The humanities, ironically, is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “secular letters as opposed to theology.” The field spans Latin, literature, philosophy, history, and music to name a few of its disciplines, and comprised the core of medieval Western education along with math and science.
Despite its storied history, many today feel the humanities are dying. Universities are becoming increasingly pre-professional, and students are electing to major in STEM fields or begin pursuing their careers in finance and consulting at the undergraduate level. This decline is well documented and need not be belabored here. Many, too, have engaged in a theoretical defense of the humanities. Some of these have happened to be the greatest human minds the tradition ever produced, so my best efforts would surely come in vain. For the sake of originality, I will turn to something else.
Thomas Hardy, the great 19th century novelist and 20th century poet, was by most accounts an agnostic. He seldom wrote about God or religion, but he not infrequently treated questions of faith and the supernatural. In his poem “The Darkling Thrush,” a speaker—in all likelihood Hardy himself—stands alone in a wood made desolate by frost and wind. He is, then, surprised to hear “a full-hearted evensong of joy illimited.” Inexplicably, it came from “an aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small.” There was no “cause for carolings” the speaker could discern in the wood, causing him to wonder if “there trembled through/ His happy good-night air/ Some blessed hope, whereof he knew/ And I was unaware.”
It strikes me that this is the highest end of the humanities: to help us perceive and cherish the blessed hope of Christ in all human experience. Aristotle said the purpose of art is to imitate the truth of nature. Happily, God created nature. The act of creation necessarily imbued the natural world with God’s own mystery and beauty. Thus, the truth we find in nature and imitate in art is a very real representation of divine truth, not unlike the fruit of theology.
Hardy wrote a poem not because he heard a bird sing, but because Hope “trembled through” the frosted air he breathed. Through the humanities, may we become, like Hardy, more attuned to the abounding hope, truth, and beauty of this world.
Originally published on 10th February 2017, this article was taken from the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus’s rotating column in The Hoya, entitled The Round Table. The column, written by members of the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, is published every other Friday.
By: Mitchell Tu
With Valentine’s Day approaching, perhaps now is a good time to give the men of Georgetown some advice for their dates.
Since it is Saint Valentine’s Day, I do not know anywhere better to turn than the great source of knowledge that is the Catholic Church — after all, as Pope Benedict said, to be a Catholic is “to live, to love and to be loved.”
First things first, gentlemen: Make sure you listen to your date. Although midterms are coming up and your mind might be preoccupied with this terrible season of Georgetown basketball, all of that should take a back seat on Valentine’s Day. When you listen, what you are doing is communicating through your actions that you care about your date.
“But,” quite a few male friends of mine have interjected, “isn’t it obvious I care about her? Why does she get annoyed when I zone out for a couple of minutes or check my phone when I’m with her?” Here, Catholic thought would reply that every one of your actions demonstrates an ordering — that is, your actions align with your broader priorities.
Demonstrating that you are prioritizing your significant other is not enough, however. It might get you through the first date and the early part of your relationship, but it will not make you or your romantic partner sustainably happy. So what does long-term happiness require? Again, when it comes to romance, the church would point out that what people really want is to love and be loved. Caring about someone or “loving” someone, as we commonly understand it, is only one piece of the puzzle.
Loving is more than telling someone you love them and care about them. True love requires vulnerability and intimacy. Can you be there when your partner has a problem or is going through a hard time? In my experience, this is usually not the hardest part for men.
Being loved is the oft-forgotten corollary to loving, but it is just as important. You will never be able to have an enduring relationship if you do not allow your partner to love you fully, because you will always be holding back.
This is the nugget of wisdom the Catholic Church has stumbled upon. Every strong relationship, romantic or otherwise, requires both people to love and to be loved. It is impossible to complete one component successfully without also fulfilling the other.
But, if you do let yourself be loved and you love your significant other in return, then what comes next in the mind of the church? Well, one would expect that the relationship would “overflow,” which means its love and joy would benefit everything and everyone around you, including family, friends and even strangers.
In other words, “love will change the world.” Who said theology cannot be romantic? After all, for Catholics, all human romance really points to the greatest love of all: God’s love for us. Everything required for deeply loving your significant other — listening, intimacy, vulnerability, willingness to love the other and allowing oneself to be loved — is precisely the same as that which God calls us to embody in our relationship with Him.
This Valentine’s Day, may all relationships here at Georgetown be glorified by the light of God’s love, and may that love overflow into our entire community so as to promote its welfare and secure its happiness.
By:Stephen M Fields, SJ, Associate Professor of Theology, Georgetown University
The annual ‘March for Life’ convenes on the nation’s capital every January, the anniversary of ‘Roe v. Wade,’ the Supreme Court’s decision making abortion easily accessible. In the wake of this year’s recent March, it is worthwhile for us to review why the Catholic Church insists so strongly on the pro-life stance.
The Church is guided in its teaching, not first and foremost by its religious faith, but by the “natural law.” This is the system of ethics based on a rational reflection on human nature and its ends and purposes. From this reflection, an understanding of what is good and bad, right and wrong, emerges. The natural law, then, is simply those ethical norms that arise from the way our nature is intrinsically structured. This structure is known by what we call “right reason”: that is, reason thinking consistently, coherently, and honestly about who and what we are and about our destiny and purpose.
The development of the natural law has a long history in the West. We find it, for instance, in Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, in Cicero and the Roman jurists. It was brought to a high point by Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, and it continues to be developed today.
A basic and fundamental norm of the natural law affirms the following: Evil may never be done, even to bring about a good purpose. In other words, a good end never justifies a means that is wrong. We see this clearly in Socrates, who argues that doing wrong does profound injury, not first and foremost to the person injured, but to the perpetrator — to the human being doing the injuring. This is because doing evil fundamentally violates the dignity and integrity of our very nature.
The rule that evil may never be done stands at odds with other views of ethics, such as utilitarianism. This states that what is good is determined by what produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people. According to this system, one may make a moral case for the killing fields of Cambodia under Pol Pot in the 1970’s, and the massacres at Strebreniza in recent years in the Balkans.
Why then we might ask, is abortion an act that is intrinsically evil, and so may never be done, even to produce a good result? The natural law shows us that abortion is what we call “the direct taking of innocent human life.” As such, it is fundamentally wrong. Let us explain these terms.
First, why is the fetus “human life”? It is equipped from conception with the genetic and chromosomal material that defines humanity. Human life constitutes a continuum from conception to death. There is no point in this continuum where it makes sense to draw an arbitrary line and to say that at this point the embryo or fetus is not human.
Second, why is the fetus “innocent” human life? The fetus has done nothing wrong that merits, in justice, any harm to itself. It is not, for instance, a criminal convicted by due process and therefore worthy of punishment. It is not a soldier fighting in a just war and therefore liable to harm. In strict justice, therefore, the embryo and fetus merit protection and nurturing.
Third, why is abortion the “direct” taking of innocent human life? The direct doing of any act means that a person consciously intends to do that act. In other words, the person does not do something wrong by accident. When, for instance, we are involved in an automobile accident and someone is harmed or injured, if we are obeying the speed limit and we skidded on some hard-to-see oil on the highway, then we would be judged far less severely than if we had been driving while under the influence of alcohol. In the first instance, we would have harmed an innocent person indirectly. We would not have consciously intended it, nor would we have done anything within our reasonable power to bring about the injury. In the second instance, we would be much more directly responsible for harming an innocent person, because we had done something wrong – the drinking – that led to the injury.
In sum, then, because abortion is the direct taking of innocent life, it is always and everywhere wrong, no matter what the circumstances or the intention of the person doing it. Consequently, it may never be done.
Originally published on 27th January 2017, this article was taken from the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus’s rotating column in The Hoya, entitled The Round Table. The column, written by members of the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, is published every other Friday.
By: Richard Howell
Today, the 44th annual March for Life winds its way through Washington, D.C., starting at the Washington Monument and heading toward the steps of the Supreme Court.
We, the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus, attend the March every year in accordance with our desire to promote a culture of life on campus and around the nation. We oppose euthanasia, the death penalty and particularly abortion because of our belief in the supreme innocence of its victims.
We march because we believe each individual human being is created uniquely and lovingly by God. The act of creation does not occur at birth, but rather at conception, when the process of life begins. This belief is not only the official position of the Knights, but that of the Catholic Church and, ostensibly, the university as well.
Although we champion Georgetown’s values by marching, we will go this year, as we have in the past, without the university’s support. While many of our peers attending institutions such as University of Notre Dame and Catholic University of America receive a day off from class to attend, Georgetown University has refused the petitions of its attendees for a similar allowance.
The inaugural March for Life was held Jan. 22, 1974 and attracted 20,000 marchers. That day marked the first anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that reasoned a woman’s right to privacy allowed her to decide whether to have an abortion.
We continue to hold that abortion is the most pressing issue of our time even 45 years after Roe, as nearly 60 million abortions have been legally sanctioned in the United States, roughly the same number of people who died in World War II.
Although Nellie Gray, the founder of the march, had originally intended it to be a one-time event, she instead pushed to have an annual march to keep issues the opposition of abortion, the death penalty and euthanasia on the national radar.
Since then, the March has attracted hundreds of thousands of protesters, including more than 600,000 in 2013. Featured speakers have included sitting presidents such as Ronald Reagan in 1987 and George W. Bush in 2003, as well as numerous members of Congress. This year, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway and Cardinal Timothy Dolan are set to deliver addresses.
Together, we reject the arbitrary distinction between born and unborn because we believe life persists fundamentally unchanged from womb to world. A child is no more alive one minute after birth than one minute, or even six months, before. Accordingly, no utilitarian argument could dissuade us from our stance against abortion.
Further, we reject the claim that a society, family or single parent would be so disadvantaged by the birth of a child so as to justify the destruction of the child’s life. No one has a right to determine for another when life is worth living.
Of course, we hope that all those sympathetic to the cause attend despite the university’s lack of accommodation, but more importantly we hope this occasion might instigate a respectful dialogue on campus centered on life, which we and the Catholic Church hold to be the single most essential value of human existence.
Many on campus disagree with us, often in the name of principles such as liberty and privacy. However, there is no scale on which to measure the value of a human life, which is qualitatively superior to privacy, liberty or any other right. The only choice, then, is whether or not to recognize the worth of every human being. Those of us who identify as pro-life stand on the side of human dignity and will not allow life to be cheapened.
Although the fetus starts as a clump of cells, it rapidly and ineluctably changes. I, too, am a clump of cells, but I am not the same clump as when I was conceived, nor will I be the same in 10 years. Life, then, is fundamentally a process of growth and change, which has its decisive, fragile and miraculous beginning in the womb.
I was drawn to write about this topic because of a comment a friend made during a discussion a group of us were having over dinner at the start of last semester. Asked about my extra-curricular activities in Georgetown, I came to talked about my involvement in the Knights of Columbus. Mentioning the Knights as a fraternity immediately drew laughter, and someone commented, “That’s not a fraternity.”
Perhaps it was my insecurity as an international student and freshman, but at that point I never got to defend the Knights as a fraternity, because I was afraid that I misunderstood what a fraternity was. Having never grown up in the US (I lived in Singapore all my life), my only understanding about fraternities before I came to the US was in stories about “frat parties” and that it was some sort of brotherhood.
But joining the Knights six months ago changed that perspective quite a bit: I saw true Christian brotherhood, opportunities to speak about my faith and hear the stories of my other brothers and sisters in Christ, and to be there for the poor in our society.
To me, fraternity is so much more than an “organised brotherhood”, especially in the case of Christian fraternity. Christ called his apostles from all walks of life, and together they journeyed with him, even after Jesus’s death and resurrection. As Christians, we are all called to be people of great character and to live our lives in communion with Christ.
But alone, we can only do so much: all of us have our personal troubles and failings, and without a community from which we can draw strength from through mutual support, sometimes we are consumed by these things that draw us away from God. This was something that I experienced sometimes before I joined the Knights here in Georgetown.
The privilege of being in a fraternity is that we can push each other, and ourselves, to abide more deeply in our faith, so that together we draw closer to God and be examples within our communities of what our faith stands for.
Pope Francis had this to say about the importance of community and fraternity in living out our Christian faith with mercy and understanding.
“In reality, before the Lord we are all sinners and all in need of forgiveness. All of us. Indeed, Jesus told us not to judge. Fraternal correction is an aspect of the love and the communion that should reign in the Christian community. It is a mutual service that we can and must render to each other … and it is possible and effective only if each person recognizes himself as a sinner and in need of the Lord’s forgiveness. The same awareness that enables me to recognize the errors of the other; first of all reminds me that I myself have made, and make mistakes, many times.”
— Angelus, Sept. 7, 2014
As I look back on my first semester with the Knights, I give thanks for all that this community has given me. It was not easy being an international student, alone in a new country, but I found a family here: one that looks out for one another, and one that looks to serve the vulnerable in our society.
Moving forward, we should continue to be open to expanding our fraternity so that others may come to experience the warmth of Christian fellowship and the joy that stems from a closer relationship with Christ.
The title of this piece is a motto of our nation’s military, translating to “For God and Country”. It reminds us that all of our actions, at their core, ought to be motivated by a love of God and a love of country.
This motto can very tangibly be seen on the north end of campus, the words “For God and Country” painted in ash black upon a wall at precipice of the park that lies just beyond Georgetown. Given by the class of 1952 in honor of all who have served their country, it was rededicated in 2001 for all those who lost their life in September 11.
It was for this end that our university was founded, and so too was our fraternity, The Knights of Columbus.
The Knights have a proud mission based upon service for God and and this great nation. The name of Columbus was chosen all those years ago as a symbol. It was an age where the patriotism of Catholics was questioned, with accusations that they pledged allegiance to the Pope over the United States. In response, the new organization claimed as its victor Christopher Columbus, a Catholic man who was celebrated for his discovery of the new American land. The man was seen as a testament to the potential to be both Catholic and a patriot.
We move forward today with this rich legacy as we continue to serve both God and country: we seek to improve the community that surrounds us, both that of Georgetown, and the larger D.C. area, with the deeply rooted foundation that is our common faith.
As we enter a new year, so too, once again, do we enter the age of a new board and a new Grand Knight. I am proud to take over the leadership for the Georgetown council of the Knights of Columbus. This group is nothing if not filled with honorable gentlemen who represent the very best that Georgetown has to offer. I am so incredibly proud of this opportunity to work, pray, and spend time with these men, from whom I am constantly learning.
Over the past year and a half of my time with the Knights I have seen myself develop into a better man and a better version of the person I hope to become. This is what the Knights has to offer: a stable environment in which Catholic men can foster their faith and their character, all as a part of the larger pursuit of truth in their lives. It is this enduring spirit of community which I hope not only to continue, but to institutionalize into the core fabric of who we are as an organization on campus.
In this new semester, and new year, I look forward to partnering with new communities and organising new events. I hope to continue the constant expansion of the Knights, growing both in breadth and depth as we increase the size of our community and the strength of our faith.
Over this coming year I hope to see the Knights expand their reach on campus.
It is my wish that all upstanding gentlemen of the Catholic faith would have the opportunity to learn about our organization, and that we will be better recognised both on and off campus. I hope that by this time next year all of campus and the surrounding community will recognize the name “Georgetown Knights of Columbus” as a group of honorable men who represent well the faith that binds them.
Over this coming year we plan to continue in fostering the principles that define us.
Spiritually, we seek to deepen our faith by attending mass together, engaging in spiritual discussion, growing in prayerfulness and discerning our vocations.
In terms of service, we hope to increase our involvement in serving the Georgetown and larger D.C. community by partnering with other student groups. We will continue with our commitment to serve D.C.’s homeless population, and we seek to work with D.C.’s special needs community for events such as the Special Olympics.
Fraternally, we aim to strengthen the bonds of the council by taking part in the many events the District has to offer and in experiencing the nation’s capital to its fullest.
To sum it up, as an organization we look forward to continuing with events we have traditionally organised, but at the same time we will strive to find new and innovative ways to strengthen our faith, serve our community, and build the bonds of fraternity.
Just as the wall continues to stand as a stable reminder of our higher calling to serve God and our nation, so too will the Knights continue as a valued member of the Georgetown community, ready to answer that call.
The Spring and Fall semesters of 2016 had the potential to be a really harmful period for our council. We lost the Knights’ House, the keystone of our council for over a decade. The beloved Class of 2016 graduated, leaving an indelible scar in our council’s culture. We had financial issues. Some of our most revered events had to be axed due to logistical hurdles. Innovative ideas proposed failed to materialize.
Yet, somehow, we prevailed. We thrived off of these challenges. Our council reached new heights. In this report, I will address some of our best moments under my term as Grand Knight.
First and foremost, our council reclaimed its national recognition by winning the Double Star Council Award, the most prestigious award that the Knights of Columbus offer. It embodies the success of our service, our recruitment, and our fraternity.
In the Fall of 2016, Council 6375 had its most successful recruiting drive in our 44 year history. We brought in 31 well-qualified men into our order. The previous record was 21. Some of our new Brother Knights became the backbone to new initiatives like the Billy Goat Trail hike and Card Making for Hospitalized Kids.
The Georgetown Knights introduced a number of new initiatives this year, including Interfaith Weeks. Interfaith Weeks was one of the few student-led event series that dove deeper into inter-religious understanding. We hosted a dinner which posed the question, “What does each of our faiths demand of us beyond simply being good people?” Members of the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Protestant, and Mormon communities were a part of the dinner and conversation. Interfaith Weeks was marked by interfaith service projects as well. Hopefully, this contributed to Georgetown University winning the White House’s Interfaith Community Service Award this fall.
As Grand Knight, I declared the fall semester’s motto as “A Council for Knights, a Council for Georgetown”. In light of this, our council took a more active role in the Georgetown community. In both respective semesters, we hosted BBQ fundraisers welcome to the whole community. These well-attended events not only fostered new and old friendships, but we raised several hundred dollars for a Jesuit high school in Soweto, South Africa. We plan to strengthen our ties with this high school even more. Our council even co-sponsored SigEp’s annual 5k Against Domestic Violence. Besides SigEp, our council had the largest turnout, and some of the best run times!
The blog used to be a running joke in our council. Every election, a sizable portion of the council would call for it to be in the ash heaps of the internet. Luckily, this request was denied. Over the past year, we have seen readership numbers explode. It has served as a unique forum for a number of faith-based topics, some of which include finding God in physics, the Catholic response to the Syrian Civil War, and a well-debated piece about the legacy of Christopher Columbus. The blog even featured its first original video, a news clip about our weekly Spiritual Discussions and Dinners.
Council 6375 also expanded its media presence through the Georgetown Voice. In the spring of 2016, our application for a bi-weekly column was accepted. Through this platform, we were able to give a voice to a number of different Catholic topics, including the Cecile Richards lecture, the importance of retreats, and the 2016 presidential election through the eyes of prudence.
As stated earlier, the Knights lost our historic home only two blocks from the front gates of Georgetown. Yet, the council realized that it was our responsibility to preserve the history of this landmark home. Therefore, we processed over 100 items within the home, like the original 1972 charter, original copies of famous Columbia magazines, and a framed photo of Father Fields eating a slice of cake. All items were given a detailed description, and each one has found a home until a new house is established.
On that note, the Knights will regain a house next year in Burleith. This house will be far more sustainable option for future senior knights, considering its size and price. In addition, the Knights will be “Adopting the (very) Block” in which the house will sit on through the DC city government, leaving us with a new service project and some free advertisement.
The Knights have also continued a number of our most important events: the McGivney Lecture, House Masses, 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration, pro-life events, Lenten Pasta Dinners and of course Grate Patrol. Each of these events had increased turnout than previous years.
As you may know, Campus Ministry is arguably the most important element of Georgetown’s culture. Therefore, the Knights sought a more active role on the administrative side of Campus Ministry. One of our former board members became the President of the Campus Ministry Forum, the advisory council and primary organizing body for Campus Ministry student organizations.
Finally, I would like to highlight a once under-looked and under-valued aspect of our council: athletic ability. When I was a freshman, the IM basketball team had won a single game. It was by default because the other team did not show up. Allegedly, that was our most-winning team in years. Luckily, times have changed. Last year, our team made it all of the way to the semi-finals, before losing to the team who the championship. This year, we hope to finally win it all.
All of these achievements could not have been accomplished without a committed board and brother knights who care about their faith at Georgetown. New events and cool trophies are exciting, even encouraging, but they do not represent my original goal for the council since becoming Grand Knight. As a freshman, I made by best friends and my best memories through the Georgetown University Knights of Columbus Council. If one new Knight could say the same thing, then this year was a success.