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*Image: The School of Athens (in situ on the right) by Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino), 1509-1511 [Stanze di Raffaello, Apostolic Palace, Vatican]

By David G Bonagura, Jr., The Catholic Thing, Oct. 22, 2022

David G. Bonagura Jr. an adjunct professor at St. Joseph’s Seminary, New York. He is the author of Steadfast in Faith: Catholicism and the Challenges of Secularism and Staying with the Catholic Church: Trusting God’s Plan of Salvation.


Up the main staircase of my alma mater is a unique and unsigned bas-relief sculpture. It resembles Raphael’s The School of Athens, but with a broader range; it depicts scholars and churchmen from ancient and early modern times. The center doesn’t show Plato and Aristotle. It’s a personified depiction of Religion, enthroned over all the other figures. Beneath is a Latin inscription that means:

Religion: Governor of Talents and Mother and Teacher of the Sciences

Governor, mother, teacher – religion has long played these three roles for numerous civilizations, with our own United States of America its chief beneficiary. Religion serves a mediating role for cultures by directing our disordered passions and wayward minds toward the God who created us and, by extension, toward the good for mankind. Religion, with its connection to God and with the aura of its rituals, can motivate us to pursue wisdom and virtue more effectively than laws can do on their own power. …

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