The model for intellectual life at Allen Hall is to be found in the example of Christ Himself:
As he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
Christ passed on to His followers the imperative to preach the Gospel and teach all nations. As St Paul reminds us, this ministry is vital in the Church:
How are they to call on him if they have not come to believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard of him? And how will they hear of him unless there is a preacher for them? And how will there be preachers if they are not sent?
We recognise at Allen Hall that the priest’s first task is the preaching of the Gospel. All of the future priest’s strengths and weaknesses, insights and preoccupations are to be put at the service of this mission of the Church to preach Christ. In this way he can move beyond the particularities of his own history so as to be a more credible witness of God’s unchanging Word.
Intellectual formation at Allen Hall aims at preparing future priests to be teachers, preachers and evangelists in the communities to which they will be sent. The development of self-discipline, especially through the careful use of time and a respect for the need for silent periods of study, is similar to the discipline required in pastoral ministry. Trying to develop sound reading and study habits, writing and speaking skills, enables the future priest to articulate his knowledge effectively now, and prepares him for that witness which he will give in the future.
Such intellectual formation takes place, not in isolation, but within the community of faith, and so dialogue and discussion are encouraged. Within the communion of believers, each seeks to develop, in the midst of his studies, a keen interest in and enthusiasm for the challenges and opportunities of present day pastoral ministry, so that the connection between study and ministry may be preserved. Allen Hall provides an environment in which such development is positively stimulated and encouraged. Studies are undertaken with zeal, seeing in them an opportunity for service to the People of God, and a development of one’s self. In this way intellectual engagement calls each to participate in “the light of God’s mind”, so that both one’s living out of the Gospel and one’s proclamation of His Word, come from a personal experience of God.
The Study of Philosophy
Philosophy, the love of wisdom, leads to a deeper understanding and interpretation of the person and the person’s freedom. As knowledge in the service of love it seeks to explore the relationship between the person and the world, and the person and God. A proper philosophical training is vital in the cultural situation of today, where so often subjectivism becomes the criterion and measure of truth. A sound philosophy helps to develop a reflective awareness of the fundamental relationship that exists between the human spirit and truth, the truth that is revealed to us fully in Jesus Christ, who is himself the Truth.
The Study of Theology
Theology is recognised as an ongoing reflection on the mystery of faith. It is essential to ask questions about one’s faith so as to deepen understanding; in this way theology is truly faith seeking understanding. The Holy Spirit animates this reflection on faith; and it is guided by the Word of God and faithful to the Tradition and Magisterium of the Church. The circumstances of our time require a sincere commitment to the demands of theological discipline from all those engaged in formation, for the future priest strives to develop that ‘intelligence of the heart’ which knows how ‘to look beyond.’ He strives to make his own the vision of God’s Wisdom.
Theological study will help the student to reflect on God’s Word, to drink deeply from the well of the Church’s Tradition, and to communicate and explain effectively the Church’s teaching. In this way the Church can address “the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the men of our time.”
Other Intellectual Pursuits
The development of interests in other intellectual and cultural spheres beyond the bounds of coursework is also important. Allen Hall exists at the heart of a vibrant capital city and all are encouraged, when possible, to take advantage of the enrichment that can be derived from attendance at lectures, conferences, concerts and other cultural events available in London. Such engagement leads to a critical dialogue between faith and culture so essential for the priest of today. This critical reflection helps focus the issues of a complex world and sharpens the wisdom of preceding ages.