“Even if the wounds of this shattered world enmesh you, and the sea in turmoil bears you along in one surviving ship, it would still befit you to maintain your enthusiasm for liberal studies unimpaired. Why should lasting values tremble if transient things fall?”
-St. Prosper of Aquitaine
Christendom College proudly claims as its raison d’être the formation of liberally educated men and women, with intellects refined and elevated through rigorous dialectic, with souls steeped in the traditions of Christian humanism, and with hearts open to embrace all that is good, true, and beautiful. Liberal education frees the mind, from cultural narrowness as well as from fallacious thought, preparing young men and women for lives spent in the pursuit of wisdom, both human and divine. All wise men acknowledge that education is an arduous journey and a lifelong endeavor. Here at Christendom College, young men and women embark upon that journey living in community and guided by expert scholars in theology and philosophy, Latin and Greek, mathematics and science, history, literature, politics, and modern languages.
Every Christendom student, regardless of intended major, completes a course of study that we call the core curriculum. Our core curriculum provides all our students with a thorough education across the disciplines, allowing them to choose a major field of study from a position of insight and intellectual maturity. The structure of our core curriculum is guided by several principles, among them the conviction that truth can be known by the human mind, the confidence that faith and reason have nothing to fear from one another, and commitment to the intrinsic value and complementarity of humanistic and scientific knowledge.
Thus, all Christendom students study foreign languages, either ancient or modern, or both. The serious study of Latin and Greek opens new horizons, as students encounter great figures, both of classical antiquity and the Christian tradition, speaking in their own voices. This commitment to true humanitas allows for real engagement with great works of philosophy, theology, poetry, and history. Students may also fulfill core language requirements with the study of French or Spanish, and all students have the opportunity to learn Italian during their junior semester in Rome.
Studies in history and literature are also a signature of a Christendom education. We are convinced that the study of text without context is absurd. No one can truly understand Greek tragedies if they know nothing of ancient Athens, nor appreciate Shakespeare while ignorant of Tudor England. Thus, our history and literature courses are designed to complement and support one another. As students learn to do the work that historians do, interacting directly with primary sources and bringing the past vividly to life, they also come to understand themselves more deeply, as followers of Christ and heirs to the great civilizations and movements that have shaped our world. At the same time, the study of great literature produces elevated minds and cultured souls, for through great literature, in the immortal words of Newman, “the secrets of the heart are brought to light, pain of soul is relieved, hidden grief is carried off, sympathy conveyed, counsel imparted, experience recorded, and wisdom perpetuated,” so that students of literature become “the ministers of like benefits to others.”
Through the study of languages, history, and literature, every Christendom student becomes grounded in true Christian humanism, but humanism—though essential—does not constitute education on its own. The mind of man was also made for knowledge of the natural world, for mathematic and scientific deduction, for speculative and abstract thought, for moral reasoning, and ultimately for knowledge of God. Thus, all Christendom students take courses in mathematics and natural science, in political science, in philosophy, and in sacred theology.
The study of mathematics has been held since ancient times to be essential to a liberal education. Mathematical study is abstract and rigorous, and it trains the intellectual faculties to affirm the truth with confidence and to seek truth for its own sake. Likewise, education in the natural sciences provides students with insight into the realities of the created order. Scientific knowledge has never been more essential for educated Catholics than it is today; true engagement with the contemporary world becomes impossible without it. Thus, all Christendom students engage in the study of natural science, both as an end in itself, and, in the words of John Paul II, to understand how “the cause of man’s real good” may be served by scientific advances. Political science also finds an essential place among core studies at Christendom College; the philosophical study of political community and the common good is at the heart of our mission “to restore all things in Christ.” Additionally, all our students pursue the study of the Church’s rich tradition of social doctrine.
The true end of higher education, however, is not simply to achieve an acquaintance with the various kinds of knowledge, but rather “a comprehensive view of truth in all its branches, of the relations of science to science, of their mutual bearings, and their respective values.” This is what Newman called “the philosophy of an imperial intellect . . . properly trained and formed to have a connected grasp, or view, of things.” In this vein, Christendom College understands core studies in philosophy and theology to play a unique role at the center of our curriculum. In philosophy, students encounter the great tradition of western thought, grappling directly with the great works of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, and many others. Nevertheless, students in philosophy are not engaged merely in the exegesis of texts, but in the systematic study of reality. Logic, the study of human nature, ethics, and metaphysics are branches of philosophy which yield true knowledge, and which equip the student to affirm the truth about man, human thriving, and the ultimate cause of man’s existence. True philosophical study ultimately leads one to contemplate the divine.
The development of the habit of philosophical thinking is among the highest goals of any education. Philosophy has also always been placed, by the Catholic Church, at the service of theology, the queen of all the sciences, through which man, guided by Divine Revelation and the magisterial authority of the bride of Christ, can come to know and to marvel at the very mysteries of God. All students at Christendom therefore study divinely revealed truth through the theological method, learning Christology, sacramental theology, sacred scripture, moral theology, and apologetics. Theology illumines and enriches our students’ experience of the whole curriculum and prepares them to take on virtually any future experience or endeavor as confident and articulate members of the Church.
Ultimately, our students move on to a major of their choosing, among mathematics, classical languages, history, literature, political science, philosophy, and theology. Minor concentrations are available in all of these, as well as in science, modern languages, and liturgical music. In their upper-level studies, Christendom students are uniquely able to benefit from the expertise and specialized research interests of our distinguished faculty. Moreover, they have been prepared to approach their respective disciplines as liberally educated men and women, and when they receive their degrees, and move on to their professional and personal vocations, Christendom alumni do so with disciplined minds, discerning hearts, and cultured souls.