Collegeville, Minnesota – At 7 p.m. on October 5th, 2023, students, professors, and staff from Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict gathered in community to celebrate the Word of God in The Saint John’s Bible.
The principal organizer for the event, which took place at Saint John’s Abbey, was Fr.William Skudlarek OSB, a monk at Saint John’s Abbey and long-time advocate and lover of The Saint John’s Bible project.
“Because it is the 25th anniversary year of the commissioning of the Bible, I felt it appropriate to begin a tradition such as this, where we come together to celebrate the Word of God as presented by The Saint John’s Bible,” said Skudlarek. “When organizing the event, I knew that a proper celebration of the project would demand communal participation, lively musical performance, and more… we would not just be reading the work but truly celebrating its life. After all, the Bible is alive and it is speaking to us today.”
And alive it was. The night began with an entrance procession, in which several volumes of The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition were held and guided to open stands at the front of the congregation. Organist Anthony Ruff OSBwelcomed the volumes with his rendition of “Ein’ Feste Burg” by Johann Pachelbel.
The night carried on in true fidelity to its theme: Do Justice. Love Kindness. Walk Humbly with Your God (Micah 6:6-8). Prioress Karen Rose OSB of Saint Benedict’s Monastery and Abbot John Klassen OSB of Saint John’s Abbey presided over the service together. After Rose and Klassen recited Micah 6:6-8 aloud, the Saint John’s Preparatory School Chamber Choir performed a moving rendition of “Offertory” by John Ness Beck.
Other musical performances included John Hanson OSB’s performance of Fantasia by Francesco Canova da Milano; Praise in the Pub musicians’ performance of “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” by Amy Grant and “Speak, O Lord” by Keith and Kristen Getty, Andrew Towsey-Grishaw and Skudlarek’s ethereal duet; Berceuse from “Eight Duets for Violin and Cello” by Reinhold Glière; and Michael Peterson OSB and Robert Koopmann OSB’s Native American flute performance of Peterson’s hymn, “A Heron on Lake Sagatagan.”
Speakers included Rev. Dr. John F. Ross, Executive Director of The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Program, who read Leviticus 19:1, 9-18; President Brian Bruess and Carol Bruess, who read 1 Corinthians 13:4-13: Love is patient, love is kind; Sister Mary Schumer OSB, who read 1 Peter 5:6-11: Clothe yourselves with humility; Paul Vincent Niebauer OSB, who read Luke 15:1-2, 11-24: The lost son, the merciful father, and the self-righteous brother; and Jessica Bazan, Program Associate for the Collegeville Institute, who offered a reflection.
The service concluded with a closing hymn, in which the entire congregation participated. After the service, an organ rendition of “Fanfare” by William Mathias was heard as many community members stayed in the Abbey and joined in conversation around the open volumes.
“It truly is a Bible for the 21st century,” said Skudlarek. “The illuminations highlight passages or themes that are especially pertinent to the present day, such as the role of women, the place of the poor in the scriptures, and even ecological concerns. What The Saint John’s Bible Heritage Edition did that day, and what it was always intended to do, was invite people to explore these themes in a communal setting.”
“This celebration of Scripture in general and The Saint John’s Bible in particular, illustrates the central role that our sacred text plays within the Benedictine tradition,” said Rev. Dr. John F. Ross. “It was an honor and a delight to participate in this anniversary celebration – 25 years since the commissioning. Spiritual imaginations were ignited for all who attended whether in person or online. Soli Deo Gloria!”
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