"The Kite Is Tethered That It Might Soar": Reflections on the Annual Theological Retreat

"The Kite Is Tethered That It Might Soar": Reflections on the Annual Theological Retreat

"The Kite Is Tethered That It Might Soar": Reflections not the Annual Theological Retreat for Graduate Students

By Katie Froula, Ph.D. candidate, Ave Maria University 

August 28 was the annual Theological Retreat that kicks off the school year for graduate students and faculty at Ave Maria University. This year’s speaker was Fr. Thomas Joseph White, O.P.

We began with a morning meditation on the Crucifixion and Marian Faith. The medievals agreed that Mary became our mother in the order of grace at the moment of the Annunciation, and her consent to her supernatural motherhood was epitomized and brought to its term at the cross. Mary’s meritorious participation in her Son’s sacrifice occurred through her consent to it, which she expressed by standing at the foot of the cross.

This led me to reflect a bit more on Mary’s consent to the Crucifixion. In the Annunciation, the significance of her consent is obvious–it is needed to set the whole plan in motion. At the foot of the cross, the significance of her consent is not as readily apparent, because her Son can complete His mission even if she does not consent to His suffering. And certainly she will suffer when she sees Him suffer, whether she consents to His suffering or not. But, as Fr. White pointed out, her share in His passion was a meritorious participation in the sacrifice that He offered precisely because of her consent to that sacrifice. In that regard, it is her consent that makes all the difference, and allows her to participate in her Son’s offering of Himself to the Father. I had never drawn this connection quite so clearly, and it gives a new significance to consent in our spiritual lives that I’d seen before. There are some sacrifices that we voluntarily choose to offer, but there are many other sacrifices and hardships that life will wrest from us whether we agree or not. How much more progress would we make if we were to consent more lovingly and joyfully to the various sacrifices that life demands of us each day? How much are we missing when we fight against them instead? Some food for thought, as I definitely have a lot of growing to do in this area.

Fr. White later gave two talks on the three kinds of wisdom spoken about by St. Thomas Aquinas: philosophical wisdom, theological wisdom, and mystical wisdom (which is the wisdom that is the infused Gift of the Holy Spirit). Most interesting to me was the interplay of the last two types. It is important for theological wisdom to keep mystical wisdom from becoming un-moored from the light of the faith. But mystical wisdom elevates theological wisdom by warning us away from the temptations that come along with the intellectual life, and by showing us the heights that one can reach through love. Not only is it better to love higher things than to know them, but also there are some things that will not be fully known unless they are loved. So study is necessary to keep the kite solidly anchored and tethered to the ground, but the point of tethering the kite is that it might soar on the heights of love. Study and love will each take us places where the other on its own cannot, and the two correct and nourish each other.

It was great to start the year with such a reminder of what our studies at Ave are all about, and what we are called to as we seek to know and love the Trinity more deeply. May we be worthy of such a call.

Mary, seat of wisdom, pray for us!

Katie Froula is a second-year doctoral student in Theology at Ave Maria University. Her post relates to the theological retreat for graduate students led by Fr. Thomas Joseph White, O.P. on August 28th to commence the academic year. Fr. White is a member of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception (Dominican House of Studies) and co-director of the Aquinas Institute.