Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Abbot Astrik L. Gabriel, O.Praem., 1907-2005.

I never met Astrik Gabriel, though I would’ve enjoyed the opportunity. A leading light of Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute for over half a century, Father Gabriel died yesterday at age 97. A Norbertine priest (his abbatial title was purely honorary), Gabriel made his mark as a scholar in his native Hungary in the 1930’s and ‘40’s before the Soviet domination of his country forced him into exile. Gabriel found a new home at Notre Dame, a school then just beginning its transformation from a small, sheltered enclave school to a modern research university. When Gabriel joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1948, the university was known as a center of Neo-Scholasticism and routinely played host to émigré scholars like Etienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain. At Gabriel’s death Notre Dame stands, in Peter Steinfels’ apt description, as a kind of crossroads of global Catholicism as well as an academic powerhouse; the intellectual heirs of Gilson and Maritain still find a welcome on campus, but so too do scholars representing a broad variety of disciplines and opinions. Today’s student body and faculty are a lot larger and in many ways more diverse than they were when Gabriel arrived on the campus, and Notre Dame is counted among the top ranks of American universities. As the ND press release announcing his death effectively conveys, in a period of constant change Astrik Gabriel served as a vivid representative of a bygone era. “An unmistakable presence on campus and in the restaurants of South Bend, Dr. Gabriel spoke English with a thick Hungarian accent, a booming voice and the imperious tone of an extinguished aristocracy. He loved good food, fine wine and talkative companionship.” Astrik Gabriel lived through an important period in Notre Dame’s history, and along the way he won a place in the select ranks of legendary campus characters. Ave atque vale. AMDG.


At May 18, 2005 8:11 PM, Blogger Sean Salai, S.J. said...

The world is quickly running out of Hungarians! Szuz Maria konyorogj erettunk.

Szalai Janos nSJ

At May 19, 2005 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the note, Joe.

Ave atque vale indeed!

At May 22, 2005 9:15 PM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Sean -

Hungary has a great tradition of turning out brilliant priest-scholars. I've met a few of them in my limited acquaintance with the Society, and there are quite a few outside the Jesuits (e.g., the Cistercians in Dallas). Maybe you can help keep the tradition alive - any interest in becoming a medievalist or a theologian?

At May 24, 2005 2:08 PM, Blogger Sean Salai, S.J. said...

Joe, I hadn't thought about it. I only have third cousins over there anyway. ;)


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