Parents often tell me, “My son is very smart.” They tell me this as though being smart were a great asset, a quality which ought to help them do well in school. However, “My son is very smart” means about as much to a classical teacher as, “My son is very handsome.” I teach virtue. Being smart will probably not be a hindrance to the child who is determined to learn virtue, but neither will it be much of a help.
Christ did not choose smart disciples. He chose men who could be taught. He chose men who would hear His most difficult teachings and stay with Him because they did not know where else to go. “We are perplexed, but not in despair,” says St. Paul, reflecting on the difficulties of believing and obeying Christ. Perplexed people are baffled, puzzled. Perplexed people wear unpleasant expressions because they are not wholly certain what to do next. When I think of a smart man, I do not think of a baffled man. To draw very close to Christ, we must leave mere intelligence behind. The peace Christ gives is not like the world gives, and neither is the wisdom of Christ.