December 03, 2013

MISSION MATTERS: Thanks to Truth

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Before coming to Saint Louis University, I studied Latin and found it helpful for learning the meaning of English words, either because they came from Latin, or because the Romans had unique ways of expressing similar ideas. For example, when the Romans talked about gratitude, or thankfulness, they used the word gratia. If Claudius does Julius a favor, then Julius will regard him with special esteem, or gratia.

Now for the Romans, there were a couple of different things Julius can do with that attitude of esteem: he can feel thankful (habere gratiam); he can say "thank you" (agere gratias); and he can return the favor (reddere gratiam). In the end, however, to be thankful in the fullest sense all three are important. It is expected that Julius will have an interior attitude and thoughts of thankfulness and that this gratitude inside him will be expressed in word and deed. Thanksgiving has to do with the whole person, inside and out.

What does thanksgiving have to do with the mission of Saint Louis University, though? Our Mission is "the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity." Today, as always, people can have very different motives for entering into university life. Some may seek pre-professional credentials that will get them started on a well-paying career. Such preparation is important, but it does not necessary have to involve the pursuit of truth.

Others may want the honor or pride that comes with being more intelligent. Plain learning is important, but it can point us towards ourselves as easily as it can direct us to the one who transcends us and those who live around us. When looking for the proper motivation in pursuing knowledge, a little advice from the wise always helps.

St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, saw thankfulness as one of the greatest virtues a person could ever have. He always encouraged others to thank God for what He gives us. St. Ignatius wrote "the grateful acknowledgment of blessings and gifts received is appreciated and esteemed in heaven just as it is on earth." At a Catholic university like SLU, we enter into the pursuit of truth with the understanding that intelligence is a gift of God. And if we receive it as a gift, then we will pursue truth from a motive of thankfulness for such a wonderful gift.

Moreover, if we see from whom we have received our intelligence, then we can know to whom we ought to say "thank you," and for whose greater glory we ought to work. And if we see that He is ultimately above all our ability to repay Him, then we can show Him our gratefulness by serving others, especially those who may not be able to repay us.

Then we can better understand not only the Mission of SLU, but also the words of Jesus, "Love one another as I have loved you."

— Thomas Crouteau, S.J., senior in the College of Philosophy and Letters

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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