Feast of Godfrey Diekmann (April 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint John’s Abbey Church, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota

Image Source = Library of Congress

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GODFREY LEO DIEKMANN, O.S.B. (APRIL 7, 1908-FEBRUARY 22, 2002)

U.S. Roman Catholic Monk, Priest, Ecumenist, Theologian, and Liturgical Scholar

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Heaven is eternal, supreme life–not just eternal rest.

–Father Godfrey Diekmann, O.S.B.

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Father Godfrey Diekmann comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006).

Diekmann, a life-long Roman Catholic, helped to pull his Church forward while remaining ahead of it.

Leo Diekmann grew up a Roman Catholic.  He, born in Roscoe (near Collegeville), Minnesota, on April 7, 1908, was one of eight children of Rosalie Loxtercamp (Diekmann) and John Conrad Diekmann, a teacher.  Our saint’s juvenile faith, which extended into his novitiate, emphasized being afraid of God.  Diekmann studied at Saint John’s Preparatory School and University, Collegeville, Minnestota.  He joined the Order of Saint Benedict as a novice at age 17, at Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville.  Diekmann’s novice master taught him a healthy Christian faith rooted in the peace of God and in the Church as the mystical body of Christ.

In 1829, the Order of Saint Benedict sent Diekmann to Rome, to study for the priesthood and to work on his doctorate.  Our saint, renamed Godfrey (“the peace of God”), made his final wows at the monastery of Monte Cassino on July 11, 1929.  Our saint, ordained a priest on June 28, 1931, earned his doctorate then returned to Collegeville in 1933.

There he lived for the rest of his life.  From 1933 to 1938, Diekmann served as the assistant editor (under Virgil Michel) of Orate Fratres (later Worship).  Then, in 1938, our saint became the editor.  Diekmann also began to teach, a profession he pursued until he retired in 1995.  At first, he taught religion and German literature at the Preparatory School.  The following year, our saint began to teach at the theological seminary.  The professor of theology was a talented classroom instructor whose exuberance made his classes

explosive intellectual adventures.

Diekmann’s influence extended far beyond Collegeville, Minnesota.  He, a pioneer of liturgical reform, along with his mentor, Virgil Michel (1890-1938), advocated for vernacular language in liturgy.  Our saint also favored inclusive language in liturgy.  Diekmann helped to draft the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy for the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II).  He also founded the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, served on the Consilium for Implementing the Liturgical Reforms of Vatican II, and was a consultant to the American Bishops Committee on the Liturgy.

Diekmann was also an ecumenist.  He, active in the National Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue, helped to found the Ecumenical Institute of Spirituality.  Our saint also founded the Ecumenical Institute for Advanced Theological Studies, Tantur, Israel.

Diekmann’s spirituality included social justice.  For example, he marched with the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., at Selma, Alabama, in 1965.  The monk-priest carried a banner that read,

SELMA IS IN MINNESOTA, TOO.

Diekmann was too progressive for some elements in his Church sometimes.  The Catholic University of America temporarily barred him from teaching summer courses in 1962.  Year later, however, the same institution gave him an honorary doctorate.  He responded to this reversal by saying,

I believe in the Holy Spirit.

Diekmann’s support for married clergy in the Latin Rite has remained mostly ahead of its time.  He also favored the ordination of women.

Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary opened the Godfrey Diekmann, O.S.B., Center for Patristics and Liturgical Studies in 1997.

Diekmann, ill for years, died at Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, on February 22, 2002.  He was 93 years old.

“Fear of God” is an unfortunate Biblical translation.  The correct rendering is “awe of God,” in the full sense of “awe.”  Such awe properly inspires humility before God and a sense of wonder at the divine.  This description fits the faith to which Diekmann came and in which he spent most of his life.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 22, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HANS SCHOLL, AND CHRISTOPH PROBST, ANTI-NAZI MARTYRS AT MUNICH, GERMANY, 1943

THE FEAST OF BERNHARDT SEVERIN INGEMANN, DANISH LUTHERAN AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HOPPER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET OF CORONA, PENITENT AND FOUNDRESS OF THE POOR ONES

THE FEAST OF SAINT PRAETEXTATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ROUEN

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Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Godfrey Diekmann)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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