What to Read – advice on the liberal arts from Hugh St. Victor

Hugh of St. Victor was a Saxon churchman who read and wrote much. Wikipedia says of him: Hugh wrote many works from the 1120s until his death, including works of theology, commentaries, mysticism, philosophy and the arts, and a number of letters and sermons. Hugh was influenced by many people, but chiefly by Saint Augustine, especially in holding that the arts and philosophy can serve theology. _ In his primary work on philosophy and education (after all, philosophy – wisdom-love … Read More

Studies for the sake of the church – Rhabanus Maurus on the liberal arts

No, I didn’t know who he was either, before reading this next selection from The Great Tradition: Classical Writings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being. Rhabanus Maurus was a Germanic monk who studied under Alcuin at Tours. In fact, the name Maurus is an honorific given him by Alcuin. He was deeply learned; read Scripture, the Church Fathers, as well as Greek & Roman literature; he wrote commentaries as well as textbooks on the liberal arts. … Read More

Speaking well is part of living well. – Charlemagne on education

_ If the goal of education is virtue, why bother studying science or spelling or rhetoric? Why not just hunker down and do character lessons and call it a day? Our idea of virtue is too shallow. We see our moral sense unconnected to our knowledge or even to our ability to communicate. But they are not unconnected. They should all – and do all – feed each other when submitted to God. The selection I’m highlighting today from The … Read More

What to teach and how and why. – Alcuin on schools

_ Once again we delve into the history of classical education as I slowly read through The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being. We now move from the early church into the early medieval period, erroneously called The Dark Ages. Alcuin of York was a pupil of a great and learned bishop and inherited the schoolmaster position from his master. Alcuin led a revival of learning in England and Europe, earning the … Read More

Is virtue an action or an attitude? – Gregory the Great on the contemplative life

_ Gregory the Great, of gregorian chant fame, was pope in the 6th century. Born of noble family and classically educated, Gregory opened monasteries, sent a bishop-led mission to newly discovered England, and is one of the four recognized “doctors of the Latin church.” The selection included in The Great Tradition is not about education per se, not about educating the young, at least. Rather, it is about the right kind of life to pursue. It is a pure life … Read More

Memory or Understanding? – Cassiodorus on Learning

Next up in the early church readings on education in The Great Tradition: Cassiodorus. Cassiodorus was a consul in Rome, living through the drawn-out fall of Rome, and ending up as an advisor to Theodoric along with Boethius. He was of noble birth and a devout Christian. Late in his life he founded a monastery with the express purpose of preserving ancient culture as he watched Rome’s disintegration. His monastery didn’t last beyond his own lifetime, but his works excerpted … Read More

Truth is from God – Augustine on learning

Augustine, doctor of the church, protected the church against heresy and also gave the church a rich heritage of philosophy and theology. _ 
Not only did he receive and use a classical education of the first caliber, he also had thoughts about education and for students as well. Today we’ll look at some of his advice to scholars, excerpted from The Great Tradition: Classical Readings on What It Means to Be an Educated Human Being. Matters of study, matters to … Read More

What profit it a man? – Augustine on education

As I slowly make my way through The Great Tradition, I am fascinated to read what the best minds of the past have prioritized in education. Particularly because I am now in the Church Fathers section, it is so good to see how they handled the transition from the classical world into Christendom – they knew philosophy, science, and the arts were not automatically corrupting simply because they came from the Gentiles. Augustine will have a bit more to say … Read More

Phonics is noble – Jerome on early education

Jerome was an adult convert, receiving an excellent classical education early in life and using that later in life for the good of the church. His best patron was a wealthy widow, Paula, with whom he kept up a correspondence. Because of her support, he was able to devote must time and energy into literary endeavors, writing books, translating the Bible into Latin, maintaining correspondence, and more. The letter excerpted here is to Paula about a granddaughter who had been … Read More

What must we then read? – Jerome on pagan learning

Jerome is a fascinating character. He is the one who gave the Church the Vulgate, and his own classical learning and love of Latin poets & philosophers gave him the skill to do so. Amid a near-death experience, Jerome vowed never again to read a secular author. So, at first it seems that Jerome must be in the anti-classical camp. Yet, although this is his vow, it is not his advice to others. Just as the Nazarites vow not to … Read More

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