Works By John Courtney Murray, S.J.

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WOODSTOCK'S WISDOM

JOHN COURTNEY MURRAY, S.J.

I had a bit of difficulty in choosing a standpoint for these remarks tonight. Initially, it would seem that a jubilee is a time for retrospection, an occasion for recounting the history of the past and its achievements. Yet it did not seem proper for me to take that line, for one reason. Woodstock is seventy-five years old. But, for an institution, that is youth. And it is not characteristic of youth to indulge in retrospection; the interests of youth are in the present and its gaze is upon the future. Moreover, it is hardly befitting for youth proudly to recount its own achievements. Its more rightful desire must be to define its responsibilities, to envisage its ideals, and to measure the tasks that lie before it.

These are the duties of youth. And this jubilee is a reminder that Woodstock is young. I thought, therefore, that we might celebrate our jubilee in truly youthful fashion by some effort at a statement of our ideals. When at last we are old—if ever Woodstock does grow old (a thing that must never be allowed to happen)—we may perhaps grow reminiscent. But for the moment, our highest duty towards the past is a realization of our ideals in the present and for the future.

By reaching such a realization we shall, I think, most adequately pay our debt of gratitude towards all those who in the past have studied and taught, and prayed and suffered here. We of the present, professors and students, know ourselves to be their heritors. We know our heritage from them to be goodly indeed. And it is no small part of today's joy that we are able reverently to pay tribute to their labors, and gratefully to acknowledge their inspiration.

But we would not be in the tradition of those who have gone before us, if we were content simply to conserve the heritage they have left us. Rather, our primary duty must be to enrich it. Then only will they acknowledge us as their worthy successors, if we, professors and students, do the work that they did better than they did it. In the name of our common desire, and our one end in life—the greater glory of God—the men of the past have the right to demand of us who labor in the present broader vision, higher ideals, greater accomplishments.

In saying this, I know that I am voicing the sentiments of the Woodstock of 1944, and of all the years that have intervened between 1869 and 1944. Therefore I feel that my task tonight must be to define the ideals, the responsibilities, and the tasks of today's youthful diamond jubilarian, this servant of the Society and of the Church, this beloved house—its faculty and its student body.

The task would be difficult, save for the fortunate fact that it has already been done for us. It so happens that the seventy-fifth anniversary of Woodstock coincides with the tenth anniversary of the Statuta Facultatum Theologiae et Philosophiae in Collegiis Societatis Iesu, the document in which the newly formulated intellectual ideals of the Church of the 20th century passed into the common law of the Society. Moreover, this is the third anniversary of the Ratio Studiorum Superiorum Societatis lesu, in which the ideals of the Statuta were given more detailed shape and development. It is the wisdom of this last document that constitutes the wisdom of Woodstock. It will preside over the new epoch, already begun, within which her jubilee falls. It will be the star of her destiny, the standard whereby the Society of the future will judge us of the present. By our fidelity to the progress it enjoins we shall show our fidelity to the tradition we have inherited.

Recently, I was interested in making a comparison between the Ratio Studiorum of 1599 promulgated by Acquaviva, that of 1832 issued by Roothaan, and our latest Ratio. The results of the comparison are quite interesting. Above all, they reveal to us the Society that all of us know—the "scribe instructed in regard to the kingdom of the heavens," who is like the "householder who brings forth from his store new things and old." It would be surprising not to find in the new Ratio old things ; it would be no less surprising not to find in it new things. For over its formulation presided the ancient principle : "Apostolatus noster, quamquam principia quibus nititur mutationibus non sit obnoxia, condicionibus tamen temporis ac regionum necessitatibus respondere debet" (n. 289, par. 1).

Let me, therefore, speak briefly of some of the old things and of some of the new things, that make up the academic ideal of the Society, and of Woodstock.

First, two old things, two unchanging principles of our education, are strongly reaffirmed, not only in the Ratio itself, but in the late Father General's promulgating letter. The first concerns the kind of knowledge that is our ideal, the second concerns the method of its acquisition.

We are, first, newly bidden to seek "doctrina profundior potiusquam amplior." If I may reverently say so, I think the General's formula is a bit too brief to be clear. Depth rather than breadth of knowledge —the spatial metaphor may be deceiving, as if our knowledge were to be in one dimension only, and therefore narrow. Properly speaking, a knowledge is deep when it is integrated. One sees deeply into a truth when one sees it in its relationships to other truths, in all its premises and conclusions, in all its applications to life. A deep knowledge, therefore, is of its nature wide, well nourished by fact, well structured into a system of knowledge. Actually, therefore, the Society does not condemn a wide knowledge, but only a scattered, disorganized knowledge, as an educational ideal; it condemns the false educational principle, "Ex omnibus aliquid, in toto nihil" ; and it asserts that our goal is an organized, integrated knowledge, the possession of a true "corpus doctrinae bene constitutum." It asserts, too, that there is a hierarchy of the sciences, under the primacy, each in its own order, of sacred theology and of Scholastic philosophy. In the new Ratio, these sciences are newly emphasized as "the most firm foundation for the fruitful exercise of all the ministries of the Society." They are the professional equipment of the priest; and as such they are to be mastered. Their study is not to be governed by any delusive considerations of what is called, by a question-begging term, "practicality." "Let the Scholastics beware of that error by which some perhaps are led astray, and have their eyes on their future ministries and not on their present studies, and are at pains to learn what they deem useful for these ministries, the while they make little account of all the rest." Consciously to embrace this error would be to relinquish the academic ideal of the Society, thereby to risk mental and spiritual impoverishment, and ultimately to drift into superficiality in whatever ministry one might undertake.

The second old principle newly canonized concerns the means toward achieving the Society's academic ideal—adherence to Scholastic method. Here, of course, is not meant the mysterious art of correctly contradistinguishing the minor of a hypothetical syllogism, both of whose premises are negative propositions. With his wonted genius for the essential, the late General put his finger on the twofold essence of Scholastic method. First, it is a synthetizing technique—a technique for the construction of a corpus doctrinae. Skill in its use is the mark of the Scholastic mind, which is above all the mind trained for the organization of knowledge, for the vision of the relationships of truths, for the construction of an order of truth—trained, in a word, for the highest activity of human intelligence, its architectonic activity.

Secondly, Scholastic method is a technique for the pursuit of organized knowledge through the natural human method of the collaboration of mind with mind, and the clash of mind upon mind. It is the pursuit of truth, "conjuncta professorum et discipulorum opera," by the combined activity of professor and pupil, and of pupil and pupil. Collaboration and clash are of its essence. They take place, first, in the classroom (I almost said clash-room), where the first element of the. technique comes into play, the methodus quaestionis. The collaboration and clash are continued outside—the interior wrestling with authors and with one's own difficulties in private study, then the collaboration of informal discussion, then the clash of disputation, and finally the collaboration and clash of communal research in the seminar.

These are the two essential characteristics of Scholastic method. They, and their goal, organized knowledge, are the old things upon which the Ratio newly insists. They are the unchangeable principles upon which education to the intellectual apostolate of the Society rests.

What, now, of the new things? I would briefly dwell on two.

The first is not really a new thing, but rather a new insistence on what has always been part of our tradition. In her origins, the Society was a response to a new state of affairs. And a sensitivity to change, an awareness of the reality of the world as it is, a readiness to accommodate her thinking and her apostolic action to the concrete needs of existing situations has always been one of her outstanding characteristics. By our vocation we live at the inmost interior of the Church, alive to every development of her thought, alacritous in responding to her every desire for new growth. But by our vocation, too, we live in the midst of the world, intimately in touch with its tumultuous life, keen to detect the heart of truth in its every error, alert to redirect the aspirations after the good that lie behind its very sins. At every turn our history reveals us standing, paradoxically, in sharp contradiction to the world, and in inner kinship with it. We have never felt that our mission to the world was simply one of contradiction and condemnation; traditionally, we have undertaken the more difficult mission of understanding and sympathy. These have been the distinguishing marks of our apostolate, the means that we have adopted for our end, “to help our neighbor towards the knowledge and love of Christ and toward the salvation of their souls” (Const., P. IV,. c. XI, n. 1). As instruments of the transforming grace of Christ, we have taken as the first law of our apostolate the law to which grace itself is obedient—the law that says that we must reach our neighbor where he is and as he is, and seek in him not the conscious sin but the unconscious search for sanctity and for God that is inseparable from his inmost self.

Constantly we have striven to know the nature of man, to understand the world in which he lives, to be in sympathy with the conflicts that stir the depths of the human soul, and that burst forth to agitate the surface of human history. This, I take it, is the deepest meaning of our devotion to the study of the masterpieces of literature and art; they teach us what is in man; they give us an insight into the stuff upon which we, with the grace of God, must work transformingly.

It is not a new thing, therefore, when the Ratio insists that we be sensitive to changes in the world, and when it enjoins upon us an awareness of contemporary aspirations and errors. What is new is the insistence laid upon these old things. I have collected eighteen texts in which the same idea is expressed—the general idea that our intellectual apostolate is to a particular age and that is for us to know its temper and its problems.

Let me cite just two of these texts. One occurs in the section, "On the Professor's Function," in the title, "On the Manner of Lecturing." It reads: "Moreover, the lectures are to be such that the students may perceive what is the mentality, what are the leanings and the needs of the men of their own time and of the region in which they are to work. Wherefore, let the professor make clear the ways in which men today are seeking for the truth and the reasons why they err. Let obsolete questions be omitted; and let them strive so to set forth either natural or revealed truth as to show how in it is contained whatever truth is found elsewhere, and how it solves the problems whose solution is vainly sought in other opinions."

That text breathes in every line the spirit of the Society's intellectual life and apostolate. Yet, curiously enough, I have not found these ideas so clearly enunciated in any of our official documents, save in one—the letter in which the late General promulgated the Statuta, where he says: "Let lectures, circles, disputations and seminars be such that the students may feel the needs of our times, and learn how to reach modern man, in order that they may know how to defend the faith, not in general, but against modern attacks; and for the promotion of the glory of God let them become skilled in the use even of the arms of the enemy, if these be apt."

The counterpart of this text is found in Part V of the Ratio, "On the Duties of Scholastics." There we read: "Under the guidance of their Professors, let them strive to become aware of the needs of their times, the while they restrain an intemperate zeal for novelty, whereby they might be drawn away from the serious labor of that solid philosophical and theological formation which is above all else necessary to remedy the ills and to meet the needs of the times."

Obviously, the Ratio does not specifically determine the mentality, the needs, and the problems of our times, much less of the American scene. That is our own task. I say, our task; I mean the task, not only of the professors and students of Woodstock, but of all the members of the two provinces which it serves; for we are conscious that we work in solidarity with them.

However, the Ratio does determine implicitly and in general at least one of the needs of our times, when it newly defines the function of philosophical and theological faculties. In dependence on the text of the Apostolic Constitution, it proposes to them a three-fold end: teaching, the direction of graduate research, and personal scientific investigation. It imposes upon them, therefore, a threefold duty: first, a duty to their present pupils, to be discharged by lecturing and by individual attention; secondly, a duty toward future generations of pupils, to be discharged by training teachers for them; and finally, a duty toward their science itself, its growth and development, to be discharged by scientific writing.

It is the explicit injunction of this last duty that is new. Not that the duty itself has not been hitherto felt; actually, it is a part of our whole academic tradition. But the specific inclusion of this duty as one of the essential functions of our higher faculties has not hitherto been made in the documents of our common law. You will look in vain for its explicit statement in the two previous Rationes Studiorum or in the Fourth Part of the Constitutions. It is indeed implicit in the ideal of the Society, to have "conspicui . . . . et selectae doctrinae viri." But the text of the previous Rationes regard the professor only in a single capacity, as professor. The new Ratio consistently regards him in, and demands that he be trained for, a double capacity: he is “et professor et Scriptor'' (n. 298, par. 3). There are at least thirteen texts in which reference is made to this twofold ideal. They enforce the strong passage in the last General's letter promulgating the Statuta, wherein the same ideal is proposed, and developed in its consequences, the chief of which is that the apostolate of science is an apostolate by itself, not to be combined with others: "Totos igitur se dedant suo muneri, in eoque toti semper sunt" (Statuta, P. 4).

I think, therefore, that I may legitimately speak of a newness here. I think, too, that I may see here a recognition of one of the needs of our times, an indispensable, modern form of apostolate, whereby, as the Ratio says, "the principles of Catholic doctrine may be more effectively spread into the various provinces of the intellectual life" of modern times. It would be interesting to develop the necessity of this form of apostolate—scientific investigation and writing—particularly as a response to modern philosophical and theological and religio-social problems. But I must be content simply to have indicated the necessity.

Omitting a third newness in the Ratio (its advocacy of the technique of corporate research), which I had hoped to mention, let me conclude with this idea, an old idea.

"The Society," as Peter Lippert has finely said, "formally lives on its trust in each of its members. Each day in their life is a hundredfold appeal to their independent and energetic sense of duty, to their free good will, to their high-hearted love of Christ." This is very true; it is particularly true of the academic life of the Society. Only just enough regulations are imposed upon us to keep the Society herself from disintegrating, academically and spiritually, under the weight of mediocrity. Woodstock, therefore, has one supreme ideal for the future—the ideal that it has faithfully pursued in the past, but that today is newly exigent. I mean the duty of responding to the Society's trust in her. Perhaps no other house in the provinces has a responsibility commensurate with hers. It is a collective responsibility, resting upon faculty and student body; it can be perseveringly discharged only when it is personally felt. Her responsibility specifically is to confer what Pius XI, in a bold metaphor, once called, "the eighth sacrament," knowledge, science, wisdom, But this sacrament is entirely unique. For the seven sacraments we dispose ourselves, with the grace of God; but others confer them on us. For this "eighth sacrament" we dispose others, by the grace of God; but each one of us must confer it on himself. The Ratio does indeed prescribe the matter and form of our wisdom. But the quasi-sacramental act of our anointing with knowledge and wisdom is for each of us personally to perform.

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