Summer Program Blog
Starting at the crack of dawn this morning — about 4:45 a.m. — the 2014 Summer Program students began departing campus to make their way back home. Having forged close friendships over the last two weeks, the students had to fight back tears when saying goodbye to one another.
Before they left, the students presented a thank-you card to Admissions Director Jon Daly, whose tireless efforts make the Summer Program possible. Below are just a few of the students’ comments:
“You made this an unforgettable two weeks, and I’m still super stoked that we went 9-3 in the roll call race.”
— Tom G.
“I’d write a big, long speech thanking you for everything you did for us, but it would end up being a thesis!”
“Thank you so much!!! These were the best two weeks of my life.”
— Ryan U.
“I’m more grateful than I can say. Thank you!”
Thanks be to God for a great two weeks! It is sad to see our Summer Program students go. By God’s grace, many of them will return as members of the Thomas Aquinas College Class of 2019!
At their last classes on Friday, the students tackled Proposition 32 from Euclid’s Elements, then contemplated the significance of the title of Flannery O’Connor’s short story “The Enduring Chill.” During recreation time, most either played in or watched the student-prefect soccer game, making the most of their final hours on campus. All are eagerly looking forward to tonight’s banquet and dance.
After classes the prefects gave the students some goodbye presents, mementos of the last two weeks: a Thomas Aquinas College book bag containing a copy of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters plus framed photos of the entire group and each student’s section. You can see those photos in the slideshow below.
Check this blog on Saturday for dance and goodbye pictures. It’s hard to believe the program is coming to an end!
At Wednesday afternoon’s recreation period, students could be seen playing various sports: A tennis tournament was under way on the campus courts, with the winner to be determined Thursday. Triads of young men formed squads and practiced for Thursday’s 3-on-3 basketball tournament. Volleyball teams clashed on the sand courts. And soccer enthusiasts prepared for Friday’s match pitting the students against the prefects.
The sporting events were followed by a brief dance class in anticipation of Friday’s soiree. Then the College bookstore briefly opened its doors to a rush of student customers looking to pick up some mementos of their nearly finished time on campus. From there it was dinner and study hall, with students once again being excused early to work on their Euclidean propositions. The students remain as smitten with Euclid as ever, boasting of the number of alternative proofs they have been able to devise. One young woman even used her newfound geometrical skills and a necklace to construct a compass in her residence hall!
Following the nightly Rosary in the Chapel, students made their way over to the coffee shop for root-beer floats and a pint of theology, courtesy of Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94). Having collected questions beforehand, Fr. Sebastian addressed students’ queries on a range of topics that included faith, morality, natural law, and the ways grace builds upon nature. He also allowed for follow-ups, leading to a lively and thoughtful conversation.
At curfew time, the students returned to the residence halls for a wide array of snacks — chips, salsa, guacamole, soft pretzels and, in the women’s hall, a birthday cake for prefect Maggie Conklin (’17) — and nightly consecration. Fr. Sebastian paid visits to both the men and the women, answering more questions about the Faith by the courtyard fire pits.
With that, Wednesday drew to a close as, sadly, the Summer Program will all too soon …
Following Monday’s classes most students spent the afternoon recreation period on the College basketball courts, preparing for that night’s basketball tournament. Then came dinner, followed by an abbreviated study hall. About halfway through the session, students headed off for various classrooms around campus, where prefects taught them how to demonstrate Euclidean propositions in preparation for Tuesday morning’s class.
After study hall and Rosary, the group returned to the basketball courts for two highly anticipated match-ups of students vs. prefects. In both the women’s and the men’s matches, the prefects emerged triumphant, but the games were close and hard-fought, and everyone had a great time.
Back in the residence halls after curfew, students enjoyed the usual prayers and said their nightly consecration.Then it was time to catch some sleep before another big day on Tuesday — Euclid in the morning, the beach in the afternoon, and Santa Barbara at night!
Sunday began with Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel, with early risers attending Mass in the extraordinary form at 7:15, and the rest of the group going to the ordinary form Mass at 9:00. Because students would be spending the day in Los Angeles — and not returning until late in the evening — there was then a study session in the library, so that all would have time to prepare for Monday’s classes. Afterward came lunch, and then students, prefects, chaplains, and a few tutors boarded three coach buses for the city. The first stop was the Getty Museum in the Santa Monica Mountains, with its panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and the vast expanse of metropolitan L.A.
At the Getty students 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.
At about 5:00 p.m. the group re-boarded the buses for a trip to the Hollywood Bowl, where students enjoyed a quick pizza dinner on the picnic grounds before settling in for the performance. The night’s concert was Pagliacci & Cavalleria rusticana, billed as “the extreme, no-holds-barred passions of jealous lovers in this beloved double-bill from two Italian opera composers at the top of their game.” Students delighted in the spirited performance, 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 back to campus. Then it was off to bed for some much-needed rest before Monday’s classes on Euclid’s Elements and Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyich.
The Summer Program students are in Los Angeles today, with visits to the Getty Center (above) and the Hollywood Bowl. We will post more photos from those outings as soon as they become available, but in the meantime, we have some new pictures from yesterday’s events. Below is a short slideshow from the hike that some students took to the “painter’s shack” while the rest of the group was at the Punch Bowls. The group dabbled with watercolors under the leadership of head women’s prefect Kathleen Sullivan (’06):
And here are some photos from Saturday night’s barbeque dinner, presented by Mr. Daly and the Admissions staff:
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.
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!
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.