Fr. Greg Haake, C.S.C.
Revealing God's Truth and Love in the Classroom
Scholarship values above all the ability to question. However, scholars struggle to find answers, or at least, they hesitate to declare an answer as truth. Modeling such skills of critical thinking are essential to a life in scholarship and in teaching, for they allow students to grow, to discover, and maybe even to teach something to those responsible for forming them. For a priest, teacher, and scholar, the academic atmosphere takes on another layer of action that is by no means afraid to pose questions, but actively seeks and is willing to proclaim Truth.
When people ask me what I study, I immediately prepare myself for the curious looks that say, “What does French literature have to do with being a priest?” In my mind, of course, it has everything to do with it! It is through French literature that I discover truths about how people communicate, about how words, organized into a harmony of images and metaphors, convey beauty, or about how and why people love each other and God. Even when writers of literature reject the Truth, they proclaim truths about the mysteries of human existence.
If the Church and her priests are about the formation of the human person in the Gospel, the Truth of Jesus Christ, what better place than in the classroom to help students discover it in themselves and in the world? When I first began my teaching career at the secondary level, I was teaching the basics of the French language, a lesson in self-expression and in the importance of language, communication, and culture. At the university level, such goals present no less of a challenge. At every level, however, a priest in the classroom offers his ability to question, his comfort with answers, and his leadership in navigating the two. In short, he offers himself, as he would at any other moment of his priestly ministry, in order to lead his students to discover how this wonderful created world, in which we have such a large and creative part, reveals God’s Truth and His love for us.
Beyond the classroom, my perspective on teaching, focused as it is on my priesthood, has left me all the more open to pastoring students in other ways. Since secondary and higher education occurs at what can be a tumultuous time in the lives of students, my interaction with them in the classroom has led to more personal encounters where students are hoping for someone to point out the grace of Truth at work in their lives.
Amidst all the elements that make up an academic environment, I struggle often to make explicit the unity of my life as a Holy Cross priest, teacher, and scholar, but in leading with a dedicated presence and relying on my faith in Christ the Teacher, I hope that my priesthood raises questions in the academic world while still pointing to the Truth.