2014 Keynote Address
Rev. Vincent A. Pizzuto, PhD
An East Coast native, The Rev. Vincent Pizzuto, PhD, attained his undergraduate degree in English literature and theology at St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York, and his first master's degree in religious education from Boston College. For several years he served as a campus minister and interfaith counselor at the Newman Center at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, and in 1997 moved to Belgium to attended the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, where he received his second master's degree and a PhD in New Testament exegesis in 2003.
Later that year Pizzuto relocated to San Francisco to take up his full-time appointment as a professor of New Testament studies in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Francisco. Drawing upon his life-long commitment to Christian contemplative practice, early in his career Pizzuto received a number of grants to fund the development of a series of courses in contemplative practice at USF, which have as their cornerstone the integration of meditation within the classroom environment. Building upon the success of these courses, his most recent curricular developments at USF include the introduction of a cross-disciplinary minor in Christian spirituality and contemplative practice which is expected to launch officially in spring 2015.
Pizzuto has presented nationally and internationally on issues of inter-religious dialog and contemplative practice. His ongoing attentiveness to a theology that remains grounded in the needs of both church and society sustains his commitment to regularly offer lectures, workshops and retreats on biblical spirituality and contemplative prayer, and the intersection of both of these with the most pressing spiritual questions of the day.
Among his current publications is his first book entitled, A Cosmic Leap of Faith: An Authorial, Structural and Theological Investigation of the Cosmic Christology in Col 1:15-20: Contributions To Exegesis and Theology, 41 (Peeters: Leuven, 2006), as well as a number of scholarly essays, the most recent of which include, "The Deus Absconditus of Scripture: An Apophatic Hermeneutic for Christian Contemplatives," BTB 44:2 (spring 2014) 100-08; "The Structural Elegance of Matthew 1-2: A Chiastic Proposal," Catholic Biblical Quarterly (October 2012), 712-37; and "An Ecological Hermeneutic of Col 1:15-20: A Panentheistic Proposal," in Confronting the Climate Crisis: Catholic Theological Perspective, Jame Schaefer, ed., (Marquette: University Press, 2011), 75-97.
Ordained to the priesthood in July 2006, Pizzuto founded and ministers in the Bay Area to a contemplative Christian community, New Skellig, whose liturgy and practices are informed by the history and spiritual patrimony of the Celtic Christian Church. He and his community will be formally received into the Episcopal Church later this year.
Pizzuto lives in a small mountain town in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, which he has come to think of as his personal spiritual 'retreat.'
Description of the Keynote Address
What if we measured our spiritual maturity not by the certainty of our answers but by the deepening authenticity of our questions? What if we committed to a spiritual practice that did not so much look to religion to provide answers, but rather to provide a framework for asking the right questions? In other words, what if we risked living more deeply with Mystery itself. If the answers promulgated by our religious and philosophical traditions tend to divide us, a contemplative turn 'inward' readily reveals that our questions, in fact, unite us. People of vastly different times and cultures have grappled with many of the same existential questions, universally about meaning, identity, purpose and destiny. In a diverse and multicultural society, how might the particularities of our own religious and philosophical commitments point to a deeper realization of union with others and with all of Reality?
To explore some of these questions, we will first look at the intersection between religion and spirituality, which is becoming an increasingly pressing tension among college students today. Contemplative practices, broadly defined, are intended to foster an interior landscape in which one is able to look deeply (some would say, prayerfully) within one's self in order to transcend self-imposed limitations that are based largely on false perceptions and attachments. Often times these practices known variously as prayer, meditation, or contemplation are framed and rooted in a particular faith tradition which helps to ground the practice in a broader communal, liturgical, and moral life. Others have sought more individual spiritual paths quite apart from any formal religious tradition. This raises the question of the complex relationship between 'religion' and 'spirituality,' or more broadly, the interplay between community and solitude in the support of one's contemplative or meditative practice.
Rather than engage questions of religious 'truth' or 'doctrinal' teaching we will explore the meaning of beauty, the necessity of awe, the inevitability of wonder. It is beauty that attracts, not the dry rigid formulas of dogma. It is awe that moves our hearts to love, not the ethical demand that we do so as a religious obligation. And it is wonder that leads us on to meet the ever receding horizon of our insatiable curiosity. The contemplative life then, is not about introducing yet another 'thing' that we must do, it is about discovering rather how to 'be.' How to be alive and fully awake to beauty, awe, and wonder. It is from this interior awakening that we can begin to foster genuine spiritual lives and authentic religious commitments.
Contemplative Practice -
Presenter: Rev. Vincent Pizzuto
- Presenter: Rev. Vincent Pizzuto
- Time: 2 to 3 p.m.
- Location: Carlton Union Building, Stetson Room
Contemplative practice is one of the most counter-cultural activities in which we can engage today because it requires that we do nothing at all (or better, 'no-thing'). We practice simply 'being' rather than merely 'thinking' or 'doing.' What happens when we put aside all of the 'scaffolding' which sustains our identity in the world? What happens when we begin to pay attention to thoughts, feelings, social and religious identifications? What—or better who—do we encounter when we allow ourselves to be silent? Indeed, the only way to discover the depths of contemplation is through practice, and thus, the focus of our break-out session will be to introduce simple contemplative practices common to virtually all religions and philosophical traditions.