The Rev. Georges Lemaitre was a Belgian cosmologist, Catholic priest and father of the Big Bang theory. Illustrating an example in which an integration of faith and reason was necessary, University of St. Thomas Physics Assistant Professor Dr. James Clarage said Father Lemaitre calculated Albert Einstein’s equations in reverse order, and “he found that it all started with one big, cosmic occurrence. Even many Catholic scientists are unaware of this bit of intellectual history.”
Father Lemaitre’s work is part of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, which includes books, artwork, theological thought and cultural expression spanning a 2,000 year period. Father Lemaitre helped advance how to incorporate his faith in his work as a scientist. Drawing inspiration from this 2,000-year-old tradition, the UST faculty also work to stretch their minds and spirituality through a Catholic Intellectual Tradition Learning Community.
“This isn’t just a lecture-style group,” Clarage said. “The faculty members who attend enjoy it and look forward to the break. It’s good to get to know how to use your faith and incorporate good reasoning.”
Meeting three times a semester, faculty members discuss books and artwork relevant to the co-existence of faith and reason and discuss topics to integrate into their teaching. Through fellowship, faculty members enjoy refreshments while talking with their peers about Catholic topics relevant to art, popular culture and social issues.
“Writers like St. Thomas Aquinas work to identify whether you can really believe Aristotle and believe in the Bible,” Clarage said. “He figured out how to link the two, so we have to explore these ideas as well.”
The facilitator chooses the book, picks a section and develops discussion topics. The group is currently reading an excerpt from “Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander” by Thomas Merton. The book, written by a trappist monk, examines social and political issues of the 60s. Merton is called one of the most widely read and influential spiritual writers in this time.
The learning community also sponsors events on campus. It brings in outside speakers and co-sponsors the Gregorian Chant Workshop each year.
"Part of the University mission statement is to integrate faith and reason,” Clarage said. “As faculty, you want to understand the Catholic Intellectual Tradition so you can talk about it intelligently. It’s a good way to make yourself knowledgeable about things you are going to weave through your teaching, as well as your and professional and personal life. I’ve learned a lot from other faculty members.”
Open to all faculty, the next meeting is at 3 p.m. on Dec. 6 in the Center for Faculty Excellence, 1206 Colquitt St. For more information, contact group director Jim Clarage at email@example.com or group facilitator Catherine Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713-525-3830.