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1 May, 2018 - Conference explores theology of praise

2018 05 01 ruddy medDr. Christopher Ruddy stands in the préau after one of his talks with the community. Click to enlarge.

 

"Praise the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, both now and forever....." Monks chant this doxology dozens of times each day. With the rest of the Church, they begin each day with "O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise." Praise is central to the monastic vocation, but is not always the most emphasized aspect of contemplative life. A recent conference for Gethsemani's monks aimed to highlight the importance of praise in their lives and in the entire Church.  

Dr. Christopher Ruddy, associate professor of historical and systematic theology at Catholic University of America, led the three-part series of talks in the chapter room from April 28 through May 1. Such conferences are part of the brothers' ongoing formation.

He opened the conference with a quote from St. Augustine's "Confessions" that provided his overarching theme: "To praise you is the desire of man."

"The centrality of praise is a doxological imagination - to see everything through the lens of praise," Ruddy said. "We are all called to live this vocation of praise."

In his talks, he noted the "utterly useless and utterly usefulness" of praise. It is useless, he explained, because in Himself God does not need our praise. Simultaneously, it is central to human existence. "Praise gets us out of ourselves," Ruddy said. "I think above all the remedy for acedia is praise."

In addition to the universal call to praise, Ruddy focused on the importance of monastic life in that context. "The world needs monks and nuns," he said. "Monasticism is a way of life that can give life."

Ruddy highlighted the benefits of monastic practices such as reducing "screentime" with technology, encountering reality and embracing silence.  "People are drowning in noise, sound and images," Ruddy said. "Monasteries have an opportunity and a responsibility to be places where people can praise and hear."

Thank you, Dr. Ruddy, for an engaging and thought-provoking discussion!