The Greatness of St. Augustine

"Among your teachers, who has had the greatest influence on your intellectual and spiritual formation?" I asked him. "St. Augustine?"

"Always the great master, yes," he replied.

"He was the most influential on your formation?"

"Without a doubt, yes. He has had a very great influence on my thinking and I will always regard him as my great teacher.

"But, naturally, I then also began to study others: Bonaventure. Also Thomas Aquinas. Also the Greek Fathers, particularly Gregory of Nyssa."

The Study of God's Word

"Above all, I must say, I have always studied a great deal of exegesis--the interpretation of scripture. Because, precisely by Augustine himself, I was led to the scriptures. For this reason, for me, it was always fundamental and still is, to study and meditate profoundly on God's word.

"And this is the reason I have become so engaged in the battle over exegesis, over how to interpret scripture.

"I have learned from modern biblical exegesis, but I have also learned that it is not enough to enter into the fullness of the scripture. For this reason, I have always sought to combine a sound critical exegesis with the grand exegesis of the Fathers, that is, theological exegesis.

"This supposes the unity of the Scriptures and supposes also the 'ecclesiality' of the Scriptures, an ecclesial and liturgical reading of the Scriptures.

"This study of the Scriptures is still for me, together with reflection on the liturgy--the two coincide, for the liturgy is the great theme of the Scriptures, is a part of the Church--almost the fulcrum point of my theological work. My search is to find the way to determine the real contribution of critical exegesis and integrate it with the liturgical-ecclesial reading of Scripture.'

The Struggle between the Faith and Modernity

"And it seems to me the whole struggle between modernity and true ecclesiality and also the struggle over the true intentions of the Second Vatican Council is concentrated here. Because here is the problem: Ought we to accept modernity in full, or in part? Is there a real contribution? Can this modern way of thinking be a contribution, or offer a contribution, or not? And if there is a contribution from the modern, critical way of thinking, in line with the Enlightenment, how can it be reconciled with the great intuitions and the great gifts of the faith?

"Or ought we, in the name of the faith, to reject modernity? You see? There always seems to be this dilemma: either we must reject the whole of the tradition, all the exegesis of the Fathers, relegate it to the library as historically unsustainable, or we must reject modernity.

"And I think that the gift, the light of the faith, must be dominant, but the light of the faith has also the capacity to take up into itself the true human lights, and for this reason the struggles over exegesis and the liturgy for me must be inserted into this great, let us call it epochal, struggle over how Christianity, over how the Christian responds to modernity, to the challenge of modernity."

"You use the phrase 'epochal struggle'..." I said.


"Well, at the very least, that means it is a struggle of enormous historical importance..."

"Yes, certainly..."

The "True" Intent of Vatican II: To "Heal Modernity"

"And it seems to me," he continued, "that this was the true intention of the Second Vatican Council, to go beyond an unfruitful and overly narrow apologetic to a true synthesis with the positive elements of modernity, but at the same time, let us say, to transform modernity, to heal it of its illnesses, by means of the light and strength of the faith.

"Because it was the Council Fathers' intention to heal and transform modernity, and not simply to succumb to it or merge with it, the interpretations which interpret the Second Vatican Council in the sense of de-sacralization or profanation are erroneous.

"That is, Vatican II must not be interpreted as desiring a rejection of the tradition and an adapting of the Church to modernity and so causing the Church to become empty because it loses the word of faith."