Where studying is an act of love

Study is the adventure of learning that Truth that everything points to: this was the discovery of a group of college students in the United States

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Preparation for the games during the Summer Vacation of the University students in Communion and Liberation in the United States

“Father, yesterday evening you told us that knowledge and love ultimately coincide. What does this mean? I don’t like English literature, and yet I need to study it to pass my exams.”  This question posed by Tommy is a litmus test for the claim of the Christian companionship to be able to sustain the life of the students in a university campus and to change it from within, that is, in the reason for which one studies and in the way he studies. And within this question of Tommy lies the reason why twenty students decided to spend the weekend before exams in a cottage in the forests of Virginia.

Here at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., the last week of the semester is dedicated to final exams. The short amount of time available between the end of lessons and the beginning of exams (just a weekend!) makes it such that most of the students spend the last hours of the semester memorizing notions, instead of seeking to understand how the texts examined in their classes might contribute to engaging and going deeper into the fundamental question of the course. There is no time to stay in front of the question when there is only time to assimilate the right answer that allows you to pass the quiz.

With this overwhelming preoccupation, study becomes organized in an essentially quantitative way so that a student can read or write the greatest number of pages in the shortest time possible. It is at the light of this criterion that everything is measured on the eve of exams. Spending money to not do anything but study becomes an inevitable waste. Driving two and a half hours, there and back, between Washington and Williamsburg, becomes a waste of time. Cooking pasta for fifteen to twenty people becomes an unreasonable allotment of energy. Taking care of the place in which the studying happens, keeping it organized and clean becomes futile effort. Spending an evening signing becomes an act of responsibility. None of this actually gets any studying done. Not even prayer and friendship are spared this subtle veil of utilitarianism: prayers are for passing grades on the tests and studying together helps one stay on the books for more than just two hours at a time. In the long term, this measure becomes suffocating. The only alternative is to ask oneself what it means to study, if the nature of such a judgment is only quantitative or else above all qualitative.

A Christian companionship that is true inevitably finds itself challenging every efficiency-based criterion. Indeed, Christian companionship testifies that the knowledge of truth is a communal experience capable of giving unity to life. Christian companionship shows that only love moves one towards knowledge of the other and that the more one knows the other the more one loves him or her. Christian companionship generates an integrated person in whom the affective dimension is not sentimentally reduced to what one likes or dislikes and the intellectual dimension is not reduced to how much information one knows or does not know. The desire to know the truth of self and the world orders all aspects of the individual person. The same desire creates communion among different people. Christian companionship is the place where truth is revealed in its origin and end: the divine Word making itself present in Jesus Christ.

Studying is the adventure of knowing that Truth of which everything else is a sign

Studying then is not so much a question of assimilating and repeating a set of notions, as much as knowing the love that gives form to reality and defines the truth of everything. For this reason, the twenty-odd students that decided to drive together to Williamsburg, to cook pasta, to sit at the table and share about their lives, to take care of the beauty of the place, to pray in the morning and in the evening, to sing around the fire did so not because they simply desire to study but rather because they desire to study well. Because studying becomes the adventure of knowing that Truth of which everything else is a sign, because studying is part of the drama of responding to that Love that calls all of us to know Him and to stay with Him. At the end of the weekend, Tommy returned home proud to have studied much and well. “It’s a miracle,” his mother immediately exclaimed. It is the miracle of a companionship in which the Truth is a person and knowledge is that relationship from which no one can escape, because it is what makes us truly human.

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