Truth and Learning, study and prayer: Holy Mass for the inauguration of the Academic Year | Custodia Terrae Sanctae

Truth and Learning, study and prayer: Holy Mass for the inauguration of the Academic Year

Jerusalem, St. Saviour’s Church, 5th October 2011

The Holy Mass for the inauguration of the 2011/2012 Academic Year of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, the Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum and the Studium Theologicum Salesianum was celebrated on the morning of 5th October at the parish church of St. Saviour. Mons. William Shomali, Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, presided the ceremony and with him, as concelebrants, there were the authorities of the three academic institutions, respectively Father Giovanni Claudio Bottini ofm, Dean of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Father Najib Ibrahim ofm, Moderator of the Studium Theologicum Jerosolymitanum, Father Arnauld Dominique M. Afr. and Father Michael Biju sdb, Permanent Professors at the Studium Theologicum Salesianum. Numerous teachers, students, seminarians and administrative staff from the three universities attended the celebration, which officially opens the academic activities of the new year.

The Holy Mass began with the Veni, creator Spiritus, the invocation to the Holy Spirit, which was also the central theme of the homily by Mons. Shomali, who invited everyone to pray to receive Truth and Learning. In particular, in his reflection Mons. Shomali pointed out how the teachers at these invaluable centres of higher education, who include distinguished biblical scholars, theologians and exegetes, do great honour, with their teachings and their excellent scientific publications, to the Church of Jerusalem. They have a vocation and a task of extraordinary importance: scrutinizing the meaning of the Holy Scriptures and continuing to bring to the light the close bond between the revelation of the Truth and the history and archaeology of this Holy Land. In the same way, the students and seminarians enjoy a unique opportunity, namely the privilege to study and train in Jerusalem, to further their knowledge of the Word of God in the Holy Land, where the salvation took place. This is truly a unique gift, the memory of which will remain alive in their hearts throughout their lives.

As it emerges from the passage of the Gospel of St. Luke proposed by the day’s liturgy (Luke 11,1-4), in which Jesus teaches the disciples to pray, addressing God as a father and speaking to Him with affectionate and trusting words, Mons. Shomali continued, prayer is truly the natural companion of the study of Theology: whilst in Theology we find the discourse on God with the mind, in prayer we find the discourse with God with the heart. The two dimensions are united by a deep relationship and both are perfectly synthesized in the person of Jesus, the Teacher par excellence and very fine prayer, from whom the disciples wished to learn his style of praying. Today, the precious instrument of the Lectio divina, which aims to encourage a literal, historical and spiritual comprehension of the Word, brings the various episodes of the Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio and Contemplatio into close contact. From the Meditatio, which highlights the theological point of the text and its central message in relationship to the personal and cultural context, in full awareness we reach the Oratio, an intimate dialogue between God and man, which gives rise to a non-devotional, but Biblical and essential prayer, which can take on the form of thanks, praise, supplication or intercession. Mons. Bruno Forte, in his reflections in preparation of the 12th Assembly of the Synod of the Bishops (October 2008) wrote: “If we understand that the Word of the revelation is this “letter of God”, that can speak to the heart of each one of us and all of us, then we will see its decisive importance for the life of the individual and that of the community. Then, we will approach it with the trepidation and desire with which a person in love reads the words of the person loved and God, who is Father and Mother in love, will speak to those who seek him. Listening faithfully, intelligently, humbly and in prayer to what He says can gradually fill the need for light and the thirst for love. Learning to listen to the voice that speaks to us in the Holy Scriptures is learning to love: the Word of God is the good news against solitude!” For this reason, listening to and studying the Word are also the vital sap that stimulates and nurtures pastoral activity, to which each one is summoned according to their abilities and willingness.

Moving words in remembrance of Father Lino Cignelli, an esteemed priest and professor at the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, who died suddenly last year, concluded Mons. Shomali’s homily. Father Cignelli was a luminous example for his colleagues and students, a man of science, prayer and meditation, as well as of simple industrious charity.

At the end of the ceremony, an elegant convivial moment in the Curia allowed participants to exchange friendly greetings and wishes for a successful new Academic Year.

By Caterina Foppa Pedretti
Photos by Marie-Armelle Beaulieu