Every year we reach many thousands of people through our events, our books and publications, and our online and video Bible studies. This is a grace of refreshment, and we give thanks for it. Many Christians labor for years but do not live to see the fruits of their prayer and witness. Simon Peter speaks for multitudes when he says: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets”(Luke 5:5).
We at the Saint Paul Center, however, have lived to see the joy on people’s faces as they are transformed by their encounter with the Sacred Page — no, with Jesus Christ. The mail carrier and our internet service provider bring us reminders every day of the power and reach of the apostolate we share with you.
We’re grateful for all those joys and consolations. We’re thankful for those short-term satisfactions. Yet Our Lord calls us also to venture into more challenging waters, to “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).
Our work with teachers — faculty at seminaries and universities — is by far our most demanding task. But it is the also the work that promises the greatest yield. Each teacher we teach will, in turn, teach future teachers — future preachers, pastors, bishops, and professors. Each of their students and parishioners, then, will take the Gospel home to a family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends. Thus, by focusing our attention on a few select leaders, we can affect the lives of tens of thousands and maybe even millions.
When I face those classrooms, I know what Jesus meant when he said he saw fields white and ready for harvest.
And we are about to begin that “harvest” season once more. This summer we will host our eighth annual Summer Institute and welcome academic participants, both clergy and lay, from the most prestigious schools. We have hosted young scholars from the Ivy League, from Rome’s pontifical universities, and from the venerable corridors of American monasteries.
In these weeklong seminars we strive to communicate a Catholic biblical worldview. In conversation, in prayer, in study, we try to take students to a perch where they can see the sweep of salvation history, the glory of tradition, the solidity and prescience of the Church’s magisterium.
It is often a moment of conversion for those who attend. It’s not that they become Catholic after a lifetime as something else. But they begin to believe in the rich possibilities of their lives. They begin to believe in the reach and tender care of their providential father — not only for history in the grand sense, but for them personally and their work with souls.
I beg your prayers for our Institute this year — and also for our other outreach to scholars: our journal Letter and Spirit, our seminars during the school year, our ongoing presence at major academic conferences and colloquia.
Our Lord has called us to be fishers (Matthew 4:19). We want to be faithful to his call, and we know that fish must be caught by the head. In these endeavors, you and I can expect success on a grand scale, though we may not live to see it. Think of what happened when the Apostles believed in Jesus’ promise — when they put out into the deep. “And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking” (Luke 5:6).
So pray for us. Keep working with us. I am grateful for all you do for us.