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Christian in the World series focuses on Old Testament

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A cohort of very well qualified and engaging speakers will devote presentations, respectively, to the Torah, the prophets, the Psalms and the wisdom literature.


One of the great fits that Vatican II has bequeathed to the church was its insistence on making the riches of Sacred Scripture more widely available to the faithful. Thus, for example, the Lectionary has been completely revamped. The Readings for the Sundays of Ordinary Time have been put on a three-year cycle an the First Readings of Ordinary Time have been established on a two-year cycle. The main objective of this new arrangement has been to "break open" (as the saying goes) more of God's Word in Scripture.

Hopefully this bit of post-Vatican II catechesis has borne fruit. There is evidence that it has. Bible studies have become an important part of religious education and faith formation in the life of Catholic parishes. Sunday after Sunday the faithful are exposed to many different parts of the Bible, and priests in the post-Vatican Church are trained to preach homilies that are centered on the Scripture readings of the day. In many Catholic homes, the family Bible is no longer just the place to record important dates, such as births, baptisms and marriages. It is actually taken off the shelf and read and pondered. On the other hand, we Catholics probably still have a ways to go. Many of us might find ourselves feeling very inadequate if we were to pit our knowledge of Scripture against our friends of other Christian denominations. We might find ourselves stumbling our way through good portions of it while they march confidently through it from Genesis to Revelation.

Given this perception of both the importance of Scripture in the life of the church as well as the need for always more exposure to God's Word, the Christian in the World Steering Committee is dedicating the 2017 winter/spring series to the study of the Old Testament. On the designated Saturdays from January to April, a cohort of very well qualified and engaging speakers will devote their presentations respectively to the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), the Prophets, the Psalms and the wisdom literature.

Father Rory Pitstick, a priest of the Spokane Diocese and a professor of the Old Testament at Mount Angel Seminary, will open the series with a discussion of the Torah on Saturday, Jan. 14. An excellent scholar and devoted teacher, Father Rory teaches Torah at the seminary. Like each of the four areas to be covered in the course of this series, Torah is nearly as big as Alaska; hence the survey will necessarily skim the surface. However, Father Rory, an experienced and skillful guide, will point out some of the major highlights participants may never have noticed before as he leads them through these five books of the Old Testament.

Father Konrad Schaefer, OSB, one of a very few scholars who holds a doctorate in Scripture from the École Biblique in Jerusalem, will be the featured speaker on Saturday, Feb. 11. He will discuss the prophets.

Father Konrad is a monk of Mount Angel Abbey, but he has been a member of Mount Angel's daughter house, the Priory of our Lady of the Angels in Cuernavaca, Mexico, since 1995. He was prior of the community for almost 20 years. During those years he also became very well known throughout much of Mexico as a spiritual guide, a retreat master and, of course, as a Scripture scholar. Presently he is on the faculty at the university in Mexico City, where he not only teaches but also is head of the Sacred Scripture department. Father Konrad's specialty is the Old Testament, especially the Psalms and the prophets.

On Saturday, March 11, Christian in the World will be delighted to welcome back to the hill Dr. Elaine Park. Elaine holds a doctorate from the Gregorian University in Rome. For many years she was on the staff at Mount Angel Seminary, both as a teacher and administrator, and is fondly remembered by so many of her students as being a dynamic and very knowledgeable teacher of both the Old and New Testaments. Elaine will discuss the Psalms.

On Saturday, April 1, Father Stephen Clovis will lead participants through the Old Testament wisdom literature. Father Clovis has been the speaker at several Christian in the World Saturdays in recent years. He holds a license (STL, which is an equivalent of a master's degree in this country) from the Gregorian University in Rome. A priest of the Archdiocese of Portland, he is presently assigned to Mount Angel Seminary as a full-time member of the staff. In this capacity he heads the Pastoral Formation Department. He is a versatile member of the faculty. Among the several courses he teaches is one on the wisdom literature.

The usual schedule will be followed. Participants are welcome to attend the community Mass in the Abbey church at 8 a.m. The library (where the talks will be presented) opens its doors around 8:30. Participants are welcome to sign in, grab a cup of coffee and a roll, and socialize a bit before the session begins. The morning begins with an opening prayer at 9. In the course of the morning there will be two presentations of roughly 45 minutes each (9:15 to 10:05 and 10:20 to 11:10) followed by a question-and-answer period, which generally concludes shortly before noon so participants can join the monks for Midday Prayer if they desire.

Cost is $50 for the series (all four Saturdays) or $15 a session. Student cost is $20 for the series or $5 a session. Presentations take place in the Mount Angel Library Auditorium. Beverages and morning snacks are provided.

For further information, call Cecile Beckerman at 503-393-5041.

No one is more aware of the fact that these presentations will be "explorations" than the speakers themselves. But the steering committee is confident that you will discover that each one has an uncanny knack of exploring in ways that are both engaging and illuminating. Please plan to join us for this winter/spring series of Christian in the World.

Right Rev. Peter Eberle, Order of St. Benedict, is vice-rector of theology and director of human formation at Mount Angel Seminary.