Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Dieu. Jan Lambrecht's Speech During the American College Alumni Reunion, June 26-27, 2012

Rev. Fr. Jan Lambrecht SJ, emeritus professor of New Testament Exegesis and Biblical Greek of the Faculty of Theology of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, recently gave a much appreciated after-dinner speech during the American College Alumni Reunion at Leuven. His words are inspired by St. Paul’s farewell speech to the elders of Ephesus in Acts 20:18-38. The American College, founded in 1857, served the Catholic Church of the United States of America as a major seminary for the formation of priests. In 2011 the American College seminary was closed, but the building was acquired by the university. After a phase of renovation, the College will reopen as a center for contacts of the university with the Catholic Church in the United States of America. Throughout his active career in the Faculty as a professor, as a dean and as a spiritual director, Prof. Lambrecht has been a friend of the American College.
For a biography and a bibliography of Prof. Jan Lambrecht, see:

Jan Lambrecht's Speech During the American College Alumni Reunion,  June 26-27 2012

My Dear Friends,

After the main course of this exquisite meal now something serious, a brief "homily".
In the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 20, we read the farewell discourse of Paul. It is at the end of his third and last missionary journey, and Paul is returning to Palestine, to Jerusalem. In Miletus, Asia Minor, he summons the elders of Ephesus.

For the sake of our actualization tonight the alumni of the American College are these elders coming from "Ephesus", that is America, to Europe, that is Leuven. And Paul represents the staff of the College as well as the professors of the university.
There will be three points in this toast: testimony, farewell, and final wish.

In his address Paul testifies and repeats, in an almost apologetic manner: I spent my whole life with you. I proclaimed the kingdom. I have kept back nothing. I delivered the message.
That is what the American College and the university have been trying to do, during more than 150 years, with open mind, in all honesty and courage.

As Paul finishes speaking, he kneels down with the elders and they pray together. Loud cries of sorrow and weeping... The Leuven American College is closed; it does no longer exist. What a pity! The elders are distressed. An immense sadness remains.
Moreover, one should realize: the elders will never see Paul's face again!
And this is precisely also the case this evening: it is not just a good-bye, an "Auf Widersehen". No, it most probably will be a final farewell. So emotions abound...

At the end of the discourse Paul cites a saying of the Lord which is not to be found in any of the gospels. It may be our ultimate wish and the permanent motto of our life, that of the staff, the alumni, and the professors alike.
Jesus says: "Happiness lies more in giving than in receiving". Of course, we know this and we have experienced that happiness, but so often we forget the wonderful Pauline Jesus-logion. So once again, Acts 20, verse 35: "Happiness lies more in giving than receiving".

Jan Lambrecht SJ

A group photo of the participants of Alumni Reunion American College

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