Higher studies: A higher calling

Fr Terry Erhman, CSC working on his doctorate at The Catholic University of America

One of the new features we at Spes Unica are most excited about is a monthly post from one of our men in higher studies. For us in Holy Cross, advanced studies and degrees are an essential part of our ability to continue to fulfill the mission that the Church has entrusted to us as educators in the faith. And so each month we will hear from one of our men in higher studies about what they are studying and how the Lord led them to it. We begin with one of our men who is the closest to finishing his studies, Rev. Terry Ehrman, C.S.C. Join us in praying for him and our other men who are making the great sacrifice now to study so as to better serve the Church and the world in the future.

Darkness has fallen in the nation’s capital and the illuminated bell tower and dome of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception can be seen half a mile away to the west from the parish rectory where I am in residence as I near completion of my doctoral work in systematic theology at The Catholic University of America.

My call to religious life and priesthood in the Congregation of Holy Cross began not far from where I sit just thirty miles north in my hometown of Baltimore. The call to higher studies was heard in potentia with that initial summons given to a young eight-year-old boy looking out a different window, this one the kitchen window of the corner family home.

The natural world captivated me from a young age not only for its wonder and diversity but more so for its revelation of God the Creator. The givenness of the splendor of creation was a summons to explore and investigate God’s world and Him as well. I have always understood myself as a student, a learner joyfully excited by what is and who wants to share with others what I have discovered and found to be true, good, and beautiful.

After obtaining a B.S. in biology from Notre Dame and an M.S. in biology from Virginia Tech, I sought out Holy Cross because of their teaching apostolate and the possibility of one day being a teacher. A few years after ordination, I was assigned to higher studies and I enrolled at Catholic University in theology.

My primary interest is the relationship between science and theology with a focus on Christian anthropology, i.e., who the human person is as a creature in relation to the Creator. My dissertation topic brings together eschatology and anthropology and is entitled The Metaphysics of the Resurrection: Exploring Human Embodiedness beyond Richard Swinburne’s Dualism and Kevin Corcoran’s Christian Materialism.


I am investigating what kind of philosophical anthropology we need to understand personal identity between this earthly embodied existence and our resurrected bodily existence. I find the work of Aberdeen philosopher David Braine, who brings together the thought of Aquinas and Wittgenstein to develop an Aristotelian based anthropology which understands the human being as linguistic animals, to be the most fruitful way to fill the space between dualism and materialism.

My research, that is, studies itself, is a kind of Divine Office which unites me to God both in the joyful excitement of discovering what is true about God and ourselves but also in the Cross of frustration and of recognizing my own limitations of mind and body.

Much of studies applies directly to prayer and religious/priestly life: silence and “impassioned solitude” and concentration and attention upon the truth of God and the world. The need to integrate the intellectual and moral virtues is emphasized through studies as is the need for love above all. “The Spirit teaches not by sharpening curiosity but by inspiring charity” (St. Bernard).

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