Dear Brother Knights,
Sometimes etymology, the study of the origin of words, can help us understand concepts in a deeper and better way. The use of words changes over time, and seeing the origin gives us perspective.
In July, I attended a conference where there was a talk given by Dr. John Boyle in the Catholic Studies department at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, in which he talked about wisdom.
I tend to think the Greek term “sophos,” where we get the base for the word Philosophy, the lover of Wisdom. Our English use of this word would include calling someone who is smart “sophisticated.” Dr. Boyle pointed out that the word wisdom in Latin sapientia, means “to taste.” While at first glance, it seems to be disconnected from our usage, it makes sense. The wise person takes in reality like food. We savor it. Someone is not wise simply because they know a lot of things. They have to reflect on reality; it’s why hopefully we grow in wisdom with age.
I reflected on this and thought of it in light of one of my favorite words: sophomore. A sophomore is a “wise fool.” It’s a little tongue-in-cheek because it’s a fool who thinks he’s wise. While not universal to all sophomores, some in their second year of school have gained some knowledge and so they think they are wiser than they really are.
There are plenty of “wise fools” out there. The real wise fools include those who say with a degree of smugness that you can re-define marriage to whatever you want it to be. Or, there is the ever more prevalent belief that you can choose whether you are male or female or neither. These ideas which are hailed as wise in our culture, are essentially saying that you can create your own reality.
To be wise means that we taste and savor reality as it really is, and not making it into whatever we want. The Christian life is about conformity to what is real. Just like we come to know the objective world “out there,” in the natural world, through faith we see what Jesus has objectively done in redeeming us. That redemption is something that happened in time, it is offered to us right now, and we would be wise to conform ourselves to that reality.
Sincerely in Christ,