Seat of Wisdom: From the Heart of the Church

by Alexander Pierre | Aug 27, 2014

By: Daniel J. Elsener, President of Marian University

The official motto of Marian University is Sedes Sapientiae, which means Seat of Wisdom. This image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who provided the lap on which Jesus (the Truth) sat and learned, inspires everything we do at Marian University.

Mary is considered wise because her deep faith allowed her to accept God’s will for her without fully understanding it. She is also called wise because she continually reflected on her experiences— “pondering in her heart” both the joys and sorrows she experienced during her lifetime (Luke 2:19, 51).

Mary ShrineAt Marian University, we believe that the human heart is the seat of all wisdom. Wisdom integrates faith, reason, and human experience. It allows us to make mature decisions and to act responsibly— even courageously—as women and men whose hearts are shaped by what we know, experience, and believe about God, ourselves, and the world in which we live.

Especially today, we believe that leaders need to be wise. Smart, by itself, is not enough. Practical experience, all by itself, cannot guide leaders who often must make critical choices “in uncharted territory.” Even a strong faith cannot sustain leaders if what they profess to believe is separated from reason, science, and the pursuit of truth.

Leaders have to know, experience, and believe. They must have hearts that transcend emotional or sentimental feelings in order to achieve true wisdom. They must be able to examine carefully, reflect deeply, and judge wisely—from the heart—in order to lead others boldly and selflessly.

Marian University’s bold vision is “to provide an education that profoundly transforms lives, society, and the world.” The university’s Franciscan sponsorship values, which we received from our founders, the Sisters of St. Francis, Oldenburg, are informed by prayer. They include: the dignity of the individual, peace and justice, reconciliation, and responsible stewardship.

In a meeting earlier this year, Pope Francis discussed the missionary dimension of Christian discipleship, which he believes should be reflected in a special way in Catholic universities because, “by their very nature, they are committed to demonstrating the harmony of faith and reason and the relevance of the Christian message for a full and authentically human life.”

“Essential in this regard,” the Holy Father said, “is the uncompromising witness of Catholic universities to the Church’s moral teaching, and the defense of her freedom, precisely in and through her institutions, to uphold that teaching as authoritatively proclaimed by the magisterium of her pastors.”

At Marian University, we take these words to heart. In fact, we just completed a year-long process initiated by our Board of Trustees to articulate our vision for the future. There is strong consensus among board members, faculty, staff, students and their families, alumni, donors, community leaders, and friends that Marian University should continue, and strengthen, our identity as a Franciscan Catholic liberal arts university distinguished in its ability to “educate and form transformative leaders for service to the world.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once said that the preservation of a university’s Catholic identity “entails much more than the teaching of religion or the mere presence of a chaplaincy on campus.” We wholeheartedly agree. One of the unique features of a Catholic university is the ability to integrate “who we are and what we believe” into all aspects of campus life.

At Marian University, we celebrate our Catholic identity, and we invite everyone who becomes part of our university community—regardless of their religious, ethnic, racial, social, or economic backgrounds—to grow in their understanding and appreciation of what it means to be truly wise in mind and heart.

In the spirit of St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation, “Ex Corde Ecclesiae” (“From the Heart of the Church”), Marian University seeks to continue, and grow, its ability to provide leaders for the Church and for society who are women and men of wisdom and integrity.

To be successful, we rely on the intercession of our patrons, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom, and Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi. We also give thanks for our collaboration with Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin and the pastors, Catholic school leaders, and agency directors of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. May we do God’s will always!

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