Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 20, 2010
Monk's editorials stand the test of time
Fr. Andrew Britz celebrates 50 years of monastic life, compiled a book to benefit Sask. Catholic weekly
KIPLY LUKAN YAWORSKI
MUENSTER, SASK. - For Benedictine Father Andrew Britz, who edited the Prairie Messenger from 1983 to 2004, writing editorials has been one way of living out his call as a Benedictine monk.
In renewing his monastic vows on the 50th anniversary of his profession as a Benedictine at St. Peter's Abbey in Muenster recently, Britz described the call "to become, with God's special grace, a prophetic witness to a new world that is just, sustainable and joyful - joyful as only the good news of the Lord's resurrection can make it."
That's also a good description of what it means to be a Benedictine editor, says Britz, who for 21 years provided prophetic witness through editorials that he wrote week in and week out for the weekly Catholic newspaper.
A collection of 144 of those Prairie Messenger editorials has now been published as Truth to Power. The new book will be officially launched Oct. 8, with proceeds going to the Prairie Messenger Sustaining Fund.
With some 2,000 editorials to choose from, Britz enlisted the help of former assistant editor Ursuline Sister Marian Noll and present associate editor Maureen Weber to come up with a selection for book editor Dennis Gruending.
In the process, the vision of the book came into sharper focus, says Britz.
"I had some that I had written on spiritual life, liturgy, the liturgical year, sacraments - they took all those out and said these should go into a later volume by themselves. I was a little upset at first, but I think they were right."
The editorials that were finally chosen for inclusion in Truth to Power are grouped into chapters on the Catholic press, the magisterium, the people of God, women and the Church, religious and priestly vocations, Pope John Paul II, Christian unity and interfaith relationships, the ethic of life, the call to justice and heroes of faith.
Issues addressed in some of these editorials continue to resonate in today's headlines, he says, citing the placement of Church structures and the reputation of the priesthood ahead of victims, a recent statement equating the sexual abuse crisis in the Church with the ordination of women, and ongoing debates about life issues.
It was his insistence about the equality of men and women in the Church that most concerned American Catholic publishers about the book, notes Britz. "How can we think that we can run the Church without the feminine voice? It just makes no sense whatsoever."
He adds that he is gratified by the positive reaction the book is receiving. Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister wrote the foreword for Truth to Power, and the book also includes commentary by Mary Jo Leddy and John Thompson, helping to place the material in context.
It is appropriate the publication of a newspaper has been part of the work of the Benedictines at St. Peter's Abbey, Britz notes. "I think that our Benedictine spirituality is terrific for newspaper work. We are to pray with our eyes open.
"The Second Vatican Council said that religious life is to be prophetic; it is to open up vistas for looking at things. We try do that with the Prairie Messenger," says Britz. "Yet I also tried to give a very strong message that I was within the tradition of the Church."
He stresses that the work of the Church "is expressly to help us to get to know Jesus Christ, who never talked dogma, who always talked parables and paradoxes."
FIFTY YEARS AGO
Born into a large farming family in March 1940, Murray Britz took the name Andrew, professing his vows as a Benedictine July 11, 1960.
Britz studied at the seminary at St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minn., where he received a master's degree in liturgy in 1965. He was ordained to the priesthood in June 1966 and began to teach at St. Peter's College, later serving as its principal until the high school closed in 1972.
He pursued doctoral studies in church history before being called home as principal, this time of St. Peter's College university program.
Over the years he also led retreats, taught courses in biblical literature and religious studies, and has served as pastor in several parishes.
He took over editorship of the Prairie Messenger in 1983, a position he held until 2004 when present editor Abbot Peter Novecosky took over. Parkinson's Disease has taken its toll on Britz's health in recent years, and he is now retired from active ministry.
Britz says Benedictine spirituality permitted him to easily walk away from each task when the time came.
"I came to understand that religious life wasn't a doing of one thing or another. It was being," Britz says. "St. Benedict in his rule says a novice is not to work. He is to eat, sleep and meditate. St. Benedict was afraid that a novice would come to find the meaning of his life in what he did."
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