Summer Program Blog
At this morning’s class students resumed their work on Euclidean geometry, up through Propostion15 in Book 1 of the Elements. Tutors report that they are very pleased — and impressed! — with the students’ progress. The slideshow below features photos of each of the nine classroom sections:
This afternoon students can look forward to their last class on Boethius, a prefects vs. students soccer game, and two greased-watermelon matches in the campus ponds. Then, tonight they will be participating in a Rosary procession to the Lourdes Grotto.
As mentioned in the last post, after Mass and lunch yesterday, the students, prefects, chaplains, and a few tutors boarded four 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 were especially impressed by Power and Pathos, an exhibit of rare, Hellenistic bronze sculptures of great emotional intensity. They also found time to take plenty of pictures around the museum’s beautiful gardens, fountains, and outdoor patios.
At about 5:00 p.m. the group re-boarded the buses for a trip to the Hollywood Bowl, stopping briefly at a nearby park to consume a dinner of 60 pizzas. Upon entering the storied amphitheater, the students settled in for a concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, A Midsummer Night with Dudamel, named for the orchestra’s conductor and music/artistic Director, Gustavo Dudamel. The performance featured two works by Felix Mendelssohn, his Violin Concerto in E-minor and his score for William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Students delighted in the spirited performance — which included a dramatic reading of key lines from the play by Jurassic World star Bryce Dallas Howard — while relaxing under the stars on a hot summer night in the Hollywood Hills.
The concert ended fairly late (about 10:30 or so), at which time students returned to the buses. On the way back to campus, they prayed the Rosary, slept, and caught up on their reading. Then it was off to bed for some much-needed rest before Wednesday’s classes on Euclid’s Elements and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy.
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 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!
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
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. Bernardine 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 Dan 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.
At Monday afternoon’s classes, students discussed Plato’s Euthyphro, from which they worked to construct a definition of piety and identify its general qualities. Next came the afternoon recreation period, which included all kinds of sports — volleyball, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, and basketball — despite the thick humidity, a rarity in Southern California. A few women wisely escaped the heat, however, at an art session that prefect Zoe Appleby led in the ladies’ residence hall:
After dinner in St. Joseph Commons, students met for study hall in St. Bernardine of Siena Library, where they prepared for Tuesday’s discussions of the pre-Socratic philosophers and Sophocles’ Antigone. Then it was time for the nightly Rosary in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, followed by cards, board games, impromptu musical performances, iced mochas, and Italian sodas in the coffee shop, as well as a ping-pong tournament in the game room. After curfew, students returned to the their residence halls for a late-night snack of cheese and crackers, the resumption of the previous night’s foosball rivalries, and great conversations about the day’s classes.
Photos from last night’s banquet and dance!