Welcome to the new Academic Year. I offer a particular welcome to our students.
The word ‘college’ is a wonderful descriptor of who we are and who we aspire to be here at Aquinas. That we all describe ourselves as ‘Aquinians’ provides us with some collective identity, and that’s important for us. But to be able also to describe ourselves also as ‘collegians’, that captures something of our purpose and our character, why this place exists.
The etymology of ‘college’ takes us back to two Latin words: col, meaning ‘together’ or ‘with’, and legere, meaning ‘to read’. To read together.
‘Read’ is a word that is traditionally associated with university study. In former times, in places such as England, one would go away to ‘read for’ a degree. The first sense of this word, therefore, has to do with scholarship. That is what we are primarily about here, of course. We are all involved in higher learning. We want to do that with confidence and effect.
There are other ways, however, in which we can use the verb ‘read’. We can read a map. In sport, it is helpful if we can read the play. A farmer needs to read what the weather is likely to do. A specialist doctor may be required to read some medical test results. Over half a century ago the then Pope, John XXIII, urged the Church ‘to read the signs of the times’. Enormous change occurred as a result. More than 1700 years ago, a north African by the name of Augustine of Hippo, who had been leading a fairly shallow and hedonistic lifestyle, heard the call to ‘take up and read’. He picked up St Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and it changed his life. And his life changed the world. ‘To read’ in each of these senses is to delve more deeply into what is happening – to be alert, to reflect, to ponder, to question, to interpret, to evaluate, to consider options, and ultimately to choose what is right and best.
It is to such deeper reading that each of us is invited in 2018. It is an opportunity to read the directions of our lives and our world. It carries the challenge to go beyond the immediate and the apparent, to discern what could be. It challenges us to look at direction: where are things headed? Such reading will always be most effectively done when we use the three lenses of faith, of hope, and of love. They give us clarity of sight and depth of understanding.
It will also be most effective when it is done with other people, with fellow-readers. It is they who can support us when we are weighed down, who can bring us out of ourselves when we are too self-absorbed, who can widen our horizons when we are blinkered, to can care for us when we are hurt, who can look out for us when we wander, who can challenge us when we may be in error, who can encourage us when we lose heart, who can bring us joy and friendship and the sense of belonging which we all need. This is the collegiate experience that Aquinas offers.
The strength of Aquinas is sourced in our shared building of a genuine ‘college’ – readers together. I pray for every blessing on each member of the College for the year ahead of us.
Lucere et ardere
Brother Michael Green FMS