Summer Conference photos
Fr. Jeremy Driscoll blesses couples before the Vatican II 50th anniversary cake is cut.
Summer Conference photos
Fr. Jeremy Driscoll blesses couples before the Vatican II 50th anniversary cake is cut.

David Fagerberg, the keynote speaker for this year’s Summer Conference at the University of Portland, commonly has had to deal with misconceptions of his field of study: liturgy.

When he began his position as a professor in the Notre Dame department of theology, someone quipped, “So you like liturgy? Wait till you see a football game here!” While standing in the Notre Dame commencement line with his colleagues, all of them dressed in caps and gowns, the person behind him said, “You must like this kind of thing.”

Both assumed that a liturgical scholar would like excessive pomp and extravagant ceremony — things often interpreted as the most important when viewing liturgy from the outside.  

Fagerberg began the 31st Summer Conference with these two anecdotes, and went on to teach, during a series of four keynote lectures, that liturgy “is much bigger inside than it is on the outside.”

Fagerberg is more interested in articulating a theology of the liturgy than its “ritual etiquette and extravagant ceremony” — things best understood and appreciated in the context of scripture and in the long and rich history of the Catholic Church.

His keynote talks used vivid metaphors and excerpts from C. S. Lewis, C. K. Chesterson and many of the early Church Fathers to describe a “thick notion of liturgy and sacrament.” As a result, many conference goers marveled at how much their lives of faith had changed through a greater appreciation of liturgy.                

Liturgy is no less than an invitation by God to join in an eternal liturgy that is already in progress within the Trinity, where we are connected with the flow of love and life between the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. “Our whole lives fit into it to be redeemed and purified,” said Fagerberg.  “We are made for beatitude.”

Thankfulness for the work of Vatican II was also an underlying theme running through the conference in this year of the Council’s 50th anniversary. Participants shared an anniversary cake on one of the evenings as they gave thanks for the work of the Council.

Conference attendees participated either as residents, staying four nights in a dormitory on the campus, or as commuters and could choose to eat meals prepared at the campus cafeteria or bring their own food. Each day of the conference began gathered in age groups: adults to the keynote address and students from preschool through high school to faith formation classes focused on the conference theme.

Participants chose classes from topics like "Fun in the Sun," puppetry, and story time for young children. Older children and adults could choose from prayer, knowing self and God, the spirituality of making bread, batik, papier maché, watercolor, yoga, tennis, karate, and even a class on the local landscape.

In addition to the hospitality of the UP community and the Congregation of Holy Cross, UP faculty taught classes. Holy Cross Father Pat Hannon led participants in an exploration of story as prayer. UP tennis coaches Aaron Gross and Susie Campbell Gross taught basic techniques with their afternoon class members. Beth Barsotti of UP campus ministry worked with young adults in a reflection and discussion session.

The conference has maintained its ties to Mount Angel Abbey, which was its home for its first 25 years. Benedictine Father Jeremy Driscoll, a monk and theologian from the abbey, and a member of the steering committee for the conference from its inception, celebrated liturgies. He also shared his experiences from the Synod of Bishops, held in last October in Rome, in a class where he used the themes of the synod to inform, challenge and inspire participants in their faith.

For the fourth straight year, in what is now a regular feature of the conference, Father Jeremy also met with young adults on Friday evening to listen and respond to their hopes and concerns about the church and the world.