Faith’s Hymn to Learning

Up and down the country, prospective university students will be wondering what their new lecturers will be like. All of the best ones have a passion for their subjects and can install that love in others.

Blessed Contardo Ferrini from Italy is the patron of university lecturers. He was a brilliant civil and canon lawyer and inspired to care for the poor by being a member of the third order of Saint Francis and the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Contardo’s connection with its founder, Blessed Frederick Ozanam, is very apt as they were both baptised in the same Church almost fifty years apart.

In the midst of his hectic schedule, Contardo was a mountaineer and keen swimmer. He wrote poignantly about the prayerfulness of such experiences -echoing many passages from the Bible:

“God also speaks to man in the clouds on the mountain tops, in the roaring of the Torrents in the stark awfulness of the cliffs, in the dazzling splendour of the unmelting snow, in the sun that splashes the west with blood, in the wind that strips the tree spare”.

Contado’s work-life balance embraced humanity and the natural world. It was founded upon his belief that Jesus, through his incarnation, has joined himself to every person and the whole of creation. As a young lecturer Contardo Ferrini wrote:

“Our life must to reach out toward the infinite, and from that source we must draw whatever we can expect of merit and dignity.”

Contardo’s students found him inspiring. He was both a thoroughly modern professor and someone who believed in God at a time when secularism was rife. Despite sometimes being a bit fussy as a young man and over sensitive to criticism, his caring nature, humour, gentle personality and drive to serve others made him very popular amongst students, staff and the wider community. He was known as an enthusiastic and encouraging teacher who presented his material clearly. He promoted lively debate and always had a high regard for the opinion of his students. He was a gifted linguist, speaking German French English Spanish and Dutch and his knowledge extended to the biblical languages of Hebrew and Greek.

Despite writing some 200 books and articles, Contardo’s contemplative and active spirituality was profoundly simple. He described his scholarship as a “hymn of praise to the Lord of all learning”. His underlying approach was this:

“if on any particular day, we do nothing more than gave a little joy to a neighbour, that day will not be wasted for we have succeeded in giving comfort to an immortal soul”.

Contardo made the Eucharist the centre of his life. He was beatified by Pope Pius the XII.

May Blessed Contardo Ferrini pray for all young people entering higher education this year, their lecturers and families.

Fr Peter Conley