Abbot Mark Cooper, O.S.B. made the following remarks at a small ceremony outside Alumni Hall earlier today for the 125th founding of the college.
Welcome to all as we offer thanks for all that has been, all that has made Saint Anselm College what it is, and as we celebrate exactly 125 years of existence of this school, this place, that means so much, and in so many varying ways, to our students, our alums, all of us co-workers, and to our many friends and supporters.
Just over 25 years ago, as we neared our 100th birthday, we placed this statue of Saint Anselm here on this quad. As workers were preparing the site, they uncovered a large pile of bricks, and noticed right away that those bricks were blackened and charred. They were bricks from the original building that burned down in the 1890s. (We guessed that it was easier to cover them over than to carry them away.) Many of those bricks are still there, buried and silent, partly forming the rise upon which the figure of Saint Anselm stands.
I suppose one could say those bricks are a reminder of all that can go wrong with the plans of mortals. I prefer to think that they are a witness of all that can go well when one trusts not in his or her own strength, but in the grace, and power, and wisdom of the Lord who created us…the Lord who watches over our works, and who guides us steadily forward toward ultimate union with Him, even amidst the collapse, at times, of our own efforts.
How astounded would be the founders of this school who started with nothing, ….. we might even say after the fire, less than nothing. Imagine them today, able to see what has transpired on this campus. The oldest living person in the world today was born only 5 years after the fire that occurred here in the early 1890s. In a bit more than one very long lifetime, the transformation has been miraculous. How the founders would marvel at what has taken place. It would be close to impossible for them to comprehend.
We give thanks for their steadfast efforts as we celebrate what has happened on this hilltop. But part of what we do today is to reflect on our own work here. To understand that while our circumstances, our tools, our problems and issues, may be very different from those faced by the original founders, our work, at its heart, is the same.
Saint Anselm, the man, is perhaps most associated with the phrase: fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeking understanding. The founders came here as men of faith, men of the Church, they came here seeking understanding and a way to provide better understanding to others. It was their task, within the context of the faith, to educate and inspire, assist and nurture, ….. not just the minds, but the hearts and souls of all who would come here. It was all to be done guided by what they held to be true, their faith that there was never any other place to look for guidance than the Creator, the One who makes all things new. In that faith they never wavered, which is exactly why we stand here today.
It is true, that while not the day-to-day items, the essence of our work today is the same as those original few men of 125 years ago. Within the faith upon which this institution rests, we are to promote understanding and knowledge, not just with those of the same faith, but with all who come here. We invite all to examine and explore all that our faith teaches so that they may come to their own beliefs about the world, both this world and the world hereafter.
As we celebrate today all that has transpired over 125 years, let us take up our work in faith and in hope for all that will be, for all the young men and women who will come here seeking both faith and understanding. May God bless Saint Anselm College, and all of us who celebrate this day, now and always.