It’s the Iliad that always brings me back. That first, iconic sentence. “Sing, Muse, of the Wrath of Achilles”. That sentence, and the back porch off my kitchen all dappled in the dipping, evening sun of a deep, Midwestern summer. When I look out the squeaky screen door and find one more son’s head deep in its opened pages, I know the fall is coming and he is preparing to embark on the first year of his great and glorious adventure.
God never let me forget something Ronald McArthur said one afternoon — well, not quite said, but bellowed for the whole cafeteria to hear. A parent had mentioned that he was sending his child to Thomas Aquinas College to keep him safe from the world. Dr. McArthur rose up to all of his imposing, six-foot-three frame and declared with frightening conviction: “SAFE? Your child will never be safe again once he comes here. He will know things now and will be responsible for knowing things. And he will be called to bring that knowledge into the world. Safe? He will never be safe again!” An honest assessment of things in his bracing, pithy, Dr. McArthur way. And he was correct. It is rather like the wisdom shared by the ever-charming Mr. and Mrs. Beaver of Narnian fame, who minced no words when asked by Lucy if Aslan was “quite safe” and replied, “Safe? Of course he’s not safe. But He’s good!” He’s good.
I have four sons who were educated at Thomas Aquinas College. Four sons who couldn’t be more different in temperament. They are in every sense my heroes. What I was not able to do, they did. They have taken their time at Thomas Aquinas College and managed to find a way to bring it to the world in an attractive manner. They are unafraid of ‘different’ people. They engage everyone and enjoy it.
“They have learned to hone their skills of argument and discovery learned at the college.”
One son, who did long haul trucking for a year, had an impromptu yet bracing talk with a fellow trucker covered in tattoos about existentialism and Platonism and listened to him with an open interest. He called me and related this story with a kind of heady exuberance that it was my privilege to hear. Another son found himself the guest of a group of Buddhists, who graciously let him stay among them in the hills of Northern California through the long Covid year doing manual labor. He listened attentively to their thoughts and was able to share his own in a courteous give and take. He found their company blessedly simple, generous, kind, and gracious. He discovered that, in many ways, their thoughts raised profound questions. They thought the same of him. Who knows what seeds he left them with and what they think now? Because he was unafraid to engage. A third son has become the unofficial theological advisor for his grandmother, taking her questions day or night. She in turn brings his answers to her Bible Study. He has learned to translate his theological knowledge into the language of the parish ladies without any condescension whatsoever and is tickled pink by his grandmother’s ingenuous questions. This son also reads widely and bravely whatever he finds to be thought provoking. He finds wisdom in a Stephen King novel as well as Roger Scruton, Aquinas, or Kierkegaard. My last son is still at the College. He also is unafraid to engage in the opposite view just to see where it will lead. These sons of mine? They are doing it right. They are my heroes.
They have confidence in their TAC education. They have learned to hone their skills of argument and discovery learned at the College and depend wholeheartedly upon them. This confidence has made them unafraid. I thank my TAC sons for that. And Dr. McArthur. Indeed, they are not safe, but God is good. And this is cause for hope.