Summer Program Blog
Rising early on a Saturday morning, over 100 of the students joined the prefects on a hike through the Los Padres National Forest. The trail, which borders the campus, leads to the refreshing (cold, according to some!) Punch Bowls — naturally formed pools of spring water. The students enjoyed the three-mile canyon hike, climbing over boulders, crossing the creek beds, and finally enjoying a dip in the cool water at the top. Even a student in a wheelchair was able to come on this hike, thanks to the combined efforts of the summer program guys, who formed groups to carry him over the rocky terrain.
The hikers returned to a delicious barbeque, grilled by our Admissions Director Jon Daly. Displaying the non-stop energy of this lively program, the students soon started playing games of Frisbee and volleyball, despite having just returned from a 5-hour hike.
Following the barbeque, many students took the opportunity to pray during a Holy Hour of Adoration, which included a Rosary and Benediction. Both chaplains, Fr. Buckley and Fr. Sebastian, were available during this time for those who wished to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
As the night darkened, the students gathered on an outside patio to watch Russell Crowe portray the truly inspirational real-life story of boxer James J. Braddock in Cinderella Man. It was a great day of fun and camaraderie, and the students certainly rested well that night!
Friday began with the study of the College’s patron, St. Thomas Aquinas. The students delved into one of St. Thomas’ five proofs for the existence of God, commonly known as “The Five Ways.” These five arguments are not made from Scripture, but from the natural philosophy of Aristotle, which is one of the reasons so much time is devoted to Aristotle’s work here at the College. In this text, St. Thomas does not make an argument from faith, rather from reason. He shows how faith and reason are not competitors, but actually complement one another.
That afternoon, the students returned to the question of God’s existence with Blaise Pascal’s famous “Wager.” Pascal, unlike Thomas, does not here explicitly argue for God’s existence, but rather shows that every man bets his life, in a sense, upon God’s existence or nonexistence and lives accordingly. He further explores what the consequences of this choice are — if God does actually exist or if he does not.
Following a recreation time of Frisbee, volleyball, and even a short hike to the Painter’s Shack, the students gathered in the library for a dramatic reading of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Students assumed the roles of the various characters in the play and really got into their parts, adopting Scottish accents and cackling like witches, while also fake sword fighting for the battle scenes. After every act, the prefects summed up what had been read with a quick skit, offering a lighthearted but dramatic rendition of the act. It was rewarding to see the students put their dramatic talents to use, and those students who made up the audience enjoyed seeing their classmates bring one of the “Great Books” to life.
The students finished the night at the third pond with a campfire, ice-cream sandwiches, music, and singing. They put their musical talents to use, incorporating guitars and bongo drums to the vocalizations of favorites such as “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”
Thursday morning found the students discussing a reading from Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. The work offers several scenarios of the story of Abraham in an attempt to determine whether or not his faith seems rational. Conversations were spirited, and the students were intrigued by the question of what faith is and what it entails, especially as modeled by our father in faith.
After Mass, study hall, and lunch, the students, prefects, chaplains, and a few tutors boarded three coach buses for Los Angeles and the Getty Museum. There they viewed world-renowned paintings, ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and other works of art, including some by Monet, Van Gogh, and Renoir, as well as sketches by Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Students also found time to take plenty of pictures around the museum’s beautiful gardens, fountains, and outdoor patios.
After dinner at the Getty, the group went to the Hollywood Bowl — the L.A. Philharmonic’s outdoor concert hall — to enjoy a performance of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor and Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World.” Listening to the beautiful classical music in the Hollywood Bowl’s outdoor amphitheater was a perfect way to end a day experiencing some of the culture offered in the greater Los Angeles area..
On Wednesday, after two days of literature and philosophy, the students finally dove into the Queen of the Sciences, sacred theology. They began their Scripture studies “In the beginning,” with the Book of Genesis. Reading all the way up through the birth of Isaac, they had plenty to contemplate in both the morning and afternoon classes as they considered Creation, man’s fall, Original Sin, and God’s covenant with Abraham.
Following afternoon recreation the students were treated to a talk by tutor Dr. John Nieto on the subject of art and beauty, in preparation for the following day’s trip to the Getty Museum. After explaining St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition of beauty, Dr. Nieto discussed the three aspects of beauty: integrity or wholeness, proportionality, and clarity.
Later in the evening, following the rosary, the students gathered in the Commons for a ballroom-dance practice, learning the steps to rumba, waltz, and basic swing. It was amazing to see how quickly they learned the steps, and it was delightful to witness their enthusiasm. Back in the dorms at curfew, the usual conversations began, with the students and prefects discussing the implications of beauty in music, stemming from Dr. Nieto’s talk.
Tuesday morning the students explored thought-provoking questions about Antigone, such as “What happens when religious duty is opposed to civil law?” and “How should our faith and filial obligations inform our responsibilities as citizens?” Then after lunch they tackled some of the pre-Socratic philosophers, who wondered about the principles of nature. Many students were surprised to find that ancient philosophers were talking about atoms over 20 centuries before the atomic theory was formally developed.
The rest of the day was free for the usual sports games on the athletic field, relaxing at the ponds, and continuing great conversations — returning to some of the lingering questions and debates from class. It is not unusual to see students who began a conversation in the classroom still sitting in the Commons or the residence halls discussing literature or philosophy a few hours later. This is what TACers live for: contemplating the highest things among friends!
Study hall was followed by a well-attended rosary in the Chapel, the quiet and evening twilight complementing the prayerful atmosphere. At about 9:30 p.m., students headed back to their residence halls for the much anticipated parties where they gathered to enjoy food, games, entertainment and fellowship with each other … experiencing residential life much as it is during the year.
On Monday the Summer Program students, tutors, and prefects gathered for the opening Mass at 8 a.m., which was offered by chaplains Rev. Cornelius Buckley, S.J, and Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem (’94).
After breakfast in St. Joseph Commons, the students made their way to their first class, where each section met with its two professors (called “tutors”). The sections consist of 17-18 students, who address each other by their surnames along with the title “Mr.” or “Miss,” complementing the formality of the Socratic discussion method. For the next two weeks the students will learn to work as a team in trying to understand some of the most compelling texts in Western civilization.
The 90-minute class was a lively discussion and careful analysis of Sophocles’ tragedy Oedipus Rex. Questions included: Should we pity Oedipus’ tragic situation? Or is he wholly culpable for his actions? In the afternoon the students returned to their classrooms to tackle another work from Ancient Greece: Plato’s philosophical dialogue Crito. In this discussion the students examined the issue of how to proceed if there is an unjust application of the city’s laws.Read more
Below is a slideshow featuring photos from yesterday’s barbeque and this morning’s breakfast:
And here is a schedule of what the students will be doing today:
|8:00 a.m.||Opening Mass|
|10:00 a.m.||Oedipus Rex|
|11:30 a.m.||Student ID photos|
|2:30 p.m.||Recreation — meet on Athletic Field|
|6:00 p.m.||Study – Meet in St. Bernardine Library|
|8:20 p.m.||Coffee Shop Open|
Today 121 rising high school seniors arrived at Thomas Aquinas College for two weeks of lively discussion about the works of some of the most influential authors of Western civilization.
While most Californians drove to campus, some 60 students from other states, Argentina, Italy, Germany, and Canada, were greeted at Los Angeles International Airport by the Summer Program prefect team, which consists of current students and alumni.
Upon arriving at the College, 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 for the next two weeks.
Following a campus tour and BBQ dinner, where they met with the tutors who will be leading their classes, the students visited over ice cream. Later in the evening, after a traveler’s Mass in the Chapel, orientation began in the College library, continuing on in the residence halls.
It’s a thoughtful, excellent, and lively group of students, and we look forward to working with them!
To keep up to date with this year’s High School Summer Program over these next two weeks, follow this, the program’s blog, for around-the-clock updates and photo galleries.
The Summer Program faculty and staff look forward to welcoming 100+ Summer Program attendees this July 24! Spaces are still available, just be sure to apply by the July 15 deadline!