Last night I had an experience that I am not used to. I got a “B” on one of my graduate essays. I have not had anything except “A” grades on my writing assignments since high school. Yes, I got an “A” on all of my papers in undergrad. To add insult to injury, my professor proceeded to re-write half of my essay. I was stunned. I felt rather dumb. I may have cried a bit from wounded pride. I proceeded to tell my husband that I got hammered on my most recent essay. He assumed that meant a “D” or something. My program requires a minimum of 80% to stay in the program. He laughed and pointed out what I already knew: I needed a lesson in humility and my professor, who is also a priest, just gave me one. He also told me (he has a Master’s degree) that graduate school is not easy and it shouldn’t be, so a “B” is a good grade. I am still learning to accept that wisdom.
This opens up the question: Do I want to be right all of the time, or do I want to get the information right? Am I more interested in pride or am I interested in the truth? The reality is that High Scholastic sacramental theology is tough. It is hard to understand and even more so, when I lack a BA in philosophy. So I am learning things backwards by running back to what reading I have done on Aristotle and trying to apply it. I had an in-depth conversation with my Dad, who was a philosophy major, on causality. He’s got 40 years ahead of me in study.
Some of my errors were that I missed parts of the material and some of it was me trying to figure out how this professor wants things formatted. Any graduate student will tell you that half of the game is figuring out precisely what each individual professor is looking for on each assignment. But, more importantly, while there was red font all over my computer screen when I looked over my essay, I knew my professor cares enough for me to get it right. He re-wrote sections I missed in order for me to have the correct answers. This is not a professor on an ego trip. This is a priest-theologian who takes the truth very seriously and who wants me to do the same. Words matter and he pointed that out by crossing out some of my verb choices.
So, yes, I am humbled. This is not undergrad and this is not an easily mastered subject. In fact, theology and philosophy take a lifetime and even then the answers don’t come until we are standing before the Beatific Vision. This made me think about our interactions with others within the Church. What happened to me is something that we all need to think about. Do we want to know the truth, the actual truth, or do we want to cling to our own notions of the truth?
In my Fundamental Theology class, we spent a week focusing on the vocation of the theologian and our obligations to Holy Mother Church. Much to my surprise, *public* disagreement, even on points that are not irreformable is prohibited for theologians. They can get together in private to discuss concerns or theological points, but publicly voicing disagreement is unacceptable. The reason being that the Magisterium is the ultimate authority and it is not our place to publicly disagree. Many theologians help the Magisterium make decisions and clarify positions, but the ultimate authority rests on the Pope and the College of Bishops.
My question then is why has social media turned into such a place of dissent? Everyone thinks they have a say or opinion and that they have a right to share it publicly. Discussions are good and noble, but it should never appear that our personal opinion or ideology supersedes the Magisterial teaching authority. We can scandalize the faithful and non-believers by passing off our own version of the Church instead of the truth. Do I want to share the truth or do I want to share my ideology?
Before we go mouthing off about various topics, we should make sure that we know what we are talking about. I am a big proponent of the autodidact, however, in these matters there needs to be a guide. We need to make sure that we are not deluding ourselves in our reading or fitting our ideology inside of the Church. Think about that the next time you engage someone. I thought I had done well on my essay, and then my professor, a learned guide, showed me just how wrong I was on this topic. How often are we wrong to the detriment of others?