At the heart of University of Glasgow lies the Cloisters.
They evoke the monastic cloister in their form and regularity, but also the cathedral in their gothic arches and ribbed vaulting, which sprouts from the columns like a forest canopy. They are a place of shelter, protection, and refuge, from the sun, the rain, and from the wind. They embody the “pleasant coolness in the heat, solace in the midst of woe” in which the Pentecost sequence celebrates the Holy Spirit. They form a place of contemplation; their stillness is an invitation to pray, to look inward. But so too are they an open space, a place of encounter, an empty canvas in which ideas can be born and tested, a place for the meeting of minds. Their enviable acoustic transmits and amplifies centuries of conversation between scholar and student, sounding the very pulse of the university. And here too are the sounds of celebration, a place where each year the restrained pride of the Bute Hall graduations spill forth into informality; the hug of family and peers, the flash of colourful gowns, the sparkling Bucks Fizz mirroring the effervescence of youthfulness and hope.
Much like the labyrinth of a medieval cathedral, the Cloisters represent a metaphorical space, a landscape of symbol and memory. They are a place of beauty, where history lives in full colour; a place of living, embodied tradition. The richness found within the Cloisters has been our guiding inspiration in the founding of the blog of the St Andrew’s Foundation. Much like the Cloisters, the Foundation seeks to form a sacred space within the secular, in which the mission of Catholic Education is pursued. This mission however, must be one that is done through dialogue and engagement, and this is the very purpose for the creation of this blog. Our hope is that this blog can embody the spirit of the Cloisters in providing a space of dialogue and encounter, contemplation and celebration, to build an online-canopy for those involved in the world of Catholic Education.
We wish this blog to evoke the multi-layered meaning of the Cloisters. We wish it to have depth, criticality and creativity. We wish it to be rooted in the past, in the great living Tradition of the Catholic Church: to evoke the great Catholic educators from St Justin Martyr and St Cyril of Jerusalem, through countless nameless monks who brought learning to the West, to St John Bosco, Frances de Sales and Ignatius of Loyola, to the Notre Dame and Sacred Heart sisters who formed generations of Catholic teachers. In this way, like the wise scribe, it will “bring forth from the storehouse things both old and new”. We wish it to be an open space of dialogue, shared experience and learning, for the testing of ideas in a place of encouragement. We wish the blog to be a space for the celebration of Catholic Education, and an exchange of ideas which will make this more vibrant still. We dream of our students and former students growing in confidence through writing, and committing their ideas – however hesitant, tentative or fragile – to a public sphere. We wish this blog to articulate the lived experience of teachers in Catholic schools, to share the insights of international scholars, and to help form a dynamic community of practice among all those committed to the great project of Catholic Education in Scotland and beyond. We extend the invitation to you to join us, under the canopy of the Cloisters, to pursue this joint venture.
Anna Blackman, Fr. Stephen Reilly & Roisín Coll