Sunday, October 19, 2008

Most Popular Christians : Patron Saints of Learning and the Environment : Religion and Ecology : Law, Religion and Learning

To be mutually and symbiotically effective, both the law and organized religion must maintain a realistic approach to the basic issues of modern everyday life, such as religion and ecology, or law, learning and religion.

An effective blend of these requires a clear understanding of the history of law and religion, but who today has such knowledge?

In this day of global learning and planetary environmentalism, we might for example ask: who is the Christian patron saint of learning? or the patron saint of ecologists? and what relevance do these patrons have for believers today? Are such religious figureheads relevant for modern problems?

Full in the spirit of learning, N.S. Gill, who writes about Ancient and Classical History at, some time ago sent us her most recent newsletter provocatively titled "Most Popular Christians", which led us ultimately to this link, answering our initial patronly questions:

The Chistrian patron saint of learning is St. Ambrose, also referred to simply as Ambrose (feast day December 7). St. Ambrose's most influential writings were based on Cicero:

"The most influential of his ascetico-moral writings is the work on the duties of Christian ecclesiastics (De officiis ministrorum). It is a manual of Christian morality, and in its order and disposition follows closely the homonymous work of Cicero. "

Cicero, a Roman statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and philosopher, who lived in the 1st century BC, is a major figure in the development of legal concepts of the modern State:

"Cicero aspired to a republican system dominated by a ruling aristocratic class of men, “who so conducted themselves as to win for their policy the approval of all good men.” ... Cicero's guiding principle throughout his political career was:

That “some sort of free state” is the necessary condition of a noble and honourable existence; and that it is the worst calamity for a people to permanently renounce this ideal and to substitute for it the slave’s ideal of a good master." ...

Cicero was declared a “righteous pagan” by the early Catholic Church, and therefore many of his works were deemed worthy of preservation. Saint Augustine and others quoted liberally from his works “On The Republic” and “On The Laws,” and it is due to this that we are able to recreate much of the work from the surviving fragments. Cicero also articulated an early, abstract conceptualisation of rights, based on ancient law and custom."

Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine), of Berber descent, quoted above, has relevance today, especially through his best-known work, The Confessions of St. Augustine:

"Augustine is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity, and is considered to be one of the church fathers. He framed the concepts of original sin and just war." ...

"Catholic theologians generally subscribe to Augustine's belief that God exists outside of time in the "eternal present"; that time only exists within the created universe because only in space is time discernible through motion and change. His meditations on the nature of time are closely linked to his consideration of the human ability of memory."

Memory is at the root of human learning.

Augustine was perhaps the first saint with a home page on the Internet.

The patron saint of ecologists and the environment is Francis of Assisi (feast day October 4).

Christianity is not the only religion to deal with ecology. The Harvard University Center for the Environment points us to other religions with beliefs of relevance to the environment:

Daoism and Ecology, by James Milles, Queen's University
Hinduism, Jainism, and Ecology, by Christopher Key Chapple, Loyola Marymount University
Buddhism and Ecology.

Take a look at Gill's page on Christians for more interesting material about the history of Christianity.

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