18 October 2015

TSSF Principles, Day 18

(18) As well as the devotional study of Scripture, we all recognise our Christian responsibility to pursue other branches of study, both sacred and secular. In particular some of us accept the duty of contributing, through research and writing, to a better understanding of the church’s mission in the world: the application of Christian principles to the use and distribution of wealth; questions concerning justice and peace; and of all other questions concerning the life of faith.
Study is actually a rather tricky area for Franciscans. Although the Franciscan Order rapidly became one of the leading intellectual forces of the medieval Church, Francis himself was quite ambivalent about the value of study. He was perhaps only too conscious of the potential for learning to create divisions and to be used as a badge of status.

Study is not just about reading; it must involve articulating my response to what I have read. And note-taking (essentially copying what the source has said – either verbatim or in my own words) is not sufficient. This applies even (or perhaps especially) to Bible study. To engage fully with the text, I must write my response.

But perhaps my personal bias in favour of research and writing misses the point. All of us (not just the academically minded) have a duty to study the world around us in order that we might better live our Christian lives in it. We live and we engage more effectively if we make an effort to understand it.

We can see this in the earliest Franciscans: a passion for understanding the world, which transformed natural philosophy (the forerunner of physics) from the fringe interest of a few eccentrics to a central part of the late medieval university curriculum.

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