“And they came, every one whose heart stirred him, and every one whose spirit moved him” (Exodus 35:11).
They came to Franciscan University; and like those long-ago Israelites, they found their way to the tent.
The occasion was our annual Applied Biblical Studies Conference, which is always heart-stirring. This year’s was special, though, because we were able to welcome so many people to the new home of the Saint Paul Center.
Our theme this year was “The Word of God and the Life of Prayer.” We took as our Scripture Colossians 3:16 and 4:2:“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly … persevere in prayer being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” And the word dwelt richly among us, in the teaching of some amazing speakers: Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Jeff Cavins, Brant Pitre, Michael Barber, John Bergsma, David Currie, my bride Kimberly, and so many others. From the Saint Paul Center were my colleagues Matt Leonard, Rob Corzine, and Mike Aquilina. A newcomer to the conference rostrum was Father Charles Samson, a priest ordained just last year, who’s now pursuing a doctorate at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.
About five hundred people attended — and almost two hundred showed up for extra days of Bible-study training in our Journey Through Scripture (JTS) program. This year we gave three options: our standard introductory study, “Genesis to Jesus”; our very popular Marian study, “The Bible and the Virgin Mary”; and our beautiful new study, “The Bible and Prayer.”
I call it beautiful because it is. I love the way this track has come together, though I was nervous about it at first. When we launched the project, it was clear that this study would be different from all the others — more practical, more systematic. I worried that our loyal supporters might find it too different. But we all felt that this was where the Spirit was leading, so we went ahead.
Our confirmation came with the evaluations of those who attended. Their judgment was overwhelming:
“The best of all of the JTS studies!”
“This was a great seminar. It pulled so many concepts together – the Church, the liturgy, the goal of prayer – using both Old and New Testament sources!”
“As perfect as humanly possible!”
“Well done, good and faithful servants!”
Another JTS veteran said that “The Bible and Prayer” was “the most valuable” series of all and could hardly “to bring this back and share with others – the ripple effect – to encourage others to begin praying prayers no just saying prayers!”
Imagine the hearts that will be changed. Imagine the ripple effect — in parishes, in homes, in workplaces, and in neighborhoods.
That’s what I was imagining as I trekked from the heart of the University’s campus to the Saint Paul Center, where we had set up an enormous tent for our Open House celebration. So many came, their hearts stirred by the good Word — people from every State of the union, from Canada, from Australia — converts and reverts and cradle Catholics — and we all had good reason to celebrate there at the tent.
Saint Paul urged us to persevere in prayer and to be watchful in thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for, and I thank you for all of it. You’ve made it possible, for me and for all those who’ve been trained in the Saint Paul Center Bible studies — and all those who will be trained by the people we’ve trained!
Please continue your support, especially your prayers, but also your contributions and your notes of encouragement. It all makes a difference. It all stirs hearts.