Dear Future Students,
I am young, but I am a relic. You see, I am one of those strange people who thinks that we can speak intelligently about God. That the questions we ask about God are the most important questions. That Christian theology, that Catholic theology, is good and true – which is better than being merely relevant.
I am not interested in being relevant. That changes. It always changes. Just like you, my students, are always changing. I want you to change, and I know you want to change, too. So let us not try to be relevant; let us try to be lasting.
There are some questions that never change, though our situations do. There are some fears that never die, though we do. I want to teach you these.
I want you to learn what it has meant for Christians to ask these questions and tremble with these fears over the past two thousand years. The dead know things that we do not, and I want us to learn from them. I want the dead to speak to us.
Do you see these countless dead? You and I will walk down their hallways together, and we will ask them what they know. We will ask them why they died, and more importantly, we will ask them what they died for. And then you and I will wonder what we would die for.
I promise, students, that I will never lie to you. Never. I will be forced to leave many things aside, to simplify, to follow you up the ladder one rung at a time. But I will not lie. And I will not pretend to know things that I do not.
You will hear in my voice a deep love for the Catholic Church. It might bother you; I do not know if it will. But I will never resent you for being bothered, and I will never resent your disagreement. I will not test you on the degree to which you believe me; I will test you on the degree to which you have understood me. We do not grade conviction; we grade comprehension. And there is much to comprehend.
Still, my deepest hope is that you see in my charity (even my severity) a sincere and thoughtful loyalty to Catholicism, an intelligence. Because these numerous dead we study, among them Catholics, they were sincere and thoughtful and intelligent. And if all you can see of them is me, I will do my utmost to show you the best of them. You, my students, deserve to know the best. I will show you them.
Once you know me, my students, I hope you forget me and remember my long-dead superiors. Forget me, and remember them.
More than anything, students, I want you to be haunted by God. I’ll not force you into faith (that’s a contradiction); I won’t out-logic you until you feel dizzy; I won’t preach. No: but I want you to be haunted. I want you to understand that your response to God – to whether He exists, to how you would live if He does, to what you owe your life – is important. That indifference only masks fear, and agnosticism ignorance.
You, my students, are plenty brave. I want us – you and I – to be brave when it comes to God.
So let us be haunted, dear students. Let us look into the past, shivering with questions. Let us see how what was urgent in the past is still urgent to us now. Let us learn.
And let me be one of those devilish graders. Don’t worry: there’ll be a curve.
Anne M. Carpenter
Your Future Professor