Summer Program Blog
Tuesday morning classes began at 9:30 a.m. with students demonstrating their first Euclidean propositions on the chalkboards for their classmates. Though many were nervous about approaching the board for the first time, the general consensus was that the propositions went well. With the ice now broken, they should go even better through the end of the week!
After class, Mass in the Chapel, and a quick lunch, the students boarded buses for the Getty Center Museum in Los Angeles. There they enjoyed a spectacular collection of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and illuminated manuscripts. At about 5:00 p.m. the group re-boarded the buses for a trip to the Hollywood Bowl, where all enjoyed pizza and other refreshments. They then settled in for an excellent concert under the stars that featured Brahms’ 2nd Piano Concerto and Elgar's "Enigma Variations." The concert ended fairly late (about 10:30 or so), at which time students returned to campus and went to sleep to be well-rested for Wednesday's classes — more Euclid in the morning and Boethius in the afternoon.
On Monday morning the students were back in the classroom, working out Euclid’s definitions, common notions, and postulates in lively discussions. After the morning class and just before Mass, they met for an open forum with the Admissions Office staff, who answered questions about the College’s curriculum, teaching method, financial aid program, alumni, and various other subjects. Students then enjoyed each other’s company over lunch, and in the afternoon found themselves engaged in a discussion of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, which they had read on Friday night as a group.
In the afternoon there was time for some quick games of ultimate Frisbee and basketball before tutor Dr. John Nieto’s talk on Art & Beauty. The talk was so widely attended that students filled the Coffee Shop to capacity, with some opting to enjoy the breeze outside and watch through the windows. Dr. Nieto had prepared both written remarks and a PowerPoint slideshow of famous sculptures and paintings, many of which are at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, which the group will visit on Tuesday. The talk was well-received, giving the students a better understanding of how to approach various kinds of art.
After dinner students spent the evening study period preparing the Euclidean propositions that they will be called to demonstrate for the class the next morning. Prefects were on hand to help and encourage. Afterwards many gathered in the Chapel for the nightly Rosary.
The final event of the evening was a set of basketball games pitting the prefects against the students. Both the women’s and the men’s games were full of energy, with the players making amazing three-point shots, blocks, and passes, and playing as if they had been together for a whole season. There was also an intense battle of cheering on the sidelines, with the supporters keeping up the energy and fun. Both games were close and well-played, but the prefects managed to stay ahead for the wins. A great time for all!
After Sunday Mass — accompanied by the beautiful College Choir at 9:00 a.m. — students filled themselves with a hearty brunch, then moved to the library for a study period to prepare for Monday’s classes on Euclid and Macbeth. The study period came to a close shortly after noon, at which time students gathered their things and boarded buses, bound for a glorious day at the beach.
After arriving at Carpinteria State Beach, students lathered up with sunscreen and joined in games of Frisbee and volleyball. At about 4:00 p.m all gathered for roll call, then jumped aboard the buses once more for a trip to Santa Barbara’s State Street.
Upon arriving, prefects took smaller groups of students to dinner at restaurants up and down the street. About half of the group ate at a favorite among Thomas Aquinas College’s students, Palazzio’s, where they delighted in the bella mia penne and other delicious dishes. Other students opted for Mexican food at Chipotle. And almost everyone saved room for frozen yogurt and ice cream.
After an evening of shopping, picture-taking, singing, and good fun, students met up at Stearns Wharf, where they gathered for a group picture in front of the Wharf's famous dolphin fountain before boarding the buses. After praying the Rosary on the bus, some students dozed off while others enjoyed friendly conversation on the way back to campus.
Saturday dawned clear and bright … and somewhat slowly for a few tired souls! A good number of students (about 100) arose early to hike up to the Punch Bowls, a collection of spring-fed, natural pools about two miles above the campus. Led by a group of prefects, many jumped into a swimming hole for a hearty and refreshing swim before coming back down the beautiful canyon.
Later that afternoon students met up again on the athletic field for a barbeque and some pickup games of volleyball and soccer. From 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Chaplain Rev. Cornelius M. Buckley, Buckley, S.J., led a well-attended Holy Hour, during which there was silent meditation, a group rosary, confession, and Adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Then students came together on the back patio for some popcorn, candy, and a movie — a great classic, The Sandlot. Other students began a spontaneous dance lesson in the Commons, practicing their new swing abilities.
The night ended peacefully, with students looking forward to the next day’s trip to Carpinteria State Beach and Santa Barbara’s famous State Street.
Friday was another great day! Students had prepared for two classes. The first was about French naturalist J. Henri Fabre’s The Bees, through which one gets more than a glimpse of the inherent beauty and order of nature. The second was about St. Thomas Aquinas’ fifth proof for the existence of God, in which students examined the distinction between an evil act and the good which God necessarily draws from it.
After recreation and dinner, students returned to the library for a dramatic reading of Macbeth. The prefects all agreed that this particular reading was one of the best — if not the best — that they had ever seen. At the end of each act, the prefects put on a satiric interpretation of what had just transpired in the play, adding social commentary to the tragedy.
When the play was done, students headed to the Chapel to recite the rosary, and then down to a grassy area near one of the spring-fed ponds to enjoy ice-cream sandwiches and to sing songs around a campfire. To close the evening the students joined in a heartfelt round of "Amazing Grace," made all the stronger and more poignant by prefect David Langley's bagpipe accompaniment.
There have been calls for another fire and music night … we’re going to see if we can pull it off!
After their final class on Genesis about the role of faith in God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the students further explored the nature of faith in Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. Among the questions considered were, “Where does reason end and faith begin?” and “Is faith rational?”
Following afternoon sports, the evening study period in the library, and a rosary in the Chapel, chaplain Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem., ('94) held a (root beer) "Theology on Tap" in the coffee shop. There he answered students’ questions about theology, philosophy, morality, and a number of other topics. For example, one student asked how evil is permissible in a world governed by an Infinite Good. Another student asked, “What are the best and worst parts about Thomas Aquinas College?” Fr. Sebastian replied, “The best part is the education; the worst is leaving when you’re done after four years.”
Wednesday dawned bright and early at the College, with the few clouds and last bits of fog burning off the hills during breakfast time. From 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. the students joined together for a discussion of the first 10 chapters of Genesis, which recount the story of Creation and the Fall. Mass was offered in the College chapel at 11:30, followed by lunch in St. Joseph Commons.
After lunch the students headed down to the athletic field for a volleyball tournament (there were no afternoon classes), which culminated in a game between the winning student teams (led by prefects Christina Kinney and Dan Selmeczy) and the tutor team. The students won that hard-fought match, and celebrated heartily.
After enjoying a chicken and tri-tip barbeque for dinner, the students were off to the library to study. They met up again later in the evening for a dance practice, led by the incredibly talented Mr. Selmeczy. After a few halting first steps, most everyone was settled in, moving well, and very much enjoying Dan’s engaging lesson in swing dancing, which lasted until 10:30 p.m. After a snack of homemade pretzels and mustard, everyone settled in for a well-deserved night’s rest.
In their second day of classes, the students really started to get into the swing of things! The morning session, on Sophocles’ Antigone, dealt with the protagonist’s prudence, or lack thereof, and delved into what it means to be a tragic character. After a well-attended 11:30 a.m. Mass and lunch, students went back into the classroom to discuss some of the pre-Socratic philosophers and their revolutionary, yet strange, ideas of how the world is constructed.
Afternoon recreation period consisted of more volleyball, soccer, and ultimate Frisbee. The group then headed down to cool off in the ponds, taking turns on the new rope swing.
Having worn themselves out all day, the students were eager to take advantage of the evening’s study period to recoup and to get a head start on the next couple days’ readings. Afterward they got together in the coffee shop, joined by the Summer Program’s prefects, where some of the group’s musicians brought out their guitars, took requests, and led the room in a rousing sing-a-long. Others played various card games, ranging from “Spoons” to “Bluff.” At curfew everyone headed back to the residence halls, where the conversations continued — the beginnings of friendships that will last a lifetime.
On Sunday, 128 rising high school seniors — the largest group ever — flocked to Thomas Aquinas College for two weeks of lively discussion about some of the most influential authors of Western civilization. While some attendees drove to campus, about 60 others came by way of Los Angeles International Airport. There they were greeted by the Summer Program prefect team, which is composed of some of the College’s current students and recent graduates. This year’s summer students hail from as far away as France, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates.
Upon arriving on campus, the students settled into their residence halls (St. Monica Hall for the ladies, and Sts. Peter & Paul Hall for the gentlemen) and met their roommates.
After touring the grounds, they shared a BBQ dinner with their fellow students and with the members of the faculty with whom they will be studying for the next two weeks. Later in the evening Summer Program Chaplain Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem (’94), offered a travelers’ Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. An orientation session followed, after which the students headed to the residence halls before going to bed.
Already the group is proving to be thoughtful and lively. Our time together will undoubtedly be exciting and grace-filled!
There was a joyful, celebratory sort of feeling in the air on Friday morning. After two weeks of intense consideration and discussion of some of the most perennial questions of Western civilization, the students are excited to celebrate their achievement and time together.
After their last two classes, a final volleyball tournament on the athletic field, and a rosary before the Blessed Sacrament, the day will end with a formal banquet and dance. All those evening swing classes will really pay off, and there will be plenty of time to say goodbye, to take pictures, and to exchange addresses.
In addition to the wonderful memories the students will bring home, they will also take with them a few surprise gifts, including a copy of C.S. Lewis’ “Complete Signature Classics”(Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and others), a Summer Program T-shirt, a Thomas Aquinas College messenger bag, and a framed picture of the group photo above (a downloadable, high-resolution version of which is available here) and one of their class section. We hope that these mementos of their two weeks at the College will serve them well in all their endeavors and remind them of their time here with us.
This was a truly excellent group of students, and we certainly enjoyed having them here!