On Thursday night our middle daughter Georgia graduated from Notre Dame University with an MA in Counselling. It is encouraging when your kids find the thing they really want to do. Georgia did a short introduction to counselling with Cheryl about three years ago and it just clicked. So she found a course and two years later she has graduated with distinction and has been employed by the agency in which she did her training placement. Ironically, Emma Jarvis is her new boss. When Emma returns from holidays she will assume the CEO role at Palmerston where Georgia works.
The thing I wanted to ponder was the Graduation Ceremony. It was all that graduations usually are – well-orchestrated sausage machines. However it was the ethos that the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor championed that I found so encouraging. Notre Dame is Catholic. I appreciate the way the Catholics are unrepentant about the centrality of their Christian faith in everything they do. At Notre Dame every student must do a number of units in the faculty of theology – every student in every discipline. The Vice Chancellor explained why. She described personhood as something far more than its component parts – skills, knowledge, personality, psychology, spirituality and so on. She championed the wisdom of every discipline, acknowledging the contribution that every other discipline makes. Great knowledge and skill in engineering, medicine, law or the arts in isolation is incomplete in itself.
The valedictory speech echoed this. The graduating medical student said the thing that marked out her course was ‘reflection’ She said jokingly that she counted 37 written ‘reflections’ over the four years of study.
The Catholics have a view that God is Lord of everything, so all disciplines should be respected and respect each other, AND the student should learn to reflect on what their experiences are teaching them in every area of their personhood. IN other words, to use my language, their hope is that students will learn to ‘hear God’ in the respectful broadening of their minds.
Have you noticed today how the rhetoric is about the narrowing not the broadening of viewpoints? It’s about disrespect and offence of others and their viewpoints.
The majesty of the gospel is that God does not need to respect human opinion and folly. God does not need to come and join in. But he does. He humbles himself, he hopes for bowed knees and open hearts. He even dies for me… and rises victorious over it all.
Notre Dame seems to be hoping for a more integrated educated person, a more generously hard-headed thoughtful person – a young person who, when in the fray of life is tempted to narrow, harden and try to win, might instead stop and ‘reflect’.
I found that encouraging.