The blessings of tension

by Patricia Maher

Congratulations to David Schmiesing for his insights and excellent application of Christopher Dawson’s The Crisis of Western Education in his article “Confrontation and culture at Franciscan University.”

In my undergraduate days in Steubenville one of the core themes consistently presented to me through studies and experience was “the Catholic Church as a ‘both-and,’ as opposed to an ‘either-or’ religion.” In other words, the universality of the Church embraces people of all folds, united under the mantle of Truth. Thus, within this baptized family, there is room for different expressions of the one Faith: for contemplatives, as well as for missionaries; for Oratorians and mystics, the poor and the rich, the infant and the aged, the East and the West.

The primary ‘streams’ of Catholicism found on both campuses of Franciscan University, of the"traditional” and the"charismatic,” ought to be equally accepted and nurtured in the same “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

It is the combined efforts of faithful and humble Catholics cooperating with the Holy Spirit to advance the gospel in the world, which has, throughout history, caused the flowering of an authentically Catholic culture. It is, as Mr. Schmiesing rightly noted, not"just the peaceful co-existence” of various spiritual traditions, nor a “struggling…for domination, simply tolerating each other, or just learning from each other,” that has and will continue to bring about new, original fruits for Catholic culture, but rather it is a true uniting and activity based upon their mutual permeation which accomplishes a “dynamic historical process” and spiritual growth among the faithful. Indeed, it is the movement from “confrontation” to “permeation” to an “eventual creation of new forms of culture and thought—art, literature, institutions, and so forth,” which continues to assist the Church by supporting, expressing and handing on the Catholic way of life to future generations. Christopher Dawson had great insight when he demonstrated these three stages, while commenting on centuries of human development in his various socio-historical works on the Catholic Church.

So, how exactly does this process of ‘productivity’ and ‘creation’ occur in university life of Steubenville? The very fact that the University exists as an ‘intellectual and faith community’ suggests activity of both the mind and heart. Culture is not just tied in with the activity of the mind, producing moments of reflection and admiration amidst excellent music and artwork. It is more than this. “Culture is inseparable from education,” as Christopher Dawson insists. He directly links the term ‘education’ with the anthropological term of enculturation: “the process by which culture is handed on by the society and acquired by the individual.” Therefore, education is intimately involved in the passing on of ideas and customs from the community to the individual.

Is this not the best way for parents to instruct their children in matters of faith and morals? By presenting to their young ones a way of life (i.e. a culture) that authentically mirrors the principles held and declared to be true and valuable?

As family members of a university which professes belief in “the Way, the Truth and the Life,” the fullness of our Creed should naturally find its expression in our daily lives, continually present in varied and new forms. The priority placed on authentically Catholic education at the University should make the development and flowering of culture ever present amidst the lively interaction of individuals participating in intellectual and spiritual growth.

Therefore, if new forms of culture are to emerge and develop as man enters the third millennium, it would seem that Franciscan University possesses the healthy tensions and factors required to move past the horizontal confrontations, and proceed onward and beyond, emerging toward new, unifying and productive expressions of an authentically Catholic way of life. Our task is presented anew, and yet, has always remained the same—to embrace the Truth, a beauty so ancient and yet ever new.

Patricia Maher, Class of ‘96

Patricia is currently completing graduate studies at the International Theological Institute in Gaming, Austria.