“János-Brenner-Haus”

After three years as parish priest in Gaaden I will be returning soon to Heiligenkreuz to take up a new post as director of the new “János-Brenner-Haus” at our theological college, as well as continuing with teaching and research. The “János-Brenner-Haus” will be a house of discernment for students at our theological college, who have begun studying theology, but are still trying to decide whether to enter the religious life, or the secular priesthood, or to continue in lay/secular life. The new building is named for Blessed János Brenner, Hungarian priest and martyr, who was a Cistercian novice under the name of Frater Anasztáz.

I am happy to be returning to Heiligenkreuz, although a part of me is sad to be leaving the parish of Gaaden. Three years is not very long to be pastor of a parish, but here are a few things I learned about that difficult but beautiful vocation. In dividing the active and the contemplative life, St Thomas tells us that the division is based on a difference in what different persons delight in most, and on which they are most intent:

Properly speaking, those things are said to live whose movement or operation is from within themselves. Now that which is proper to a thing and to which it is most inclined is that which is most becoming to it from itself; wherefore every living thing gives proof of its life by that operation which is most proper to it, and to which it is most inclined. Thus the life of plants is said to consist in nourishment and generation; the life of animals in sensation and movement; and the life of men in their understanding and acting according to reason. Wherefore also in men the life of every man would seem to be that wherein he delights most, and on which he is most intent; thus especially does he wish to associate with his friends (Ethic. ix, 12). Accordingly since certain men are especially intent (praecipue intendunt) on the contemplation of truth, while others are especially intent (principaliter intendunt) on external actions, it follows that man’s life is fittingly divided into active and contemplative.

Parish work certainly has a contemplative side, but it is principally vita activa. I have always felt myself drawn more towards the vita contemplativa. For this reason, I am mostly happy to be returning to Heiligenkreuz.

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