Feast of Faith

“Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival … with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8).

Saint Paul wrote that line about the Christian Passover, the feast of the victory of the Lamb of God. But he would certainly forgive me for applying it to the feast day he shares with Saint Peter on the Church’s calendar.

It’s a big day for us at the Saint Paul Center. He is, after all, our patron. So we celebrate his life and ministry. We celebrate his glorious martyrdom. And we celebrate with unleavened bread and Gospel truth. This year, as every year, we’ll mark the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul with a special Mass, where we’ll remember your intentions at the altar of the Lord.

But our “festival” is so much more than just one day. In fact, June will be a month-long celebration in true Pauline style.

June 18-22 we’ll host a special conference for priests, deacons, and seminarians. We’ve sponsored them in the past, but this is the first time we’re hosting it at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Our theme is “The Word,” and I’ll be joined for the program by a brilliant constellation of scholars, preachers, and teachers.

Later in the month we’ll begin our fifth annual Letter & Spirit Summer Institute, the annual event we host for graduate students interested in cultivating a Catholic biblical worldview. Attendees are doctoral candidates from many prestigious institutions—the future seminary professors, university teachers, and influential authors of the next generation. They train the clergy who will preach to our grandchildren — and who will baptize our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

The Summer Institute is an intensive week of lectures, discussions, and prayer. I’m joined at the podium by other notable scholars. The Friars of the Renewal, Father Benedict Groeschel’s order, lead us in prayer throughout the day. This year, appropriately enough, we’ll be discussing Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, the letter with which I began this column.

June promises to look good on paper as well. By month’s end we will have finished work on the seventh volume of our academic journal, Letter & Spirit. We’ve dedicated this issue to “The Bible and the Church Fathers: The Liturgical Context of Patristic Exegesis.” In its pages, readers will find top scholars discussing the ancient Church’s giants of biblical theology and preaching — Leo the Great, Athanasius, Irenaeus, Basil, Augustine — alongside a never-before-translated work by Joseph Ratzinger, the man who became Pope Benedict XVI.

When we first conceived the Saint Paul Center, we saw its mission as twofold, promoting biblical literacy for all Catholics and biblical fluency for clergy and teachers. The first set of programs we called our “Breaking the Bread Project,” and it includes our most popular events and conferences, our pilgrimages, our books — and the newsletter you’re reading right now. The second set of programs, aimed especially at scholars and priests, is our “Letter & Spirit Project.”

But the two Projects really depend upon one another. Catholic lay people are the beneficiaries when their priests are trained well for preaching. And Catholic clergy benefit from an informed and energized laity.

When we celebrate this way — with sincerity and truth, and divine worship — everybody grows richer in wisdom and grace.

I promise you my prayers and those of my colleagues as we prepare for the big day, and as we labor for these special events. I beg your prayers for us and for those who will spend glorious days with us this month.

We are dependent on you. And one of the paradoxical marvels of providence is that almighty God is depending on us — on you and me together.

I am deeply grateful for your prayers, your encouragement, and your donations.