The first Toth/Lonergan Visiting Professor, noted theologian Mark Miller, addressed the Seton Hall teaching community as the Keynote Speaker at the 2017 Faculty Convocation on Friday, September 8th.
Miller shared his ideas about education and the twofold movement that it embodies with comparisons to Plato's "Allegory of the Cave." Plato's story portrays education as an ascent and a descent. When the person who was chained in the cave was finally freed, he came to see the world clearly, and finally the sun which Miller calls, "the source of all light and life." One would think the story ends there, but Miller points out that the freed person then descends into the cave to help others. "I believe that education as formation is largely about assisting students to make a similar ascent and descent," said Miller. This ascent, consists in letting go of lower goods to aim at higher goods and then descending to share those higher goods, such as wisdom.
Many educators have influenced Miller, including, and among others, his mother. He notes that she was his best teacher, and one of her most memorable lessons exemplified the ascent and descent of education. As a young boy, on a shopping trip for his sister's graduation dress, he was begging for a GI Joe doll. His mother bent down over him and said his sister's dress was more important, thereby introducing the concept of priorities. Miller believes that quality parents, "help their children to have good priorities, to ascend from lower goods to higher goods." As for college educators, Miller said "we should help our students to make the leap to care more about wisdom than grades and to prefer love over money."
Miller quotes Plato's "Apology," when Socrates exclaims that people do not care enough about virtue and their soul, but are overwhelmed with ideas of wealth, honor and appearances. These things are not innately bad, but they should not be priorities. These are the lower goods that will come once we ascend to the higher ones. In today's society, Miller turns to the difficult choices many are faced with: "money or personal fulfillment, honor or integrity, our bodies or our souls." At the center of Christianity is finding the goodness in all things. Therefore, teaching students to have priorities is a precious gift, especially that "all things are good and lovable." In closing, Miller said, "if we do what we love, we will work hard at it, and if we work hard at it, we will be rewarded for it. Education is an ascent and a descent. If we aim for the higher goods, the lower ones will come."
Mark T. Miller, Ph. D, a leading authority on the life and work of Father Lonergan, is the inaugural Toth/ Lonergan Professor at Seton Hall. Professor Miller will enhance the connections between the University's Catholic mission and academic and professional education through teaching students in the Core Curriculum, Honors Program, Law School and Seminary. He will also participate in the University's faculty development programs, which link Lonergan's generalized empirical method ("GEM") with the disciplines.
About the Toth/Lonergran Endowed Professorship in Interdisciplinary Studies
The purpose of this Chair is to link the Catholic faith with all the disciplines and professions in the contemporary university. Since Seton Hall is a Catholic university, its mission is to link faith with science, religion with literature, Christianity with work. The holder of the Toth/Lonergan Chair will teach and work with faculty in various schools and departments to foster and deepen conversation on the relationship with the Catholic mission.
About the Center for Catholic Studies
Founded at Seton Hall University in 1997, The Center for Catholic Studies is dedicated to fostering a dialogue between the Catholic intellectual tradition and all areas of study and contemporary culture, through scholarly research and publications and ongoing programs for faculty, students, and the general public. In 2001, the Center conducted the annual faculty summer seminar, "The Core of the Core," which originated the present University Core Curriculum. The Center also developed the undergraduate degree program in Catholic Studies with its major, minor and certificate, which in 2012 became the Department of Catholic Studies. The Center continues to support the Department with scholarship aid and its ongoing program of co-curricular activities.
Focusing on the central role of the faculty, the Center is the sponsor of regular Faculty Development programs, including lectures, seminars and retreats. The Center also administers two national faculty development programs: Collegium: A Colloquy on Faith and Intellectual Life, and The Lilly Fellows Program.
The Center maintains a global focus in international scholarship and is the home of the G.K. Chesterton Institute for Faith & Culture, as well as the Bernard J. Lonergan Institute. The Institutes offer opportunities for study and research, as well as ongoing programs related to faith and culture. In addition, the Micah Institute for Business and Economics concentrates on communicating Catholic Social Teaching and ethics to business education at Seton Hall and the wider business community. The Center also publishes the prestigious Chesterton Review, The Lonergan Review.
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Categories: Faith and Service