LATROBE, PA – Elizabeth Elin, a rising sophomore at Saint Vincent College, recently placed third nationally in the annual Student Essays in Christian Wisdom Competition sponsored by The Living Church Foundation.
Elin, a theology major from Terrace Park, Ohio, and the daughter of Rev. Darren and Sarah Elin, addressed Saint Benedict’s interpretation of humility in her essay entitled “University Accessible and Innately Personal: The Significance of Relationship in Saint Benedict’s Humility.”
“I was apprehensive about Benedict’s notion of humility during my first reading of The Rule of Saint Benedict,” stated Elin. “I began working with Fr. Nathan Munsch, O.S.B., on an independent study of Benedictine Heritage in January and was naturally drawn back to this chapter. As humility is one of the pivotal Benedictine virtues, I wanted to study this chapter further in order to better understand this virtue which is so central to the Rule and to Benedictine life.”
Upon her first reading of The Rule of Saint Benedict, Elin was struck by Benedict’s strict interpretation of the notion of humility, one which “praises someone content with the lowest and most menial treatment, someone who is convinced in his heart that he is inferior to all and of less value and someone who judges himself always guilty on account of his sins.”
Said Elin, “I realized that many of my original reactions to the chapter were because I, like many other modern readers, applied the current definition of humility to an ancient text. Beginning with my initial unease surrounding this chapter, I depict this fundamental shift toward a stronger understanding of Benedict’s mentality, one that is more consistent with modern mindsets.”
In crafting her essay, Elin analyzed Benedict’s text alongside The Rule of the Master, an earlier, ancient rule that was one of his biggest influences.
“Redaction analysis between the two Rules offers a rich insight into Benedict’s notion of humility,” she explained, “characterized not as an antiquated and acerbic virtue, but as an ever-evolving personal relationship with God.”
Elin was encouraged to enter the Living Church Foundation’s essay competition by Dr. Lucas Briola, assistant professor of theology.
“I had first heard of the essay competition from an Anglican theologian friend who happens to run the website for The Living Church,” said Briola. “Elizabeth seemed to be an especially strong fit for the competition. I recommended that she submit her essay, and she did so with enthusiasm.”
Briola was effusive in praising Elin, a 2019 Wimmer Scholar and Benedictine Leadership Studies fellow.
“As a student grounded in our Benedictine heritage, Elizabeth has become a lover of the sacred text,” Briola said. “It’s a love that the theology department hopes to cultivate and encourage. Supported by her facility with languages, that love has already shined through in this essay as well as in her classwork, which so frequently goes over and beyond the call of duty. That she placed in a competition designed primarily for upperclass and graduate students speaks to her diligence and talent as a burgeoning writer and scholar with pastoral sensitivity.”
Elin says that she was surprised when she learned of her high placement in the essay competition and credited the SVC theology faculty for providing her with a strong foundation in understanding Benedictine heritage and history, which proved invaluable in crafting her essay.
“During my first semester at SVC,” she recounted, “conversations with Dr. Catherine Petrany introduced me to my passion for scriptural study and biblical translation. This passion for theological textual analysis is what led to this paper, which I wrote during the spring semester while working with Fr. Nathan. I was privileged to work with him and learn from his wisdom and expertise. He introduced me to a wide range of scholarship on the Rule and other ancient rules - like the Rule of the Master - and redaction analysis.
“Beyond traditional study, the unique community of Saint Vincent and my engaging professors have allowed me to develop my own work and to further nurture my passions.”
After seeing her freshman year capped off by earning national recognition for her work, Elin is excited to see what lies ahead in her Saint Vincent career.
“My experience at Saint Vincent College has been wonderful,” she said. “The encouragement, wisdom and support of my professors has been invaluable. I loved my first year at Saint Vincent and look forward to three more excellent years.”
PHOTO: Elizabeth Elin
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