Universitas, Number 6, July 2000
I have the advantage of having been both a student and a teacher at the Centre for Thomistic studies. What I have observed since the school began in the mid '80s is a phenomenon I have not heard of elsewhere. The students, and I have been one of them, come back to the courses year after year. What is so remarkable about this? It is a statement about the beauty of truth and testimony to the value of the Woodbury contribution to the Thomistic tradition.
Philosophy is sometimes portrayed as dull or dry or abstruse. Philosophy, if it is the philosophy of reality, is as beautiful and as fascinating as the universe of which it is the reflection. Philosophy examines questions which are of the greatest importance to us: questions about life and death, existence, knowledge and love, good and evil, the soul, law and morality, friendship, happiness and even about God. The insights which philosophy provides are immensely satisfying and enriching. The certitude and the depth which the seeker of wisdom finds in philosophy are given are a new dimension in the teachings of sacred theology proceeding from the light of divine revelation.
The splendour of Thomistic philosophy and theology is what I discovered as I progressed in my studies at the Centre. This was made possible because of the other factor to which I alluded.
It seems to me, both as a student and now as a teacher, the uniqueness of the Centre is due to a particular charism. It is what I might call the Woodbury charism. Dr Woodbury was the teacher of most of the staff at the Centre. He has left his mark on the history of Thomism in his writings and in his teaching style. His writings form the basis of many of the courses. I have studied them and taught from them. If you want depth, clarity, certitude and precision go to them. They are not all easy reading at first, but when you grasp the meaning you have perfected your mind in a profound way. This leads me to the second point. The way the "Doc" wrote may not convey the dynamism of his teaching style. There is nothing better than a living teacher. Thomism remains a living tradition as long as there are teachers to expound it faithfully. He brought the text to life for his students. This is the solution to the challenge of grasping the depth of meaning in the text. I never met the Doc, but as the teacher that he was, he formed others in the Thomistic tradition so well that they continue to pass on both the teaching and his unique approach. I believe it is for these reasons that students return year after year to courses, often ones they have done before. If I can speak for them it is because there is so much to know both in extent and in depth, and the teaching does justice to the subject matter. As we approach fifteen years of offering courses in Thomistic philosophy and theology I offer my reflections as a testimony to something remarkable.
Andrew Nimmo is a lecturer at the Centre for Thomistic Studies, in Sydney, Australia.
This article posted July 2000. It was published in Universitas, No. 6 (2000).
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