Lander, Wyo., Sep 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - As a new academic year begins, Wyoming Catholic College’s new president believes that his school offers students an education meant to integrate all aspects of the human person, allowing an openness to God.
“The physical, the poetic mode of education – the physical formation of students here – opens their hearts further, not only to the will of God for their life, but also for the intellectual, academic rigor that follows,” college president Kevin Roberts told CNA in a September interview.
He said that a “lack of engagement with God's first book” – nature – is among the “crises facing modern society.” Part of Wyoming Catholic's mission is to correct the tendency to “simply not appreciate enough” the natural beauty that is around us.
Wyoming Catholic was founded in 2007 to provide a liberal arts education that forms the whole human person in all his aspects – physical, spiritual and intellectual. The school is unique, even among Catholic liberal arts schools, for its inclusion of the physical: the curriculum includes a three-week camping trip, and horsemanship as well.
This “poetic mode” of education, which appeals to both the exterior and interior senses, and which also includes an emphasis on poetry and its memorization, is “so important for the development of the intellectual and moral virtues later on,” added Robert Carlson, who helped found the school along with Father Robert Cook, a priest of the Diocese of Cheyenne, and Bishop David Ricken, who was Bishop of Cheyenne from 2001 to 2008.
The vision for formation and education at Wyoming Catholic College is indebted to John Senior, who with Dennis Quinn and Frank Nelick ran the Integrated Humanities Program at the University of Kansas during the 1970s. Graduates of the program include Bishop James Conley of Lincoln and Archbishop Paul Coakley of Oklahoma City.
As a graduate student, Carlson worked with Senior on the program.
“I learned a tremendous amount about education, and what it should and should not be, experiencing those three professors.”
While teaching at Casper College in Wyoming, Carlson explained that he “became friends with Fr. Bob Cook and Bishop Ricken, and we spent a lot of time together, over pasta, and wine, et cetera, discussing education, and they of course were introduced to this Integrated Humanities Program and John Senior, and I got them quite excited about it.”
Senior, Carlson explained, is the “immediate cause of the motivation and inspiration for the founding of Wyoming Catholic College,” but Senior considered himself to be merely a “doorman to the great minds” such as Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Thucydides and Herodotus, whom Carlson called the remote causes of the school's founding.
Following in Senior's vision, the professors at Wyoming Catholic are meant to be “doormen,” facilitating the students' encounter with the profound thinkers of the Western tradition.
Roberts, the college's new leader, said that the first part of his role as president is to “emphasize its roots, its foundation,” which was given to it by its founders. He then added that “the second is leading us from this transition phase to the next 10, 20 years, which will involve the building of a new campus.”
“But the key point I want to make, is that colleges and schools are people – they're not buildings.”
“And what we're doing this year, and I hope forever, is relishing in the human beings around us. I think that's what the founders did so well, in the years leading up to the college, and in the first stage of the college.”
Roberts added that “what we want to do is bottle that and harness it, and ensure that the supernatural joy that Bishop Ricken, and Dr. Carlson and Fr. Cook set in motion, is something that's sustained over the years.”
Roberts, who co-founded John Paul the Great Academy, a primary and secondary classical school in Louisiana, prior to becoming president of Wyoming Catholic, said that at the academy “my faculty and I became devotees of John Senior and the Integrated Humanities Program in Kansas. We were, of course with secondary education, trying to perfect our own practice of the poetic mode of education.”
“So in a profoundly spiritual sense, as well as a professional one, I felt called to come here, in large part because not only does the college commit itself to a robust formation of faith, but it does that by using the John Senior approach of opening the door to the great minds of civilization.”
He added, “I think we're in a really good spot … to continue that moving forward. We don't want to deviate from that unique mission that Dr. Carlson set out … our goals here are grand, magnanimous: they're for the glory of God.”
Roberts emphasized that he was drawn to Wyoming Catholic because “anyone who visits here, experiences a supernatural joy that I've not seen anywhere else.”
Even though he has been drawn back into higher education, Roberts remains “deeply immersed in efforts to bring a classical curriculum to as many secondary Catholic schools as possible.”
He noted that “an increasing number of bishops and superintendents of education, and dioceses around the country” are coming to understand and appreciate the value of an “authentic Catholic liberal education.”
The adoption of classical and liberal arts education, he said, “is I think the only way we're going to renew Christian society, in the U.S. and beyond.”
Together with physical and intellectual formation, Wyoming Catholic College offers spiritual formation, including daily Mass. Roberts said, “we believe very firmly that Wyoming Catholic College should stand with the Church in its entire liturgical tradition, which is why we're committed to offering both the extraordinary and ordinary forms, and occasionally the Byzantine rite.”
“Because we are committed to the three transcendentals, what is good, beautiful and true, in the highest form of prayer, the Mass, we need to be emulating that,” he added.
Zach Thomas, a junior at the school, said that “every day I'm nourished by the sacraments, I'm encouraged by the teachers, by my fellow students,” adding that the “ability to live in a real Christian community” has been the most important result of his formation there.
The community naturally engendered within the culture of Wyoming Catholic College has resulted in strong relationships between faculty and students, with faculty and their families becoming friends with their students, inviting them over not only for class sessions, but also for poetry readings, croquet matches, music, and dining.
“Families are a constant part of the students' life, and it's great to see how much the students attach themselves to the teachers and their families, and admire them as role models,” Thomas reflected.
He concluded that the opportunity to get “breathing room” from the constant flow of incoming electronics has been among the “most valuable aspects” of his time at the college.
“The physical aspect of being in Wyoming, of being immersed in the purity and the depths of the outdoors, has been really formative.”
Cagliari, Italy, Sep 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis spoke with a group of workers and the unemployed in his pastoral visit to the island of Sardinia today, encouraging them to remain hopeful in the face of a culture that values money over people.
“Don’t let your hope be stolen!” he exhorted the crowds gathered in the capitol city of Cagliari on Sept. 22.
An economic system that “idolizes money” is based upon a “throw-away culture: the grandparents are thrown away, the young people are thrown away. And we must say ‘no’ to this throw-away culture,” said Pope Francis.
“God has willed that at the center of the world there may not be an idol, but man: man and woman, who carry forward, with their own work, the world,” he said.
The Pontiff departed from his prepared remarks, preferring to speak “from the heart” to those who had expressed their discouragement at a lack of available employment.
“With this meeting I wish above all to express my closeness, especially to the situations of suffering: to the many unemployed young people, people on unemployment benefits or in unstable situations, to the entrepreneurs and business owners who are struggling to move forward.”
Pope Francis recounted the story of his own family, personally affected in a similar way.
His father had gone to Argentina as a young man with high hopes, but suffered in the terrible economic crisis of the 1930s. “They lost everything! There was no work!” the Pope exclaimed.
Although this happened before he was born, the Holy Father said he grew up hearing about these times.
“I heard about this suffering in my own home. I know it well.”
Speaking frankly, he said that the lack of work makes people feel as if they “lack dignity.”
His honesty moved the crowds who responded with shouts of agreement, some wiping tears from their cheeks.
This phenomenon is not limited to Italy or other European countries, he said, but is the consequence of an economic system that idolizes money over the human person.
“We must say, ‘we want a just system! A system that makes all of us move forward,’” he encouraged. “Man and woman must be at the center, as God wills, and not money.”
It is hope that “carries us forward” even though “the idols want to steal our dignity” and “the unjust systems want to steal our hope.”
“Let us strive together, for at the center, at least in our lives, there are man and woman, the family, all of us, because hope can carry us forward – don’t let your hope be stolen!”
Pope Francis closed his remarks with a spontaneous prayer: “Lord Jesus, You who did not lack work, give us work and teach us to strive for work and bless us all.”
His daylong visit to Sardinia will include Sunday Mass, a meeting with local bishops, and speeches to several different groups including the youth, prisoners, and representatives of the world of culture.
Cagliari, Italy, Sep 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - During his Sunday homily in Sardinia, the Pope explained how we should seek Christ through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, whose life was an example of faithful prayer and trust in God.
“Let us not grow tired of knocking at God’s door,” he told crowds Sept. 22 in Cagliari, Sardinia. “Let us go to the heart of God through Mary, our whole life, every day, knocking at the door of God’s heart!”
“Mary prays – prays together with the community of disciples, and teaches us to have full faith in God, in his mercy. This is the power of prayer!” he told the faithful.
The Pope recounted how Mary stood with the “beloved disciple” John at the foot of the Cross.
Jesus entrusted them to one another, the Pope said, and in that moment, “we are all there in John.”
It is “loving gaze of Jesus that entrusts us to the maternal custody of his Mother.”
However, her time at the foot of the Cross was not the first time Mary experienced the Divine “loving gaze” Pope Francis explained.
“Mary will have remembered another gaze of love, when she was a young woman, the gaze of God the Father, that saw her humility, her littleness.”
Mary’s relationship with God serves as a model for every Christian.
She “teaches us that God does not abandon us, he can do great things even with our weakness,” explained Pope Francis. “Let us have faith in Him! Let us knock at the door of his heart!”
With the love she has received from God, Mary turns to love her children that Jesus put in her care before he died on the Cross.
In the tender gaze of Mary, said the Pontiff, we find “reflection of the gaze of the Father, which has made her the Mother of God, and the gaze of the Son from the Cross, that has made her our Mother.”
“And with that look today Mary is watching us. We need her tender gaze, her maternal gaze that knows us better than anyone else, her gaze full of compassion and care.”
As the Pope preached, the traditional Sardinian statue of Our Lady of Bonaria stood nearby.
“Bonaria” means “good air” or “fair wind.” In Spanish, it is “Buenos Aires,” the name of Pope Francis’ hometown.
It is said that the Argentinian city received its name from a Sardinian sailor who arrived with early explorers in 1536. He insisted upon naming the land after his ancestral patroness.
After Mass, the Holy Father greeted local authorities as well as the ill and infirmed who had been brought to the cathedral to meet him. He blessed those who were suffering and prayed with those who sought healing.
Pope Francis stopped to greet a large group of nuns in various habits that welcomed him enthusiastically.
He thanked them for their “sustaining” lives of sacrifice and asked for their prayers.
He then continued on to meet with local bishops before returning to the cathedral to speak to the poor and prisoners.
Cagliari, Italy, Sep 22, 2013 (CNA/EWTN News) - Pope Francis spoke forcefully to the youth of Sardinia today, urging them to stay faithful to Christ and avoid the dangers of cynicism and hopelessness.
“You young people cannot and you must not be without hope: hope is a part of your being!” he told thousands of Sardinian youth gathered in the capitol city of Cagliari on Sept. 22.
“When a youth doesn’t have joy and feels skepticism in life … where does he go to find a little serenity, a little peace?” the Pope asked. “You know, (to) these merchants of death: to those that sell death, that offer you a way for when you are sad without hope, without faith, without courage.”
“Please, don’t sell your youth to the merchants of death!” Pope Francis implored. “Trust in Jesus – He changes the perspective of life.”
The Holy Father said he came not “to sell you an illusion,” but to proclaim the truth of Christ.
“I come here to tell you that there is a person who can carry you forward. Trust in him – it’s Jesus!”
The Pope departed from his prepared remarks to share his personal testimony with the crowds of young people.
“Yesterday I celebrated the 60th year of hearing God’s voice in my heart,” he recounted. “I have never forgotten: the Lord made me hear it forcefully – that I had to go along this path (when) I was 17 years old.”
In those years, Pope Francis said he has walked along “the path of the Lord: behind Him, next to Him, always with Him.”
Even after so many years, the Holy Father says that he is “happy” and has never regretted responding to God’s call.
“Because always, even in the darkest moments, in moments of sin, in moments of weakness, in moments of failure, I have seen Jesus, and I trusted Him … He has not left me alone.”
Many young people nodded in agreement as Pope Francis spoke of how personal failure, and even failure in the Church, can be discouraging.
However, he insisted, in the face of trials we must remember that although following Christ is “challenging” the Lord never deceives us and is “a faithful companion.”
At an earlier meeting with the poor and incarcerated, the Pontiff spoke of how the choice to follow Jesus involves embracing the challenge of solidarity.
“Everyone who is here, all of us, has misery, and all of us who are here have weakness,” he said. “But the path of Jesus, the path of charity,” is that of “humility and solidarity.”
In this “throw-away culture” the Pope said, the word “solidarity” seems to risk “being erased from the dictionary because it is a word that annoys.”
“It obliges you to look out for another, and to give yourself to another with love,” the Pope explained.
He warned that solidarity is “not an ideology,” but rather “a way of life and of living that comes from love” and “from the heart of the Father.”
Charity is not the same as the welfare state, the Pope stated, nor is it “excessive welfare aid to ease the conscience.”
“No, that’s not love; that’s a shop, that’s a business,” he said. “Love is free” and “is a choice of life.”
Pope Francis’ ten-hour pastoral visit to the island of Sardinia today included meetings with various groups in the capitol city of Cagliari, including the poor and imprisoned, local bishops, and professors of theology.