Interreligious dialogue: Since its origins Saint James Vicariate has been sensitive to interreligious dialogue, especially with the Jewish people amidst whom our faithful reside. Some of our interreligious activities, involving both Muslims and Jews, make us experience that we, human beings, can live together in peace and understanding despite the painful and unresolved political problems.

Through all these activities, and without any form of proselytism, the Saint James Vicariate proves to bear witness, always and everywhere, to the message of Christ who commanded his disciples to be faithful, truthful, merciful, and peacemakers.

A detailed history of our communities, from the year 1947, can be found on our site where you can also find the news from the communities, liturgical materials and other interesting content in five languages (Hebrew, English, French, Russian and Italian): www.catholic.co.il

In case you would like to experience the way we pray, feel invited for the everyday Mass in Hebrew. We are at RavKook Street 10 and the Eucharist is always at 6.30.pm.

- Prof. Piotr Zelazko

October 13, 2021

FROM APOLOGETICS TO PHENOMENOLOGY OF CONSCIOUSNESS…

From Apologetics to Phenomenology of Consciousness: Towards a promising perspective for Fundamental Theology

The main aim of Fundamental Theology is to investigate the event of revelation and the form of its credibility, thus providing a solid foundation for faith in Christ. As Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium says: “[…] (it) means an encounter between faith, reason and the sciences with a view to developing new approaches and arguments on the issue of credibility, a creative apologetics which would encourage greater openness to the Gospel on the part of all” (EG 132).

This discipline owes much of its theoretical apparatus to classical apologetics. The apologetics, thanks to its incessant work of reflection and argumentation, has allowed the maturation of a thought on God and revelation capable of resisting the pressing attacks that occurred from the 16th century. In the centuries that followed, the Western context saw philosophical thought polarize around the autonomy of reason (Kant, Hegel, Fichte...) and the affirmation of the scientific method as the sole criterion of truth. This has strongly challenged apologetics to justify its place among the sciences by constituting a credible epistemology for that context. Assisted by classical philosophy first and then scholasticism, apologetics built its own speculative apparatus that was able to demonstrate the reasonableness of faith and the authoritativeness of Christian revelation.

However, from the 20th century onwards, some authors began to point out that the defensive position of classical apologetics was becoming reductive, hence the need for a paradigmatic change, since the approach of the older paradigm is incompatible with the new worldview. One of the critical aspects of apologetics that I think is important to stress is the split between freedom and truth. In fact, truth, as understood by apologetics, follows a rigorous and reasonable process of argumentation in which the truth proposed demands acceptance by virtue of the seriousness of the analysis with which it is conducted. Truth in this view has the profile of imposition/necessity and not of persuasion/conviction.

From my personal point of view, Apologetics, in its development, had to chase its adversary onto its battlefield, using its own weapons.

Recent historical and cultural developments have highlighted several aspects that should be considered. I will mention four of them:
- The issue of the credibility of revelation follows a rational argumentation developed in an academic context, that requires an attunement with this kind of forma mentis to be approached.

- The advent of relativism and so-called «weak thought» on the socio-cultural level has challenged the concept of truth and its univocity.

- The growing hedonism and utilitarianism that contaminate society at every level are more interested in a useful than a reasonable God.

- The emergence of anti-reductionist theories on the philosophical level has called into question the scientific paradigm as the only certain method of investigating reality.

From these considerations, it can be deduced that a weakening of the context in which Apologetics was born and developed could constitute a weakening for it. In addition, I would add some questions.

Considering the many challenges that the current context poses to the church today, is it not appropriate to expand the concept of credibility?

When St Peter writes of “being ready to make a defense (apologia) to everyone who asks you to give an account (logos) for the hope that is in you” (1Pt 3:15), did he only mean learning a discourse about God and his revelation?

These questions arise spontaneously when I think back to an episode that happened to me several years ago. During an assembly, I listened to a young widow tell how the death of her husband, although it represented a very painful trial, was transformed over time into an experience of grace and radical conversion. This happened, thanks to encounters, people and events. To the point of arousing gratitude in her.

Faced with a fact of this kind, I ask myself: is that woman's faith to be considered credible? Is it reasonable?

I believe there is no doubt that a faith acquired through a personal encounter with Christ in such a dramatic event constitutes a greater defense for the faith of the individual than any systematic and coherent discourse learned. Indeed, where the demands of the human heart become more urgent (because of death, pain, happiness) faith and the encounter with the revealed God show all their power and reasonableness. They, therefore, become privileged places of persuasion, the Loci Theologici of each person's history.

This relevance to the heart of man, in my opinion, is the true bulwark of Christianity as well as being the matrix of its universality.

In this regard, I was struck by a perspective found in a text recommended to me by a confrere titled “Il Dio Capovolto” (The upside-down God) by Bruno Maggioni and Ezio Prato. This perspective implies another approach called Phenomenology of Consciousness.

Through this approach, the question of "analysis fidei" is understood differently. The latter is no longer considered as the analysis of the attributes and "ingredients" of faith but as a process that takes place within consciousness, identifying the fundamental structures that
support the genesis of faith.

I found it very interesting how, at the end of the text, man is presented as a “believing conscience” refers to the relationship that conscience has with the world and that is based on trust. We need only think of the number of acts of faith that make up our days. This relationship can access absolute truth thanks to what we can call 'historical symbolic evidence'. The symbol, indeed, is described as a detail that makes the whole meaning present. From this, “faith in something can only be implemented and justified on the basis of a symbol that persuasively anticipates the total meaning. [...] for the Christian faith the symbol is Jesus Christ.” Further reinforcing this perspective is the symbolic significance that certain gestures of Jesus take on in the Gospel accounts. The gestures of care and nurturing that Jesus performs in his public life are not exhausted in themselves but become the symbol through which the believing conscience accesses a total truth. Seen in these terms, the persuasiveness of this symbol is given by being a point of origin of credibility. From there, in fact, “its historical, existential, universal truth arises, not as additions to the center but as irradiations of the same.”

This truth is always new to each individual and is recognized and believed in the act of faith.

The authors of the text see the Phenomenology of Consciousness as a more promising perspective. In my opinion, it would also be worthwhile to seriously consider this perspective during the first cycle of theological studies. The relationship between man and God, understood and explored within this framework, could certainly be a valid tool in a pastoral context.

- Enrico Del Bel Belluz SDB

October 13, 2021

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.

- 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?”

- 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