Perhaps because I’ve been a teacher, September makes me think of beginnings: the start of a new school year, those first steps toward the independence of college life, the time of year when parish programs resume after a more relaxed summer schedule, and for us Cursillistas, team preparation for the fall weekends. It’s the time of year when school buses roll once again, backpacks are shouldered and with both excitement and trepidation students focus their attention on learning. September is a great time of year to focus on one of the legs of our familiar stool: study.
Even before Cursillo was born in the 1940s in Spain, the Christian Family Movement was strongly advocating the three-fold responsibility of Christians: prayer, study and action. In two rollos on our weekend we heard study mentioned, first in terms of growing in our faith and secondly, in the study of our environments so that we can be effective evangelizers. So what’s the big deal about study? Dare we give it a proverbial nod and then go about our daily lives basically ignoring this part of the Christian call? Isn’t study really for those with sharp intellects (but maybe not much common sense?) or okay for those who like it (as a hobby), but not for those who don’t like it or can find much better ways to spend their time?
Our brain is the most complex organ in our body, with an estimated 100 billion neurons interconnected through more than 100 trillion synapses capable of processing and storing everything we’ve ever heard, seen, tasted, smelled, touched, thought and experienced. It’s true we can’t access all that anymore, but scientists tell us it’s all there! What are we supposed to do with all this potential? God has given us humans the capability, not to lord it over every other creature, but to understand, appreciate, and be in awe at all the ways God is revealed. Study is so important because it is God’s invitation to expand our horizons and absorb the magnificence of the natural world around us. Study also helps us understand ourselves, the strengths and limitations we have, and as we claim our own humanity, we begin to understand the humanness of others… and that can lead to compassion, gentleness, forgiveness and wisdom. And study of our faith can lead to fresh insights into the Mystery God is and aid us in falling more and more in love with God Who is LOVE.
Our brain helps us receive, process, store and retrieve information. As many of us get older and can’t remember as well as we formerly did, we can be tempted to quit learning. “What’s the use?” we ask, “my brain just doesn’t work as well as it used to… and besides, I’m tired of thinking so much.” If we’re honest, none of us remembers as well as we used to; maybe that’s not the point of study. At the end of our earthly life God probably won’t ask us how much we remember, but just may ask how much of this world did we receive. God wants to pour into our lives the joy of discovery just as much now as when we were children and then to savor what we’ve just discovered. Why? Because everything can reveal God and every big or little thing or event can show another “face” of God. Study’s purpose is ultimately to delight in God.
I recently talked with a woman who told me that her prayer life was in a stupor. She hadn’t done any “serious” reading for a long time. I suggested a book on our universe, Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato; she read it and her prayer life resurged with wonder and awe over God’s works.
Study is offered in many ways, so if you’re not a reader, try watching an occasional show on the history channel, or visit a museum, or tour a factory, or watch an artist at work or take part in a webinar or seminar, or travel somewhere you’ve never been and try the local cuisine and talk to the local people. Fr. Mike Schmitz offers a podcast, “The Bible in a Year” and another “The Catholic Catechism in a Year” that have proven so helpful to the many people who have taken time to tune in. Opportunities abound; find the ones that attract you, for it just may be God calling you to choose renewed life… and study is the way to gain it!
De Colores to all you STUDENTS!