The formal Installation of the new PFIC President, Very Rev. John A. Langlois, O.P., S.T.D., and Vice-President and Academic Dean, Rev. Thomas Petri, O.P., S.T.D., took place during Mass at the Dominican House of Studies priory chapel on Friday, September 6.
Fr. Langlois returns to the PFIC, where he earned his M.Div., S.T.B., and S.T.L., and was Assistant Professor of Church History and Pastoral Studies. Most recently, he was Socius to the Provincial. Fr. Petri also earned his S.T.L. from the PFIC. Prior to his appointment as Vice-President and Academic Dean, he was an Assistant Professor in the Theology Department at Providence College.
Friars, faculty, staff, students, and friends filled the chapel. The PFIC was honored by the presence of Most Rev. Carlo Maria Viganò, J.U.D., Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and His Eminence Donald Cardinal Wuerl, S.T.D., Archbishop of Washington, who was Principal Celebrant and Homilist. His Eminence preached on the gospel theme of “Do whatever he tells you.”
Mass included Fr. Langlois’ and Fr. Petri’s Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity, in which they publicly stated their obedience to the Church and docility before its Magisterium. As they spoke, they each lay a hand on the Book of the Gospels, and were witnessed by Very Rev. Brian Mulcahy, O.P., in his capacity as the Vice-Chancellor of the PFIC, and by His Eminence.
Near the conclusion of Mass, Fr. Langlois addressed words of thanks to the congregation. He added how he and Fr. Petri had chosen a votive Mass in honor of Our Lady, “as we confide our labors to the Blessed Mother.” The congregation then sang the Salve Regina.
Mass was a followed by a reception in the Academic Courtyard, which lasted until Compline.
View additional photos from the event.
The text of Cardinal Wuerl’s prepared homily follows:
FOR NEW ADMINISTRATION OF
THE DOMINICAN HOUSE OF STUDIES
Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington
Readings: Isaiah 61:9-11; Luke 1:46-55; John 2:1-11
The readings chosen for today include one from the Gospel according to John in which Jesus works his first sign – wonder – miracle. This Gospel contains that the admonition of Mary: “Do whatever he tells you.” The enduring question will always be for each of us individually and all of us collectively: What is it that Jesus asks us to do?
The pages of scripture offer many responses. One that certainly comes to mind in a Mass for the Installation of New Administration for the Dominican House of Studies is Jesus’ announcement to his disciples following his Resurrection and in anticipation of his Ascension, “You will be my witnesses.”
The task to be witnesses, the great commission, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” should echo in our ears, minds and hearts. The task of the Church is to pass on the faith. The educational mission – the proclamation of the Good News – the prophetic function of the Church – in all of its forms has as its primary task the communication of the person and message of Christ. This unfolds through a wide range of efforts but the goal is always the same – that the threads of the encounter with Christ and his life-giving message might be woven into the fabric of our human experience.
At the heart of all the different manifestations of passing on the faith is the recognition that we are the witnesses. The Dominican House of Studies exists to prepare members of the Order of Preachers to bear witness in a unique manner – as trained theologians and expert homilists. In this time of the New Evangelization, what exactly does “Do whatever he tells you” and “Be my witnesses” mean for those in this house of theological study?
If we turn to the reflections at the end of the recently concluded Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, we find a number of propositions that I suggest are of great service to those seeking to be heralds of the New Evangelization and agents of the new Pentecost.
The synod offered its support to what Pope Benedict referred to as the correct hermeneutic of theological development. Proper theological investigation must come out of a continuity and connectedness with the living apostolic tradition of the Church. As the synod’s Proposition 12 states, “The Synod Fathers recognize the teaching of Vatican II as a vital instrument for transmitting the faith in the context of the New Evangelization. At the same time, they consider that the documents of the Council should be properly read and interpreted. Therefore, they wish to manifest their adherence to the thought of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, who has indicated the hermeneutical principle of reform within continuity, so as to be able to discover in those texts the authentic spirit of the Council.”
Theology is always tethered to the faith of the Church. As Pope Francis so clearly reminds us in Lumen Fidei, “Theology must be at the service of the faith of Christians…because it draws its life from faith, theology cannot consider the magisterium of the Pope and the bishops in communion with him as something extrinsic, a limitation of its freedom, but rather as one of its internal, constitutive dimensions, for the magisterium ensures our contact with the primordial source and thus provides the certainty of attaining to the word of Christ in all its integrity” (36).
The particular role of the theologian presupposes but goes beyond a catechetical presentation of the faith, “beyond” not by contradiction—authentic theology does not presume to generate new teachings—but “beyond” in depth, in intensity and in precision. It is the privilege of theologians to delve more profoundly and systematically into the meaning of the faith, according to the ancient adage, fides quaerens intellectum (“faith seeking understanding”).
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, the faith of the church is enriched through “the contemplation and study of believers who ponder these things in their hearts” and in particular “theological research [which] deepens knowledge of revealed truth” (No. 94).
The true challenge for theologians involves their vocation to challenge themselves to explore more deeply, more intensively, more prayerfully the truths of the faith handed onto us by Christ through the Church.
As Pope Francis underlines in Lumen Fidei, “It is impossible to believe on our own…by its very nature faith is open to the ‘We’ of the Church; it always takes place within her communion” (39).
In the reflections I was privileged to share at the Interfaith Prayer Service at Shiloh Baptist Church on the day commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech, I quoted from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” an observation that should be appropriate for us today. “There was a time when the church was very powerful – in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinions; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”
“Do whatever he tells you” is a call to so much more than simply mirroring the opinions of the day. Our challenge is not to reflect the culture but to bring to it the words of everlasting life. The most recent claims by secular voices to determine the very definition of human identity and behavior should alert us to the need to be prepared to focus much more on the need to reset the thermostat than to be a mere thermometer.
“Do whatever he tells you!” When we ask what it is that he tells us, we should hear echoes of his voice, his Gospel, his revelation. We are to offer, once again, to our age the insights that form not only our perennial proclamation but the foundations of the New Evangelization.
In answer to the directive, “Do whatever he tells you” we are to accept the challenge to proclaim the fact that each person is created in the image and likeness of God. But we are also to continue that this wondrous reality forms the basis for declaring, for example, the universality of human rights and the harmony that should exist among peoples. We must speak with conviction to a doubting civil society about the truth and integrity of realities such as marriage, family, the natural moral order and objective right and wrong.
Ours is an age that has exalted the freedom of the individual to such a level that the legitimate requirements of the common good and the recognition of an objective created order and moral imperative are dramatically overshadowed. The resulting imbalance affects the faithful insofar as they are continually being called by our secular culture to diminish, if not reject, the sense of allegiance to the obligations of Christ’s Gospel and his Church. This rejection, in some instances, is directed to the authentic teachers of the Church when they exercise their apostolic office.
“Do whatever he tells you!” Foundational to our understanding of what it is he asks is how we answer the question, “Who do you say I am?”
The New Evangelization is the re-introduction, the re-proposing, of Christ, the center of our faith – who Christ is, his relationship to the Father, his divinity and humanity, the reality of his death and Resurrection and his sending of the Holy Spirit. We are summoned to stand as one with Peter and, like him, profess that Jesus is Lord. The Christ we proclaim as Lord is not of our personal, sociological, or theological creation, but is revealed by God himself. Pope Francis underlines that “Faith’s new way of seeing things is centered on Christ” (20).
“Do whatever he tells you!” Perhaps he calls us to announce all over again the necessity of the Church for salvation. The Church is not just one way among others to reach God, all of them equally valid. While the Lord does wish all to be saved, he specifically established the Church to continue his living and saving presence.
What prompts us to such confidence as we attempt to answer the question, what is it that Jesus asks of us? The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers us a clear answer: “Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power. The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that ‘nothing will be impossible with God’” (273).
The Gospel today challenges us to see with the eyes of faith as Mary did. “When the Church looks for Jesus,” said Pope Francis at his first Mass in Rio de Janeiro, “she always knocks at his Mother’s door and asks: ‘Show us Jesus’. It is from Mary that the Church learns true discipleship. That is why the Church always goes out on mission in the footsteps of Mary” (July 24, 2013).
Today in this celebration of the new administration of the Dominican House of Studies, we can, once again, turn to the words of Pope Francis who instructed us, “Let us ask her to teach us to encounter one another in Jesus every day,” In his address in Rio he continued, “May she take us by the hand. Let us ask this of her! ‘Watch over me, Mother, when I am disoriented, and lead me by the hand. May you spur us on to meet our many brothers and sisters who are on the outskirts, who are hungry for God but have no one to proclaim him’” (July 27, 2013).
For us today, the recognition of how we respond to “Do whatever he tells you” is conditioned by the realization that in this time of the New Evangelization each of us is called to be his witness. “Do whatever he tells you!” And Jesus said to them, “You will be my witnesses.”
-September 6, 2013