Faith in Action Blog
Numerous Thomas Aquinas College alumni — including several who have are now members of the teaching faculty — led sessions and presented papers at the annual meeting of American Catholic Philosophical Association last weekend. The gathering, held in Los Angeles under the theme “Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions,” drew more than 100 scholars from across the United States.
At the ACPA’s request, Thomas Aquinas College hosted two of the Conference’s satellite sessions, both on the subject of Aristotelian Natural Philosophy. The first was chaired by Dean Brian T. Kelly (’88) and the second by Senior Tutor Glen Coughlin (’81). Dr. Coughlin also hosted a third session in his capacity as president of the Society for Aristotelian Studies, a national organization.
Several other alumni also spoke and/or presented papers at the conference:
- Dr. Thomas Cavanaugh (’85)
Professor of Philosophy, University of San Francisco
“Socrates’ Burial? The Question of an Individual’s Immortality”
- Dr. Anthony Andres (’87)
Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College
“Charles De Koninck on Contingency”
- Dr. Anthony Crifasi (’92)
Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Benedictine College
“Aquinas on the Passions’ Contribution to Moral Reasoning” (commentator)
- Dr. David Arias, (’02)
Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College
“Hylomorphism and Organ Transplants”
- Dr. Daniel Shields (’05)
Visiting Professor of Philosophy, Xavier University
“Aquinas on the Moral Life of the Non-Believer”
- Mr. David Grothoff (’07)
Graduate Student, Catholic University of America
“Geometrical Proportion and Continuity in Aristotle's Physics”
- Mr. John Brungardt (’08)
Graduate Student, Catholic University of America
“The Existence of the Primum Mobile in Medieval and Modern Science”
- Mr. Ryan Shea (’08)
Graduate Student, Catholic University of America
“The Figure Analogy in De Anima II.3 and the Methodology of Aristotelian Natural Philosophy”
The late Charles De Koninck, one of the great philosophers of the 20th century, had a profound influence on the establishment of Thomas Aquinas College.
Dr. De Koninck was the teacher of three of the College’s founders, Mr. Mark Berquist, Dr. John W. Neumayr, and Dr. Ronald McArthur. In addition, his most famous student, Dr. Ralph McInerny, educated 11 of the College’s tutors, including late president Thomas E. Dillon, President Michael F. McLean , and Dean Brian Kelly at the University of Notre Dame.
Suffice it to say, the College owes a great debt to Dr. De Koninck’s legacy, a debt that two of its alumni have sought to repay by way of a newly launched website, The Charles De Koninck Project.
“In the 47 years since his death, De Koninck’s writings have unfortunately faded from view even as their relevance to contemporary intellectual life has intensified,” notes the site’s introductory page. The Charles De Koninck Project, it continues, “exists to put the entirety of his writings online and foster discussion about them.”
Under the direction Executive Director David J. Quackenbush (’88) and Managing Director Matthew J. Peterson (’01), The Charles De Koninck Project seeks to “collect, translate and make all of his writings freely available online,” so that they will be widely available and read, and so that others may “take up the letter and spirit of his writings, spurring discussion in pursuit of truth.”
Mr. Quackenbush — who began the project of collecting, transcribing and translating De Koninck’s texts nearly two decades ago when he studied under Dr. McInerny at Notre Dame — is a member of the teaching faculty at Thomas Aquinas College. Mr. Peterson is a doctoral candidate in political philosophy and American government at Claremont Graduate University.
“We expect to have the bulk of De Koninck’s previously published writings available fairly soon, along with a substantial portion of previously unpublished and newly translated texts,” says Mr. Quackenbush. “We hope to press on until all relevant material is available.”
The Charles De Koninck Project invites outside contributions. “We welcome essays, lectures, blogs, and such for posting and linking at the site, and hope to host an active discussion of agreement, disagreement, and development of De Koninck’s thought,” says Mr. Quackenbush. “The project is intended to be a cooperative effort by all those interested.”
Some 18 months after its publication, A Little Way of Homeschooling continues to elicit great interest. The second work of alumna author Suzie (Zeiter ’87) Andres, the book profiles 12 Catholic homeschooling families and their use of the “unschooling” educational method, while drawing upon the works of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. John Bosco, and ancient philosophers.
On Friday morning Mrs. Andres appeared on the Mothers at Home radio program with Judy Dudich on BlogTalkRadio. You can listen to the broadcast in the player below.
Starting tomorrow (Saturday, September 29), EWTN is sponsoring a Novena to the Mother of God for the United States, seeking Our Lady’s intercession and Our Lord’s blessing on the country as we approach the upcoming elections. The novena has the nihil obstat of one of the College's graduates, Rev. Gary Selin (’89), the formation director at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
The inspiration for the Novena, says Fr. Selin, came from its author, Rev. Frederick L. Miller, S.T.D., of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, who spent last year in sabbatical at St. John Vianney. During that time, the two priests discussed the state of the Church in America, the elections, and what Catholics could do for their country.
“I was concerned, as the year was going on, that we Catholics in the U.S. — starting with us clergy, but also the lay faithful — were not looking at the election enough from the spiritual perspective,” Fr. Selin recalls. From there, he and Fr. Miller thought of the Novena, which, in keeping with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom this summer, would “continue that spirit of prayer and fasting for our country.”
It was important to both priests, says Fr. Selin, that the Novena call upon the aid of the Blessed Mother. “I know from history and my own personal experience,” he notes, citing events from the Battle of Lepanto to the fall of Communism, “that when we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary in time of great need — when we go to Jesus through Mary — Jesus has come through with very special graces.”
Thus the timing of the Novena to the Mother of God for the United States, which begins on the Feast of the Holy Archangels (September 29), and concludes on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), just prior to the start of the Year of Faith (October 11). “Coming into an election, where so much is on the line for the Catholic Church and for our country with regards to attacks against religious liberty, the attack against the beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony and even the marital act,” Fr. Selin explains, “we’re callings upon God through the intercession of Mary for very special graces on our country.”
Fr. Selin adds, however, that the act of transforming a nation must begin with our own, interior conversions. “First and foremost in this whole issue of the election, we have to start with ourselves, asking: How have we been faithful to God’s commands? How have we lived a deep prayer life, avoiding sin, growing in holiness and in our dedication to the Holy Eucharist? Then our public acts will be a beautiful overflowing of that commitment of faith.”
Fr. Selin has long had a devotion to the Blessed Mother. His senior thesis at the College was titled, “Mary: Archetype of the Church.” The Mother of God, he says, “has always been close to me in my vocational discernment and leading me here.” Likewise, she must play a role in the future of the nation: “Work has to be done in the public sphere — and that’s the work of the lay faithful to get out there, and we priests have to preach and encourage — but we cannot forget Our Lady.”
The Cardinal Newman Society has issued its 2012-2013 Catholic High School Honor Roll, recognizing “excellence in Catholic identity, academics and civic education at Catholic high schools across the United States.” To make the list, the Society explains, schools must have “an institutional commitment to providing a truly integrated and faithful Catholic education across all disciplines and in all areas of student activities.”
Notably, three of the just 50 schools honored on this year’s list are headed by Thomas Aquinas College alumni:
- Marguerite (Ford ’79) Grimm is the headmaster of Saint Monica Academy in Pasadena, Calif.
- Rev. Mark Moriarty ('95) is the superintendent of St. Agnes School in St. Paul, Minn., and the pastor of the parish.
- Michael Van Hecke (’86) is the headmaster of Saint Augustine Academy in Ventura, Calif.
“The Honor Roll schools are a reminder that Catholic education is getting better every day — not only academically, but in the renewal of Catholic identity,” says Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick J. Reilly. “We are delighted to see the increased level of competition among the schools that participated in the program this year.”
Congratulations to Mrs. Grimm, Fr. Moriarty, and Mr. Van Hecke!
Note: The following is a reflection by Kathleen Sullivan (’06), who is currently pursuing a doctorate in literature and who has helped out with the College’s High School Summer Program for the last eight years. It recounts a story she shared when on campus for this year’s program, describing an instance in which an unlikely student was touched by her faith and the formation she received at the College .
Kathleen Sullivan (’06)A few semesters ago, during my third year in a Ph.D. program for English literature at a leading Catholic university, I was pleased to be assigned a course teaching literature of fantasy. I enjoy fantasy works, so it was a fun winter break — organizing a syllabus, choosing, selecting, discarding, and finally deciding which works to use. I could not wait for the first day of class, eager to share my love of literature with the students.
However, my excitement diminished somewhat after that first class when a student approached me and introduced himself as a senior Politics major who was ready for the semester to be over, even though it had just begun. He proceeded to tell me that he did not want to take this course, but his adviser told him he needed it in order to fulfill a requirement. He did not like to read “unimportant” books; he preferred biographies or historical novels, and he had a problem getting up early in the morning, even though the class began at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Yes, I have to admit, his comments were a bit deflating.
As the semester went on, he would show up late to class. He would indicate that he thought the works were “silly,” and he would often mention that they were all too lengthy. Though blunt, he was not unkind; he was just blatantly uninterested. Since he knew the class requirements and expectations, as well as the attendance policy, I did not feel the need to admonish him for the lackluster attitude. So, he came when he felt the need, and sat there, and seemed to listen.
He did actually participate every once in a while. For example, during the class we had on C.S Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I brought attention to the moment when Eustace Scrubb, having been transformed into a dragon, is told by Aslan to bathe in the waters. We discussed that scene in light of baptism, and he seemed intrigued by the deeper layers of the text.
In any case, after finishing the course (he did mange to pass), he graduated from the university a few weeks later. The next school year, we were given back the course evaluations of the previous semester that the students had written. I recognized his handwriting right away, and thought, “Oh no, he is going to say how much he hated this course.” This is what he wrote:
I think she was the first truly Catholic teacher that I’ve had.
Way too much reading.”
I laughed at the last line (“way too much reading” … good one, for a literature course), then paused and thought more about the other two sentences. A great teacher? The first truly Catholic one in all at this Catholic university?
Though I remembered seeing him at some Masses, I realized he did not write that comment merely because he saw me at Mass. He must have recognized something more internal. Maybe he realized that my love of teaching, and even my love of “silly” literature, stems from the greater love of Christ. Maybe he appreciated my willingness to discuss these “unimportant” texts in the light of Catholic beliefs. Maybe he was grateful to look for the deeper layers in a story or in a character, to notice what is beyond the surface level, to recognize universal truths in everyday matters. Maybe?
Despite not knowing the exact reasons why he wrote what he did, I felt gratitude, first to my family for raising me to love and live the Catholic faith, and then to Thomas Aquinas College, for helping to form my character in a way almost unnoticed by me. Spending four years immersing myself in both the great books and the constant reception of the Sacraments, deepening my faith and strengthening my intellect, has allowed me, in a paraphrase of St. Francis, to “preach constantly, and if necessary, use words.” Thomas Aquinas College has also given me examples to emulate as I try to be a “great teacher.” To them, I am grateful. And to my Politics major, I am glad he found some unexpected value in my class … even if there was way too much reading.
The picture to the right comes from the College’s Facebook page. It depicts three of the College’s newest alumni — Nathan Dunlap (’12), Kellie Schramm (’12), and Noel Bulger (’12) — beside a stack of (almost all of) the great books they read while students in the College’s integrated academic program.
Although they have all completed the same curriculum, these three graduates plan to serve the Church and society in three distinct ways: Mr. Dunlap will be working as an animator, with hopes of one day making films. Miss Schramm will become a teacher for Mother of Divine Grace School, a distance-learning program. And on Commencement Day, Mr. Bulger accepted a commission as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Original drawings by James Langley (’85) are on exhibition at the Beatification of Rev. Pierre-Adrien Toulorge, O.Praem, in Coutances, France, through May 6. The works, which come from Mr. Langley’s Via Dolorosa studies, will then travel to Dublin, where they will be exhibited at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress from June 10 to 17.
A professor at Savannah College of Art and Design, Mr. Langley previously taught at Franciscan University of Steubenville and has lectured at the University of Notre Dame, Brown University, and the Pontifical North American College in Rome. More of his art can be viewed at his website, www.langleyart.com.
A professor of philosophy at St. Michael’s Abbey Seminary in Orange County, Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), recently appeared on Catholic Answers Live, where he discussed The Power and Purpose of Celibacy. As a regular guest on the nation’s top-rated Catholic radio program, Fr. Sebastian has covered a wide range of topics, both philosophical and theological. Past episodes are available for streaming/download via the Catholic Answers website:
- Open Forum for Non-Catholics (December 12, 2011)
- How Biblical Inspiration Works (October 21, 2011)
- The Role of Logic in Apologetics (May 7, 2011)
- Are You Predestined? (February 10, 2011)
- The Nature of Prophecy (December 6, 2010)
- Can Doctrine Develop? (April 26, 210)
It was a reunion of two Thomas Aquinas College classmates when Dr. Jonathan Doylend (’96), a postdoctoral researcher with the Optoelectronics Research Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently spoke before the Catholic Business and Professional Group in Reno, Nevada. The group’s president, attorney Jeremy McNeil (’96), had invited his onetime roommate to address members about the alleged contradiction between faith and modern science. Among Dr. Doylend’s remarks was the following observation about why the Christian is especially suited for the natural sciences:
“Rather than being unmotivated to uncover explanations of what he sees in nature, a scientist who is also a Christian has two motivations that a non-Christian might not have. Firstly: He is confident that sense can be made of the universe, since he attributes its design to an intelligent being. His inquiry, in other words, is inherently optimistic.
“Secondly: He knows that by uncovering the secrets of the universe, he is not discovering a world which is chaotic and inelegant, and thus lesser than himself. Rather he is delving into the designs of the ultimate intelligence, and thus learning indirectly about God Himself.”
Mr. Doylend is, notably, one of several Thomas Aquinas College alumni to speak before the Catholic Business and Professional Group, including Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94).