Gregorian Fellows, Contemplatives in the Heart of the World

These remarks were delivered by Dr. Joseph Wurtz, director of the Gregorian Fellows and Dean of Students at Benedictine College on April 23, 2017.

My dear senior Gregorian Fellows, good evening. There are 20 days until commencement and even fewer to complete another academic year. Today is a day we celebrate your contributions to the college.

You have been given the gift of a Benedictine College education and you have been good stewards of that gift by serving the college as RAs (Resident Assistants), Ministry Leaders, ROC (Raven Orientation Camp) leaders, Student Ambassadors, tour guides, club presidents, mission trip leaders, tutors, and a whole host of other capacities. On behalf of the college, I say thank you. Know that we are proud of your service. Know that we have confidence in your future. Know that you are loved.

The world today is fractured into contrary resistance movements — anti-Trump vs. anti-elite political class, haves vs. have-nots, EU vs. sovereign nation states, pro vs. anti-immigration, police supporters vs. anti-police protesters, climate change vs. fake science, media vs. fake news, free speech vs. safe spaces, truth vs. post-truth, nones vs. believers. As Catholic leaders, how are we to understand this situation in light of the Gospel?

Cardinal Sarah, one of the most prominent Churchmen of our time, gives clarity when he states that:

“Modern man is capable of all sorts of noise, all sorts of wars, and so many solemn false statements, in an infernal chaos, because he has excluded God from his life, from his battles, and from his gargantuan ambition to transform the world for his selfish benefit alone” (R. Sarah, The Power of Silence).

So let me ask you: Are you ready to join a different kind of resistance movement? If the ultimate contrary is the City of Man vs. the City of God, then how does one become a citizen in the City of God?

We must recognize that what is most extraordinary in the City of God begins in silence.

Elijah came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:9-12)

That still-small voice spoke clearly to a simple, mostly uneducated nun in a convent of the Congregation of Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Poland during the 1930s. She came from a poor family that struggled during the years of World War I. She had only three years of basic education, so she was given the lowliest tasks in the convent, usually in the kitchen or garden. However, Sister Faustina Kowalksa received extraordinary revelations — or messages — from our Lord Jesus.

Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, a gift to the Church established by St. John Paul II on April 30, 2000, when he canonized Saint Faustina. You will recall that in a series of 14 revelations to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s, our Lord called for a special feast day to be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter.

We are in the centennial year of Our Lady of Fatima. On May 13, 1917, in a field called Cova da Iria near the village of Fatima, Portugal, a beautiful luminous Lady, dressed in radiant white, appears before the three young children. She tells them that she has been sent by God with a message for every man, woman and child. She asks for prayer, especially that of the Holy Rosary, reparation and consecration. The three children learn to offer a Eucharistic Prayer to God.

On June 13, 1929, while Sister Lucia, then a nun, is at Holy Hour in Tuy, Spain, she is granted a special vision of the Blessed Trinity. In the vision the written words “Graces and Mercy” appear. This is perhaps one of the most important revelations of Fatima.

There are other examples, closer to home:

  • In 1856, a simple monk lost on the prairie in Kansas is saved by a light on a hill thanks to a small child who sees a vision of a luminous lady.
  • In 1858, a poor, uneducated girl in Lourdes, France is visited by the Immaculate Conception.
  • In 1531 on a small hill in Tepeyac, the simple peasant Juan Diego encountered the Virgin Mother of God.

The citizens of the City of God are often overlooked, despised, ridiculed, or disregarded whereas the citizens of the city of Man are people who:

“Will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (2 Timothy 3:4)

What then are we to do? Mother Teresa provides the answer. “If we are contemplatives in the heart of the world with all its problems, these problems can never discourage us.”

Indeed our own patron, Gregory the Great, warns us of what is most important as leaders — the interior life. As he lamented to the sister of the Byzantine Emperor:

“I have lost the profound joys of my peace and quiet, and I seem to have risen externally, while falling internally.”

So as you leave this special place with a special mission, go out as contemplatives in the heart of the world, spreading divine mercy to all you encounter.

Joseph Wurtz