“…Culture must be made to bear on the integral perfection of the human person, and on the good of the community and the whole society. Therefore the human spirit must be cultivated in such a way that there results a growth in the ability to wonder, to understand, to contemplate, to make personal judgments, and to develop a religious, moral, and social sense… Because it flows immediately from our spiritual and social nature, culture has constant need of a just freedom to develop… also (it) needs the legitimate possibility of exercising its independence according to its own principles. It demands respect and enjoys a certain inviolability at least as long as the rights of the individual community, whether particular or universal, are preserved within the context of the common good” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes, Vatican Council II, 1965)
Assumption University’s Christian Culture Series anticipated Gaudium et Spes by 30 years. Since its founding in 1934 by Father Stanley Murphy, C.S.B. the Series has understood “culture” as a universal, holistic, and integrated way of being of the human person. Promoting Christian culture, it has continuously shown an openness and receptivity that balances tradition and contemporary relevance. Guests have included Church leaders, theologians, scientists, historians, poets, novelists, artists, political figures and economists.
The Christian Culture Award Gold Medal is bestowed annually on an “outstanding exponent of Christian ideals.” Father Murphy and Father W. J. Guinan, C.S.B., then President of Assumption College, co-founded the Award as an outgrowth of the Christian Culture Series to highlight the accomplishments of lay Christians.
In 1941 the first Gold Medal was awarded to Sigrid Undset, the famed Norwegian Nobel Prize novelist and refugee from the Nazis. Since that time the list of those awarded the Gold Medal shows how prestigious it has become. Past recipients include Jacques Maritain, Robert Speaight, Paul Martin, Sr., Dorothy Day, William Kurelek, Marshal McLuhan, Barbara Ward, Jean Chrétien, John Polanyi, Sandra Schneiders, and Paul Martin, Jr..
The Medal depicts a human hand and a mustard plant with the inscription in Latin, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed.” The hand suggests the human co-operation expected by God in the coming of the Kingdom. The mustard plant is used by Jesus as a symbol of the Kingdom’s power to grow. On the back of the Medal is inscribed the name of the Medallist and the year and the words, “Christian Culture Award, Assumption University.”