“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
The Splendor of Truth (Part II)
Last week I highlighted Fr. Metzger’s “Principal Column” in the February 16 Shanley High School Newsletter. Recall, he unveiled a new required course for all Shanley Freshmen—the “Splendor of Truth”—giving a detailed rationale for this initiative and employing the two wings of faith and reason. Last week I quoted the key elements Fr. Metzger identified. This week, I’ll quote the second part of his column:
“We expect this course in logic, intentionally placed early in their high school career, to have positive consequences in all their courses at Shanley and beyond. Training the student to think clearly and sequential, and to write in a controlled and systematic manner will have innumerable benefits. Our MAP [Measures of Academic Progress] scores indicate as much. Although our MAP scores surpass both the local and national averages, we’re not complacent. When we’ve carefully analyzed the data from those tests, we do see slight deficits in two consistent areas: identifying main points and ordering ideas. Both of those are skills of logic. The MAP results have confirmed a hole in our curriculum that we need to fill.
“There are a few other topics that we’re going to build into this course as well. The course will open with few weeks of Shanley History. To be firmly planted and flourish in a community, it’s important to know who and what came before you, the legend you will build upon during your high school years. We’ll also spend a few weeks on the topic of ‘high school transition.’ Part of that will be reading Mortimer Adler’s classic text, How to Read a Book. Freshmen will be instructed on how to effectively and efficiently read a book, including non-fiction textbooks, which is a skill on its own that is rarely taught. We will also teach the freshmen how to annotate a text to quickly recall information. How often have you read a chapter only to forget the information the following day? This happens all the time. We want to end that predicament in our students. And then having acquired that skill of annotation, we will begin purchasing all the class-novels that the freshmen will read going forward during their high school years. They will be expected to annotate what they read, encouraging a quicker recall of information, and fostering a more robust and lively discussion of during class. So, we have big plans for the Splendor of Truth class. I think it will really be a transformative class as students begin their high school years and fill a gap in our curriculum.”
I commend Fr. Metzger and the Shanley staff again for discerning this need and turning to the “great tradition” embodied in this classical approach to learning.
It’s About Time
February 22 (1889)
This past Wednesday was the bittersweet 134th anniversary of the 1889 Act of Congress enabling Montana, Washington, and North and South Dakota to become states. The sweetness was in statehood. The bitterness from the act’s requirement that admission to the union required inclusion of language of the failed Blaine Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in their state constitutions. In order for North Dakota to become a state on November 2, 1889, our constitution thus included the language, “no money raised for the support of the public schools of the state shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school.”
“Sectarian,” of course, was not-so-subtle code for “Catholic” and an understood pejorative at the time of rising nativism and anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant sentiments in the United States. U.S. Senator James Blaine capitalized on that bigotry by calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1875. That effort ultimately failed on a national level. But nearly forty states included Blaine Amendment language in their constitution.
As the decades have passed and the U.S. Supreme Court has increasingly clarified, many of the state laws configured to the Blaine Amendment violate the First Amendment’s Free Exercise clause. At the same time, the Court has upheld the distinction between Church and State and the concomitant constitutional requirement of no state-established Religion.
Clearly, while not required of the state, programs, practices, and services that help families who choose non-public religious schools are not unconstitutional. On the contrary, they help students and parents and serve the common good. We all want well-educated, virtuous, engaged citizens graduating from our North Dakota schools—public or non-public. That kind of education is indeed a public good and deserves public support.
I hope the constitutional clarity of recent decades will enable a broader vision of the common good in education. And, someday, perhaps, we will taste a sweetening of the bitter legacy of the Blaine Amendment in North Dakota.
The State of Hockey
Yesterday, our 20-5-0 South-Shanley co-op boys hockey team defeated Bismarck Century 3-2 in the opening round of the State Hockey Tournament at Ralph Engelstad Arena (“The Ralph”) in Grand Forks. The day before, the boys defeated the blizzard by leaving early for Grand Forks—immediately following our Ash Wednesday Mass.
The Shanley portion of the team has contributed mightily to the team’s successes this season. I wish stalwart Shanley Senior goalie Noel Olsonawski and all the boys the very best in the rest of the tournament, starting at 8:00 tonight in the semi-finals versus rival Fargo Davies.
Speaking of Davies, our girls hockey co-op this year is with Fargo Davies. (Ironically, last year, our co-op North-South-Shanley team won the state championship in overtime versus Fargo Davies.) The Shanley girls have also mightily contributed to the team’s 20-3-0 record this year, and Davies-Shanley will play in the State Hockey Tournament next weekend in Minot. All the very best to them in state tournament action as well.
I read a portion of the Rule of St. Benedict every day, thus reading the entire Rule three times each year. In Chapter 4—What Are the Instruments of Good Works—I always pause at this tool in St. Benedict’s list of tools for the spiritual life: “To love fasting.”
Now I love food, and I’m not a picky eater. Three square meals a day. Let’s sprinkle in some snacks between meals, too.
But Ash Wednesday, the Fridays of Lent, and a sprinkling of other days in Lent and during the year are good reminders for me of St. Benedict’s distillation of wisdom.
Lord, help me “to love fasting.” The Sacred Scriptures, the Sacred Tradition, the Saints, and many religious traditions all emphasize the unity of body and soul and fasting’s importance in progressing in the spiritual life.
The Collect prayer at Mass today also reinforces this wisdom:
“Support us, O Lord, with Your gracious favor through the fast we have begun; that as we observe it by bodily self-denial, so we may fulfill it with inner sincerity of heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
“Fasting is the support of our soul: it gives wings to ascend on high, and to enjoy the highest contemplation.”–St. John Chrysostom
Hagstrom’s Attempt At Humor (HAAH!)
Sunday Psalm Sampler
First Sunday of Lent (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: First Sunday of Lent | USCCB
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 51: 3-6,12-13, 17
Responsorial Refrain: “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.” (cf. Ps 51:3a)
Chris Brunelle’s YouTube recording: R&A Psalm First Sunday of Lent 2023, Psalm 51 Cycle A – YouTube
On this First Sunday of Lent, we hear King David’s lament for his grave sins (adultery, treachery, murder). We hear his heart-felt desire for the Lord’s mercy and for “a clean heart,” which only God can create through the forgiveness of sins. We hear an appeal to the Holy Spirit’s presence and the praise that passes through the lips of the redeemed sinner.
At the beginning of this Holy Lent, we make this penitential appeal and acknowledgement in the assembly of those seeking the Lord’s mercy as we sing,
“Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”