Colleagues and students of Fr. R. Kevin Seasoltz, OSB, vividly remember his sayings and exclamations, his stories and knowledge of people and events, and his ability to weave together the arts, liturgy, and social science.
Fr. Seasoltz, a monk of St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota, died April 27, 2013. He leaves a rich legacy from his decades as an educator, author, liturgical scholar, and editor of Worship.
"His passing is an inestimable loss to his family and friends, as well as to his many students and colleagues, especially those engaged in liturgical and theological studies," said Nathan Mitchell, professor emeritus in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, and for twenty years, the author of the "Amen Corner" in Worship.
Seasoltz's former students are members of more than one generation, as he began teaching in the School of Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America (CUA) in 1962 and retired from teaching at St. John's University, Collegeville, in 2008. The students at CUA, where he was one of the founders of the Liturgical Studies Program, along with Msgr. Frederick McManus and Gerard Austin, OP, included Scripture scholar Mary Collins, OSB, and Catherine Dooley, OP, former professor of catechetics and liturgy at CUA. Other students minister on campuses, and in parishes and dioceses.
No matter if the student was one Seasoltz taught in the 1960s, or the first decade of the twenty-first century, he was a presence in their lives. "He always wore his OSB habit, and it made him seem even taller than he was," said Dooley, adding, "He was always well-prepared. . . . If you went into the class thinking this was going to be boring, you changed your mind very quickly."
Perhaps it was Seasoltz's knowledge of a breadth of subjects that entranced. "I remain today in awe of his ability to synthesize material and connect so many disciplines together," said Timothy Johnston, the assistant director for liturgical programs in Campus Ministry at Marquette University. Or perhaps students were impressed by what Seasoltz could perceive in them. "Fr. Kevin had a keen awareness of my pastoral sense and strongly encouraged me to pursue pastoral liturgy in order to share my own passion for liturgy and catechesis," Johnston said.
Within and outside the classroom, the professor's liturgical sensibilities and prayer life were noticed. Austin recalled that, in developing the curriculum at CUA, Seasoltz insisted on courses in ritual theory and in liturgy and culture. "He was always sensitive to the need of including liturgical performance in our search for liturgical meaning," Austin said.
Johnston noted that Seasoltz's care with liturgy. "It always seemed to me that he knew the impact the liturgical act had on individuals and communities as long as they remained open to the power of the Holy Spirit stirring in their midst. He desired so much to share this with his students and to walk with us so that we, too, could discover more deeply God's 'gift-giving' in our lives."
He was careful, too, with his words and his work. Mitchell noted, "He was a wonderful and kind companion along my 'Amen Corner' journey, and an excellent copyeditor. As editor of Worship, Kevin reminds me of Jesus's words: 'The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened' (Matthew 13:33)."
Seasoltz leaves to his former students, and those who will discover him through his words, the gifts of his books, among them, A Virtuous Church: Catholic Theology, Ethics, and Liturgy for the 21st Century (Orbis, 2012), A Sense of the Sacred: Theological Foundations of Christian Art and Architecture (Continuum, 2005), and God's Gift-Giving: In Christ and through the Spirit (Continuum, 2007).
To those with whom he lived in community, he left his sense of the monastic life. Fr. Alan Bouley, OSB, said that at St. John's, Seasoltz, "brought the gift of himself to us, a large community of monastic brothers and priests involved with many gifts."
He continued, "Kevin's anchor was living the monastic life here day in and day out: regular, active presence at the Liturgy of the Hours and at the Eucharist. Presiding at Mass with simple grace, attentive to the assembly, and preaching with measured gravity and with images and parables drawn from story, literature, and life. Thoughtful participation in issues and decisions before the monastic chapter. Serving at table, being mentor to younger monks and graduate students, spiritual director to many. Occasional chauffeur to the ill or elderly. Gentle, affable, good-humored—most of the time—and inquisitive.
"He was a faithful and faith-filled monk who lived the life without fanfare. All the rest: considerable success as scholar, teacher, writer, lecturer, retreat presenter, editor of Worship, was icing on the cake."