Interview with President of Thomas More College on Encyclical
motto of my college: "Caritas Congaudet in Ceritate" (charity rejoices in the truth). "To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life…" This is a fine summary, I think, of the Catholic educational endeavor, a joyful endeavor because of the privileged task to bear witness to the truth.
ZENIT: Your college gives an impressive amount of time in the classroom to the study of the humanities -- literature and philosophy from pagan antiquity to the modern period. Yet one notes that the Holy Father says, "The search for love and truth is purified and liberated by Jesus Christ from the impoverishment that our humanity brings to it." Is there enduring value in studying pre-Christian and non-Catholic visions of man, when it seems that only Christ reveals the meaning of man to man?
Fahey: That is a very good question. First, you are right: Students at Thomas More College study the humanities every single semester with more than typical class hours. Our newly renovated curriculum also allows our students to study theology and sacred Scripture every semester. Still, we take pride in our college's patron the humanist, St. Thomas More.
ZENIT: Who was not canonized for being a humanist, but for his holiness.
Fahey: Again, true, but I would argue his own humanity, his personality, and his humanist learning are irreducibly part of his sanctity. Humanity is not abolished in sanctity. If we return to the encyclical, we find guidance.
First, it is true the Holy Father unflinchingly offers a Christian humanism over and above other views of man and his place in the world. Or as he says, "Amid the various competing anthropological visions put forward today […] the Christian vision has the particular character of asserting and justifying the unconditional value of the human person." I grant that the context there is concerned with human development, but I also think that it sheds light on our discussion.
What follows next is crucial. The Holy Father speaks of the revelation provided by the Gospels, which clearly reveal in Christ the fullness of humanity, but which also illustrate the climactic moment in God's pursuit and love for man. "Precisely because God gives a resounding 'yes' to man, man cannot fail to open himself to the divine vocation to pursue his own development. The truth of development consists in its completeness: if it does not involve the whole man and every man, it is not true development."
ZENIT: So, Shakespeare's Iago or the humanist Machiavelli are necessary for understanding our humanity?
Fahey: Like it or not they are part of the story. In this world it appears easier to see clearly because there is contrasting shadow and light. It would be better to say that Christ is necessary for the full understanding of our humanity. Too much darkness leads to greater blindness, of course, perhaps nearly permanent blindness. But if we leave out the Iagos and Machiavellis are we not obliterating something of our history and our nature -- I do not say our best nature. If we leave them out do we ever really appreciate God's resounding 'yes'? We have a paradox, don't we?
In this world, with our weak vision the depth of God's caritas/love comes into focus when we have some awareness not just of the heights of human freedom, but the depths.
ZENIT: Why is it not sufficient simply to reflect upon our own failings and victories?
Fahey: Perhaps because it is so hard to bear. We learn and have our hearts prepared often best by analogy or parable. Thus, the humanities when they are truly taught well can draw men out of themselves. And perhaps that moving beyond the isolation of the self, may play some part in encouraging the sense of solidarity and fellowship called for by the encyclical.
ZENIT: "It is not by isolation that man establishes his worth…" as the Holy Father says.
Fahey: Yes, exactly, "…but by placing himself in relation with others and God."
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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