Coram fratribus intellexi

My motto

The phrase I have chosen as my episcopal motto, set to music by Jonas Hilger, comes from a sermon on Ezekiel by Gregory the Great (II.2). I happened to be reading this text the day after the papal nuncio’s visit to announce my appointment. Gregory, himself a monk, reflects on the fact that he often has a hard time understanding the meaning of Scripture when he reads it on his own. But it often happens, says he, that he later, on hearing the same passage read out in church, ‘coram fratribus meis positus, intellexi’. That is to say: ‘face to face with my brethren, I have come to understand’. I was struck by this insight. I took it to heart. It speaks to me of three things:

  1. That God is a God who is alive, present, and active, for which reason we must live in a state of contemplative, expectant alertness;
  2. that what God speaks exceeds, by definition, the categories of any individual’s intellect, requiring us to be humble in the face of truth;
  3. that it is a word addressed to all of us together, so that we need one another to receive it, to understand it rightly, and to follow it faithfully.

The owl

The emblem of the site is an owl. The owl does not just wing you back to the front page. It has for centuries been a symbol of the monk. Why? Because it watches in the night, when most people sleep; because it is able to see in the dark, discerning movements and patterns, foundations of meaning, where the human eye perceives only vaguely. I am fond of this Italian doggerel:

Sopra una vecchia quercia
c’era un vecchio gufo:
più sapeva e più taceva,
più taceva e più sapeva.

In an old oak tree
there sat an old owl:
the more it knew, the silenter it was;
the silenter it was, the more it knew.