In a world that is often harshly divided and “characterized by conflict, restlessness, profound discontent, and violence, be it spiritual or physical,” students should thrive to “be gentle in the truth, and fervently alive with the zeal of divine charity.”
That was the message delivered to members of the Catholic University community by Rev. Thomas Joseph White, O.P., celebrant of the University’s annual Mass in honor of St. Thomas Aquinas on Jan. 31. The Mass, which commemorates the feast of University Patron St. Thomas Aquinas, was celebrated in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Father White is an associate professor of systematic theology at the Dominican House of Studies and director of the Thomistic Institute. During his homily, he spoke of the value of a university as “a church of the mind, where we are invited to worship at the altar of truth.”
“This is an altar before which we learn to live with our intellectual vulnerability in the face of realities we don’t fully comprehend, and subjects we do not master,” he said. “And it’s a place where the idols or ideologies of the age pass away, and the simplistic myths of human beings crumble. We should stop to worship then at this altar of God’s truth at the heart of the university, so that we may become what we are called to be.”
Because God is “the author of all that is created,” students should never fear any kind of scientific or cosmic knowledge, Father White said. Rather, he told them to “beware all temptations to anti-intellectualism, whether religious or profane.”
“The Church today has need, no doubt as much as ever, of academic excellence, and of a vibrant intellectual life present at the heart of the Church, and for the sake of the larger culture of humanity as a whole,” he said. “The life of the mind is meant to be the Cathedral of God, giving him praise through ardent zeal in the pursuit of the truth, not resignation or even worse, anti-intellectual resentment.”
This year’s Mass was broadcast live on EWTN and CatholicTV. Co-sponsored by Catholic University, the National Catholic Educational Association, and the Dominican House of Studies, it was held in celebration of National Catholic Schools Week.
University President John Garvey, who addressed the congregation at the beginning of the Mass, said the event was an occasion to “ask God’s blessing upon this University community, founded by the bishops of the United States 130 years ago this April.”
“May the shining example of St. Thomas Aquinas be a source of inspiration for all those involved in the important work of Catholic education,” he said.
Sophomore nursing major Kresta Yator said she was grateful for the opportunity to start her semester in prayer at this year’s Aquinas Mass.
“I already know that the semester ahead is a difficult one and I won’t be able to do it on my own strength,” she said. “Obviously I can’t do what I do without the help of God. I think beginning the semester off with Mass with the rest of the community really puts me in a good place to start.”