Friday, April 2, 2004

Breaking Bread with Fr. Bill Miscamble, C.S.C.

This spring, in an effort to encourage faith-based discussion and reflection among Notre Dame students and faculty, the Center sponsored a dinner event called Breaking Bread. The event consisted of dinner and discussion in the press box of Notre Dame Stadium for ninety students and fifteen Notre Dame professors from a variety of disciplines. This initiative was led by Jennie Bradley, the Center s undergraduate assistant, who drew the inspiration for the event from a Scripture passage in Acts of the Apostles: "Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people." (Acts 2:46-47a) As indicated in this passage, from the earliest days of the Christian Church, sharing a meal has been associated with fellowship and faithsharing.Rather than simply host a lecture or seminar, the Center decided to make a meal the forum for a discussion of faith. And of course, the name breaking bread is suggestive of the Eucharist, whose aspects of fellowship and of coming together in faith to share a meal with Jesus at the center were exactly what this project sought to capture.

The theme of this spring's Breaking Bread was "Do not be afraid!" one of the most repeated lines in Scripture, and the dinner discussion focused on what it means to live without fear. Small groups of students and one professor were seated at each table, and as they ate, they listened to a brief reflection on the theme of Fear and the Christian Life by Rev. Wilson Miscamble, CSC. Fr. Miscamble examined some fears commonly held among Notre Dame students fear of failure, of rejection, of doing something different with their lives and observed that the only lasting way to overcome fear is a strong faith in Christ and his triumphant resurrection. He quoted from the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross, which read, "There is no failure the Lord's love cannot reverse, no humiliation he cannot dissolve, no routine he cannot transfigure. All is swallowed up in victory. He has nothing but gifts to offer." Fr. Miscamble's words served as a springboard for discussion for the small groups, with the faculty member at each table guiding the conversation and offering his or her insights.

The evening was a huge success, and the students and faculty left the stadium with new bonds and new considerations about their faith, along with a complimentary copy of Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship by Anglican theologian and Scripture scholar N.T. Wright. Students raved about the evening. One commented that it was great to have a serious discussion with classmates interested in doing so. Another participant remarked, "I really enjoyed my time and I thought it was a great experience to meet some new people and have a good philosophical chat!" Students also appreciated being able to engage in deep discussion outside of class. According to one, "I thoroughly enjoyed the entire evening: the setting, the speakers, the company. Though we all must take theology and philosophy classes in order to graduate, I feel that this was a unique and more personal outlet for a faith-based discussion." The Center gratefully acknowledges Mr. Fr an McGowen of Malvern, Penn., a Notre Dame alumnus who generously funded and contributed ideas for Breaking Bread.

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