By Fenwick Student Preacher Carl Lukas ’22 (Riverside, IL)
Good morning everyone. My name is Carl Lukas, and I am a member of the Class of 2022. We gather here today to honor Saint Thomas Aquinas, who is a highly revered Dominican friar and scholar. He is probably the best-known Dominican in the Catholic Church, and his influence is seen throughout Fenwick. There is a statue of him on a staircase, he is depicted on stained glass in the chapel, and his image appears in numerous classrooms.
It is evident that Aquinas is important in the church, but it can be difficult to see how his life is relevant to us in the 21st century. Thomas Aquinas lived in the 13th century and spent his life composing philosophical and theological works. He wrote of improving our relationship with God through our intellect, and he is instrumental in clarifying the teaching of the Catholic faith in a concise and systematic manner as well as promoting the importance of the Eucharist. Through Aquinas’s teachings, we can learn more about ourselves and the world around us, allowing us to strengthen our faith.
I recently finished my first-semester World Religions course with Mr. Mulcahy. I was fascinated by the different religions across the world and what they believed. I learned about how different world faiths seek to guide their members in living a good life. I learned about Islam’s solution to the problem of pride, and how Hindus work towards breaking out of a cycle of rebirth. Through this class, I discovered that from the start of human history, we have always been searching for answers that cannot be found through the use of our senses and reason. The use of our senses and faculty of reason are useful in coming to understand the world around us. However, there are some questions that cannot be answered with human intellect alone. Rather, to make sense of the dilemmas we need something different, which we call wisdom.
Wisdom and knowledge are usually mistaken. The two words are often used interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. Knowledge can be gained somewhat easily. We go to classes every day and gain new knowledge on a variety of topics. We are then tested on these topics and sometimes let them slip out of our minds. We can know many different things, yet it is hard for us to understand why we need to know them.
This is where wisdom comes in. Having wisdom is being able to apply your knowledge in your life. We can go on autopilot and learn new knowledge without having to truly understand why we are learning it.
Wisdom is different from knowledge
However, to gain wisdom we must understand the world around us to apply our knowledge. This is why it was important to me to learn as much as I can about the world, including the beliefs of other traditions. All traditions are seeking an answer to a similar question but approach it differently. The desire to seek knowledge outside of simple academic knowledge is naturally sought after throughout the world. Now that I understand more about what others believe, I can strengthen my own beliefs by understanding the impact we have on each other. I am able to strengthen my faith by questioning the essence of my beliefs.
It can be difficult to connect knowledge and wisdom and to see how they relate. As humans, we question many things. We can answer most of our questions through practical means such as the usage of our senses and intellect. However, some questions cannot be answered through basic knowledge. This is where faith helps us. Faith helps us find answers. We use faith to attempt to answer the questions of: Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose?
These are not questions that our intellect or sense can answer on their own. Something above knowledge needs to be utilized to truly find the answers we are seeking. This is where God and his gift of wisdom come in.
Aquinas knew that as humans, we were bound to grow in knowledge. However, he also wrote about the importance of developing our intellect in order to grow closer to God and achieve happiness. Aquinas made it his goal to constantly search for answers, to gain wisdom and to guide people in coming to a deeper understanding of wisdom by connecting it in a logical way to knowledge.
We are called to do this during our time here at Fenwick. Admittedly, at times it may seem difficult to understand why you are learning something that is not interesting to you. Instead of dismissing the lesson and ‘checking out,’ consider how it can make you wiser; allow you to come to understand the world and your Creator better; or allow you to help others. If we do that, we too can follow in the footsteps of Aquinas, forever seeking wisdom.