Summer Program Blog
Summer Program students had great fun this morning, putting their newfound Euclidean knowledge to work by demonstrating propositions for their classmates. All their preparation seems to have paid off!
There is no afternoon class today. After Mass and lunch, the students boarded buses for nearby Los Angeles, where they will take in the art and the views at the Getty Center. Then they will go to the city’s famed Hollywood Bowl for A Midsummer Night with Dudamel, featuring works of Felix Mendelssohn.
Check back tomorrow for photos from the outing!
On Monday morning the students were back in the classroom, working out Euclid’s definitions, common notions, and postulates in lively discussions. They were coming to an understanding of the meaning of such terms as “line” and “point” in preparation for demonstrating Euclidean propositions on Tuesday.
At the afternoon class, after Mass and lunch, students discussed the first two books of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. Themes included what it means to be a man, the true causes of happiness, and the nature of fortune. “This is when students really get a taste for the College’s academic program,” says one prefect. “It’s a pivotal time.”
When the class came to an end, students filled the campus coffee shop to capacity for a lecture by College tutor Dr. John Nieto, “On Art and Beauty.” Dr. Nieto supplemented his remarks with a PowerPoint slideshow depicting many famous sculptures and paintings, several of which are at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, which the group will visit this afternoon.
Dr. John Nieto
In his lecture, Dr. Nieto explained St. Thomas Aquinas’s definition of beauty, advising students that, when they tour the Getty’s exhibits, they should examine every work for beauty’s three characteristics — integrity or unity, proportionality, and clarity. The talk was well received, giving the students a better understanding of how to approach various kinds of art.
After dinner the group met up in the coffee shop once more, where Admissions Director Jon Daly led an open forum for students who are interested in applying to Thomas Aquinas College. The Admissions staff answered questions about the College’s curriculum, teaching method, financial aid program, alumni, and various other subjects.
Admissions Director Jon Daly
Students spent the evening study period preparing the Euclidean propositions that they will be called to demonstrate in the next morning’s class. Prefects were on hand to help and encourage. Afterward came the nightly Rosary, which, for the first time, students led, rather than prefects.
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 shots, blocks, and passes. There was also an intense battle of cheering on the sidelines, with the supporters keeping up the energy and fun. Both games were very close and competitive. In the women’s game, the students won 22-21. In the men’s match, it was the prefects who emerged triumphant, 26-23.
Fr. Sebastian leads the opening prayer.
The Women's Prefect Team
Sunday began with two Masses in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, the first in the extraordinary form, and the second in the ordinary form, accompanied by the Thomas Aquinas College Choir. Students then prepared for Monday’s classes by reading Euclid and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy before heading off in four passenger buses for a day of adventure …
First stop: Rincon Beach, which is about a 45-minute drive from campus and surrounded by cliffs with a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. Highlights of the trip included volleyball, swimming, surfing and snorkeling:
Next stop: Santa Barbara, where students enjoyed dinner at various spots of their choosing: family-style Italian at Palazzio’s, burgers at The Habit, a local Lebanese restaurant, and others. Prefects then led students down State Street for shopping and ice cream. At the end of the trip, students and prefects gathered at Stearns Wharf for a group photo. In the buses on the way back to campus, the group prayed the Rosary, and upon returning to the campus, all were grateful to call it a night after a delightful — but full! — day.
Below is a photographic recap from Friday night — including the Admissions Barbeque, the production of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, and students’ praying alongside the College’s walkable Stations of the Cross:
Next, we have photos from Saturday’s punch bowls hike, which included an outdoor Mass offered by chaplains Rev. Nick Blaha and Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P.:
Finally, enjoy the following photos from Saturday’s Open Mic Night in St. Joseph Commons:
Below are a few photos from last night’s production of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. We will try to get up more later today!
Students greatly enjoyed this morning’s class and its discussion of Pascal’s “Wager.” The conversation focused on the terms of the wager and their implications — the finite vs. the infinite, the difference between pleasure and true happiness, the existence of objective truth and morality, and whether we are capable of recognizing them. A good many students attended the midday Mass immediately afterward.
At lunch students looked forward to this afternoon’s class, which will examine St. Thomas’s proof for the existence of God in the order of nature, complemented by the microcosm of that order on display in Jean Henri Fabre’s account of the life of the bee. Later this afternoon there will be recreation and altar-server training. Then, tonight is “Arts and Fire Night” — consisting of the highly anticipated production of Comedy of Errors, praying at the outdoor Stations of the Cross, and music and s’mores by the bonfire!
On Saturday morning, the group will take a long hike in the Los Padres National Forest. Look out for a post and photos later in the day.
Open Mic Auditions
Thursday afternoon’s class lived up to students’ expectations, with the discussion of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling proving to be both challenging and illuminating. One student reported that, because the reading was so engrossing, her section had the most engaging and fruitful discussion to date.
All in all, the students seems to be getting a handle on the Discussion Method, with different personalities taking on certain roles in the class — e.g., one who asks questions, another who raises objections, and others who offers critical insights. Students have expressed gratitude for the tutors, who step in to right the conversation when it goes adrift, and who propose carefully chosen opening questions to launch the discourse.
The afternoon recreation period consisted, as usual, of various sports on the campus athletic fields, plus a spontaneous game of water polo in one of the campus ponds:
Meanwhile auditions continued for Saturday’s Open Mic night. “We have a lot of talented students here,” says women’s head prefect Sarah Dufresne. “There were a lot of guitars and a dueling pianists act. It looks like we are going to have a very good Open Mic Night.”
Next came study hall, during which students prepared for Friday’s classes by reading Pascal’s “Wager,” Fabre’s observations of bees, and the “fifth way” of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae, which aims to prove the existence of God through order in nature. At nightly Rosary students were blessed with a “Holy Half Hour” — 30 minutes of exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, preceded by a beautiful reflection on the Holy Eucharist from Fr. Sebastian. The chaplains offered confession during adoration, and many prefects and students alike availed themselves of Christ’s mercy, with lines forming for all three.
Afterward, the cast of The Comedy of Errors returned to St. Augustine Hall for a rehearsal, while a few students practiced swing dancing by the Guadalupe Fountain. Up in the campus coffee shop, prefect Andrew Rossi set up various board games. Admissions counselor Pat Cross and prefect Andrew Grimes, meanwhile, set up a picture-drawing station, with would-be artists’ posting their creations on the coffee-shop window. Below are some examples of their creations:
After curfew the priests once again paid a visit to the residence halls, where students enjoyed cheese and crackers before prayers and turning in for the night.
Foosball with Fr. Sebastian in the men’s residence hall
Despite their busy and late Wednesday night, a hearty group of Summer Program men arose early this morning for a sunrise hike. Led by prefects Matthew Plaisted and Matt Dugan, the crew crossed Ojai Road, climbed the hill overlooking the College campus, and returned — all before most of their peers ever got out of bed.
At this morning’s class the sections resumed yesterday’s conversation about Genesis. They pondered such questions as, “Was Cain angry with Abel, or angry with God?” “Did the Flood accomplish what it was supposed to in terms of wiping evil from the face of the earth?” Several sections then moved on to the second day’s readings and discussed God’s promises to Abraham and Abraham’s compliance with them. At lunch, students expressed excitement over this afternoon’s class, during which they will consider Abraham in a more philosophical sense based on their reading of Kierkegaard’s four variations of the story.
Toward the end of the lunch period, prefects hosted auditions for Saturday’s Open Mic night, including vocal numbers, piano duets, a guitar performance, two skits, and a dance. There will be more auditions later today, as well as afternoon recreation, dinner, and — at tonight’s Rosary — exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Wednesday night barbeque outside St. Joseph Commons
Wednesday afternoon’s volleyball tournament was, as predicted, exciting and competitive, “or fierce and exhausting,” as prefect Chris Sebastian describes it. Of course, Chris is probably just being gracious, as his team (“Team USA,” as it dubbed itself, co-captained by Cecilia Goyette) bested all others to make it to the championship round against the faculty squad. Alas, despite the encouraging chants of “USA! USA!” from fellow students, who surrounded the court, the team fell to the tutors in two close sets.
After the tournament, the group headed up to St. Joseph Square for a leisurely summer barbeque. From there it was study hall, with some students going to St. Bernadine of Siena Library, and others to St. Gladys Hall. The night’s readings were chapters 11 to 25 of Genesis and excerpts from Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, specifically the Exordium and the Eulogy of Abraham — all in anticipation of Wednesday’s conversations about the nature of God’s promise to Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac.
Study hall in St. Gladys Hall
Rosary in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel
When study hall concluded, the students prayed the Rosary in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel and then made their way back to St. Joseph Commons for the first of three planned dance classes. Prefect Chris Selmeczy led the instruction, aided by fellow prefect Aileen McCarthy. Students learned some basic steps for the merengue and swing, which they will put to use at the end-of-the-program dance next Friday.
At the end of the class, some students kept dancing; others retired to the coffee shop; and others met up at the arch in front of St. Gladys Hall for a Comedy of Errors rehearsal. The actors worked on their blocking, as well as their emotion and diction, in a mad rush to prepare for Friday’s much-anticipated performance.
The night ended back in the residence halls with pretzels, fire pits, and visits from the chaplains. Fr. Paul and Fr. Nick visited with the men, and Fr. Sebastian with the women. Then it was time for nightly prayers, lights out, and the end of Day 4 of the 2015 Summer Program.
A visit from Fr. Sebastian
Fire pit in the men’s courtyard
Tuesday began with breakfast and the morning class. Building on Monday’s discussion of piety in Plato’s Euthyphro, students considered issues of duty, law, fate, family, and the state in Sophocles’ Antigone. Then, before lunch, a photographer came by to get a photo of each class section — and one of the entire group — on the steps by the Guadalupe Fountain:
In the afternoons class, students examined the works of the pre-Socratic philosophers, contemplating questions of causality and nature. Afterward came the afternoon recreation period, highlighted by sports — volleyball, Frisbee, soccer, and basketball — hiking and swimming at the campus ponds, and picnic-blanket art projects with watercolors and markers.
At the same time, the Summer Program prefects held auditions for the upcoming student performance of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, drawing some 20 thespians to the student lounge. Aspiring actors re-enacted scenes from past performances, including songs and a stirring rendition of Marlon Brando’s “Stella” scene from A Streetcar Named Desire. The directors announced the roles for Comedy of Errors later that evening, after which the cast got together to watch a video of the play.
After dinner students prepared for Wednesday’s classes by reading the first 10 chapters of Genesis at study Hall. They then met in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel for the nightly Rosary:
A brief coffee-shop gathering followed, after which prefects hosted parties in the men’s and women’s residence halls. For the women, it was a peaceful night of ice-breakers, conversation, snacks, music, and dancing in their festively decorated courtyard. The men, meanwhile, found their common area transformed into a gladiatorial arena for a fierce tournament of whiffle-ball dodgeball, with the team captained by Chris Sebastian handily vanquishing those led by Patrick Cross, Andrew Rossi, and Anthony Maza. Afterward, the men gathered in the courtyard for an impromptu yet heartfelt singing of the National Anthem, and David Langley regaled them with a performance of some Scottish tunes and “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipe.
After prayers, it was lights out — and exhaustion! — at 11:30.