This blog starts with a confession: growing up, I couldn’t care less about being Catholic. But as the years passed, the more I learned about Catholicism, the more I became engrossed.
My personal beliefs—really, any religious beliefs—aside, Catholicism is a fascinating thing, from the overarching mysticism to the thousand-year old traditions to the saints’ stories and parables.
In Catholicism, you get a two-for-one deal: a faith tradition and an educational tradition. You don’t really hear about it sitting in a church pew, but running through the religion is an academic vein: the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.
The liberal arts with a Catholic twist
The Catholic Intellectual Tradition takes courses comparable to those found in the liberal arts and pairs them with a study of the human condition, examining the ways the human experience intertwines with God.
Like the liberal arts, it has a foundation of humanities and philosophy, and students are expected to develop strong reasoning and critical thinking skills. Students use their knowledge of the past to inform their understanding of current events. Through rigorous study and reflection, they seek truth and wisdom. Truly, at the heart of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition is the search for truth, and in this respect, the search for truth is the search for God.
“Educating the whole person”
The belief that learning is about more than filling your brain with facts is a key facet of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition. If you were studying chemistry, for example, you would try to understand how that degree could impact the world for good along with memorizing compounds.
You need to educate your mind and your heart, and your education isn’t complete unless it encompasses ethics, morals, self-worth, compassion, and so much more. The Catholic Intellectual Tradition also strives for inclusion, which is why you’ll hear of so many Catholic schools that were founded to educate the poor.
If you attend one of the nearly 300 Catholic colleges or universities in the United States, you’ll be submerged in this tradition. It shapes the curriculum and is reflected in the teaching. Of course, with priests and nuns teaching so many classes, you’ll be reminded of that pretty often.