Sunday, May 06, 2012

Two on university education

Robert John Araujo, SJ, The University as the Classroom of Life

While public service is often heralded and promoted in “service learning” that has become another feature of contemporary education, the nature and extent of what constitutes public service is often determined by the autonomous individual (usually director who has some kind of “expertise”) who has been empowered, through leading and living “an extraordinary life,” to decide what the public needs regardless of whether this is beneficial or detrimental to the common good.

What is missing from all of these shaping factors of the “good education” are crucial elements of Catholic social thought whose benefits are not restricted to Catholic thinking and institutions: (1) the inviolability of the human dignity that belongs to everyone; (2) the common good as defined by the inextricable connection of the righteous life well-lived by everyone (and I do mean everyone) in cooperation with the destiny of everyone to do the same; (3) the idea of solidarity which underscores the common good; and (4) the cultivation of the cardinal virtues of justice, fortitude or courage, prudence, and temperance or forbearance. Unfortunately, too many members of the mainstream contemporary academy respond to these elements as I have proposed them as old fashioned. The fact that these elements also undergird much of the development of western law and legal theory is oft forgotten in most law school—to say nothing of undergraduate—education of the present day.

In an oversized society, a university cannot teach about the common good and legal justice because it does not exist in a community, and Behemoth U. itself is often too large to be a community as well.

Bradley J. Birzer, A Modest Proposal: A Freshman Year of Studies

While I have immense appreciation of a Great Books approach, such as that found at St. John’s, I’ve been far more influenced by a cultural approach to the liberal arts as understood by my heroes, Christopher Dawson, Russell Kirk, and Jacques Barzun.

The cultural approach (or the poetic education of John Senior) may be a necessary part of a liberal education, but is freshman year too late? No, if the freshman are 14 year-olds. If I were in charge, I'd do more to reverse the infantilization of young adults. (Would such a cultural component of a liberal education be necessary if our young grew up in real communities with real story-telling? I don't think so.)

Shakespeare's Spirituality: A Perspective, An Interview with Dr. Martin Lings
World Wisdom profile of Dr. Lings
Romeiko Ensemble, Axion esti

Sandro Magister, The Lost Papers of Vatican II (via Chant Cafe)

"God is not a liberal"

As he has given man a social nature and willed that they perfect one another, and so He does not will that they become perfected alone. Hence it was appropriate that He set apart a people, not just an individual or even a family, from whom the Mother of the Messiah and the Messiah Himself would be born.

New from Cistercian Publications

Christian de Chergé
A Theology of Hope

Christian de Chergé was the prior of the Cistercian community at Tibhirine, Algeria, whose members were killed apparently by Muslim "extremists." Their last days were fictionalized in the movie Of Gods and Men:

From the publisher's description:
"De Chergé saw his monastic vocation as a call to be a person of prayer among persons who pray, that is, among the Muslim friends and neighbours with whom he and his brothers shared daily life. De Chergé’s writings bear witness to an original thinker who insists on the value of interreligious dialogue for a more intelligent grasp of one’s own faith."

Will we discover a problematic sort of ecumenism being described in the book? Or is this summary just insufficient? I think he may provide one model for evangelizing to Muslims, but not a model to be adopted by all. There is the question of whether the monks should ahve been there in the first place, and if their witness was in anyway obscured or hindered by their association with the French state. If so, would it have been better if they had left and just prayed for the conversion of that land's inhabitants?

The Monks of Thibhirine by John W. Kiser

Also from Cisterican Publications -

The Great Beginning of Cîteaux
A Narrative of the Beginning of the Cistercian Order
The Exordium Magnum of Conrad of Eberbach

Gregory the Great On the Song of Songs
(see also the collection of Forty Gospel Homilies)

Lovers of the Place
Monasticism Loose in the Church
Francis Kline, OCSO

"Abbot Kline invites all the baptized to a participation in the monastic charism now loose in the Church at large."
I don't see that the charism is now loose in the Church at large. It may be a helpful model for helping the laity understanding community and stability. What is Abbot Kline's diagnosis of what ails contemporary monasticism?

Hildegard of Bingen, Homilies on the Gospels

What of the 2009 German movie about her? It's probably lousy. The NYT review, NPR, and NCR.

Margarethe von Trotta On Her New Film “Vision” – The Life Of Hildegard von Bingen