Summer Program Blog
After dinner on Friday night, students met up in St. Bernardine of Siena Library for a dramatic — and, at times, hilarious — reading of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. To allow as many students to participate as possible, some of the major roles were divvied up among several actors. And delighting all with his performance of Algernon “Algy” Moncrieff was none other than the Summer Program’s director, Dr. Christopher Decaen.
Afterward, students headed down to the lower part of the campus, where they prayed along the College’s new outdoor Stations of the Cross. From there, they walked over to the three spring-fed ponds for sing-along by the campfire.
In the first of Friday’s two classes, the Summer Program students looked at Pascal’s “wager” over the existence of God. Then, in the second session, using St. Thomas’s fifth way, they looked at a proof for God’s existence which relies on seeing that natural bodies act for an end. In support of part of St. Thomas’s argument, students also read Jean Henri Fabre’s detailed descriptions of the grey cricket. Together these readings, contrary to the claims of Pascal, provide evidence for the existence of God.
For afternoon recreation there were many options: Auditions for open-mic night, games on the athletic fields, a hike to the “painter’s shack,” practice for The Importance of Being Earnest, resting, reading, or visiting in the residence halls. Some students, though, decided to have a tea party with breakfast bread, a lunch cake, and a variety of teas:
The evening promises to be fun, with the much-anticipated dramatic reading of The Importance of Being Earnest, followed by prayers along the College’s new Stations of the Cross and a campfire and sing-a-long. Next, an exciting weekend is in store, with a wilderness hike on Saturday and trips to the Getty Museum and the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday.
At the end of Thursday’s classes, 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 on Sunday
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.
Discussion of Dr. Nieto’s talk continued through the dinner hour, during which prefects announced the cast of Friday night’s dramatic reading of The Importance of Being Earnest. Among the show’s performers will be the Summer Program’s director, Dr. Christopher Decaen, who will play the part of Algernon Moncrieff. Prefects also announced auditions for Saturday’s Open Mic night, which promises to include music, comedy, and possibly even some juggling from this year’s talented students.
After dinner was study hall, and students read passages from Pascal, Fabre, and St. Thomas Aquinas. Some even got a head start on next week’s lessons by beginning Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich. Then came the nightly Rosary which, for the first time, was led by the students themselves, and not the prefects.
During the evening recreation time there were was another dance class — swing and rhumba — in St. Joseph Commons. “The girls are eager to dance,” says prefect Patrick Cross (’14). “And the boys, well, they’re getting much better!” The class was only half an hour long but, once again, most of the participants continued practicing until curfew. When they arrived back in their respective residence halls, the men and women enjoyed cheese and crackers, recapping the day’s lessons and experiences before tucking in for the night.
What is faith?
This is just one of the questions that Summer Program students grappled with in their two classes today. At the morning session they continued their recent discussions about the Book of Genesis, examining Abraham’s relationships with Sarah, Hagar and, most significantly, Isaac — the promised heir whom Abraham was willing to sacrifice out of obedience to God. The students then returned to the sacrifice of Isaac in their afternoon class, where they considered Søren Kierkegaard’s four variations of the story in Fear and Trembling.
Next up is a lecture this afternoon from tutor Dr. John Nieto on the subject of art and beauty. Tonight there will be more dance practice and socializing, plus preparation for tomorrow’s classes on Pascal, Fabre, and St. Thomas Aquinas.
There were no afternoon classes on Wednesday, so students and prefects used the time for a program-wide volleyball tournament. There were 10 teams in all, each with six to eight players of varying skill and experience levels. It was a double-elimination tourney, and the winning squad then moved on to challenge a team of the College’s tutors plus one “ringer” — Summer Program Chaplain Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94). It was hard-fought, best-of-three match, but the tutors eked out a close win in the first game, and then pulled away for a decisive victory in the second.
Afterward the tutors and their families joined with the students for a barbeque dinner on the lawn between Sts. Peter and Paul Hall and St. Bernardine of Siena Library. Next, it was on to study hall, where the students finished passages from Genesis and Kierkegaard, and looked ahead to upcoming readings by Tolstoy, Fabre, and Pascal.
Wednesday night’s Rosary included a special blessing — Eucharistic adoration in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. Prior to exposition, Fr. Sebastian gave a beautiful talk about how Jesus left us not merely a photograph by which to remember Him, but his real, physical presence in the form of the Blessed Sacrament. Throughout the adoration period, Fr. Sebastian and Chaplain Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P., manned the Chapel’s two confessionals, hearing students’ confessions and offering God’s absolution. It was a time of great peace and grace!
The evening then concluded with a dance lesson in preparation for the upcoming, end-of-the-program soiree. Prefect Dan Selmeczy (’08) taught some basic merengue and swing steps to the students, whom he called “some of the best” he’s ever seen. It seemed that everyone attended the class — and stayed to continue dancing afterward.
At curfew the men and women returned to their residence halls for pretzels, mustard, and good conversation. Then it was off to bed!
Students made the most of Tuesday afternoon’s recreation period: Some played ultimate Frisbee or soccer; others prepared for the upcoming volleyball tournament, the winners of which will get to compete against the tutors; and some 50 hikers explored the surrounding area, trekking up to the “painter’s shack” in the hills above campus.
After dinner was study hall, where students read passages from Genesis, Kierkegaard, and Pascal in anticipation of their upcoming classes. They also learned, by way of an announcement from the prefects, about a dramatic reading of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, to be held Friday night. Auditions will take place this evening, and the aspiring thespians are busily preparing.
When study hall was over, the group found its way over to St. Joseph Commons for games and iced beverages at the campus coffee shop, complete with impromptu piano and guitar performances. At curfew the men and women returned to their respective residence halls for courtyard bonfires. The men chatted with Fr. Sebastian, and the women sang songs around the fire, until lights out at 11:30.
A hearty team of about 15 Summer Program students awoke early this morning for a run around the perimeter of the campus, including a trip to the new outdoor Stations of the Cross with prefect Sarah Dufresne (’14). Other early risers found their way to Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel for the 7:00 a.m. Mass in the extraordinary form. All then attended breakfast in St. Joseph Commons, where they discussed the readings for the day’s classes — Sophocles’ Antigone in the morning and selections from the pre-Socratic philosophers in the afternoon, following the midday Mass and lunch.
For many of the students, the summer program is their first experience of the Discussion Method, which the College employs in its classrooms. To help foster courtesy, the College asks students to address each other in class as “Mr.” or “Miss” and their surname — another first for most students. “I really like the formality of addressing each other by your last name in the class,” says student Rebecca Oakes of Vail, Arizona. “It allows everybody to be respectful of the variety of opinions about the deep questions that we are considering in these texts.”
Soon after the conclusion of afternoon sports yesterday, the high school students found their way over to St. Joseph Commons for dinner, where they debated the extent of Oedipus’s culpability for his tragic fate. Study hall followed, and was “very quiet,” according to the prefects — save for the dramatic reading of Sophocles’ Antigone led by prefect Chris Sebastian (’13).
Afterward came the evening Rosary in Our Lady of the Most Trinity Chapel, and then social time back in the Commons. Most students played board games — Apples to Apples being the favorite — while others played the guitar or piano, and others still continued on with the Antigone reading from study hall. In the campus coffee shop, prefect-baristas served iced mochas and Italian ices, gratis, to their appreciative customers. The festivities concluded at 10:30 p.m., followed by consecrations back in the residence halls.
The night, however, was still young. Over in Sts. Peter and Paul Hall, the men took their turns clobbering a piñata — only to discover, much to their dismay, that the prefects had filled it not with candy, but carrots! The students’ disappointment soon subsided, however, as the prefects tendered boxes of fresh donuts. Then the women arrived en masse on the front lawn to serenade and give a birthday cake to prefect Rocky Brittain (’15), who turned 22.
Afterward, the women enjoyed a party of their own in St. Monica Hall, complete with singing, dancing, and a conga line. “The friendships are already forming,” says women’s head prefect Kathleen Sullivan (’06). “It’s a beautiful thing to see.”
Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel
The first day of the 2014 High School Summer Program began with breakfast in St. Joseph Commons, followed by a student orientation session in the library. There, the director of the summer program, Dr. Christopher A. Decaen, introduced the students to the program’s tutors — all members of the Thomas Aquinas College teaching faculty. The group then posed for a photo by the Guadalupe Fountain before heading across the quadrangle for a morning Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel.
For the first day’s classes, students studied Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Plato’s Euthyphro. Then came an afternoon of sports and fun on the campus athletic fields: