At least according to the academic calendar, summer is now over. Once again, there is a ‘back-to-school’ edge in the morning air and rush hour traffic seems less rushed as bright yellow behemoths carrying their young scholars stop and start the flow of cars with serene impunity.
From a kid’s point of view, it’s a new year (maybe our Jewish brethren have it right?). As for me, there is another development which marks this month as the beginning of something new – the Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture within the community of the University of Pennsylvania (www.collegiuminstitute.org).
As its literature explains: “The Catholic intellectual tradition is a reservoir of profound thinking about the synthesis of knowledge. By bringing this tradition into conversation with the secular academy and by encouraging a holistic approach to scholarship that transcends disciplinary boundaries, the Collegium Institute affirms the unifying and truly liberal ends of education – namely freedom in truth.”
Its mission statement states: “The Institute’s name, collegiums, serves as a reminder that the pursuit of knowledge, which is the principal object of all universities, is a communal enterprise. Its flourishing depends upon its members working together to cultivate certain virtues of mind and character, such as humility, trust, honesty, justice, and the love of truth….” Imagine a university today committed to the unifying and truly liberal ends of education – freedom in truth!
Like priories that are founded by emissaries from abbeys, this Institute, I understand, issues from trailblazers in Princeton where similar undertakings have been underway now for several years. There also comes to mind the Thomas More Center at Yale. Let us hope that this enterprise in the City of Brotherly Love attains the same degree of vigor as these other vibrant endeavors.
We forget, or never knew, that the purpose of higher education goes beyond the utilitarian need for training in skills. Its ultimate purpose is the pursuing the “unity of knowledge.” What a happy reminder for those of us who are Penn alumni this Collegium Institute will be.
If you do not remember what the Institute’s motto, quaecumque sunt vera, means may I suggest you look it up. It is also apt for the advance of the Kingdom.