St. Francis On Liberal Education

Well call me a prophet!

The very eve of the election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as our new Pope Francis, the Holy Spirit must have moved me to quote St. Bonaventure speaking about whom? Why, of course, St Francis!

Not to draw undue attention to this…but this is a very close conjunction indeed- especially for me, someone who has never been particularly devoted to St Francis – to my embarrassment!

St. Francis has suddenly loomed very large… although he has been looming  very large indeed, for about nine centuries.

Allow me to cite St Bonaventure again.

“In beautiful things St. Francis saw Beauty itself, and through His vestiges imprinted on creation he followed his Beloved everywhere, making all things a ladder by which he could climb up and embrace Him who is utterly desirable.”

This thought is close to the heart of liberal education. It is also corollary to what St Paul teaches in his letter to the Romans:

“For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.”

The beauty that we see in the visible world does not confine itself simply to the visible things that the eye can see, but extends to the beauty perceived by all the senses and even the to beauty that can be perceived by the mind.


For example the liberal arts and fine arts all concern themselves with the beauty of the visible world- and it is precisely though pursuing these arts that the mind is able to ascend as it were, by a ladder, to the beauty of God Himself.

The chief mark of beauty is order, and it is God who is responsible for the order that the mind alone is able to perceive in the created world. As the Book of Wisdom states in chapter 8,

“She reacheth therefore from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly. [2] Her have I loved, and have sought her out from my youth, and have desired to take her for my spouse, and I became a lover of her beauty. [3] She glorifieth her nobility by being conversant with God: yea and the Lord of all things hath loved her. [4] For it is she that teacheth the knowledge of God, and is the chooser of his works. [5] And if riches be desired in life, what is richer than wisdom, which maketh all things?”

With the ascension of Pope Francis to the throne of Peter we certainly will have a Pope whose very namesake will be a constant reminder of the central reason why Liberal education should be sought by all. Liberal education provides us with the opportunity to make “all things a ladder by which” we might “climb up and embrace Him who is utterly desirable”



About marklangley

Presently, the founding Headmaster of Our Lady of Walsingham Academy in Colorado Springs (see www., former headmaster and Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their children.
This entry was posted in classical education, Liberal Arts, Seven Fine Arts, Wisdom. Bookmark the permalink.

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