Friday, December 11, 2009

We still Kant have that

I've successfully completed another semester at St. Patrick's, thanks be to God. This semester was more difficult than the previous two, mainly because I've been entrusted with more responsibilities around the house. But with Christ and the Blessed Virgin's help, it's all over. Pre-Theology just finished setting up for our end of semester Christmas banquet, so now I can finally relax.

My adviser, Fr. Stevens, is also the academic dean. I've noticed that all of my classes overlapped this semester: information I learned in my Ethics class became invaluable in my class on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. My philosophy courses have been invaluable. Part of what it means to be a priest is to know the world in which you will be living and speaking to the people. Many people - including many Catholics - are good Kantians now in that they believe faith and reason are completely separate spheres. Every time you hear a Catholic pol say, "I'm personally opposed to abortion, but..." he is revealing himself as a child of Kant.

This generation of priests and seminarians faces a unique challenge in the history of Christendom: we live in a secular world. We no longer possess a religious imagination. I'll quote a line from one of Fr. Stevens' favorite poems: So much depends on a red wheel-barrow. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to unpack the meaning of that sentence. Those of us who went to public schools never really got to learn skills like that. Much of my seminary education thus far has been picking up skills and ideas I should have learned in childhood. Philosophy helps me understand why I didn't - because my teachers' teachers were operating with a specific philosophy of education and epistemology in mind.

Truth is truth no matter the source, so we cannot simply dismiss modern philosophers out of hand. Believe it or not, even Michel Foucault had some unique insights into the human condition that are valuable for understanding the world we must engage. So take the time to sift through them, testing everything, keeping what is good, and bugger all the rest. If you're thinking about the priesthood, I strongly suggest learning some basic philosophy too since you'll need to know it later on if you pursue it. At the same time, don't lose sight of the most important thing. Academics are important here, but your spiritual life is the most important.

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