On Monday, September 10, the college and monastic community celebrated the blessing of the fifth abbot of Saint Anselm Abbey, The Right Reverend Mark Arthur Cooper, O.S.B. Below are his thank you's and homily.
I extend a special thank you to Bishop Peter Libasci. Your presence as presider at this ceremony is most appreciated by our Abbey and College communities. Since 1888 when the 1st Bishop of Manchester, Bishop Denis Bradley, invited the Benedictines of Newark, New Jersey to come to this city to found a college, we have enjoyed an excellent relationship with our bishops, our friends and collaborators the diocesan clergy, and the laity of this diocese. It is a relationship we cherish.
Thank you Bishop Joseph for celebrating this Mass and Blessing. Your participation means more to me than I could ever properly express. For those who may not know Bishop Joseph is my uncle. He has always been for me and for my family gathered here, a constant example of goodness, wisdom, and true Christian joy - always a smiling presence and special grace in our family.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must relate one incident regarding Bishop Joseph going back to 1957. I was 8 years old. Several members of the family were playing a game called Pokeno. Late in the game, of the couple of hundred pennies at stake, I had won most of them. The Bishop, down to just a few pennies, suggested we all throw our total winnings in and, in a final game, the winner would take all. I protested that I had already won most of the pennies. He countered, "Yes, but you've been winning almost every game - so you will likely win everything." At 8 I was new to the ways of the world (and the laws of averages) so I agreed . I will not name the individual who won, (with great glee), but his initials are Bishop Joseph.
55 years later I'm still holding on to this - I'll have to work on that.
I express my gratitude to Abbot Matthew who has been most gracious and eager to be of assistance to me since the election. Our monastic community is indebted to him for his 26 years of service to us and to the College community.
I thank also the Joan of Arc sisters who have always been for me a tremendous inspiration. Their work and prayer among us on this campus for 80 years helped to make the abbey and the college what they are today. We are all grateful for your decades of service. I am profoundly moved by your presence here today.
My gratitude to my fellow Benedictines especially those who did so much to make this ceremony and day a very special time, and, in particular, Fr. Martin who traveled from California to be here and whose exquisite craftsmanship fashioned the crozier I have just received.
I am grateful as well to our College community. Many departments assisted with great talent, effort, time, and generosity as well as great patience and good humor, all of which contributed to this memorable day.
A very special thanks to our students who assisted as ushers, servers, and members of our choir. You are the reason we are all here, and, in you we take great pride.
Thanks to my family and friends, especially those who came from a great distance to be here today.
I single out one among us for special mention - my father, Arthur Cooper, who with my mother (who has been gone now for 10 years) gave me the gift of life. I am grateful as well to providence who in August of 1943 directed the aim of a German anti-aircraft gunner, keeping it a bit short of perfect, thus bringing down, but not destroying, my father's B-17 bomber. Having survived almost two years in prison camps near Berlin and Munich, my father is with us today just a few months shy of his 96th birthday.
The sad new for me, as my family will tell you, is that at almost 96 my father, a very special man, has better hair, more energy, better sense, and would make a better abbot than I.
Finally, in the name of the community I thank all who join us today, making for such a special celebration.
Abbot Mark Cooper's Remarks
This ceremony asks a blessing on one individual called to serve as abbot of this over one hundred year old monastic community. But in a much wider sense I believe all who witness and participate in this ceremony are called and encouraged to serve. The readings, the Eucharist itself, the example of our Lord, challenge everyone present, everyone listening, that there is work to be done, sacrifice to be offered, service to be given, so that we too might assist in answering Jesus' most earnest prayer to the Father, Ut Omnes Unum Sint, That All May Be One.
Jesus saw with his own eyes what we see today. He knew in His heart what we have come to know - that there is so very much in our world that needs healing. There are endless circumstances (some that make us shudder and leave our minds reeling...) that we see or hear of every day, that call for prayer, sacrifice, and hard work. There are natural disasters, and there are, as well, disasters that originate in the hearts and will of everyone of us. Anger, greed , fraud, murder, laziness, selfishness, misunderstanding. All of these impede our unity. But we believe Our Lord not only prayed that all may be one, our faith is that He died and rose, that it might be so.
2700 years ago, in a magnificent moment of inspiration and prophecy, Isaiah foretold that the difficulties and the dark things of life on earth, would one day be overcome by a great light. He prophesied:
Then the wolf will be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.
The lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all his holy mountain;
For the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.....
On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations;
He will destroy death forever.
The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.
May all of us today take up the task before us to offer our hands and hearts, our minds and will, our prayers and sacrifice, that one day all that is selfish, all that is dark, all that is painful, even to death itself, may be banished, and in truth, All May Be One.