Unity of faith and language

Oxford University

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The first Universities

The first ten centuries in the Church’s history, as we have seen, are totally interwoven with the sociopolitical conditions in the Mediterranean basin and the countries near it.

Ten centuries of fermentation with the Gospel in the everyday life of thousands of people brought about, at times with amazing speed, at other times in slower rhythms, a real revolution as regards the institutions and the mentalities, a revolution which would continue in the following centuries.

And, while the Eastern Roman Empire was in its political and military zenith with the Macedonian dynasty and the retaking through successful wars regions previously conquered by the Muslims and bringing Christianity to Russia, in the West a maturation is taking place; in the relative peace which prevails the institution of schools in every cathedral and in the monasteries is spread. This, however, is not enough. Powerful citizens’ guilds and even many persons who were not clerics desire to be educated.

The first Universities are founded. The Church supports and encourages these institutions.

In 1066 A.D. the University of Bologna is founded, famous for its Law faculty. Salerno University follows (Medicine) and then Paris, Oxford, Cambridge and many more.

Latin is the common language and the students, occasionally, move from one University to another, independently from the country in which it is, because there is the unity of the teaching language (Latin) and the communion of the Catholic Faith.

The Universities produced, and keep producing, a most important work in all sectors of learning. Also, there are not few the Doctors and Professors, but students as well in their midst, who have been recognized as Saints and Doctors of the Church and have been canonized. We mention only some of the most widely known like Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Albert the Great, Saint Ignatius de Loyola, Saint Robert Bellarmine.

For the Christian, learning is first of all in the service of the Faith. Philosophia ancilla theologiae they used to sa. (i.e. philosophy is the servant of theology).

When Faith sheds its light to all aspects of human existence -and the scientific knowledge is one of them- life gets into an order and it effectively becomes the springboard for greater moral and spiritual conquests.

“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away ,but the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. (1 Pet. 1, 24,25).

The Catholic University

The Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium

Born in the heart of the Church, the Catholic University is in the current of the tradition which goes back to the beginnings of the University as an institution.

From its origins it has been recognized as an incomparable centre of creativity and dissemination of knowledge for the profit of humanity.

Because of its vocation it is devoted to the research, teaching and formation of the students, who freely meet with their professors in their common love for knowledge.

With every other university it participates in the joy of truth, so precious in every field of science.

The privileged work of a Catholic University lies in its existential union, through mental efforts, of two orders of reality, which very often are  viewed as opposed to one another, namely, the search for truth and the certainty of faith that we already know the source of truth.

Saint John-Paul II, Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Universities, 1989

Did you know…

Fresco, 4 m high, representative of the Cluny style, Saint Hugh’s chapel, Brezé

The monks of Cluny Abbey (beginning of 10th century – beginning of 12th century) were the first who invented and used a silent sign language, not for those among them who might have been hard of hearing, but in order to guard the precious quiet time according to their monastic rule which would forbid during certain hours the speech.

By this sign language they were able to transmit accurate information without having to speak. This “language” played a central role in the education of the novices, training them in obedience and getting them used to silence; silence predisposes one to open his “inner space”, so that God’s voice be heard and prayer improve.

The practice spread in many monasteries in Europe which resulted in the creation of a number of local variations and idioms from the original sign language.

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