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The Directors' Log: September 2017

The academic year at the Garaventa Center always begins with two of our biggest events: the Zahm Lecture and the Red Mass.  This year, a third important event was plunked down between them, as we hosted a concert and workshop by author and liturgical composer, David Haas.

The Zahm Lecture serves as a keynote address for our academic year at the University of Portland.  This year’s lecture, on Wednesday, September 6, 2017, was delivered by Prof. Christine Firer Hinze, of Fordham University.  Dr. Firer Hinze entitled her address, “Against the Grain: Could Zeal for Solidarity be UP’s Gift for Our Fractious Times?”  In her talk, she insisted that education does not happen in isolation or in the abstract.  Rather, it occurs in a particular place in league with particular people.  In the case of our University of Portland, it is patterned on the way the motto of its founding congregation: Ave Crux Spes Unica (Hail the Cross our only hope), has been lived out for more than a hundred years on our bluff overlooking the Willamette River.  Dr. Firer Hinze showed how a century of lived tradition has left its mark on our campus, physically, as in the marvelous doors of the Chapel of Christ the Teacher, and above all in the Catholic and Holy Cross values that frame the university’s mission and animate its work.  As we set out upon a new academic year, it was good to reflect upon the communal dimension of our academic endeavors.  We were called to look beyond our individual horizons, to act with zeal, in solidarity with one another, to bring hope to the world.  Immediately after the lecture, a number of folks rushed over to the chapel to see its extraordinary doors with new eyes.  

On Friday, September 8, 2017, renowned author, liturgical composer and musician, David Haas, performed in the Chapel of Christ the Teacher, in what was as much a worship service as a concert.  David Haas is the composer of some of the best-loved contemporary music heard in Catholic and other Christian churches in the United States and beyond.  The audience (or was it a congregation?) that filled the chapel for his appearance was comprised of UP community members and a good percentage of visitors, many of whom had traveled some distance to make their first visit to campus. David Haas showed great pastoral sensitivity to his audience, and they responded with tremendous warmth.  The spirituality animating the evening can be summed up with a quotation from his latest book: “Here is the bottom line: God loves us.  There is nothing that we can do that can push that love away.  So, we are invited to stop fighting and instead accept and celebrate this love.  Surrendering to this invitation is the starting block of the lifetime adventure of holiness.” (That You Might Have Life, Twenty-Third Publications). The evening concluded with moving renditions of “You Are Mine” and “Blest Are They.”

On Monday, September 18, 2017, the University of Portland and the Archdiocese of Portland celebrated the annual Red Mass in the Chapel of Christ the Teacher.  The Red Mass, a tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages, invokes the Holy Spirit upon the legal community as they begin their session, which is analogous to a university’s academic year.  The university President, Father Mark Poorman, C.S.C., presided at the Mass.  Father Gerry Olinger, C.S.C., Vice President of University Relations, preached.  In his stirring homily, Fr. Gerry, himself a lawyer, invited the judges and lawyers in the congregation to imitate the heroic virtues of St. Thomas More.

The speaker at the Red Mass Dinner, which followed the Mass, was Abbot Jeremy Driscoll, O.S.B., of Mount Angel Abbey.  Abbot Jeremy began his talk by diagnosing a pathology afflicting modern life.  “The patient is sick,” he remarked, “that is all of us, our culture, how we relate to one another, what we think about, how we drive, how we act when boarding planes.”  He then offered Benedict’s vision of the monastic life as an antidote to this pathology.  In the rule of St. Benedict, the voice of God asks, “Is there anyone here who yearns for life and longs to see good days?”  Abbot Jeremy told us that the implication of these words is that it is difficult for God to find such people.  He continued, “If you hear this question and your answer is ‘I do,’ then God directs these words to you: ‘If you desire true and eternal life, keep your tongue free from vicious talk and your lips from deceit.  Turn away from evil and do good.  Let peace be your quest and your aim.  Then, my eyes will be upon you and my ears will be turned to your prayer, and God will say, Here I am.’”