TRUTH TO POWER — Rev. Andrew Britz, OSB holds a copy of a collection of some of his Prairie Messenger editorials entitled Truth to Power. Britz is encouraging people to buy the book directly from St. Peter’s Abbey to maximize the benefit to the Prairie Messenger Sustaining Fund.
50 years of religious life, releases book
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
MUENSTER — For Rev.
Andrew Britz, OSB, who edited the Prairie Messenger from 1983 to 2004,
writing editorials has been one way of living out his call as a Benedictine
In renewing his monastic
vows on the 50th anniversary of his profession as a Benedictine at St.
Peter’s Abbey in Muenster recently, Britz described the call “to
become, with God’s special grace, a prophetic witness to a new
world that is just, sustainable and joyful — joyful as only the
good news of the Lord’s resurrection can make it.”
That’s also a pretty
good description of what it means to be a Benedictine editor, says Britz,
who for 21 years provided prophetic witness through editorials that
he wrote week in and week out for the weekly Catholic newspaper.
A collection of 144 of those
Prairie Messenger editorials has now been published as Truth to Power.
The new book will be officially launched Oct. 8, with proceeds going
to the Prairie Messenger Sustaining Fund.
In the process, the vision
of the book came into sharper focus, describes Britz. “I had some
that I had written on spiritual life, liturgy, the liturgical year,
sacraments — they took all those out and said these should go
into a later volume by themselves. I was a little upset at first, but
I think they were right.”
The editorials that were
finally chosen for inclusion in Truth to Power are grouped into chapters
on the Catholic press, the magisterium, the People of God, women and
the church, religious and priestly vocations, Pope John Paul II, Christian
unity and interfaith relationships, the ethic of life, the call to justice
and heroes of faith.
Issues addressed in some
of these editorials continue to resonate in today’s headlines,
he says, citing the placement of church structures and the reputation
of the priesthood ahead of victims, a recent statement equating the
sexual abuse crisis in the church with the ordination of women, and
ongoing debates about life issues.
It was his insistence about
the equality of men and women in the church that most concerned American
Catholic publishers about the book, notes Britz. “How can we think
that we can run the church without the feminine voice? It just makes
no sense whatsoever.”
Britz says he didn’t
initiate the book to get his ideas out, but as a way to help the Prairie
Messenger Sustaining Fund. “I thought the book was going to be
weaker than it is, and that people would buy it out of kindness to the
Prairie Messenger. But I think it’s a good book. The editorials
stand up very well.”
He adds that he is gratified
by the positive reaction the book is receiving. Sister Joan Chittister,
OSB, wrote the foreword for Truth to Power, and the book also includes
commentary by Dr. Mary Jo Leddy and Dr. John Thompson, helping to place
the material in context.
It is appropriate that the
publication of a newspaper has been part of the work of the Benedictines
at St. Peter’s Abbey, Britz notes. “I think that our Benedictine
spirituality is terrific for newspaper work. We are to pray with our
“The Second Vatican
Council said that religious life is to be prophetic; it is to open up
vistas for looking at things. We try do that with the Prairie Messenger,”
says Britz. “Yet I also tried to give a very strong message that
I was within the tradition of the church.”
He stresses that the work
of the church “is expressly to help us to get to know Jesus Christ,
who never talked dogma, who always talked parables and paradoxes.”
Born into a large farming
family in March 1940, Murray Britz took the name Andrew, professing
his vows as a Benedictine July 11, 1960.
He took over editorship of
the Prairie Messenger in 1983, a position he held until 2004 when present
editor Abbot Peter Novecosky took over. Parkinson’s disease has
taken its toll on Britz’s health in recent years, and he is now
retired from active ministry.
Britz says that Benedictine
spirituality permitted him to easily walk away from each task when the
“I came to understand
that religious life wasn’t a doing of one thing or another. It
was being,” Britz says. “St. Benedict in his rule says a
novice is not to work. He is to eat, sleep and meditate. St. Benedict
was afraid that a novice would come to find the meaning of his life
in what he did.”
Reflecting on his jubilee, Britz says he is optimistic about the future of religious life. “I am not afraid that religious life is going to die. It is going to come back. We have always done best after social disintegration. It will come in the Holy Spirit’s own time.”