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Bonaventura Duda was born in 1924 in Rijeka; he received his education in Rijeka, Varaždin, Zagreb and Rome; he has spent most of his life working at the Catholic Faculty of Theology and living in the Franciscan monastery next to the church of St. Francis in Zagreb (Kaptol 9).
This PhD thesis deals with the theological, journalistic and public work and speeches of Father Bonaventura Duda, OFM, through pastoral-catechetical aspect. The thesis covers the period from Bonaventura Duda's birth in 1924 to 2012 (actually October 11, 2012). This specific date was chosen since it is the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council which, as it's shown, has permanently marked Duda's theological work, both in the academic and practical sense.
Bonaventura Duda as a prominent Croatian Franciscan, member of the Croatian Franciscan province of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, theologian, biblicist, professor at the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Zagreb for many years, preacher, writer, poet and translator – to name only some of his functions – has had an important role in the life of the Church in Croatia in the second half of the twentieth century.
Since the author approaches his PhD thesis in a form of a monograph, the first chapter is actually Duda's biography put in the historical context of his lifetime. Duda is a well known person who has had a significant role not only in the Church, but also in the entire Croatian culture, especially when literacy is concerned, during the second half of the twentieth century, but there has not been an extensive study of his work and influence, so the author presents his life in total, searching for details from his early age, childhood and adolescence. He has worked within two different social and political systems (socialism in Yugoslavia and democracy in the Republic of Croatia) which influenced his writings. Duda's activities during the Homeland war in Croatia are analyzed as well. Merits of Duda's work within a team were shown in a number of biblical pastoral projects as well as in post-council initiatives. That was a good enough reason to introduce some of the persons he collaborated with, for example Marijan Jerko Fućak, Zorislav Lajoš, Tomislav Janko Šagi-Bunić, Josip Turčinović and Vjekoslav Bajsić. At the end of this section is a special chapter on Duda's work on canonization processes for several Croats who received the titles Blessed and Servant of God. These are, namely, Vendelin Vošnjak, Aleksa Benigar, Ante Antić, Alojzije Stepinac and Marica Stanković.
The second chapter is entitled Duda as a theologian and practitioner of the Second Vatican Council. The chapter discusses Duda's significant role in understanding and implementation of the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council in the territory of today's Republic of Croatia. The author studies Duda's written material and the emphasis put on the importance of the lay apostolate and the call to holiness of the people of God as well as Duda's role in a variety of council and post-council initiatives in the Republic of Croatia.
Due to so many details included in this chapter, the author analyzes it from several aspects within four topics. The first one deals with basic characteristics of the Council and its documents (especially Lumen gentium, Gaudium et spes and Apostolicam actuositatem) discussed in articles written by Duda. Dei Verbum as the dogmatic constitution on divine revelation is more discussed in the third chapter of the thesis since it is directly connected with Duda's biblical pastoral work. The second topic of this chapter covers Duda's articles on the importance of lay people as equal members of the people of God in the life and growth of the Church after Vatican II. Duda gradually “grows“ in this thought on lay apostolate so specific of the Second Vatican council. This is shown in his article Udio svih kršćana u Kristovu poslanju: svećeničkom, proročkom, kraljevskom (Role of all the Christians in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ) published in 1987 which is a summary and result of his earlier articles such as „Euharistija – čin božjeg naroda“ (The Eucharist – an act of the people of God), „Koncilska vizija Crkve“ (The Council vision of the Church) and „Opći poziv na svetost u Crkvi“ (The universal call to holiness in the Church). The article Role of all the Christians in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ was written as a lecture for the XXVIIth Theological-pastoral Week which was entitled “Shared responsibility of the lay faithful for the Church and world“, which meant that he sees our time as “the moment of laity.“ In this matter Duda was inspired by two chapters from Lumen gentium: the fourth chapter entitled The Laity and the fifth chapter entitled The Universal Call to Holiness as well as the Decree on the apostolate of laity Apostolicam actuositatem and the Pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes. By putting emphasis on the dignity, mission and task of the laity Duda in this extensive article gives dogmatic basis for a deeper and more productive understanding of the pastoral care as conceived by the Council.
The author has been using Duda's articles from his collection of papers Koncilske teme (The topics of the Council). The collection also includes his reviews on work and writings of the Council popes: Paul VI and John Paul II. Duda's comment on the inaugural encyclical of Pope Paul VI Ecclesiam suam about the importance of the dialogue is notable and it shows how seriously he took the Pope's call to the dialogue among all aspects of society and has been trying to apply it in his pastoral service.
The third topic of the second chapter emphasizes some practical initiatives Duda was a part of in the Church in Croatia initiated by the Council or their content was inspired by the Council ideas. The first initiative was starting Glas Koncila (The Voice of the Council), the only Catholic weekly newspaper in Croatian. As one of the initiators Duda came up with the name Glas Koncila. The second initiative was the Theological-pastoral Week, an annual gathering of mostly priests from all over what was then Yugoslavia. Today that Week is an opportunity for priests from Croatia and the Croatian communities that have formed outside Croatia to meet. Duda has always actively participated in it. The third one is Duda's involvement in starting Kršćanska sadašnjost publishing house which has had a significant role, especially in the time of communism not only in the territory of former Yugoslavia, but also in Eastern European countries.
The third chapter has a title The role and significance of Bonaventura Duda in the biblical pastoral care in the Croatian speaking area. At the beginning the author shows the crucial document on the Bible produced by the Council, the dogmatic constitution on divine revelation Dei verbum, especially its sixth chapter Sacred Scripture in the Life of the Church. That text closely relates the biblical-pastoral and catechetical awakening after the Second Vatican Council the influence of which could be felt in the Croatian speaking area thanks to the Bible editions Duda worked on.
The author also presents another important document, The interpretation of the Bible in the Church by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which provided a defined framework, content and definition of the biblical pastoral care in all its aspects. This document in its fourth chapter entitled The interpretation of the Bible in the Church offers pastoral-catechetical guidelines which are methodological framework of the chapter. These are: liturgy, lectio divina, pastoral service and ecumenism. Duda has been active within all four aspects of biblical pastoral care. At this point the author emphasizes his biblical apostolate which includes the translation of the Bible into Croatian, formation of biblical study groups, giving lectures, publishing articles, magazines with biblical themes and books.
The translation of the Bible into modern Croatian language has been extremely important. Duda had already proved to be a great translator with his work on less demanding, as quantity is concerned, harmony of the Gospels. After that in the turbulent year of 1968, Duda used the chance of several positive opportunities, recognized the pastoral kairos and formed a team which would work on a new contemporary translation of the entire Bible.
Even today we are impressed how fast this enormous translation work was done. The initial meetings and arrangements started during the first months of 1967, the translation process started on 1 May 1967 and the first copy of the translation was released on 20 September 1968. On the same day it was sent to Rome where Cardinal Franjo Šeper presented it to Pope Paul VI.
In this chapter the author shows the importance of this major edition of the Bible for the evangelization in Croatia. The author leaves for the biblicists to give their final, expert assessment of the value of the translation and emphasizes the pastoral component and the relevance that this translation has brought in the Croatian (biblical) pastoral care.
It is an indisputable fact that this translation was inspired by Dei verbum; reading the Bible is not possible without (quality) translations. “Easy access to Sacred Scripture should be provided for all the Christian faithful“ (DV 22). The Zagreb Bible, as Duda himself named it, contributed to the great liturgical, pastoral, catechetical and basic biblical uplift in the country. The author writes about a number of friars who were involved in translating the Bible throughout history including Duda and his fellow priest Jerko Fućak who were the key drivers of the project.
The importance of this translation is also in the fact that it started and made easier printing and publishing a great number of books crucial for liturgical and pastoral practice: lectionaries, books of hours, a variety of professional and catechetical literature with biblical themes.
The two translations, harmony of the Gospels and the Zagreb Bible, Duda worked on were used in a Croatian version of the American book entitled The Bible for boys and girls by Joseph E. Kreuse (St. Thomas College, St. Paul, Minnesota) and dr. Samuel Terren (Union Theological Seminary, New York). He also worked on a Croatian version of The Illustrated Bible for the youth (Kršćanska sadašnjost, 1968), which was later sold in a million copies when translated into a number of Eastern European languages, including Russian. In this way Duda has indirectly contributed to the knowledge of the Bible among children and youth.
All this leads to Duda's activities in the field of the biblical catechesis which was a quite unknown theme in Croatian catechetics before the Second Vatican Council. His extensive article Biblical basis of the catechetics from 1965 is analyzed by the author who also presents his work on a number of catechetical textbooks used at the time religious education was not offered as an optional subject in schools as well as when it was returned to the education system with the establishment of democracy in Croatia. For example, he co-authored the textbook Snagom Duha (By the Power of the Spirit).
The fourth chapter is entitled Activities in the evangelization by the written and spoken word. Firstly, the author emphasizes Duda's homiletics. Along with the other works of the Church's magisterium at the beginning of this chapter the author refers to a significant text from the inaugural encyclical of Paul VI Ecclesiam suam. In it the Pope says: “No other form of communication can take its place; not even the exceptionally powerful and effective means provided by modern technology… In effect, the apostolate and sacred preaching are more or less synonymous terms. Preaching is the primary apostolate”(Ecclesiam suam 93). In this sense Duda has also had an outstanding influence. His comments and reflections on Sunday liturgy readings used to be released in highly circulated Liturgijsko-pastoralni listić (Liturgical and pastoral pamphlet) which were later published in a form of trilogy, Sijač je Sin čovječji, Sjeme je riječ Božja, U plemenitu srcu. The trilogy was released in several editions.
The guiding thought of all his activities in the evangelization is the image of God who loves man. It is also depicted in his reflections on the liturgical reading 1 Cor 4,15 (8th Sunday of the A year): “However, the basic message of the epistle can be put in the theme of this Sunday: God's messengers, apostles and preachers are a form of God's fatherly (motherly) care for his faithful. At least it should be like that. Our parish priests, catechists, all members of religious orders should think about it! Can people recognize us as fathers or mothers in our pastoral and catechetical service? Do we serve them as brothers and sisters, as human beings?“
There are somewhat fewer records on Duda's holding numerous spiritual retreats in Croatia and abroad, to groups of priests and nuns of various orders and congregations as well as to groups of active Catholic lay people. It is also a specific kind of apostolate typical for Bonaventura Duda. From the available records one can see that he is very familiar with The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius to which he added his Franciscan touch.
At this point the author shows Duda's writing ability to find what is an average Croatian believer interested in. However, his writing is never trivially nor superficially “pious.“ Accordingly, his topics range from the popular piety (Blessed Virgin Mary, Christmas), extensive pastoral studies, to more challenging topics such as death and eternal life. The author analyzes the following Duda's topics:
- Mariology; pastoral issues of two largest Croatian national Marian sanctuaries - Marija Bistrica and Trsat; attitudes on the Međugorje phenomenon, mariology of John Paul II - Christmas cycle, mystery of death and eternal life - Major themes of Franciscan spirituality
Many of these topics have caught attention of the media. Since he was one of the initiators of the biggest Croatian Catholic newspaper Glasa Koncila (The Voice of the Council) he may also be considered a journalist, but it is much more important to notice his contribution in many other Catholic publications. Over time, especially after the fall of communism, he, like no other Croatian priest and theologian, has stepped out of the framework of the Church press and has been present in the secular media as well. He has also written for some professional journals, for example Vijenac, a monthly cultural magazine, and some Croatian daily newspapers with largest circulation such as Večernji list, Jutarnji list, Slobodna Dalmacija and Novi list.
Duda has been there in all kinds of the media: electronic media, radio and television. In the archives of the Croatian Radio the author found a list of programs and shows Duda participated in. An overview of his shows at the Croatian Catholic Radio and Radio Maria Croatia is also provided. Duda was one of the first Catholic priests that has ever appeared on TV, especially during communism in the eighties of the twentieth century. Duda has also recognized the importance of the film industry and its role in the evangelization so in a manner of a real film critic he worked on two well known films with Christian themes: Jesus Christ Superstar and Jesus from Nazareth. Finally, in 2009 the Croatian Television produced a very interesting documentary film entitled Manji brat fra Bonaventura Duda (Friar Minor Fr. Bonaventura Duda).
If you Google for Bonaventura Duda, you will get about 105 000 different websites, photos, clips or texts mentioning his name. This information becomes even more impressive when you realize that Duda does not really use the Internet, including e-mail, as he confirmed to the author. Nevertheless, even inadvertently he accepts the suggestion made by the Pontifical Council for Public Communications to search the Internet and study the published material in order to create anthropology and theology of communication which will analyze the changes caused by the modern media. We can also find him in the Wikipedia, the largest online encyclopedia; there is a whole gallery of his photos on the Internet and you can also check video clips of him on Youtube.
As multimedia is concerned two CDs stand out, Ljudskost Božića and Ja Bogu povjerih svoj štap with texts from Duda's books released under the same titles. He also contributed to the evangelization of the blind who depend exclusively on audio biblical readings. The foundation Čujem, vjerujem, vidim with the project called Soba susreta by Mirko Hrkač who is also the editor of the Audio Bible in Croatian and a member of the Zamisli association, the entire Bible (The Jerusalem Bible published by Kršćanska sadašnjost) was audio recorded in 2008. Duda was one of the supporters and presenters of this worthy project for the blind in Croatia. The same foundation also released a CD entitled Božić. Iz Božićnog klupka fra Bonaventure Dude. These two projects put Duda among rare Croatian priests who made real contribution in the evangelization of persons with special needs, the visually impaired and blind persons in this case. Duda is a musician as well; he plays the organ and composes music. In 2002 his CD Dušo Kristova posveti me – Glazba moje duše (Soul of Christ santify me – Music of my soul) was released. The album contains 14 compositions for mixed and male choirs, one for a female choir, one for solo and an entire Mass composed for a male choir.
The last chapter of this PhD thesis is entitled The New Evangelization. Duda is presented as one of the pioneers of the new evangelization in Croatia both with his writing on the apostolate of the whole people of God in the evangelization and with his constant efforts to implement faith into culture. When talking about the evangelization which is directed to the complete christianization we can tell that Duda's work genuinely corresponds to what is called
“full evangelization“ which does not neglect catechesis, morality, social doctrine and, above all, sacramental-liturgical life which has remained to be Duda's permanent preoccupation. It seems that Duda's continuous contact with the God's word and his openness to the ways the God's word can be relevant in the modern society and in the Church in general is his “recipe“ for being a prolific theologian and a real evangelist. Although Duda does not directly speak much about the new evangelization, through his writing, public speaking and pastoral activities he actually promotes it in Croatia in the way it was suggested by Paul VI and John Paul II.
In the conclusion the author says that Duda may be best described as an amazed disciple of Christ from the school of St. Francis who has grown through his theological, primarily biblical and ecclesiastical knowledge to become the frontrunner in a number of pastoral and evangelizing efforts in the Church in Croatia. Simply, in his work he has been concentrated on the person of Jesus Christ who is the bringer of the truth about God and man. This is evident from his answer when asked who is Jesus Christ for him: “For me (and for all genuine people) Jesus Christ is the revelation of God to man and the revelation of God by man.“ That makes him a person who is in a dialogue with the eternal Beauty, its reflection and the present. As a poet and novelist he has left us some powerful words that will last and, just as importantly, they will keep influencing many of his contemporaries.