Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Challenge for Today and Tomorrow

   Last week I asked a new graduate if her Catholic university had prepared her to be an effective Catholic in today's society.  She answered that she was happy with her major, and then added that she had also been taught the principles of social justice.  I asked her if her university had correlated her major with the principles of society justice and with her Catholic life.  She said, "No."  

  Also last week, Sister Joan Chittister said she doesn't use the term, "social justice."  "It's life!" she exclaimed. St. Paul said that life is Christ, and to live is Christ. (Phil. 1:21; Col. 3:4).  So, as Sr. Joan might put it, the student's university did not give her an education and formation in life and in Christ.    

   I believe that Catholic education should be a comprehensive academic formation of students in the mind and heart of Christ, who is the entire universe united to divinity.  Every subject, every major, is an expression of what it means to be human, and more deeply, an expression of Christ, whose Spirit is present in the the entire world, in every person, and in every subject and every major.  And all should be correlated into one, living, effective whole.  I realize that no Catholic college or university would say anything like that, even if they believed it, for fear of losing students, and possibly non-Catholic faculty and government grants.  So, am I expecting too much?     

   In speaking of education, Vatican II goes beyond having a Catholic university teach the "secular" subjects and then also theology.  Giving full respect to the validity of the human mind operating according to natural reason, the council says:
      ...the subjects should be pursued according to their own principles, methods and
    liberty of scientific inquiry, in such a way that an ever deeper understanding in these
    fields may be obtained and that, as questions that are new and current are raised
    and investigations carefully made according to the example of the doctors of the
   Church and especially of St. Thomas Aquinas, there may be a deeper realization
    of the harmony of faith and science.  (Emphasis mine).  Thus there is accomplished
    a public, enduring and pervasive influence of the Christian mind in the furtherance
    of culture, and the students of these institutions are molded into men and women
    truly outstanding in their training, ready to undertake weighty responsibilities in
    society and witness to the faith in the world.  (Emphasis mine)  
                                                                                      Declaration on Christian Education, No. 10 

       When the council speaks of attaining a deeper understanding of the various academic fields according to the example of the doctors of the church, and especially of St. Thomas Aquinas, I recall that my professor, Bernard Lonergan, at the Gregorian University in Rome,
once noted that if Thomas were alive today he would not be talking about substances and accidents but rather about quantum physics, black holes and event horizons.  To which I add that if Jesus were alive today, he would dress like us and no doubt own a tee shirt that said,
E = mc2.

   Finally, it would be ideal if today's graduates would move into parishes where their education continued to be correlated with their developing spiritual maturity so they could begin to affect today's society and culture in a spiritually positive way.  But this is not realistic.  So the job falls upon those of us who are older.  I invite the readers of this blog to engage the new graduates in the challenge of using their education to become discerning and prophetic Christians.  You can use the various pages of the blog as Reference material to help guide the conversation.  In today's society and church, it is really up to us, not only to be the 21st century expressions of Christ that we are empowered and responsible to be, but also to help those who will build tomorrow's society and culture.

   I'd like to hear from you on this.



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