Good evening! It is a great joy and a privilege for me to be with all of you this evening, as we celebrate the inaugural academic year of Rose Hill College. I bring with me the greetings and blessings of His Eminence Metropolitan PHILIP, and those of their Graces the auxiliary bishops of our God-protected Antiochian Archdiocese. I welcome all of you joining us this evening, the faculty, staff, parents, and most especially the students who are here “looking for more than information and professional training.”
A recent issue of The Wheel, the Rose Hill College Newsletter, had an article which contained a very interesting observation. The article dealt with the use of the Great Books curriculum and a classical education. It stated that a person not wanting to bother with all the books and the reading involved might say “Just give me the truth.” Sadly this statement is so indicative of the attitude and mentality of our present age. It is even sadder when one considers that this country, more than two hundred years ago, produced a Thomas Jefferson whose enormous collections of books became the nucleus of the University of Virginia Library after his death, has also produced too many of the kind of person just described. What a contrast in attitude and approach this presents us. T. S. Elliot said it best when he stated:
“There never was a time when the reading public was so large, or so helplessly exposed to the influence of its own time. There never was a time when those who read at all, read so many more books by living authors than by dead authors. There never was a time so completely parochial, so shut off from its past.”
Thomas Jefferson understood that value of good books. He understood how they can teach us beyond the words contained in them. Reading forces us to stop what we are doing and to put aside everything that we are dragging around in our cluttered minds. It not only requires discipline, it also produces discipline, a commodity that is hardly valued at all in our present climate of political correctness.
T. S. Elliot likewise appreciated the value of books and reading. His lamenting of unfamiliarity with past ideas, what many today would consider, ancient, old-fashioned, and even unnecessary, finds a resonant note in so many of our hearts. These days our young people, those whom we so fondly point to as the “future” of our country and our society, are so unfamiliar with non-contemporary writings. Many have never read the Constitution of the United States, or the Federalist Papers because “that’s old stuff!” Only slightly more than two hundred years old and they are rejected. One can only imagine what they would think of the writings of Descartes, Newton, Aquinas, Ocam, Anselm or worse Aristotle, Plato and Socrates.
But the young people who this week begin the exciting and challenging task of obtaining a college education here at Rose Hill, have come looking, as stated in the current College Catalog, “for a vision of life that is at once deeply faithful and intellectually penetrating.” In others word they have come here understanding from the very outset that truth is something worth pursuing, that the pursuit of truth is a vision of life, requiring a lifetime effort.
In preparing for this address, I read parts of the book by St. Theophane the Recluse, Raising them Right – A Saint’s Advice on Raising Children. I also consulted the College Catalog which I have already quoted several times. I was amazed to discover that the three principles guiding instruction at Rose Hill so closely paralleled three principles enumerated by St. Theophane under the heading “Correcting the Course.” It is rather appropriate don’t you think? Now mind you, St. Theophane may have been familiar with many of the titles found in the Great Books Curriculum, but its approach had not yet been formulated, and many of the authors had not yet been born! Still it is fascinating to see how closely both sets of principles follow each other.
St. Theophane’s first principle is “understand well and assimilate the principles of true Christian upbringing and act according to them, first of all at home.”
Rose Hill’s first principle is “education is for the whole human being and not only the mind.”
What you learned at home you should remember in school. Being in college does not mean that your morals and value should now disappear, to be replaced, without examination or critique, by the ideas and beliefs of your instructors. On the contrary, now is when you need those morals and values most. The next four years should be a time of exposure to as many ideas, ancient, modern and contemporary as possible. And as you encounter these ideas you should test them against what your parents and the church have taught and continue to teach you about Christian life. Education here at Rose Hill should be a cooperative effort between students, parents and instructors. Instructors must take into account the moral and Christian values which each student brings to this experience. When lacking, the morals and values should be presented. When present they need to be incorporated into the lessons taught.
St. Theophane continues with his second principle, stating that one should “take into consideration the foundations of each student, and rebuild on new, true principles the school education.”
Rose Hill maintains that education should “not be limited to formal classes but embrace every aspect of life.” Stated another way the College intends to take into consideration everything that occurred before coming to Rose Hill and to incorporate it into the total educational experience.
You must introduce into this educational experience, Christian elements, and correct what needs correction. Keep the education of these students under the most abundant influences of the Holy Church. Keep in mind that you must begin with temporal things and that you must finish with things eternal. That is you must begin with the mind and life here on earth, but your goal is to the soul and eternal life. You are educating the children of the Church, members of the Kingdom of Heaven. Heaven is your goal, their goal , our goal. An education that deals only with the mind or the body, but ignores the soul and the spirit, is no education at all. It is mere instruction!
St. Theophane concludes, “most needful of all, one must educate the educators.”
The College Catalog closes with “at best [education] involves teachers and students working and learning together in an atmosphere of collegiality and mutual respect.”
I address myself now most especially to the teachers and parents. Aristotle once said that “one cannot give to another what one does not possess!’ If you take upon yourselves the task of educating your students and leading them to the truth, then you must also be on the same path, pursuing truth yourselves. If you wish to lead others to the truth, you must know the way first. “Educators,” St. Theophane advises, “should go through all the degrees of Christian perfection in order to later know how to behave in the midst of action, to be capable of noticing which way the students are going, and then to act upon them with patience successfully, powerfully and fruitfully.” The teachers of Rose Hill and the parents of its students should be a group of the most pure, God-chosen and holy people. St. Theophane concludes with this most serious statement: “Of all holy works, the education of children is the most holy.”
I would like to focus on two aspects of the last part of the College’s guiding principle, namely “an atmosphere of collegiality” and “mutual respect.” The dictionary defines a college as “a society of colleagues, involved in a common task” and collegiality as the attribute of a college, namely the tangible evidence of a group of colleagues working together at a common task. You the students and you the teachers can accomplish your common task of education, that of educating yourselves and one another, if you see your task as being the same thing, and only if you do so with mutual respect. While the teachers are here to teach they should understand from the very beginning that they will probable learn more than they teach. And the students knowing this must be disrespectful. Even though they will teach many things to their instructors, they are here primarily to be taught. Each must know and respect the primary duty of the other. Each must look upon the other with Christian love and the deference that is called for from one another.
I want you to know that I, and many others, will be following your progress here and that I will be praying for you every day, as teachers, students and parents pursue this holy work of education. Know also that the entire Archdiocese is watching, hoping and praying for your success. I ask God to grant you true success, not as the world measures, but as God himself measures it. I ask Him also to bless each and everyone of you, with good health, strength and a firm resolution to see through to the end this great and marvelous journey upon which you have today embarked.