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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Rev. Mark Bachmann, O.S.B. (’82), on the Catholic Man podcast Rev. Mark Bachmann, O.S.B. (’82), on the Catholic Man podcast

“What you’re looking for, for a long-term work like a Benedictine life, is something beautiful, something … that is worthy and can sustain your devotion for several decades,” says Rev. Mark Bachmann, O.S.B. (’82). “That requires a certain amount of investment.”

The subprior of Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in Hulbert, Oklahoma, where 10 Thomas Aquinas College alumni are brothers, Fr. Bachmann recently appeared as a guest on The Catholic Man podcast. Over the course of the one-hour interview, he spoke of the importance of Gregorian chant, both to his Benedictine community and to the Church as a whole. Chanting the Divine Office requires a certain amount of “investment” in terms of education and work, he explains, but its beauty and richness give meaning — and bear witness to — the prayerful life of a monk.

“One would ask, ‘Why would you bother to do something as strange as pray in Latin and pray in chant, which is music that’s characteristic of the 2nd to 12th century?’” Fr. Bachmann continues.  “Largely, we don’t feel as deeply and as naturally the Faith as our fathers did, and so we’re going back and by praying with the chant and praying the office in Latin. We’re getting in tune, we’re meeting up with the way the Church has prayed for centuries and centuries.”

The full podcast is available via the player below:

Erik Bootsma's design of the shrine chapel

More than a year after the groundbreaking ceremony, work continues apace on a forthcoming shrine to St. Kateri Tekakwitha just south of Gallup, New Mexico, designed by alumnus architect Erik Bootsma (’01). Sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, the Southwest Indian Foundation, and the Diocese of Gallup, the shrine will include a chapel, a museum, and an outdoor Rosary walk consisting of 30 stations housed in adobe niches.

Erik Bootsma (’01) Erik Bootsma (’01)“I went out this July and checked in on the project, and it’s moving along well,” says Mr. Bootsma. “They so far have a number of the Rosary ‘bead’ shrines up, and have just started planning for the Guadalupe ‘link’ shrine to start this fall.”

The site, Mr. Bootsma explains, is “designed in a Spanish Colonial style to note the Mexican heritage and connection to the Native Saint Juan Diego.” As such, it is being built mostly with all-natural materials and in keeping with Native construction technique. “We’re minimizing steel as much as we can and relying on adobe and wood,” Mr. Bootsma adds, “which, as the churches built in the 17th century in the area show, can last for centuries.”

Canonized by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in 2012, St. Kateri was a 15th century member of the Mohawk Tribe who converted to Catholicism. She is the first canonized Native American and the patron saint of indigenous people.

“This shrine is particularly meaningful for Native American Catholics because it is dedicated to St. Kateri Tekakwitha,” Rev. Henry Sands, director of the National Black and Indian Foundation, tells the Arlington Catholic Herald. “It’s an acknowledgement of the role that she plays in the Catholic Church, not just as an example for Native Americans, but for all Catholics.”

Several other members of the College community are also involved in the project. “Patrick Mason (’03) with the Knights of Columbus nationally is coordinator on that side, and Jeremy Boucher (’03) is managing the project on the ground,” notes Mr. Bootsma, adding that Bill McCarthy — chief executive officer of the Southwest Indian Foundation; husband of Cathy (Short ’77); and father of Brigid (Strader ’04), Therese (Monnereau ’05), Erin (Feeney ’07), John (’11), Aileen (’14), Liam (’18) — “is spearheading the whole project.”

Designing the shrine marks a professional change of pace for Mr. Bootsma, a classical architect who ordinarily specializes in church designs and renovations. “This is really unique because it is not necessarily purely liturgical, but devotional,” he observes. “It’s a good opportunity for creativity and to do something really great within [Native American] traditions.”

Erik Bootsma's design of the shrine plaza

St. Therese

“We are living in a time when the new normal means hunkering down at home, watching too much news, and being deprived of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” writes alumna author Suzie Andres (‘87) at Catholic Exchange. “Thanks be to God for these graces, and yet, what a sacrifice for so many: to be deprived of attendance at Mass and its concomitant Gift of gifts, Holy Communion.”

 Suzie Andres (’87)Suzie Andres (’87)Demonstrating an incredible knack for timing — or, more likely, the role of providence in her work — Mrs. Andres has just published a new book perfectly timed for this moment: Something New with Saint Thérèse: Her Eucharistic Miracle. The book is already a hit, having grabbed the No. 1 spot among new releases on Amazon’s “Christian Saints” list and fluctuating between 4th, 5th and 6th places in the “Bestsellers in Christian Saints” category (where it has vied with such greats as St. Augustine’s Confessions and St. Thérèse’s own Story of a Soul).

Something New describes the Eucharistic miracle by which Our Lord satisfied St. Thérèse’s “desire to receive Him in Communion much more frequently than seemed possible,” at precisely the moment when so many of the faithful are suffering the same anguish. “No one need be deprived of Our Lord’s Real Presence,” observes Mrs. Andres, a Third Order Carmelite who has long had a devotion to the Little Flower. “St. Thérèse is inviting all little souls, as she invited those around her in the Lisieux Carmel at the end of her earthly exile, to live this miracle so as never to be separated from Jesus again.”

In a generous act of solidarity with fellow Catholics during challenging times, Mrs. Andres is offering the electronic version of Something New with Saint Thérèse: Her Eucharistic Miracle for free. She is likewise doing the same with two of her other works: Stations of the Cross with Our Sister St. Thérèse and The Paradise Project, “a fun read-aloud or read-alone, a hymn of praise to Jane Austen and hoot of gratitude to P.G. Wodehouse guaranteed to make you laugh out loud, despite the latest news.”

Stations of the Cross with Our Sister St. Thérèse is, like Something New, a new work. “This book began about 15 years ago, but came together miraculously, on a whim of Jesus, in the last three weeks or so,” says Mrs. Andres. It contains encouragement from St. Alphonsus and opening prayers, pen-and-ink illustrations of the traditional 14 Stations, and, for each Station, Scripture quotes, prayers, and three quotes from St Thérèse. In the short time since its release, the book has already been translated into Vietnamese by a Vietnamese sister for use in her religious community.

“Jesus is doing such beautiful things in this unprecedented time of great sacrifice of free access to the Sacraments,” says Mrs. Andres. “I would like to be part of sharing Him with the thirsting world, and part of our satiating His thirst. The little way He has given me is in this gift (to me) of my being able to give away (to everyone) this great secret of His and Thérèse's — that we might ask Him to remain in us as in so many tabernacles, that is, that He might remain in us sacramentally (in His Real Presence) between Communions.”

Sr. Maria Kiely, OSB (’77) Sr. Maria Kiely, OSB (’77)Sr. Maria Kiely, OSB (’77) lives in Washington, D.C., teaching Greek at the Dominican House of Studies and Latin at Catholic University. She is on the editorial committee for ICEL, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy. ICEL was established during the Vatican Council by Bishops from countries where English is used as a liturgical language. It is responsible for the revised translation of the Roman Missal, promulgated in 2011 and now in use.

Last fall, ICEL finished translating the Latin Liber Hymnarius, the hymnal for the Liturgy of the Hours revised after Vatican II. At their annual meeting last November, the bishops of the USCCB voted to accept the ICEL translations of the 294 hymns of the Liber Hymnarius. These will appear in fascicles as a complement to the existing Liturgy of the Hours; later they will be integrated into the forthcoming revised edition of the Liturgy of the Hours mandated by the USCCB. 

Since the Liber Hymnarius includes hymns of St. Ambrose, Prudentius, medieval authors, and others spanning the entire tradition of Catholic hymnody, the ICEL translations represent a retrieval of a significant aspect of the liturgical and spiritual patrimony of the Church. The theological richness of these hymns is such that they will bring new depth to the recitation of the hours of the liturgy. They may also be used in any circumstances where the singing of hymns is appropriate.

According to ICEL, the English hymns are close translations of the Latin texts, so that as much as possible of the theological and spiritual content of the originals may be preserved. The meters proper to each Latin text have been maintained, so that each hymn may be sung both to the chant melody given in the Liber Hymnarius and to any modern metrical tune of the same meter. Though rhyme is a salient feature of English hymnody, it is less prominent in Latin hymns; some of them rhyme and some do not. Even hymns that rhyme are less clearly defined by it, because rhyming and assonance often result merely from the inflections of the language. Rhyming also requires frequent inversions that compromise the content and become tedious in longer hymns.

ICEL has sought to prepare for the reception of the hymn translations by the Bishops’ Conferences and by the wider public by making representative examples available through the internet. Under the direction of Daniel Grimm (’76), the Thomas Aquinas College choir has sung representative examples of the ICEL hymns set to chant melodies and to modern hymn tunes, which are available on YouTube. As the choir sings, the text of each hymn appears verse by verse on the screen.

If you have questions and would like to know more about the hymns, please feel free to contact ICEL.

Pat Cross (’14) Pat Cross (’14)

Earlier this month, Thomas Aquinas College bid farewell to an alumnus who has been instrumental in establishing the New England campus, and who is now leaving to devote his energies to his next professional pursuit — editorial cartooning.

“Pat Cross (’14)  has been a mainstay in our office through extraordinary times at the College,” says Admissions Director Jon Daly. “He was the first Admissions counselor — and for that matter, the first and only employee — on the New England campus for nearly two years. He brought the place to life when he first set foot there.”

Mr. Cross joined the Admissions Office shortly after his graduation in 2014 and worked on the California campus until 2017. He then headed to his home state of Massachusetts to help establish the East Coast campus, where he welcomed and gave tours to prospective students and their families. “For a year and a half, I was pretty much all alone here, before students arrived this summer,” he remembers.

“It was edifying to see how people back in California had a vision for this place, and how members of the local community were praying to make that vision a reality,” says Mr. Cross. “And it is inspiring to see how all those efforts and prayers have been realized. I am so impressed with the students out here, how they have risen to the occasion, and how devoted they are to the success of the College. I really admire them, and I am optimistic. I think TAC has a bright future in New England.”

While living on the New England campus, Mr. Cross worked only part-time for the Admissions Office. In his spare hours, he busily launched a successful career as an editorial cartoonist and illustrator. In just two years, he has established a foothold at the National Catholic Register, First Things, CatholicVote, Townhall, and The College Fix, where he is published regularly. Yet to keep progressing in his line of work, he needs to start giving it all of his time. “It’s hard to make it in a field like this,” he says, “unless you’re really giving your full attention.”

So, much to the disappointment of his erstwhile colleague and the College’s students, Mr. Cross has left Admissions work behind, and now works fulltime as a cartoonist. “I’ve always been very interested in the state of our country and the Church,” he reflects. “When I was younger I wanted to be Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but I very quickly learned you need to use the skills God gave you. For me, that’s always been art.”

Complementing his artistic talents, he says, are the analytical skills he developed at his alma mater. “There’s no way I would be able to approach the issues that we’re facing today without the foundation that I approach them with — the Catholic Western tradition — which I try to bring to bear on every issue,” says Mr. Cross. “That’s what TAC is all about: establishing the universals and hopefully giving us the wisdom so that we can apply them to the particular circumstances of our lives.”

Before he departed, the New England students — many of whom he had personally introduced to the College — threw a party in his honor. “Pat is a great man and we will miss him just as greatly,” says Mr. Daly, “sure though we are that he is fulfilling an even greater purpose in his work.”

George Krestyn (’03)

George Krestyn (’03)

The inaugural year of Thomas Aquinas College, New England, will begin on Saturday morning when the Most Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski, Bishop of Springfield, offers the Convocation Mass of the Holy Spirit in Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel. The Mass and matriculation ceremony follow the culmination of years of effort on the part of many to launch the new campus — including one alumnus woodworker, who for months has labored to prepare the century-old chapel for Catholic worship: George Krestyn (’03).

“The biggest part of the project was to take the existing pews and modify them because there was no center aisle,” observes Mr. Krestyn, describing how a central walkway is required for Catholic liturgy, so as to accommodate processions. “Fortunately there were enough long pews that we could cut and modify, giving us two sections of pews with a center aisle.”

The work, however, didn’t end there. The pews had been covered in long-since dilapidated cushions, which, when removed, revealed the pews’ beautiful finish — but also left them two inches short. “We made and then installed ‘feet’ for all of the pews,” Mr. Krestyn explains, “and that raised them each a couple of inches.”

Then there was the floor. “The center section of pews originally had iron supports,” Mr. Krestyn notes. “But because the floor was not completely flat or even, the pews would rock. So the carpenters, when they installed the pews, embedded the iron supports into the wood floor. Now that we have a center aisle, these holes were visible. So the architects suggested putting an inlay in there. We cut away the spots where the holes were and put a new piece of wood in their place. Then we installed a new inlay close to flush, and sanded it down to make the floor level.”

The woodworker and his crew, including two of his uncles, have worked on the project since May, finishing in time for the kneelers to be installed prior to Saturday’s Convocation. But more projects lie ahead. “I will be helping with installing the Communion rail and the two confessionals,” he says. “Plus there may be a little work in the choir loft,” which requires some reconfiguration following the installation of a new organ.

Mr. Krestyn and his wife, Monique (Chartier), have lived in nearby Templeton, Massachusetts, ever since their  wedding, just months after their graduation from Thomas Aquinas College, California, in 2003. Sixteen years later, they are now expecting their ninth child.

Over the years Mr. Krestyn has held various positions in the remodeling and custom-furniture industries before going into business for himself in 2018. Although he has participated in similar projects, helping to prepare Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel, he finds, is different. “It’s exciting,” he says. “Working on a chapel, that’s wonderful. And working for my alma mater, that’s very special.”

Zoe Appleby (’18) Zoe Appleby (’18)Last Friday Zoe Appleby (’18) presented a research paper, “Exploring the Public Museum as an Urban Monument: LACMA and the Zumthor Debates,” at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. A graduate student in art history at the University of California, Riverside, Miss Appleby delivered her presentation as part of a seminar class at the Getty Research Institute, “Monumentality and its Discontents.” She was one of only nine students accepted into the graduate-level class, drawn from diverse departments, all related to the study of art and architecture, at universities from throughout Southern California. 

“The L.A. County Museum of Art has planned in the near future to demolish most of its main buildings and build one new complex in their place. It has hired the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor to design the new campus,” says Miss Appleby, explaining her research project, paper, and presentation. “I used this perhaps historic event to explore, philosophically, the ways in which a public museum can be considered an urban monument and related issues. The main issues I investigated were the museum as a monument to what it houses (the art), as a monument to the city it belongs to (Los Angeles), as a built environment for people to engage with inside and outside, how the museum interacts with its immediate urban environment, and the debate over whether museums have a duty to preserve their own past as embodied in the layers of their architecture.”

Her Thomas Aquinas College education, Miss Appleby reports, has been a blessing as she pursues her graduate studies. “I use my TAC training in textual analysis, in Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry, in Greco-Roman history, in modern philosophy (such as Kant and Hegel), in poetry and literary theory, in Aristotelian cosmology,” she writes. “I could go on and on.”

Erik Bootsma (’01) Erik Bootsma (’01)A professional architect, alumnus Erik Bootsma (’01) has made a constructive suggestion in response to the scourge of priestly abuse and cover-up:

“As a Catholic who has been shocked by the revelations, and as an architect who deals almost exclusively with building and renovating Catholic churches,” he writes in Crisis, “I would like to offer one suggestion that I believe could make a small but practical contribution to preventing abuse in the future. The Church should immediately call for the end of hearing confessions face to face in ‘reconciliation rooms.’”

A popular development in modern church architecture, these rooms, explains Mr. Bootsma, place “the parishioner face to face with the priest, a position not unlike that of a patient and therapist.” Although intended to make the Sacrament of Penance less intimidating, they have the unforeseen result of enabling “predatory abusers [to] take advantage of the privacy of confessionals to abuse a young person.” Mr. Bootsma thus urges a return to the use of traditional confessionals, consisting of “two separate spaces, each with a separate entrance for priest and penitent … connected by means of a properly fixed metal screen.”

The owner of Erik Bootsma Design, with a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Notre Dame, Mr. Bootsma knows whereof he writes. “These suggestions here are not just the product of theory, but a product of my experience working with dozens of Catholic churches both to build new churches and renovate existing ones,” he says. “I have found through experience that confessionals in this traditional configuration … not only work practically to prevent even the suggestion of impropriety in the confessional, but are spiritually rewarding as well.”

To that end, Mr. Bootsma also proposes that confessionals “be placed within the nave of a church, within sight of the sanctuary and tabernacle,” for another eminently practical reason: “One simply cannot discount the importance of having the Lord himself present during the Sacrament of Confession. Not only does it reinforce the importance of confession as being integral to the life of the Faith, but the power of Christ present in the Eucharist is simply not to be discounted.”

Stephen Grimm (’75)Benefactors, friends, and the families of St. Monica Academy in Pasadena, California, recently hosted a “Gatsby Gala,” at which they honored the school’s longtime choir director, Stephen Grimm (’75). As part of the night’s festivities, the treasurer of the school’s Board of Directors, Khushro Ghandhi, presented Mr. Grimm with the Ostia Award — named for the Italian port town where St. Monica and her son, St. Augustine, shared a vision of heaven — in recognition of the work that Mr. Grimm has done for the school since its founding in 2001. “Stephen is an especially appropriate winner of this award,” reads the tribute that accompanied its presentation, as “he has often brought us to experience, from the mouths of our own children, heavenly beauty.”

The tribute continues:

The fifth of Bill and Irene Grimm’s 17 children, Stephen grew up immersed in classical music. At the age of 5, he started to compose his own tunes on the piano and when he was 8 he joined the St. Philip’s boys’ choir and began formal piano study. By high school, he was performing all over Southern California as the accompanist and sole baritone for the Grimm Family Singers. By the time he reached college, Stephen had internalized a large repertoire of music, was composing his own, and was an accomplished pianist and accompanist.

Throughout his busy career as a professional vocalist, director, and accompanist, Stephen made time to teach voice, piano, and choir to countless students, mostly children, often pro bono. Few professionals have the patience to work with children, but Stephen Grimm has made it his life’s work. At one point, he was conducting five choirs driving hundreds of miles a week — Saints Felicitas and Perpetua Church, Thomas Aquinas College, Mayfield Senior School, St. Francis High School, and Christ the King Homeschool — mostly youth choirs, all successful choirs — either in festivals, recordings, or grateful parishioners.

In 2018 Stephen is still conducting — a grateful group of adults in Pasadena Pro Musica but also the St. Monica Academy Choir. That’s 107 teens! His choirs, even of children, are always notable for the beauty of their tone quality, even when, as at SMA, he teaches all students, without auditions. His philosophy is that “anyone can be taught to sing.” We believe him because we have seen him turn “tone deaf” kids into star performers! It can be done, but it takes heroic patience. There may be the occasional bursts of exasperation, but Stephen’s students are never fooled by his gruffness: When he is upset, they know it was because he cares about them and about the music, and that he expects excellence from them.

Stephen has been blessed in his life and career with the support of Laura, his beautiful wife of 40 years, who is also a talented musician. He is also the proud father of three children, Gabriel, Elizabeth, and Gregory, and the even prouder “Papa” to 15 grandchildren!

Part of the mission, the vision, of St. Monica Academy is to put students in possession of their cultural legacy. Thanks to Stephen Grimm, our students have an appreciation and love of their musical heritage, especially of the Church’s choral traditions. Our graduates have taken that love with them all over the world. Thank you, Mr. Grimm, for sharing so much heavenly beauty with us!

Leprechaun baby holds sign proclaiming, "Save Little People - Protect the 8th"

With Ireland poised to eliminate constitutional and legal protections for the unborn, alumnus cartoonist Pat Cross (’14) has produced the above, whimsical yet poignant plea. Please pass it along, and please pray that the people of Ireland vote for life on Friday!

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Thomas Cavanaugh (’18) -- quote 1

“The things we discover in the classroom, we recognize as true not because someone told us that they are true, but because we have reasoned to them for ourselves.”

– Thomas Cavanaugh (’18)

Larkspur, California


“On behalf of the Church in Phoenix, I want to express my appreciation of the witness to Christ offered by the faculty, staff, and students of this exceptional institution, and to thank you for your love of learning and your desire to offer fitting worship to the Blessed Trinity.”

– Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted

Bishop of Phoenix