Feast of St. Anselm – the swift wings of desire


Pope John Paul II draws some profound lessons from the work of St Anselm on Faith and Reason.

“The role of philosophically trained reason becomes even more conspicuous under the impulse of Saint Anselm’s interpretation of the intellectus fidei. . . . . Its [reason’s] function is to find meaning, to discover explanations which might allow everyone to come to a certain understanding of the contents of faith. Saint Anselm underscores the fact that the intellect must seek that which it loves: the more it loves, the more it desires to know. Whoever lives for the truth is reaching for a form of knowledge which is fired more and more with love for what it knows, while having to admit that it has not yet attained what it desires: . . . The desire for truth spurs reason always to go further; indeed, it is as if reason were overwhelmed to see that it can always go beyond what it has already achieved. It is at this point, though, that reason can learn where its path will lead in the end . . . [and thus] at the summit of its searching reason acknowledges that it cannot do without what faith presents.” Fides et ratio §42

We have queried on previous blogs how does one get from the disciplines, separately existing and specialized, to a vision of the whole? The preferred mode, and the one to be expected at any rate, from professors and students at a Catholic university is to go through faith. At the summit of any search “reason acknowledges that it cannot do without what faith presents.” Dante, now Anselm, reminds us that love is constitutive of the educational enterprise. In the Purgatorio Virgil calls down to the weary Dante and says that “here a man must fly with the swift wings of desire.” (Image at top is from UT Austin Dante site; it is William Blake’s drawing of Virgil delivering the message to Dante).

Renewal requires men and women with the desire for beauty and wholeness, and faith.
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