Two good Catholics

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Isabel Dubert, Contributing Writer

 

G. K. Chesterton showing some Franciscan friendliness.

As an Anglican at a most decidedly Catholic university, I have heard of “good Catholics” and even encounter them from time to time.

Then I ponder. While ruminating on the phrase “good Catholic,” on the feast day of St. Francis no less, I happened upon an enlightening thought. And so, my mind naturally flowed to Chesterton – for whom I hold no inconsiderable deference – the great bastion and defender of Catholicism, and the author of two compelling biographies. And these pertain to none other than St. Thomas Aquinas, popularly adopted patron saint of students here at the University of Dallas, and St. Francis of Assisi. No two saints could be less alike than they. Yet Catholics and Protestants alike pay homage to these pious men. Though they lived out their callings in different ways, something about each of them deserves the title “good Catholic.”

St. Francis was extreme in his love for nature, animals and his fellow man. His repulsion for worldly possessions and prestige would condemn him as an anachronism in this modern materialistic age, though some tree-huggers might find in him a bosom friend. Aquinas yielded to his immoderate love for books, learning, philosophy and theological discussion. He was known as the Angelic Doctor; Francis was the Jongleur de Dieu. One thrived on the smell of vellum; the other sought “the peace of wild things.” We are many scholastics here at UD, but only a few jugglers.

And so, although neither one excelled in the virtue of moderation, we admire them both, and yet we tend only to emulate the one whose life was more “sensible.” It is natural for UD students to adopt Aquinas as their scholastic model, but we would do well at times to heed the simplicity of Francis as well. You see, Chesterton had it right; he didn’t take either of them too seriously. One was the Fool of God and the other, the Dumb Ox. He discerned their shortcomings as well as their triumphs.

Chesterton would have us recognize that we, who are too often immersed in our own academic pursuits, should not idolize our learning and scholarship to the detriment of the people around us. At UD, it is but inevitable to study Aquinas in great depth. Yet, in our pursuit of Truth, we might overlook the grace Francis showed to the lovely and loveless alike. A blend of Aquinas and Francis would create a most aesthetically pleasing UD student (a good Catholic?). We could all benefit from a little more of Francis’ unconditional love for and acceptance of every brother and sister he met.

As Frederick Buechner wrote: “The next time you walk down the street, take a good look at every face you pass and in your mind say, ‘Christ died for thee.’ That girl. That slob. That phony. That crook. That saint. That damned fool. Christ died for thee. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee.”

 

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