Today we have our second installment in our posts from our Holy Cross men in higher studies. Last month we heard from Fr. Terry Ehrman, C.S.C., who is wrapping up his Doctorate in Theology at Catholic University. This month we hear from Fr. Greg Haake, C.S.C., who is entering the second year of his doctoral studies in French at Stanford University. Please continue to keep these priests and all of our men in higher studies in your prayers. As with Fr. Terry’s post, Fr. Greg’s reflection on his studies reveals these great priests have a lot to teach us and our world.
My studies have been one of the greatest gifts of my vow of obedience. It’s not that I didn’t want to go on for higher studies in French literature, which I had studied as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame; it was that I had always doubted that if I hadn’t joined Holy Cross that I wouldn’t have had the motivation or the will to do it. I needed that extra push from Divine Providence, speaking through the will of my superiors, as a grace of my vow of obedience, to give me the push that I needed to pursue a passion that all of a sudden had seemed less important when I realized that Providence was calling me to be a religious and a priest. As the years have passed, though, it has been obvious from the beginning how well the two go together and how I had one call: to be a religious, priest, and scholar.
I discovered this potential vocation when I was teaching at a Catholic high school in St. Louis. It was no coincidence that the opportunity to teach in the context of faith in Jesus Christ gave me a hint of what life might be like as a religious and a priest, combining a life of prayer and study. After entering Holy Cross, the seminary offered opportunities for inquiry and the pursuit of Truth through the study of philosophy and theology. However, in discussions with my superiors, I kept coming back to literature as the academic discipline where I could best bring together a life in scholarship and a life in God. My superiors agreed, and I came up with a plan to go on for doctoral studies so that I could contribute to Holy Cross’s educational mission at the university level.
Since then, I earned my Master’s degree through Middlebury College, which included a year of study in Paris where I had the opportunity to serve as a priest at our Holy Cross institutions in Paris and near Angers. At the moment, I am just beginning my second year of doctoral studies at Stanford University. I am focusing on the Renaissance and have had the opportunity to explore religious imagery and the influence of philosophy on the literature of sixteenth century France. Authors and poets of the time were steeped in the Catholic faith, and as the Renaissance moved out of Italy, the humanist and neo-platonic philosophies came with it. The heritage of the likes of Dante and Petrarch filtered west and north creating a rich poetic and literary tradition. The Renaissance in France also suffered tumult in the form of the wars of religion, but the literature offers much insight on the intersection between politics, ideals, faith, and philosophy.
It all comes together to make an inspiring subject for me. I haven’t yet settled on a dissertation topic, but my studies thus far have offered me a great opportunity to study what I love in the context of my priesthood and religious life. Besides giving me the occasional image for my homilies, the literature has helped me in my own quest for true happiness, for it often offers a reflection of beauty that leads to encounters with God. In fact, it is to this type of encounter that, I hope, my life of scholarship leads others.