Last week, on February 25, the ITI had the great privilege of an evening lecture on the Prima Pars Quaestio of the Summa theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas, held by our Grand Chancellor Cardinal Dr. Christoph Schönborn. Before being appointed bishop many years ago, Fr. Christoph Schönborn, O.P. was a professor of theology and a very good one at that. Not only does the Cardinal have a vast teaching experience and many publications on his name, he is above all a teacher with a great love for teaching, who also has a deep knowledge of the great Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the patron Saints of the ITI.
Essential for understanding the call of the Christian in today’s world, and thus also the call of each of the ITI graduates, is the point the Cardinal started his lecture with: only the Saints are true theologians, because the Saints lived in full – rather than merely study and discuss academically – the Word of God and the teachings of His Church. They are our best teachers because we can see through their lives what it means in the daily realities of our broken world to live a life in Christ. The Saints did not hide from the world, nor despise it; they actively engaged with it and so through their living example of love, redemption and the overcoming of their human weaknesses make it possible for us to see what our call in this world is, and how to humbly pursue it. Theology, therefore, before anything else, should be pursued to serve. The Cardinal here spoke some vital and humbling words for all of us:
“The fundamental task of any science should be to serve, knowledge has to serve. If not, it becomes pride, it becomes dangerous, very dangerous, it inflates, as St. Paul says. Theology should serve the faithful, and (..) if you feel superior of the simple faithful, you are already on the wrong track. All the science you acquire through studying theology academically is to serve the faith of the faithful. St. Thomas always speaks about the vetula – old woman, a simple old woman. For St. Thomas she is the measure; we have to serve the faith of the faithful and of the simple ones. If your theology pretends to be superior of the faith of the simple faithful then you are already agnostic and not a Christian theologian.”
The task of Theology thus is to serve the Kingdom of God that is being established on Earth through the faith of the faithful. At the ITI we do this by forming the minds and the hearts of men and women that can engage with the world and show it the light of Christ in all its brightness. It easily becomes clear when we look at the great suffering all around us, near and far, how much a serving theology is called for to heal the many wounds and to give hope. As St. Thomas says: “..yet the slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things..” It is the hope that lies in these highest things that Theology is called to provide to all people of all nations.