Friday, November 30, 2012

Rev. Fr. Ajith Wellington OMI
B.Th., L.Ph., Ph.D. (Rome)
P.G. Dip. in Buddhism (Peradeniya)

All human beings by nature desire to know. This natural desire will one day be satiated when we see God face to face in the Beatific Vision. Here we are in the realm of meaning of life. Philosophy, love of wisdom, plays a role of crucial importance in one’s search for meaning of life. Philosopher is a lover of wisdom. As it is stated in the Apology of Plato true wisdom belong to God. To be a lover of wisdom is to begin a relationship with God and this relationship culminates in the Beatific Vision.

While I congratulate the students of the National Seminary Philosophate for all their achievements, I wish that their love for wisdom may enable them to gain a wider vision of life and that they may arrive at The Truth by nurturing their natural desire to know. 

May God Bless You!

Rev. Fr. Ajith Wellington OMI
Head of the Department of Philosophy

Rev. Fr. Nilantha Ediriwickrema
B.Th., L.Ph. (Rome)
(2016 - to date)
The philosophic enterprise begins, I suppose, when we first take seriously the admonition of the Delphic Oracle. Socrates often quoted it, namely, that we should “know ourselves.” To “know ourselves” also means taking up Socrates’ other famous admonition, in the Apology, that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” But let us suppose that we, in fact, do know and examine ourselves, clearly no mean feat, as it is so easy to deceive ourselves about ourselves. Even with a good insight into ourselves, we still would not know much, even if we were Aquinas who seemed to know just about everything. As it is often remembered shortly before St. Thomas died, he stopped writing. He looked at all that he had written and realized that, compared to God, all he knew was “but straw,” as he quaintly put it. We could go two ways with this incident from Aquinas. We could decide that it was not worth the effort if, after a lifetime of study, we knew very little even about our specialties, let alone about ourselves and others. Or, as is much the better way, we could be delighted in knowing what we did learn, however minimal it might be, compared to everything out there available to be known.
Philosophical learning is thus paramount in Priestly formation for so many reasons. A priest, in the normal course of a busy life, will meet many different people, in different situations of virtue and sin, in good times and in bad. He is expected to know something of the human condition in its particularity, in its goodness, but also in its depravities. The case for time to read, the case of a liberal education for a priest, seems both necessary for his work and, perhaps, even more, for his leisure. Our minds, in fact, as Aristotle put it, are made precisely to know all that is. If we wonder why we are unsettled, even when we know many things, it is simply because we do not yet know all that can be known. Sooner or later, it dawns upon us that the Intelligence that we find, in knowing what is, also seems to be personal. As Chesterton put it someplace, if there is a story, there must be a “storyteller.” Why do priests need philosophy today more than ever? In today’s world, what is called “science” will often be given as the foundation of disbelief. Philosophy has long been said to be necessary to faith in a “negative” way. That is, we cannot know positively by our own rational powers what God is, but we can know what he is not. The fact is that “reasons” are given that are said to “prove” that God does not exist, or that he cannot be known, or that he has no care for us. These reasons were already found in Plato’s Laws. Christianity recognized the importance of philosophy as the recurring source of objections to its truth. Christianity has always known that philosophical arguments require philosophical answers. Even the complete agnostic or skeptic gives us reasons why he is right. Benedict XVI was wise to point out that the Apostles were first sent not to the bastions of other religions, but to Greece, to Athens, the home of that philosophy that is not just an expression of Greek culture, but an expression of what mind is itself.

One of the great wonders and excitements of the Catholic priesthood, I think, is precisely its being aware of the “battles of the mind.” The Church requires that its seminarians, study philosophy. Without it, as John Paul II intimated, they will understand neither theology nor the literature that gives us insight into the multiplicity of particular human lives not our own. To be a seminarian, at its best, means to be “totally engaged” in bringing into view “the ultimate meaning of human virtue, of Eros, and of reality in general.” As the Head of the Department of Philosophy at the Philosophate of the National Seminary of Our Lady of Lanka, I invite all those young men aspiring the Catholic Priesthood to take it as their sacred duty to engage in prayerful and contemplative learning of the noble discipline and science of Philosophy which has been undoubtedly the most faithful spouse and the handmaiden of Theology in the work of building God’s kingdom in the minds and hearts of humanity.  

May God Bless You!

Rev. Fr. Nilantha Ediriwikrema
Head of the Department of Philosophy