Cover of Logos magazine

How to Put the ‘catholic’ in Catholic Studies

In Catholic Studies, we are interested in everything. So my colleague, John Boyle, likes to say. This remark surprised me when I first heard it during my campus job interview nearly 10 years ago. I was not entirely sure what Catholic Studies was. American studies is about American stuff. Gender studies is about gender stuff. Wasn’t Catholic Studies supposed to be about Catholic stuff? I liked Catholic stuff. Did I really need “everything”?

As I began to get to know the department, I was not surprised to find my students liked Catholic stuff too. Many come wanting to read encyclicals, Newman, and Teresa of Avila, and spend downtime praying the rosary and going to adoration. They are not disappointed. St. Thomas Catholic Studies is a haven of wonderful Catholic stuff, both in and out of the classroom. Yet our course syllabi quickly confront our students with the fact that in Catholic Studies, we are interested in everything.

We simply cannot understand “the Catholic tradition” without developing a sense of its broad engagement with human thought and culture. Catholic tradition is embedded within the broader sweep of human thought and culture: It transforms culture, resists culture or restores a culture. However we describe the forms of engagement, we cannot understand our Catholic tradition without a thoroughgoing piety for the roots of that tradition and for the channels through which it comes to us. Reading Augustine’s Confessions is great. Reading that text after having read the Aeneid (plus some Plotinus, Cicero, Seneca, Anselm, Dante, Aquinas and Jean-Luc Marion) is a wonder – I think it is no exaggeration to say it is a different book. What we bring to the text shapes what we find there. In Catholic Studies, we are interested in everything because our engagement with everything is what makes truth sing.

The Logos 2023 Supplement: Catholic Studies in Focus

This excerpt from Dr. Erika Kidd is from a collection of essays about the field of Catholic Studies published as a digital supplement to our journal Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and CultureSome of the 14 essays are based on papers presented at the Catholic Studies Consortium conference, others were submitted in answer to a call for papers, and all give a snapshot of the variety of Catholic Studies at different universities across the country. You can read them all – including Kidd’s full essay – on Project Muse, EBSCO, or use this QR code to access them through Philosophy Documentation Center.

This story is featured in the winter 2024 issue of Lumen.