Monday, February 1, 2010

The Vision, Part V

The following phrase finally rounds out the first sentence of the 'Vision Statement':

and is rooted in the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

Everyone cognizant of basic Catholic doctrine does not need to be told that the Church is nurtured on the twin fonts of revelation - Scripture and Tradition. It is good to have this as part of the very first sentence of the Vision because many people are not aware of this. Perhaps some have come to believe that Scripture alone is sufficient for Christian discipleship, or, even worse, a very loose sense of the "message of Jesus."

The Church's teaching is clear and inspires a whole community to commitment to the work of Christ. As a convert I am always thankful for the helps He has provided through His Church. His message is liberating for its clarity. One needn't hide behind, nor be handicapped by, the vagueness of "if I only knew His will..." The Church is a perfect society, a complete culture. We live that out in the Academy, moving beyond that reductivistic sense of moralism so familiar today, to avail ourselves of that immense deposit of spiritual and cultural wealth found in the Church. 21st Century life in the Church is less discovery than rediscovery. The parallels to be found between this day and that of the Fathers is that of a mirror reflection: a resemblance of opposites, so to speak. Like them, our Church life is a minimalism moving toward cultural comprehensiveness, all the while never over-confident that its task will ever be fully-realized. That does not matter. The novelty and excitement of discovery/re-discovery is part of the age-old cycle of reformation of Christian life that we've always known. If sometimes we go too far in our vigour and make idols of peripheries, we are yet firmly established in our doctrine of the perpetual need for reform.

I could append at this moment a particular wish that I feel exemplifies everything I've been saying here. At OLSWA all of our classrooms have been placed under the patronage of a particular saint - all good patrons for scholarly endeavours as you could well imagine. I've been trying to get a statue for the St. Augustine classroom - something between 1 and 2 feet tall, nothing too fancy, just something to help us live out our communion with this great saint. There is nothing in the room to make you think of St. Augustine. Ever since we moved out the book shelves the room is a lovely and neat echo-chamber. SOMEONE PLEASE DONATE A STATUE OF SAINT AUGUSTINE TO THE ACADEMY - I would be ever so grateful!

Many would consider that in its essence a classroom is a room endowed with various learning devices, like PowerPoint projectors, etc. And while those things are nice, isn't it far more significant a thing when a classroom is out-fitted in such a way that the profundity of the task at hand is obviated? And what kind of communion in purpose might a bust of Plato or a photograph of Wittgenstein or Einstein denote, when one would need necessarily to part company at a very basic level with their moral presentiments? For, to admire a mind yet to detest a way of life is to draw a not insignificant distinction, and such an approach would describe the intellectual endeavour at its heart. Something in man makes him insist that the good and true go hand in hand. That Newton and Einstein must have been saintly is a corollary of pagan faith, that they must have been secular saints. That Voltaire must have been interested in the thoughts of others despite him, seems self-evident. Truth be told, he wasn't.

I look to the communion of saints to explain something of our rootedness in the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is not the minimalism of asking what exactly does Veritatis Splendor , for instance, proscribe and what not. It is a way of life availing itself of all the resources of a two thousand-year romance with divine grace. The perfect society that is the Church is a union of wills determined upon a common end. It is the life that emerges with the beholding of the Good. It is not accidental that the way of the Church is wide, admitting of so many approaches to that very Good. OLSWA has always intentionally avoided identifying itself with a single spirituality, of a single spiritual tradition. For instance, it sees in its commitment to the philosophy of St. Thomas, not a competition among schools, the better over the lesser, but, rather, it sees in it an obedience to the Church herself, who, by means of repeated papal articulations, has pointed to Aquinas as the primus inter pares (first among equals), presenting him as a key resource, not by which to judge ever other hallowed resource, but as a basic point of orientation by which we gain the very language that enables us to comprehend every other thing. Thomas is a source of freedom inasmuch as all instruments honed with precision liberate a man from the weakness and clumsiness of his own hands.

Dominus vobiscum.

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