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Priest, Jesuit, Scholar, Editor | An Interview with Fr. David Vincent Meconi, S.J., Editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review | February 8, 2011 | Ignatius Insight
Fr. David Vincent Meconi, S.J., is professor of patristic theology at
St. Louis University, where he teaches courses on Trinitarian theology,
Christology and soteriology in the early Church, the history of Christian
deification, and St. Augustine of Hippo. He recently marked his first year as editor
of Homiletic & Pastoral Review. Fr.
Meconi recently spoke with Carl E. Olson, editor of Ignatius Insight, about
being a Jesuit, a patristic scholar, and editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review.
Ignatius Insight: I
read that the first Jesuit you met was a professor teaching a course on
atheism. What's the story? How did you come to be a Jesuit?
Fr. Meconi: From as
long as I can remember I prayed about being a priest: growing up, I was
surrounded by great men who had given their lives to Christ in that special way
and their example made quite an impact on me. Deep down, however,
I never thought I would be happy as a priest in a parish (truth be
told, I don't have the patience!).
However, when I arrived at Marquette University and learned
about the Jesuits and their mission of teaching and writing and prayer, I started
to think that here was my calling. Fr. Donald Keefe, S.J. (now out at
Fordham) was a great influence on me during those days, as was, of happy
memory, Fr. Leo Sweeney, S.J.—both, giants in their fields and great men of
The way Jesuits lived and studied and prayed (and laughed)
resonated with my own personality and desires and I respected them as real
"men's men"—you know, regular guys—dedicated to their
students and who were not afraid to fight for the Truth.
Can you share a bit about your studies in the Church Fathers and patristic
theology? What are some reasons that Catholics should read and study the early
Fr. Meconi: Again,
these Jesuits were my guides here. Fr. Keefe and the great Augustine
scholar, Fr. Joe Lienhard, S.J., had us read the Fathers as the beginning of all
good Christian theology, men who knew how to read sacred scripture because they
were seeking to live it!
C.S. Lewis once quipped that you cannot intelligently join a
conversation late at night that began mid-day and the same goes for
theology. We are in such dire disagreements these days because everyone
shows up with his or her opinion and rarely do they stop to think of how Jesus'
followers thought of this or that before them, how the first theologians of the
Church thought, worshipped, and lived. So many today forget that theology
is an organic science developing by unfolding from what Christ planted in the
apostles and in the apostolic Church.
Theology is not a matter of novelty and accretion but one of
discovery and of blossoming of a seed that was long ago taking root. If
you want to think and live like a Catholic, like a Christian, you must center
all your thoughts and actions around the Eucharist. All of theology is
ultimately Eucharistic: it is ecclesial (not just my opinion) and it is an act
of worship, meantto glorify God (not just to extend my own status or
publication record) and I think the Fathers knew this best.
This past December you wrote a piece for Homiletic & Pastoral Review
titled, "O Admirabile
Commercium: The true Christmas exchange", which
reflects your interest in deification, or theosis. Is this a topic that is, in a sense, being "rediscovered"
in the West? Can you talk a bit about your studies of deification in the
writings of St. Augustine?
Fr. Meconi: It's
everything, simply everything. To be a Christian is not simply to avoid
sin or even to do the right thing: in short, it is to become Christ!
It's all over Scripture in its own way, it is certainly
evident throughout all the Fathers and Medieval Doctors and it, thank God, has
become a central part of the new Catechism.
Just look at paragraph 460 to see what I mean—daunting! We become
like those with whom we spend time and in Christ God has become like us, so by
spending time with Christ in Adoration, prayer, and inworks of mercy unto
our neighbors, we can become literally like God: joyful, immortal, and
That to me is the Good News!
You've now been the editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review (HPR) for a year. What is unique about HPR? What are the
primary goals or focal points of HPR?
Fr. Meconi: Print
media is under siege these days. I am a big "online" reader but
there is something special about a monthly journal.
So, my biggest challenge is to keep essays enough up to date
to make them timely but substantive enough that subscribers have enough to chew
on for four weeks. I have loved this job and remain grateful to Fr. Ken
Baker for his care and guidance.
We live in a very different age than when HPR began in 1900
and I hope our new sets of authors, our new columns on Sacred Heart
Spirituality as well as on the formation of seminarians today, enable the
Church'ssons and daughtersto grow in both holiness and in
How do lay people benefit from reading HPR?
Fr. Meconi: Lay
people have always been the crucial group of HPR
subscribers. What priests can do is limited; there are only so many of
us. The real agents of conversion are the men and women in the
workplaces, in the neighborhoods, out in the world living the Gospel.
Today they have to be more and more ready to answer theological questions
bravely and wisely.
I hope HPR gives them the tools to think deeply about issues
related to God and to his Church. So, I always try to run a piece each
month on scripture, on prayer, and on some moral question. Of course, Fr.
Brian Mullady, OP, does the Church an inestimable service each month by
answering readers' questions by giving them the tools and the direction to
understand things more clearly.
I also hear from many people how they read our homilies each
Sunday during Mass because the preaching in their parish is so bad. O
tempora, o mores...
Ignatius Insight: HPR
recently underwent a bit of redesign. What other changes does the future hold
Fr. Meconi: Let's
see what the Holy Spirit has in mind! Just this morning a friend called
and told me that we should run the "great" essays of the past:
perhaps once a month to recover and reprint one of the great articles by Fr.
Schall, Fr. Baker, and some of the great men and women who have written in our
Finally, let me just ask your readers to keep us in their
prayers. When I was asked to help Fr. Baker as he neared retirement, I
had a real sense that the only way this journal would continue and flourish was
with the unmatchable aid of the Holy Spirit. I pray we are living up to
such a call. Thank you.
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