By Therese Aaker, Features Editor
How do you awaken desire in a person for something beyond himself?
This is the question Fr. Meinrad Miller challenges himself with in teaching Benedictine Spirituality for the theology department, a class he’s been teaching since 1996.
Through his class, Miller tries to impart a new understanding of the Rule of St. Benedict to students.
“I thought it was important to see what Benedict contributed to society … and how it speaks to the heart,” Miller said. “I wanted students to encounter how Christ speaks to the heart.”
Fostering this “encounter” is something Miller especially strives for.
“(The class) has an academic aspect, but there’s a personal invitation (to an encounter with Christ) that’s given,” Miller said.
Vince Petruccelli, junior English major, is close friends with Miller and said that the “encounter” with Christ has been a transformative topic.
“When it happens, it changes everything. It’s something you couldn’t give to yourself,” Petruccelli said.
Prayer and work
Miller came to Benedictine for the first time in 1983 as a freshman, but after less than two years, he felt in his heart a tug to join monastic life.
“I love the time in the Abbey for prayer, and the Rule of St. Benedict gives time through the day to pray and read Scripture,” he said. “I also like the fact that … the more immersed you are in God, the more immersed you are in people.”
After teaching religion at Maur Hill and serving as director of student activities at the college, Miller went to the Monastery of St. Vincent Archabbey and was ordained a priest in 1994. For 11 years, he was the chaplain at Benedictine and the vocations director for the Abbey.
Now, in addition to teaching Benedictine Spirituality and occasionally Introduction to Theology classes, he serves as the novice master.
Br. Luke Turner found that Miller, as his former superior, was a “good listener” with a great sense of humor.
“I admire the fact that he can be humorous but takes spirituality seriously,” Turner said. “He marries it nicely with humor, but he’s never joking about spirituality. He’s clear about what he stands for.”
A father and friend
Although he lives in the Abbey and works in the classroom, Miller can be found many other places on campus, including sports events or theater productions.
Miller and Petruccelli are both involved with the movement Communion and Liberation (CL), started by Monsignor Luigi Guissani, which has fostered not only their relationships with God but also their friendship.
“He has an attention for every person,” Petruccelli said. “He’s social, but it’s more than that; he has a remarkable care for each person.”
“He’s very relaxed and funny, and still manages to be … prayerful and attentive to other people,” Petruccelli added. “He’s like a father for sure, as a priest and in how he’s helped me out a lot on my journey.”
At Benedictine, Miller has watched the college grow leaps and bounds in its faith community.
He was here when Ted Sri and Curtis Martin brought the first FOCUS event on campus. He was here when Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete, a physicist, theologian and dear friend of Pope John Paul II, gave his first presentation for CL on campus.
“As time has gone on, the Holy Spirit has done wonders,” Miller said. “It’s been wonderful to witness how the Holy Spirit is transforming lives.”
Miller shared that the movie “Forrest Gump” came out about the time he was ordained — and in some ways, he relates to him.
“(Forrest) was always in the right place at the right time,” Miller said. “Life never turns out the way we imagined it.”
Although life might not be what he imagined, he’s happy where God placed him.
“I like that it’s both the same and different every day,” he said. “Christ remains constant, and every day I have to encounter him again…(Christ’s) call to me is fresh every day. No two days are the same.”