Intellectual Disability and the Sabbath Structure of the Human Person [AUDIO]

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Intellectual Disability and the Sabbath Structure of the Human Person

The increased visibility of people with intellectual disabilities has raised important questions about what it means to be human. Some have argued that those with intellectual disabilities are not persons.  Others have argued that in order to include people with disabilities we need to reject traditional notions of human nature.  As Christians, how should we think about intellectual disability?  Has the Christian tradition generally oppressed those with disabilities or upheld their dignity?  Is disability part of God's intention in creation or is it a consequence of the Fall?  Finally, how can we take seriously the real suffering that occurs for people with intellectual disabilities and their families, while also accounting for the mysterious, transformative power that the intellectually disabled so often exert on those who live with them?  

On Thursday, October 3 Jared Ortiz, associate professor of religion at Hope College and director of the Saint Benedict Institute, addressed these questions in light of the Catholic tradition, especially the theology of the sabbath at the Authenticum Lecture Series at Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Grand Rapids.

Authenticum seeks to awaken as many people as possible to the Truth, Beauty, and Goodness of the Catholic Faith by sponsoring ongoing exciting lectures on the humanities (history, literature, music, philosophy, liturgy, patristics, theology, catechesis, etc.) in the spirit of Philippians 4:8 -"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Authenticum is hosted by Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Grand Rapids Michigan. It is dedicated to the New Evangelization and is one of our region’s most distinguished Catholic lecture series.

Lectures take place on the first Thursday of the month, August through May. Authenticum begins with a wine and cheese social at 6:30 p.m. and continues with talks by important Catholic thinkers at 7:00 p.m. Convivial discussion continues after the lectures and usually lasts well into the evening.

Harry Potter and Spiritual Warfare: Defending Your Soul Against the Dark Arts

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Harry Potter and Spiritual Warfare: Defending Your Soul Against the Dark Arts

September 7, 14, and 21 (Fridays)

Herrick Room (Dewitt 2nd Floor)

5:00PM - 7:00PM

Current students gathered to participate in a three-week dinner and workshop on Harry Potter and Spiritual Warfare: Defending Your Soul Against the Dark Arts. Fr. Nick Monco O.P., the Saint Benedict Institute chaplain and resident Harry Potter expert, will gave a short lecture each week followed by time for questions and discussion. 


Meet Our Campus Missionary

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Meet Our Campus Missionary

Meet Our Campus Missionary: An interview with Carly McShane, the Saint Benedict Institute's new Campus Missionary and Assistant Program Coordinator.

Where are you from and where did you go to college?

I was born and raised in Normal, Illinois.  I went to school at Hope where I graduated with a degree in Church History and Theology as well as a minor in dance. 

I understand that you are a recent convert to Catholicism.  Why did you become a Catholic?

I didn’t grow up in the Church but both of my parents were raised in Catholic families.  In 8th grade I started attending a nondenominational church with some friends.  I went there all through high school and I encountered Jesus and the Scriptures for the first time.  In college I was able to read some accounts of the early martyrs.  I remember reading the letters of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a martyr who was mauled by lions in the 2nd century.  In one of his letters he writes,  “I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.”  I was awestruck when I read that and I was roused by St. Ignatius’s willingness to die for the truth, to die for Christ.  The martyrs' identification with Christ’s sacrifice helped me to understand the nature of the Eucharist more deeply.

Did the Eucharist play an important role in your conversion?

Certainly! I started attending Mass and I saw something happening before me.  There is no other way to explain it but I began to understand that the Lord was present in the Catholic Church in a special way.   It stirred in me the desire to love God with the same love of the martyrs, giving myself to Him to the point of death and in that death receiving life.  I began to know the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist in which Christ’s sacrifice is re-presented to us.  We receive the divine life of Jesus Christ as a gift from God and at the same time we also offer ourselves to God in gratitude and thanksgiving.  Here, in the Mass, I was being called to give myself to God as He wanted to give Himself to me.

When did you officially enter into the Catholic Church? 

As I continued to read and pray about these things I could no longer resist Christ’s call to come to Him and to His Church.  During my final year of school I entered into the Right of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) at St. Francis de Sales parish and eventually came into full communion with the Catholic Church in February of 2017.  It has been an emotional homecoming.  I often find myself overwhelmed by the beauty and truth that I have experienced in the Catholic Church and I look forward to growing in faith and continuing to experience the riches of the Tradition more deeply.

What do you think are the main reasons that so many young people are not engaging with the Church today?

There are so many possible answers to pick from!  I think one main reason is a lack of vulnerability.  Young people are often disconnected from one another and from God.  We don’t know how to develop deep and enduring friendships because we are often afraid to open up with those closest to us or even with ourselves.  There is an inability to see the reality of who we are.  When we do see that reality we are often afraid to share it for fear of rejection or what others might think of us.  Another reason is the culture of immediate gratification.  We want what we what when we want it, but the spiritual life doesn’t work like that.  In reality, it is often full of challenges and suffering.  Many young people don’t know how to suffer or are unwilling to do so.

What are some effective strategies that you are aware of to evangelize our youth?

Relationships.  This is how Christ formed the Church.  He chose twelve men to share his life with and he didn’t abandon those men when they didn’t understand Him, asked stupid questions, or even betrayed Him.  Sharing life with one another is what Christ asks us to do because it is what He does with us.

Why were you interested in becoming a full-time member of the Saint Benedict Institute staff?

The Saint Benedict Institute has had a great impact on my life.  The Lord brought me into His Body, the Church through these people.  I have seen the value of this work in my own life and I know I have been called to share that with more students at Hope.  In the little time I have spent working with the Institute I have come to love campus ministry.  Over the last year I have been doing student outreach on a voluntary basis and I wanted to continue investing in those relationships.

Your job expands in the Fall to include serving as a campus missionary.  What does being a campus missionary mean, and what are the first things you want to tackle in this new role?

My official job description says that my role is to cultivate friendships with students, build them up in Christ, and help them discover how to serve God in the world.  Ultimately, I think that means being a joyful Catholic presence on campus.  I want to be someone students can talk to, someone they can come to with questions or challenges.  Some of my immediate goals are to foster a greater devotion to Our Lady in our campus community and to find ways to connect older students with underclassmen.

Our Team is Growing!

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Our Team is Growing!


We are pleased to introduce the newest addition to the Saint Benedict Institute. Carly McShane will be working as our campus missionary next year.  Her role will be to cultivate friendships with students, build them up in Christ, and help them discover how to serve God in the world.  Carly is a recent graduate of Hope College (‘17) where she studied Church History and Theology. She also minored in Dance. Carly was received into the Catholic Church during her final year of school and has been doing student outreach on a voluntary basis this year. Carly will assist Fr. Nick as he continues to build a Catholic campus ministry at Hope College.

A Year of Blessings: Exodus 90

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A Year of Blessings: Exodus 90


Forty students, both Catholic and Protestant, entered more deeply into the penitential season of Lent by participating in the Exodus 90 program. Exodus 90 was created five years ago by a priest and a group of seminarians at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary. The program is a 90-day period of prayer, fasting, and penance, supported by a community of like-minded friends.

Exodus 90 began on Ash Wednesday and came to an end on Pentecost. The program is demanding: students prayed for at least 20 minutes a day, took cold or cool showers, fasted twice a week, refrained from frivolous internet use, and committed to regular and intense exercise as well as sleeping seven hours a night.

“Making room for Christ in our hearts required clearing other things out,” Fr. Nick said.

An important aspect to Exodus 90 is that no one does it alone. Participants were divided into six groups which met weekly. Additionally, they were assigned accountability partners with whom they were to check in daily. For many, having this community to grow with made all the difference. One student said, “Sometimes it was hard to fit into my schedule and I was annoyed I had to come. But I was thankful after each group meeting for that time to reflect and hear how others were doing.”

At the end of the program I felt like I had fallen in love with Jesus.
— Anonymous Student

“If you choose to do this program,” Fr. Nick said at the beginning of Lent, “then give it your all, knowing that Jesus will not be outdone in generosity.”

Throughout the semester, the fruits of this commitment became increasingly evident to the students. “I have never understood more deeply than now the necessity and benefits of prayer,” one said. “More so, I have a desire to develop the true faith aspect of my relationship instead of only the academic one.”

Another said, “I was rather resentful at first and really wanted to give up on it, but after the first month I really reveled in it and began to love the changes that it brought into my life.”


The program aims to replace bad habits with holy ones. One student shared about her transformative experience, “ I have become more calm and patient. I struggle with anxiety, but Exodus 90 helped me find tools to change my thought patterns. When my body was tempted to become stressed, I started to learn to breathe, quiet my heart, and focus on God for joy.”

Ultimately, though, the goal of the Exodus 90 is union with God. “At the end of the program,” one student related, “I felt like I had fallen in love with Jesus.” Deo gratias.

A Year of Blessings: Campus Ministry


A Year of Blessings: Campus Ministry


“Fr. Nick has helped me grow in my faith.” “Fr. Nick helped me in my daily prayer.” “Fr. Nick challenges me to apply the teachings of the Bible to my own life.”

These are just a few of the things students are saying about Fr. Nicholas Monco, O.P., who recently completed his first year as the Saint Benedict Institute chaplain to Hope College.

When the Saint Benedict Institute set out to hire a chaplain, we said we wanted someone who “could build a credible Catholic witness on Hope’s campus, one which strengthens the faithful Catholic students, draws in the lapsed Catholics, and embraces the non-Catholic students in ecumenical friendship.” Fr. Nick has done this with grace and tact.

“He always makes himself available to students and is great at reaching out to anyone in need. He is also great at relating to the average college student, both through personal anecdotes and analogies in his homilies.”
— Anonymous Student
Fr. Nick speaks to Hope students in Dimnent Chapel.

One students humorously relates, “Fr. Nick has given me faith that not all priests are old and boring. He brings enthusiasm to Catholic students and has great homilies.”

Fr. Nick has established a rhythm of Catholic activities aimed at cultivating a deeper faith and Christian friendships. These included daily Mass, regular confession, spiritual direction, and an open offer to go out to coffee. He also launched men’s and women’s prayer groups along with the very successful Exodus 90 program.

Cultivating habits of prayer and Christian friendship has been of particular importance. “My goal,” Fr. Nick said, “is to provide a regular sacramental presence and be someone students can talk to, to develop their faith.”

Fr. Kyle Kilpatrick and Fr. Nick Monco prepare for Mass.

“He always makes himself available to students and is great at reaching out to anyone in need,” one student said. “He is also great at relating to the average college student, both through personal anecdotes and analogies in his homilies.”

We feel particularly blessed to have had Fr. Nick this year and to see all the good things that God has done through him. Please pray for his ministry and for our students! 

The Christian Resistance to Communism in Cuba

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The Christian Resistance to Communism in Cuba

Monday, April 16, 2018

7:00PM - 8:30PM

Winants Auditorium

On Monday, April 16, 2018 the Saint Benedict Institute co-hosted The Christian Resistance to Communism in Cuba with Hope College student group, Markets and Morality. The event was held at 7:00PM in Winants Auditorium at Hope College.


The evening included personal testimonies from Miguel Abrahantes and Amaurys Rodriguez-Matos. The testimonies were followed by a lecture from John Suarez.

John Suarez is a human rights activist and a program officer of the Washington D.C. based Center for a Free Cuba. He holds degrees from Florida International University and Spain’s Universidad Francisco de Vitoria. He has hosted the radio program Valores Humanos (Human Values) for the Cuban Democratic Directorate's radio station, Radio Republica. 

Suarez has spoken on various occasions before the United Nations Human Rights Commission, before the current UN Human Rights Council, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to denounce human rights abuses. He is the author of monographs published by the Center of Studies for a National Option and reproduced in both El Nuevo Herald and in The Miami Herald. Additionally, he has had opinion pieces published in Florida Today, Fox News Latino, Panampost, The Daily Signal, Dissident and Newsweek. 


Cuban-native Miguel Abrahantes is an Associate Professor of Engineering at Hope College. He received his engineering doctorate in control systems from the Universidad Nacional del Sur in Argentina in 2000 and has been a teaching at Hope since 2003.

Amaurys Rodriguez-Matos, a university professor from Cuba, arrived in the USA a little over 1 year ago with his wife and four children. The Rodriguez-Matos family came into the U.S. just in time to qualify under the Cuban Haitian Entry Program for refugees from these countries. The family is being sponsored by St. Francis de Sales Church in Holland while Grace Episcopal Church is providing them with a home.

Markets and Morality is an intellectually curious and close-knit community of students at Hope College that engages in deep and continuing discussion of serious issues and works to open that conversation to the larger campus community. The group aims to support students as they examine the interplay of market forces through the lens of moral thought, including the precepts of the historic Christian faith, and facilitate a rigorous conversation about whether markets can contribute to human flourishing.

Fr. Nick's Dimnent Debut

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Fr. Nick's Dimnent Debut

On Wednesday, March 7, 2018 hundreds of Hope students gathered in Dimnent Memorial Chapel as they do every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for a twenty-five minute worship service. This worship service includes a short message. Student regularly hear from the Hope College chaplains, their peers, and special guests. On this particular day the guest speaker was our very own Saint Benedict chaplain, Fr. Nicholas Monco OP.  Listen to the talk here

Fr. Nick was introduced by his friend and dean of the chapel, Rev. Trygve Johnson. He then began with a word from 1 Peter 5: 1-7 which says,

"So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not for shameful gain but eagerly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you."

Fr. Nick explained a bit about his life as a Dominican highlighting the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Through the practice of poverty, Fr. Nick says, he detaches from his material possessions. By practicing chastity he detaches from his own body. And through the practice of obedience, the final and perhaps most challenging of the vows, he detaches from his own will. 

Likewise you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
— 1 Peter 5:5

For the remainder of his time on the Dimnent stage Fr. Nick focused on the blessings of the virtue of obedience. In his life these blessings have included the opportunity to do things that he would not have chosen for himself, like working as a chaplain at Hope College, a lasting peace about the future and a certainty in following God's will through the direction of his superiors. 

Recovering Biblical Christianity: Roman Catholic and Reformed Perspectives

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Recovering Biblical Christianity: Roman Catholic and Reformed Perspectives


On Monday, March 12, 2018 and Tuesday, March 13, 2018 the Saint Benedict Institute joined with Western Theological Seminary to co-sponsor the Osterhaven Lecture Series on Recovering Biblical Christianity: Roman Catholic and Reformed Perspectives. The event consisted of two lectures and a panel discussion in Mulder Chapel at Western Theological Seminary. 

Matthew Levering, Chair of Theology at Mundelein Seminary at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, gave the first lecture which was titled "What Counts as a Biblical Doctrine? Exploring the Biblically Warranted Modes of Biblical Interpretation."


Matthew Levering is widely recognized as one of the leading Roman Catholic doctrinal theologians today. He is the author or co-author of over 20 books, including Scripture and Metaphysics, Biblical Natural Law, Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation, Proofs of God, and most recently, Was the Reformation a Mistake? He serves as coeditor of the journals Nova et Vetera and the International Journal of Systematic Theology and has served as Chair of the Board of the Academy of Catholic Theology since 2007.


The second lecture was given by Kevin VanHoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. His lecture was titled, "Mere Protestant Christianity: Sola Scriptura and the Comic Possibility of Reformation."

Kevin VanHoozer is one of the most prominent Protestant systematic theologians writing today. Much of his work focuses upon the intersection of Christian doctrine with hermeneutics. His book, Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible earned Christianity Today’s award for best biblical studies book in 2006. He also serves on the editorial board of the International Journal of Systematic Theology and the Journal of Theological Interpretation.

The two lectures were followed by a panel discussion where the keynote speakers, Kevin Vanhoozer and Matthew Levering, were joined by Sue Rozeboom, Associate Professor of Liturgical Theology at Western Seminary, and Jared Ortiz, Assistant Professor of Religion at Hope College.


Sue Rozeboom teaches students how to unwrap God’s gracious gift of worship. Her reading, research, and teaching interests are in the areas of the history of Christian worship, the work of the Spirit and Christian worship, and enriched sacramental theology for refreshed sacramental practice. She is the co-author, with Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., of Discerning the Spirits: A Guide to Thinking about Christian Worship Today. She been active in official Roman Catholic - Reformed dialogues for many years.

Jared Ortiz teaches Catholic studies at Hope College, where he founded and directs the Saint Benedict Institute, the Catholic spiritual and intellectual center that serves Hope College. He teaches courses on the Incarnation, church history, Catholic Christianity, theological hermeneutics and early Christianity. He specializes in early Christian theology, especially St. Augustine, and he has scholarly interests in liturgy, Latin patristic thought and disability.