Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro

A Third Order Carmelite, Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro recently appeared on Radio Maria’s “Carmelite Conversations,” where she spoke about her book, Diary of a Country Mother. The memoir, which chronicles the life of her beloved son Tim, reflects her yearlong journey of prayer and meditation, begun about six months after Tim’s death at the age of 15 in 2005.

Diary of a Country Mother“This account of the life of my son simply reveals that each person, no matter his mental or physical problems, has a great worth beyond measure, and leaves an enormous impact on those near to them and those farther afield,” Mrs. Montanaro tells host Mark Damis.

At the beginning of the interview, Mrs. Montanaro also describes how she and her husband, Andrew (’78), met while students at the College. “Conversation is a very big part of anything that goes on at Thomas Aquinas because, since everyone has taken the same classes, we can speak about the same things with one another,” she reflects. “So we became very good friends and discussed the important things of life” — a friendship that eventually led to marriage and Tim’s adoption.

“Tim’s death was very sudden for us,” she recalls, “and so then the rest of life just became trying to accept it and to deal with it.” The Montanaros found consolation by uniting their suffering with that of Christ. “It helps us so much, whenever there is an especially deep trial in our lives, to remember that life is not always the picnic or the party, the banquet. It’s very often the walk, carrying the Cross up the Hill of Calvary,” she says. “And that was particularly true to us as we were suffering, to remember that we were suffering with Christ, and He was carrying us, and we were carrying the Cross.”

The full interview with Mrs. Montanaro is available via the Radio Maria website, and Diary of a County Mother is for sale, in paperback and Kindle formats, on Amazon.com.


Dr. John. J. Goyette (’90)Over the weekend the Ventura County Star published a lengthy feature about the latest assault on human life in California — physician-assisted suicide, now euphemistically dubbed “aid in dying.” The story includes quotations from both prominent supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 128, which would permit doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. Among those opposed to the measure is an alumnus and tutor of the College, Dr. John. J. Goyette (’90).

“The very idea of physician-assisted suicide is an implicit judgment that a life that involves suffering is not really worth living,” Dr. Goyette tells the Star. “It’s seeing human beings as disposable.” Framing the controversy not so much as one of religion but of human dignity, he adds, “Natural law forbids taking innocent human life,” a prohibition of which “faith reminds us.”

Dr. Goyette continues by observing that assisted suicide’s supporters have a grimly utilitarian view of the end of human life. “The underlying assumption is that a death with pain and suffering is somehow meaningless or undignified — that doesn’t really fit with our experience,” he says. “Suffering is an opportunity for people to show care and compassion. A death that’s filled with compassion, that’s not a meaningless or undignified death.”

The full story is available on the Ventura Star website.


Sara Majkowski ('14), front right, and fellow members of Catholics in Action
Sara Majkowski ('14), front right, and fellow members of Catholics in Action

Less than one year since her graduation, Sara Majkowski (’14) is living just outside of Phoenix, where she is an educator by day and — in her spare time — she is learning the ropes of film production and finance.

This entrée to the movie business comes as a surprise. Like several other recent graduates, Miss Majkowski went to Phoenix to teach in the city’s rapidly expanding consortium of Great Hearts charter academies, classical schools that are, as she puts it, “very academically rigorous, with high standards in terms of behavior and academics.” But upon settling into her new city, she found herself a church — St. Anne’s in Gilbert — with ties to an emerging lay apostolate, Catholics in Action.

Directed by the pastor of St. Anne’s, Rev. Sergio Muñoz Fita, Catholics in Action is an American offshoot of Catholic Action, an international apostolate of the Secular Institute Servi Trinitatis. CIA, as it is known, is “about lay people obtaining sanctity in their lives as lay people,” Miss Majkowski explains. “We pray together in adoration. We receive spiritual formation. We reach out to the community, the poor, and young people who need formation, everything Christ directs us to do.”

Although a new member, Miss Majkowski is already heavily involved in CIA and its good works. She is helping to organize a trip to the 2016 World Youth Day in Poland, and she is busily raising funds for an upcoming film, Footprints.

The genesis of Footprints came about last summer, when two groups from St. Anne’s — one men, one women — made 40-day pilgrimages along Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela. A camera crew accompanied the men’s group, obtaining footage for a film that aims, Miss Majkowski says, “to document their spiritual experience, undergoing psychological trials and harsh physical demands.” There will be a premier screening in June and a general release, they expect, within a year. “I’m working on raising funds to complete production through a Kickstarter campaign, selling merchandise, approaching businesses, and spreading the word,” she says.

Meanwhile, Miss Majkowski thrives at Arete Preparatory Academy in Gilbert, where she teaches history and Latin to elementary-school students. “There is so much that goes into teaching — finding ways to make the lessons ‘stick,’ holding students’ attention, being responsible with grading, working with parents, and planning events,” she says. “I like it. I like it a lot.”


Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01) and Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05)
Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01) and Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05)

The latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books features one Thomas Aquinas College alumnus writing about another: Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01), a visiting assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, reviews The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, by Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05), an assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University.

“I wanted to title my review ‘Natural Law Photobombs Locke-ish Selfie: What Happens Next Will Shock Your Political Philosophy,” jokes Mr. Peterson via Facebook. “But they went with Nature Trail. I guess I’ll keep my day job.”

Alas, sans the Gawker-worthy headline, the review begins:

“The debate over what we mean when we speak of rights, especially in the American context, often concerns what John Locke understood them to mean. Locke’s ambiguity is a gift that keeps on giving to scholarly presses. In The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, S. Adam Seagrave, a self-identified Aristotelian-Thomist, mercifully refrains from attempting the definitive commentary on what he rightly calls Locke’s ‘problematically vague and incomplete’ account of the basis of rights. Instead, he makes not a wholly Lockean but, as he says, a ‘Locke-ish’ case for how natural rights arise from the very structure of human beings.”

After a thoughtful analysis of Dr. Seagrave’s book — mostly positive, albeit sprinkled with a few objections — Dr. Peterson concludes his review with praise:

“[Dr. Seagrave] has eschewed the imposing vagaries of modern scholarship in favor of actually engaging in the act of philosophy rather than mere commentary or critique. True philosophic exploration of difficult questions is much like the art of negotiating a fair deal: if one side walks away in smug satisfaction, you’re probably not doing it right. Everyone will disagree with some chunk of S. Adam Seagrave’s provocative work, but his effort is a brave breath of fresh air in the stagnant, painfully insecure, and often comically compartmentalized world of academic books.”

The full review is available via the Claremont Review of Books.


Mark Langley (’89)“I do not see a flickering candle at the end of this year’s Lenten journey,” writes alumnus Mark Langley (’89) on his blog, Lion & Ox. “No, I see a burst of glory and the veritable Super Nova, that is Christ’s Resurrection from the tomb, and what’s more, I also see over two cases of a very fine pale ale, some of which will enable me to celebrate that Resurrection with more propriety.”

The founder and the academic dean of The Lyceum, a classical school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Langley is also a husband, a father of 12, and an amateur brewer. In this last capacity, he has detected a relationship between his faith and his hobby. “Lent was specifically designed for brewing beer,” Mr. Langley writes. “The reason for this is obvious. Beer takes exactly 40 days (more or less) to ferment and grow from a weak sweet slop of ‘wort’ into a fine, noble, life-giving, heart-cheering, spiritually-enhancing liquid — whose foam raises itself in the glass as does incense in the chapel.”

And so, at the start of Lent, Mr. Langley began a new batch of English pale ale that will be ready precisely on Easter Sunday. “Of course we fast and pray for forty days first primarily in imitation of our Lord,” he observes. “But the same period of time is also roughly speaking an ideal space for brewing beer, and therefore I think it is obvious that this is a fitting thing for Christians to do in the first week of Lent.”

To read more of Mr. Langley’s musings on Lenten brewing, read the full post on his blog.

Related:


The Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone
The Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of California, at the 2009 dedication of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

“If McDonald’s told its employees that it was unacceptable to diss its fast food as gross, disgusting, or unhealthy at either McDonald’s or in a public setting,” asks alumna journalist Katrina Trinko (’09), “would it elicit a heated reaction from lawmakers?”

The answer: “Probably not.”

Katrina Trinko (’09) Katrina Trinko (’09)Yet for myriad reasons, when the Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco and the College’s 2008 Convocation Speaker, made a similar demand of the teachers in his schools, several California politicians called for an investigation. In a new column at the Daily Signal, Miss Trinko — the online magazine’s managing editor and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors — examines the criticism and complaints, and finds them wanting.

“Lawmakers may vehemently disagree with Cordileone’s decision,” Miss Trinko writes, but “religious leaders should be free to make such decisions without worrying about interference from the government.”

The full article is available at the Daily Signal.


March for Life

Sean Fitzpatrick ('02)As a demonstration “that commemorates those lives snuffed out before seeing the light of day,” the annual March for life, writes Sean Fitzpatrick (’02), “is, perhaps first and foremost, a funeral march.” The headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mr. Fitzpatrick has penned a poignant and thoughtful reflection about today’s march for Crisis magazine, where he is a regular contributor. He observes:

“The March for Life is a witness to the Gospel of Life, demonstrating by the thousands that though abortion is common practice it is not common sense. The March is a positive outcry against the government’s failure to defend the defenseless and to protect women against the tortures of conscience. Abortion is not simply a failure of justice, but a failure of government itself. President Washington wrote in 1789, ‘The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government.’ When that pillar is compromised, the structure fails and falls. It is not out of the question to ask, ‘Who will be the next to lose their unalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?’ In a statement given one year ago on this day to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Obama said, ‘this is a country where everyone deserves the same freedom and opportunities to fulfill their dreams.’ But at what point, at what precise point, does everyone become someone? Whenever it is, it is no longer self-evident.

“It is not enough to demand justice. Justice, as Our Lord taught, is to be hungered and thirsted after as a means of wellbeing. Just as hunger and thirst can never be forever satisfied in this life, neither can the requirement for the divine gift of justice. This is the truth that beats out the march of Christian soldiers. Though they mourn on this day as they march on the National Mall, they do it in the happiness and blessedness that is their claim, in honor of the dead.”

The full article is available via Crisis.com.


Fr. McGovern

The recent release of The Selected Sermons of Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J., has stirred up some dear memories for Gregory A. Pesely (’77):

Gregory A. Pesely (’77)“I had the great honor of serving at the altar with Fr. McGovern. (I helped out in the sacristy to set out his vestments. And, as I helped out with facilities, I had a few opportunities to help him with his dwelling place at the old campus.) He once confided that it usually took him 8-10 hours to craft, perfect, and memorize every homily.

“I had always hoped that one day his homilies would be published. What a treasure that collection will be for both those who had the honor to study St. Thomas with him and those who just heard about him.

“I often sat with him at meals. He had an observant eye and a keen mind. For a few summers, his mom would come out and visit him. I was able to witness the most tender and devoted son a mother could ever hope for.

“One summer while teaching at the Archdiocesan Seminary in Camarillo, I did a foolish thing — I agreed to play a set of handball with him up in Ojai. I treated him to a few cold beers after he clobbered me.

“He loved music, and not only sacred music: Once we caught him singing, ‘I Am Getting Married in the Morning’ from My Fair Lady while finishing up his laundry in the old laundry room at Claretville.

“I then went up to Université Laval and served several times with his dear friend and fellow Jesuit, Rev. Pere E. Lacasse, S.J. (at days of recollection and during a weeklong Ignatian Retreat). Both were incredibly spiritual priests, but both were passionate Jesuits with great senses of humor and humility.

“I believe a lot of the early vocations were enkindled by those who were introduced to Fr. McGovern and his unmistakable, great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.”

Mr. Pesely is the mission integration manager for OSF Healthcare System in Peoria, Illinois — a Catholic health care system covering 11 different facilities, and the largest system in Illinois outside of Chicago. He advises the corporation on medical ethics policies and the training of some 15,000 associated personnel.

Copies of The Selected Sermons of Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J., can still be ordered in time for Christmas via the online form.


Some timely words of advice in USA Today from alumna journalist Katrina Trinko (’09): “No one needs to be able to buy a big-screen TV on Thanksgiving.”

The managing editor of the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors, Miss Trinko has penned an op-ed encouraging Americans to abstain from shopping during the upcoming holiday. Lamenting that many, perhaps most, retailers compel their employers to work on what should be a day of rest and family, she writes:

Consumers could fight back by not shopping on Thanksgiving. And that’s what we should do — if we care about our fellow Americans and preserving our communities.

After all, the holidays are a time to remember and take care of each other. Sometimes being a good community member means helping others financially or taking time to pitch in with a difficult task. But sometimes it means other sacrifices, including our own convenience.

Sure, some of us might want to buy that big-screen TV at 50 percent off on Thanksgiving afternoon. But let’s help a brother (and a sister) out. Wait until Black Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Phil (’97) and Luke Halpin (’98) on the set of Miles Christi: Soldiers of Christ in America
Phil (’97) and Luke Halpin (’98) on the set of Miles Christi: Soldiers of Christ in America

Two alumni brothers, Phil (’97) and Luke Halpin (’98), played significant roles in the production of a new one-hour documentary film, Miles Christi: Soldiers of Christ in America, which premiered on EWTN last Sunday night. The film explores a new order of priests, Miles Christi (soldiers of Christ), which is committed to helping lay Catholics pursue holiness in their everyday lives. Phil served as the project’s writer and editor, and Luke composed and produced the original score. Below is the film’s trailer:

“Documentary filmmaking is such a great way of presenting the truth in a logical manner that’s almost indisputable,” Phil recently told the National Catholic Register. “I see the documentary as a method of argument almost. It’s a chance to, in a very methodical way, lay out something you think is true and prove it.” Key to making that argument, he added, is maintaining the highest professional standards. “High-quality production is part of evangelization. ... You’re not going to evangelize anybody with crummy production work.”

Phil is the editor and producer for StoryTel, a creative foundation specializing in documentaries about people and organizations who answer God’s call to “restore the sacred.” Previously, he helped to produce Where Heaven Meets Earth, a documentary about a once-failing urban parish transformed by a young priest who was determined to embrace the whole of Catholic tradition. “Giving people hope is a worthy goal,” he says, “but going beyond that to inspire people to restore the sacred in their own lives and their own communities makes it worthwhile.”

In case you missed the first screening of Miles Christi, fear not. The documentary will air again on EWTN this Saturday, November 22, at 11:00 p.m. in the U.S. and Canada. It is also available on DVD.