Loyola University Maryland

Catholic Studies Program

Intellectual Tradition

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The essential and foundational truth of the Roman Catholic faith is proclaimed through the revealed Word of God expressed in the Sacred Scriptures, especially the teaching of the Gospel, and the pronouncements of Church doctrine communicated from the Magisterium.

From the most ancient intellectual traditions, it is affirmed that all human beings by nature desire to know, and that the desire to know is satisfied only upon one’s attainment of knowledge of the first causes and the first principles of things which also is knowledge of the truth. That desire is constitutive of the ultimate end (telos) of human being, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, because our ultimate purpose (telos) is fulfilled only when consummate knowledge of the first truth, namely, God, is realized. Moreover, St. Thomas concludes that the truth attained by the exercise of human reason cannot be contrary to the truth made available to human beings through revelation which is apprehended by faith.

The intimate affinity that obtains among the desire for knowledge, the pursuit of the truth, the exercise of the faculty of reason, and the revealed content of faith was reasserted by Pope John Paul II.

“Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of the truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know Himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves” (Preamble to Fides et Ratio).

Emphasis upon the formation of one’s intellectual faculties, for the purpose of desiring the truth, coming to know the truth increasingly more fully, and “seeing God in all things,” is the cornerstone of the educational mission embodied by the Society of Jesus. The characteristic feature of Jesuit education accentuates the exercise of the intellect so that students may relate their activities to the knowledge and love of God, order their learning to the praise of God and the well-being of human kind, as well as provide well reasoned motives for moral living from a Christian ethic.

The vocation of the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition is to arrive at knowledge of the truth about the divine Creation, or all that is, through the exercise of reason in every intellectual endeavor and academic discipline. From the reasoned studies of art, theater, literature, law, history, natural science, social science, language, the business disciplines, philosophy, or theology, the Roman Catholic intellectual tradition exemplifies the lived thinking of the Church as it seeks to exert a profound informing and transforming effect upon the world.