Abbot Mark's Homily for the Inauguration of Dr. Joseph A. Favazza
The following homily was preached at a Mass of the Holy Spirit at Saint Anselm Abbey on Wednesday, October 16. The Mass was offered for the Inauguration of Dr. Joseph A. Favazza as 11th President of Saint Anselm College.
We request a special blessing upon both an individual and an institution as this evening we call upon the Holy Spirit to guide and consecrate the labor and instruction of our new President, Dr. Joseph Favazza, and to bless as well the mission and vision of Saint Anselm College.
2,000 years ago Saint Paul offered advice on just what qualities to look for in various positions serving the Church. He listed the following qualities to guide those searching for one who would oversee challenging tasks: “An administrator,” Saint Paul recommended, “must be above reproach, self-controlled…sensible, respectable, hospitable, an able teacher…not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy… Furthermore, he must have a good reputation among outsiders, so that he does not fall into disgrace.”
The several of us on the Presidential Search Committee sensed such characteristics, as well as others, during our interviews with Dr. Favazza, and we have seen these same qualities on display these last few months. Tonight we ask the Holy Spirit to protect and allow to flourish these welcome traits, so that Joe’s tenure as our President might be successful, might be encouraging to others, and helpful to all who work with him, and might promote our idea of what education is truly and essentially about.
We invoke as well the blessing of the Holy Spirit upon this College even as we pray for our new President. Exactly what do we ask the Holy Spirit to guide and make prosper in our school? What is it that takes place on this campus that calls for a sacred blessing? Our Church’s newest saint, John Henry Newman wrote often about the work and goings-on of a University. “Training in a University,” Newman stated, “is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end: it aims at raising the intellectual tone of society…It is education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgments, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them.” Saint Anselm College trains her students in all these ways, but it steps even beyond this to offer a context within which the student trains or learns. It is a context of faith which Newman would heartily approve, and a context that would become a topic of much of his writing. For Newman provides solid philosophical reflection worthy of the attention of all faith-based schools. Even today, 170 years later, Newman’s thoughts on Catholic universities reverberate in the writings of a future disciple of his. Yes, a strong echo of Newman clearly resonates in the apostolic constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae by Pope Saint John Paul II.
In Ex Code Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church), John Paul wrote words which powerfully suggest to us, just what an extraordinary work it is in which we are all engaged at Saint Anselm College. John Paul stated: “A Catholic institution of higher education, is a primary and privileged place for a dialogue between the Gospel and culture.” Is that not as well a clear allusion to our moto from our patron, Saint Anselm:fides quaerens intellectum…faith seeking understanding? We ask today that the Holy Spirit bless the work of our school that introduces and offers (yet never forces) the notion that the faith of the gospel, the faith in Jesus Christ, become the very means, the way, the guide, to assist and center and focus all our learning, all our comprehending, and all our engagement with the mystery of this world, and the mystery of our relationship to God and to one another in God.
Let us pray this evening for the gifts of the Holy Spirit enumerated in our reading from Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, for both our new President Dr. Favazza, and for those he leads in this extraordinary intellectual enterprise. May wisdom and faith and strong deeds, and discernment be his in abundance. And may the education provided here at Saint Anselm inexorably lead to the possession of these same gifts of the spirit for all our students, past, current, and those to come.
Our gospel of today has Jesus blessing the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the clean of heart, peacemakers, as well as those persecuted for righteousness and for following the Lord. So many of these are men and women, who through faith, and experience, and learning have come to see the world through the lens of Christ the Redeemer.
We ask the Holy Spirit today to bless the experiences and learning that take place here on this campus. And we pray that the Holy Spirit nurture and increase the faith to which all are exposed in their years with us. The education of the mind is a noble endeavor. The linking of that education with an expression of faith which provides a vision for guiding one’s actions throughout life is a divine endeavor. May this linking of learning and faith always be encouraged here at Saint Anselm.
Dr. Favazza, may our Holy Father Saint Benedict be for you a guide and a source of strength. May that same wisdom, humility, and thoughtful moderation demonstrated in nearly every chapter of Benedict’s Rule, accompany you in leading this institution forward. Under your guidance may Saint Anselm College be for all a light demonstrating the vital link between faith and reason, learning and belief. Bless you, and bless Paddy and your family. May the Lord give you good health, happiness, and sure guidance today and always.