The Importance of Secular Learning

Part of my spiritual resolutions this year is to pray more and to pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament for at least 15 minutes a day. This has been somewhat of an easy task since the parish I work at in Gilbert, Arizona, Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church (Facebook and Twitter), now offers Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for one hour after the morning Mass during week.

Assisting me in prayer this year has been Mike Aquilina’s, A Year with the Church Fathers – Patristic Wisdom for Daily Living. It’s meant to be a retreat done on a daily basis for the entire year. If you read my blog on a regular basis, then you know I love the Early Church Fathers and the Doctors of the Church very much. The wisdom and great theological insight they have provided for us throughout the centuries is like a road map for us Christians in today’s Catholic Church.

Although the first seventeen days have been profound, the one I have enjoyed the most so far is about the importance of secular learning from Saint Basil’s Address to Young Men 2.  St. Basil tells us that secular learning is important as long as we know that Heaven is our main goal.

Two questions Aquilina gives us at the end of the excerpt – How do I make use of my secular learning?…Is it leading me toward or away from God?

Asking oneself those two questions, I provide the excerpt from Day 14 –

“…Christians we believe that is human life is not supremely valuable. We do not recognize anything as an unconditional blessing if it benefits us only in this life. Family pride, strength of body, beauty, position, universal acclaim, royal power, anything that might be called great in human terms – we see none of these things as worthwhile, and we do not envy those who have them. No, we put out hopes on what lies beyond, and do everything in preparation for eternal life.

If you were to bring together every earthly good from the creation of the world, it would not compare to the tiniest part of the possessions of heaven. Everything precious in this life falls shorter of the least of the goods in the other than the shadow or dream falls short of the reality. Or rather, as much as the soul is superior to the body in everything, so much is the heavenly life superior to the earthly life.

The Holy Scriptures lead us into eternal life, teaching us through the divine words. But as long as we are not mature enough to understand their deep though, we exercise our spiritual perceptions on the secular writings – which are not so much different, and in which we see the truth, so to speak, in shadows and mirrors. In that way we imitate those who do military exercises: they gain skill in gymnastics and dancing and then reap the reward of their training in battle. We must believe that the greatest battle of all is ahead of us, and to prepare for it we must do and suffer everything.

So we must be familiar with poets, historians, orators, and in fact everyone who can help our souls to salvation. First we are introduced to pagan legends, and then at last pay special attention to the sacred and divine teachings – just was we might first get used to the reflection of the sun in the water, and then can turn our eyes to the sun itself.”

As long as Heaven is our ultimate goal, let us learn all things that will and can help us to attain salvation. Saint Basil the Great…Pray for Us!

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