May 12, 2017
Fr. Thomas Hart, O.S.B., assistant to the president for mission at Saint Vincent College, represented the college at the Pittsburgh Area Consortium of Buddhists’ observance of the Feast of Vesakh conducted at the Allegheny Unitarian-Universalist Church on Pittsburgh’s North Side on April 30.
“I was honored to be invited and happy to attend for the first time,” he said. “The yearly celebration of Vesakh commemorates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death.”
“Annually on Vesakh, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issues a formal message to the world’s Buddhists, this year entitled ‘Christians and Buddhists: Walking Together on the Path of Non-Violence,’” Fr. Thomas commented.
“This year’s message dovetails perfectly with Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message where he emphasized the Gospel’s path of nonviolence as a way of life,” Fr. Thomas added. “In this regard, the Pontifical Council states ‘Though we recognize the uniqueness of our two religions, to which we remain committed, we agree that violence comes forth from the human heart, and that personal evils lead to structural evils . . . we teach our respective followers to combat evil within their hearts.”
More than a hundred area residents attended the event hosted by the 17 Buddhist organizations in the Pittsburgh area.
“The Ven. Piya Jundadal, head monk of Buddhist Meditation Center of Pittsburgh, is a Theravada Buddhist monk from Thailand who hopes to establish a Buddhist monastery in the area, and has become a friend of Saint Vincent with numerous visits to our campus,” Fr. Thomas explained. “He attended the Catholic-Jewish Dialogue sponsored by the Saint Vincent College Threshold Series on Nov. 3, 2016, and subsequently extended an invitation to the Benedictine community at Saint Vincent.
Br. Minh Pham, O. Cist., a Catholic Cistercian monk from Vietnam who is studying at Saint Vincent Seminary for the St. Joseph Monastery in San Bernadino, California, accompanied Fr. Thomas. “We were both seated in a place of honor,” he said, “and their warmth and kindness were especially felt, as well as their spiritual esteem for silence.”
Fr. Thomas commented that he enjoyed the Buddhist prayers and devotions which were conducted in English. “Official Catholic Church teaching respects everything that is true and holy in the world’s great religions, in its dual commitment to both the proclamation of the Gospel as well as interreligious dialogue with true sincerity,” he said.
“The most important thing I learned was to appreciate opportunities for silent devotion and reverence,” he said. “In recent months, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, has been calling for Catholics to oppose the modern dictatorship of noise and to remember our glorious tradition of contemplative silence.”
Photo: Fr. Thomas Hart, O.S.B., assistant to the president of Saint Vincent College for mission, second from left, and Br. Minh Pham, O. Cist., right, a Cisternian monk who is a student at Saint Vincent Seminary, recently welcomed two Buddhist guests to campus, Phramaha Piya Jundadal, left, head monk of the Buddhist Meditation Center of Pittsburgh, and Niyom Soontornprueksa, a Buddhist follower, third from left.
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