Catholic History & Heritage


"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork." - Psalm 19:1

Christianity has long taught that God the creator can be known through creation, and there are few better opportunities to encounter the creator than in the beautiful and hospitable State of Montana. Along with the book of scripture (liber scripturae), Christian tradition has long held that the "great book" of nature (liber naturae) is another source of God's revelation to humanity.  "Truly, whoever reads this book will find life and will draw salvation from the Lord" (St. Bernard).

We can examine the physical properties of nature through the light of human reason, and its meaning is englightened by faith.  Because it comes from God, it is "the first and universal witness to God's all-powerful love" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #288).  The goodness and beauty of the physical world remind us that God's work as creator is a free and unmerited act of grace to manifest divine glory in the world.  As St. Hildegard of Bingen declared, "All of creation is a symphony of joy and jubilation."

Montana abounds with God's glory through the beauty of "sister Mother Earth" (St. Francis), from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park and all locations in between.  Here at Carroll College students explore the beauty of God's creation through retreats at Salmon Lake, skiing at the Great Divide, hikes on Mount Helena, and flyfishing along the Missouri River.  They also exercise their intellects through field projects in biology, chemistry, and environmental studies.  In all of these ways Montana offers a unique opportunity to reflect on God's handiwork.  As alumnus and former Carroll College president, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen, said, "There’s an openness, a sense of freedom, a sense of wonder in this land, especially in the springtime. I don’t have any difficulty in saying that that has contributed to who I am.”

There is Always a Place at the Table

In its early days Carroll College was staffed by many priests and lay people from Butte, Montana.  Many of its students came from there as well.  They brought with them deeply held convictions about community and hospitality, especially for those who are in need.  One Carroll alumnus from Butte shares that when he asked his father why he invited strangers home for dinner, his father replied, “Because there is always a place at the table.”  

Indeed, these are values that are shared throughout Montana and they have shaped Carroll College’s abiding sense of collegiality and shared purpose among the faculty and the staff.  These values have translated into relationships with students that endure long after their time at Carroll College.  As one alumnus recalls, "My association with the teachers ... at Carroll has helped me to set me life in a positive way."

In this endeavor, Carroll College is always and at the same time a community of students and teachers, receivers and givers.  We enrich one another and learn from each other, celebrating what unites us and engaging our differences.  Carroll College is a place where tradition and innovation meet, a place where faith and reason embrace, and a place where the God who is both “ever ancient and ever new” (St. Augustine) gives us a solid foundation from which we reach out toward the world with an intrepid spirit.  We are engaged in the joyful, risky, messy adventure of becoming who Christ calls us to be.  

It doesn’t get much more Catholic than that.

Part of an Intellectual Tradition Spanning Two Thousand Years

As a Catholic institution of higher learning, Carroll College values an integrated, holistic, and inclusive view of the person which has been a hallmark of the Catholic intellectual tradition for two thousand years. As such it is committed to the following principles:

The cooperative and integrative search for truth

  • All academic disciplines seek truth according to the methods unique to each of them.  The Catholic tradition welcomes their findings as aids to faith because it understands faith and reason as partners in the search for truth.  Accordingly, Saint John Paul II writes that "a specific part of a Catholic University's task is to promote dialogue between faith and reason, so that it can be seen more profoundly how faith and reason bear harmonious witness to the unity of all truth."

  • This value is expressed in the Carroll Mission statement when it states, “Carroll College affirms its commitment to the principle of freedom of inquiry in the process of investigating, understanding, critically reflecting upon, and finally judging reality and truth in all fields of human knowledge.”

Encouraging and challenging our students to fulfill their potential

  • The Catholic moral tradition understands humans as a naturally social and communal beings. Thus, we reach our fullest human potential when we give ourselves in service to others selflessly after the model of Jesus who selflessly accepted death for the salvation of others. The Catholic moral tradition is directed to helping people fulfill this potential.

  • Carroll's mission statement expresses this principle in the following way: “As value-oriented, Carroll College is committed to and deeply involved in the further dimension of free deliberation and decision making regarding values and personal commitment.”

Recognizing social injustice and contributing to the common good of society

  • The Christian concern for social justice has its roots in the biblical tradition. Since 1891 the Catholic Church has developed a body of teaching that has become known as Catholic Social Teaching. This is "the Gospel in action, compassion on the pavement, [and the] deeply hallowed conviction that every person has inherent and transcendent worth, fashioned in the image and likeness of God." It is "based upon a conviction that there are no throwaway people, no castoff or disposable souls."

  • In a particular way, as an institution founded by the Diocese of Helena, Carroll College offers its resources to the local community so as to serve as a leaven within the city of Helena

  • Carroll's mission statement reflects this value when it states, "Carroll College rededicates its spiritual, academic, and social resources to the service of the citizens of Montana, its home, and to the worldwide human family through continuing efforts to guarantee to individuals, to groups, and especially to minorities the right to life, to personal and social dignity, and to equality of opportunity in all aspects of human activity.”

Christian Teaching on Nature

"For from the greatness and the beauty of created things their original author, by analogy, is seen." - Wisdom 13:5 (1st c. B.C.E.)

"Human art produces houses, and ships, and cities, and pictures.  But how shall I tell what God makes?  Behold the whole universe; it is His work: and the heaven, and the sun, and angels, and men, are the works of His fingers." - Clement of Alexandria (3rd c.)

"My book, philosopher, is the nature of created things, and as often as I have a mind to read the words of God, it is at my hands." - St. Anthony of Egypt (4th c.)

One blade of grass or one speck of dust is enough to occupy your entire mind in beholding the art with which it has been made." - St. Basil the Great (4th c.)

"Some people, in order to discover God, read books.  But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things.  Look above you!  Look below you!  Note it.  Read it.  God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink.  Instead He set before your eyes the things He had made.  Can you ask for a louder voice than that?" - St. Augustine (4th-5th c.)

"Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs." - St. Francis of Assisi (12th-13th c.)

“God brought things into being in order that the divine goodness might be communicated to creatures and be represented by them.  And because the divine goodness could not be adequately represented by one creature alone, God produced many and diverse creatures, that what was wanting in one in the representation of divine goodness might be supplied by another.  For goodness, which in God is simple and uniform, in creatures is manifest and divided.  Thus the whole universe together participates in divine goodness more perfectly and represents it better than any single creature whatever.” - St. Thomas Aquinas (13th c.)

“If we learn to love Earth, we will find labyrinths, gardens, fountains, and precious jewels! A whole new world will open itself to us. We will discover what it means to be truly alive.” - St. Teresa of Avila (16th c.)

"God's love is like a river springing up in the depth of the Divine Substance and flowing endlessly through His creation, filling all things with life and goodness and strength." - Thomas Merton (20th c.)

“God is the friend of silence.  See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence;  see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence.... We need silence to be able to touch souls.” - St. Teresa of Calcutta (20th c.)

“Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” - Pope Francis, Laudato Si, #12