“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know Himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”–St. John Paul II Preface to Fides et Ratio
Fides et Ratio Reflections
At the conclusion of Section 42 of Fides et Ratio, Pope St. John Paul II underscores the unity of the two wings of knowing truth: “The fundamental harmony between the knowledge of faith and the knowledge of philosophy is once again confirmed. Faith asks that its object be understood with the help of reason; and at the summit of its searching reason acknowledges that it cannot do without what faith presents” (#42).
The Holy Father then offers a poignant paean to the great exemplar of the two wings with “The enduring originality of the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas” (#43):
“A quite special place in this long development belongs to Saint Thomas,” St. John Paul II notes, “not only because of what he taught but also because of the dialogue which he undertook with the Arab and Jewish thought of his time. In an age when Christian thinkers were rediscovering the treasures of ancient philosophy, and more particularly of Aristotle, Thomas had the great merit of giving pride of place to the harmony which exists between faith and reason (emphasis added). Both the light of reason and the light of faith come from God, he argued; hence there can be no contradiction between them” (#43).
With St. Thomas, we pray to employ the two wings: “Grant me O Lord, my God, a mind to know You, a heart to seek You, wisdom to find You, conduct pleasing to You, faithful perseverance in waiting for You, and a hope of finally embracing You.”
It’s About Time
“As explorers, we don’t do anything alone.” –Polar explorer Ann Bancroft
St. Paul native Ann Bancroft—not to be confused with Hollywood actress Anne Bancroft (d. 2005)—spoke on January 24 at the annual Winter Celebration of the Barry Foundation at NDSU’s Richard Barry Hall. I attended the event and was delighted to meet someone whose courage and perseverance I have long admired. I was fascinated with her story and the meaning of it.
Ann is the first woman to reach the north pole (by walking and dog sled) and the first woman to reach the north and south poles by traversing the polar ice caps.
As a girl she loved the exploring the outdoors and dreamed of expeditions of adventure and discovery—especially dogsledding to the North Pole. Though she struggled with school as a dyslexic, she became a Phys Ed and Special Ed elementary school teacher in the Twin Cities. In 1986, she took a leave of absence to pursue her dream of a polar trek.
At her Tuesday talk, I especially enjoyed the analogies Ann drew between teaching and exploring.
Believe it or not, she said that being an elementary school teacher was perfect preparation for a dog sled trip to the top of the world. Like the students in your classroom, she observed, each dog is unique: they have personalities; some are mischievous; they don’t always get along; they have “besties”; they need motivation; and they are adorable. She learned to approach them with a team-building spirit so their collaboration and perseverance would grow.
Teaching, Ann also observed, is like exploring because neither process “happens quickly… you just keep plodding on” day after day to reach the goal.
Ann was also grateful for the difference one teacher can make in a student’s life. “I wouldn’t be here today if a certain teacher hadn’t advocated for me when I didn’t have a voice,” she acknowledged.
As we observe Catholic Schools Week next week, let’s remember and celebrate the teamwork required for the success of our mission. After all, we don’t do anything alone.
St. Thomas Aquinas
Tomorrow, we remember St. Thomas Aquinas, which is always a doubly delicious delight for our Catholic schools. For he is Patron Saint of Students and of Catholic Schools, and his January 28 feast day is either in or near Catholic Schools Week each year.
At age five, he asked the question of his teacher, “What is God?” He spent the rest of his life pursuing the answer to that question.
(I don’t know about you, but at age five I was asking, “When’s recess?” and “What’s for lunch?”)
Above all, St. Thomas Aquinas sought and taught the truth. In that quest, he exemplified the way we describe our core value of learning: “We value and promote the love of learning and pursuit of academic excellence, confidently seeking to know the truth about God and all creation.” A brilliant thinker, he is renowned as “The Apostle of Truth.”
One of the greatest joys and blessings of Catholic education is that focus on the truth and helping our students seek it and live by it. We, too, are called to be “Apostles of Truth” in imitation of St. Thomas.
Hence our emphasis on hiring and forming staff members who will participate in that beautiful mission that comes to us from Christ and the Apostles.
With our students in mind, let us pray “A Student’s Prayer” by St. Thomas Aquinas:
Creator of all things, true source of light and wisdom, origin of all being, graciously let a ray of Your light penetrate the darkness of my understanding. Take from me the double darkness in which I have been born, an obscurity of sin and ignorance. Give me a keen understanding, a retentive memory, and the ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally. Grant me the talent of being exact in my explanations and the ability to express myself with thoroughness and charm. Point out the beginning, direct the progress, and help in the completion. I ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Catholic Schools Week
We will be celebrating national “Catholic Schools Week” next week from January 29 through February 4.The theme for Catholic Schools Week 2023 from the National Catholic Education Association is “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.”
We will add our other two core values (learning and community) for our week-long celebration as “a community inspiring excellence through faith, learning, and service.”
Each of our five schools will be highlighting those core values in a variety of ways next week. Happy Catholic Schools Week everyone!
PS Here is Bishop John Folda’s message for Catholic Schools Week 2023: Catholic Schools Week 2023 – YouTube
“The greatest kindness one can render to any man consists in leading him to truth.”–St. Thomas Aquinas
Hagstrom’s Attempt At Humor (HAAH!)
Sunday Psalm Sampler
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
“Everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.”–Luke 24:44b
Lectionary Readings: Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 146: 6-10
Responsorial Refrain: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!” (cf. Mt 5:3)
Chris Brunelle’s YouTube recording: R&A Psalm Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2023, Psalm 146 – YouTube
The Catechism of the Catholic Church quotes Vatican II on the criteria “for interpreting Scripture in accordance with the Spirit Who inspired it” (CCC 111). The first principle is to “Be especially attentive ‘to the content and unity of the whole Scripture.’ Different as the books which comprise it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the heart and center…” (CCC 112).
To reinforce the unity of Sacred Scripture, today’s refrain is not from Psalm 146; rather, it is directly from today’s Gospel reading of the Beatitudes from Matthew 5: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!” (cf. Mt 5:3)
When we respond in song to today’s portion of Psalm 146, it is an invitation to reflect on the blessed whom the Lord particularly upholds: the oppressed, the hungry, captives, the blind, the bowed down, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widowed. Today’s Sunday Psalm calls us to align our hearts with those who are poor in spirit and to maintain that humble poverty of spirit before the Lord. The Lord’s promise of the kingdom of heaven beckons as we sing His very words: “Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!” (cf. Mt 5:3)