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Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

David A. Shaneyfelt (’81) David A. Shaneyfelt (’81)This Lent alumnus attorney David A. Shaneyfelt (’81) — a regular honoree on the list of California “Super Lawyers” — has once more turned his attention to the most significant criminal proceeding in the history of jurisprudence: the trial of Jesus Christ.

Two years ago Mr. Shaneyfelt posted a series of free podcasts in which he investigated Our Lord’s trial, beginning with His arrest, and continuing all the way through the Crucifixion. Last year the Ventura County attorney added an episode to the collection, a reflection on the “Two Thieves.” And this year, he has produced yet another addition: “The Centurion,” a podcast about the Roman soldier at the foot of the Cross.

The new podcast, Mr. Shaneyfelt says, explores “everything you wanted to know about centurions from history and Scripture and the import of this Centurion’s words.” Among the questions considered are, “Who was the Centurion at the foot of the Cross?” “What do we know about centurions?” and — most poignantly of all — “What do we make of his words, ‘Truly, this was God's Son?’”

Over the course of the complete podcast series, which aims “to unpack the history and Scriptural account of Jesus and the two crucified with him,” Mr. Shaneyfelt also considers such questions as: “What are the sources of evidence at Jesus’ trial?” “What happened in the Garden of Gethsemane?” and “What is the significance of the date of the Crucifixion as it pertains to the Passover Feast?”

“A great deal of scholarship has gone into the relatively few words of the New Testament that describe the legal process employed to put to trial, convict, and execute a Jewish rabbi, whose followers for 2,000 years since then have regarded as the Eternal Son of God, the Word made flesh to dwell, and to die, among us,” writes Mr. Shaneyfelt. “My goal in this podcast series is to introduce listeners to some of this scholarship, to unpack it, and to let listeners appreciate the difficulty — and reward — of parsing Biblical texts.”

Mr. Shaneyfelt has spoken publicly about Our Lord’s trial for more than 20 years at churches, schools, and organizations throughout California. “Believers and non-believers, I think, will at least find the subject fascinating, because history offers us great insights into passages that are often short and cryptic,” he observes. “But I also think, or at least hope, that believers will come to see deeper meanings and significance in the details addressed and, in the end, will grow in faith and love for the One Who is at the central focus of this event.”

The nine, one-to-two-hour-long podcasts have generated downloads in more than a dozen countries to date. They provide an excellent source of listening for Lent and Holy Week.

Cover of "The Glory of the Cosmos"What are the Christian’s responsibilities toward the environment and its care? A new book sets out to answer this question, decoupling it from the snares of ideology and partisanship and turning instead to the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church.

“Today we have those who view the natural world as little more than raw material for our use and exploitation, and on the other hand, those who want to attribute some sort of divinity to that world,” writes Thomas Storck, editor of The Glory of the Cosmos: A Catholic Approach to the Natural World. “The Church has her own approach to these questions, an approach that, while of course not seeing the natural environment as possessed of divinity, neither does it see it as simply so much inert stuff, stuff meant solely for our manipulation, profit, and pleasure.”

In The Glory of the Cosmos, Mr. Storck and several Catholic scholars consider environmentalism from the vantage of Catholic philosophy and theology, particularly the works of the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas. Eschewing both the paganism and the deism that are too often at root in contemporary environmental debates, the authors consider what it means to contemplate and honor the splendor of God’s creation. The book features four alumni-authored essays:

“In this collection you will find not only an edifying series of reflections on the Catholic Church’s teaching on our place and role in the natural world, but you will meet the Catholic tradition’s great sources of philosophical and theological insight,” writes Dr. John G. Brungardt, an assistant professor of philosophy at Newman University, about The Glory of the Cosmos. “Readers will encounter the calm strength of the Catholic contemplative spirit, asking them to turn and see the glory of the cosmos and showing them how.”

Mary Katherine (’15)

“My father, maternal grandfather, and paternal great-grandfather were all entrepreneurs,” reflects Mary Katherine (’15). “I grew up with front-row seats to the exciting heights and valleys their respective ventures produced. I was always attracted to the freedom and creativity involved in entrepreneurship.”

Three years ago Miss Katherine followed in the footsteps of her entrepreneurial forbears by co-founding New Eve Media, where she serves as executive producer. Based in San Diego, the company specializes “in producing high-quality video content, as well as building and managing websites to distribute the content,” she says, for “mission-oriented organizations.”

The young company has already worked with a wide range of clients, from law firms to software developers. Among its notable clients to date are the Classic Learning Test, the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, the University of San Diego, and the Order of Malta Western Association. “The common denominator is the presence of compelling stories and people of goodwill,” Miss Katherine says. “We view each project as a partnership.”

While still a student at the College, Miss Katherine and some friends attended a poetry reading in Los Angeles hosted by Communion and Liberation, where Dana Gioia — then California’s Poet Laureate — was the featured poet. “Through that meeting, I ended up working as an archivist for Mr. Gioia over the summers while I was at TAC and for a year after graduation,” she recalls. “He and Mrs. Gioia shared a wonderfully rich perspective on the arts as well as business.”

At New Eve, Miss Katherine finds that “independent thinking and adaptability,” both fruits of her liberal education, are essential to her work. “We enter into our partner’s world and need to quickly assimilate into the culture and learn their internal language, in order for us to translate it into media,” she says. “Analysis, synthesis, and the ability to identify the heart of a story are all critical components to my work as a producer. My experience at TAC primed me in a multitude of ways to help build New Eve. I’ll be forever grateful for the education and the community I received at TAC.”

Samantha Cohoe ('06) Samantha (McCall ’06) Cohoe

“On the eve of the French Revolution, a teenaged alchemist is on the verge of a great discovery. But its cost may be her mind.”

That’s the one-line pitch that alumna author Samantha (McCall ’06) Cohoe makes for her newly released young-adult novel, A Golden Fury (Wednesday Books). The historical fantasy (“more historical than fantasy,” she explains) follows the perilous adventure of protagonist Theosebeia Hope as she risks her life and her sanity in an always brave, sometimes foolhardy, and occasionally terrifying pursuit of alchemy’s greatest prize: the Philosopher’s Stone.

Cover "A Golden Fury"“The goals of alchemy always seemed like they were worthy of having a fantasy story written about,” reflects Mrs. Cohoe. “The boldness of thinking that, if you get everything right, you can scientifically create eternal life and turn lead into gold, seemed promising as a setup.” The result is a quick-paced, entertaining read that gently touches upon worthwhile questions about natural law, human dignity, pride, parenthood, ambition, and loving one’s enemies.

There are encounters with evil along the way, but none, the author insists, that need give parents concern. “My characters believe that alchemy is a science and pursue it as such, but yes, they do run into some supernatural stuff,” she says. “Without spoiling too much of the plot, I would reassure parents that any child who comes away from the book with a heightened curiosity in dark magic would have had to misread the book very badly. I would also add that any book can depict evil without endorsing it, as readers of great books know.”

Throughout A Golden Fury one can find several hints of the author’s liberal education, including smatterings of Latin and references to Rousseau. “To write historical fantasy, you have to do a lot of research,” notes Mrs. Cohoe, who credits the College’s Great Books curriculum with helping her to better understand history’s would-be alchemists as well as the characters she brings to life. “Reading primary sources and really getting into the minds of the writers in that time — and seeing the coherence of their world views, rather than just judging them from a modern perspective — helps me to write better historical fiction.”

Mrs. Cohoe lives with her husband, Caleb (’06), a philosophy professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and their three children in Colorado. Previously a Latin teacher at a classical Christian school, she left the classroom earlier this year to dedicate more time to her writing. Her next work, Bright Ruined Things — which she likens to “The Tempest meets The Great Gatsby” — is due to be released in fall 2021.

Cover of Being Catholic, by Suzine Andres ('87)Fresh off of her recent books about Saint Thérèse, prolific alumna author Suzie Andres (’87) has added a new title to her oeuvre: Being Catholic: What Every Catholic Should Know.

Co-published by Ignatius Press and the Augustine Institute, Being Catholic is the latest in a series of What Every Catholic Should Know volumes, edited by Joseph Pearce and Christopher Blum of the Augustine Institute. Whereas previous editions covered God, literature, and salvation, Mrs. Andres’ entry looks at some of the essential customs, traditions, and practices of living the Faith. Topics include the Sacraments, the layout of a church, and basic information about the Mass, the Blessed Mother, angels and saints, the hierarchy, and the liturgical calendar.

 Suzie Andres (’87)Suzie Andres (’87)“I wrote this volume after Chris Blum conceived the idea of a more universal answer to the question of what every Catholic should know about living the Faith, especially in light of the concern that in our day many Catholic customs and traditions, and the truths of the Faith they rest upon, are in danger of being forgotten,” says Mrs. Andres. “Chris approached me to write the book in the hopes that my conversational writing style and deep love of the Faith (fostered so much by my four years at TAC!) would produce a book that was accessible and fun to read while conveying the great wealth of the treasures of the Church.”

Out in time for Christmas, Being Catholic: What Every Catholic Should Know is available at Catholic Market. “I’m hoping the book will be the perfect gift for converts,” adds Mrs. Andres, “or a tool used by priests and parishes to help in the formation of those entering or returning to the Church.”

“In late spring of this year, Fr. Peter Sharpe received a phone call from The Most Reverend John Folda, Bishop of the Fargo Diocese, explaining that Fr. Jerome Hunkler was about to retire and asking if he would be willing to take his place. Leaving a congregation one has come to know and love is never an easy thing, but Fr. Peter answered with a resolute ‘yes.’”

Rev. Peter Sharpe (’04) Rev. Peter Sharpe (’04)So writes the South  Steele Ozone and Kidder County Press about a Thomas Aquinas College alumnus, Rev. Peter Sharpe (’04), who now serves as pastor at three parishes in the Diocese of Fargo: St. Mary’s, St. Paul’s, and St. Francis de Sales. “As a priest, I have found I can’t fix people, nor is it my job, but the Lord can and does change lives,” Fr. Sharpe tells reporter Maria Wanchic. “If we’re patient enough, we’ll see what good plans God has in store for us.”

After graduating from the College in 2004, Fr. Sharpe entered Fargo’s Diocesan Seminary Program, spending one year at Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo and four years at Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. Before taking on his new, three-parish responsibilities this fall, he served for seven years as a pastor in Velva and Karlsruhe, North Dakota.

In addition to his pastoral duties, Fr. Sharpe wrote an article earlier this year for the diocesan website, Why are non-Catholic but baptized Christians not to receive the Eucharist? — a topic he later took up in a diocesan podcast.

“When you say ‘Amen’ and receive Communion at Mass, you are publicly declaring that you believe all that the Catholic Church teaches and believes,” Fr. Sharpe explained. “Further, you are acknowledging that you are trying to live as the Catholic Church expects. So if you don’t believe all that the Catholic Church believes or aren’t living according to her standards, when you receive Communion, it would be like you are publicly saying a lie, which, of course, you wouldn’t want to do.”

The word “amen,” offered before reception of Holy Communion, is too often underappreciated, he adds, especially by Catholics, who say it so frequently that they can easily lose sight of its import. “When you say that ‘amen’ to those words, ‘the Body of Christ,’ that means something,” Fr. Sharpe implores. “Words mean something, and this ‘amen’ means something.”

So, too, do the words mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

“I am a sinner, who has already publicly declared that a little earlier in the Mass,” says Fr. Sharpe of the Confiteor. “But I’m also believing that God’s power has changed my life, and I want it to continue to change my life.”

Dr. Lane (Smith ’04) Scott Dr. Lane (Smith ’04) Scott“Consuming politics in the same way we root for our favorite sports teams is comfortable,” writes Dr. Lane (Smith ’04) Scott in American Greatness, the political website for which she serves as an assistant editor. “We flatter ourselves that we are an informed, self-governing people because we keep track of politics with traditional media outlets. The past week has — or should have — removed this comfortable illusion.”

A scholar, a farmer, a writer, and a homeschooling mother of five, Dr. Scott takes to task fellow conservatives and Christians who grouse about last week’s election without taking stock of their own involvement in it, or lack thereof. “Real political action takes time and sacrifice. Self-rule — self-government — is much more difficult than spectator politics,” she contends. “We must show up at the polls — not just to vote, but also to work, observe, and oversee.”

Ultimately, Dr. Scott concludes, those who preach individual responsibility have little business pointing fingers over their political disappointments. “Shock and scandal at the impotence of our news channel, our political party is, in reality, disillusionment with ourselves,” she observes. “We are a self-governing people and we feel like we have no say in our government. Whose fault is that?”

The full article is available via American Greatness.

02, 2020

If, like recent graduate Jonathan Culbreath (’17) you are looking for words of wisdom from one of Thomas Aquinas College’s most beloved tutors, you are in luck! Alumnus Dr. John Francis Nieto (’89), a member of the California teaching faculty, has launched a blog, Half-Baked Books, which, as its names suggests, serves as a repository of Dr. Nieto’s musings, essays, and other literary endeavors.

Dr. John Francis Nieto (’89) Dr. John Francis Nieto (’89)“In this blog, I think you will encounter the thought of a wise man,” writes Dr. Nieto’s colleague and fellow alumnus Dr. Andrew Seeley (’87). “A man of wide experience, talent, energy, and commitment, he has been a political activist, a playwright, a poet, a man of prayer, a schola director, an acclaimed amateur chef, a whiskey connoisseur, a linguist, a dedicated and revered teacher. … Above all, he has been a student of the great minds — ancient and modern, theological, philosophical, mathematical, scientific, poetical, and musical — in a particular way of St. Thomas and Aristotle.”

Half-Baked Books covers a range of topics as broad as its creator’s varied interests — including, as Dr. Seeley describes it, “metaphysics, quantitative abstraction, illumination, participation, being another Christ, poetry, Dante, and much more.” To name just a few of the posts: Clothes and Participation, On the Meaning of the Sabbath, The Object of Poetry and Its Truth, Matter as the Cause of Quantity, and Music and Morality.


Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro

“The whole world knows and loves St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross,” begins the online description of Diary of a Country Carmelite: A Year in the Garden of Carmel — the latest offering from alumna author Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro. “But what about the dozens of other Carmelite saints?”

Diary of a Country Carmelite, by Cynthia (Six '77) MontanatoTo these lesser-known holy men and women Mrs. Montanaro dedicates her latest work, offering a heartfelt, extensive look into their lives. She “walks in the footsteps of those whose feasts brighten the Carmelites’ liturgical year,”  the book’s description continues, following “a pathway straight to the Heart of God.”

Throughout the work, Mrs. Montanaro also shares details of her own life as a Third Order Carmelite living in the Western Massachusetts countryside. “Inside the cover you will find a little glimpse of what it is like to live in the country, but more importantly, what it is like to pray in the country,” she says. “You could also learn to get to know many new friends, our Carmelite saints, who have lived in every corner of the world and in every period of history, many with difficult days similar to those we are living in now. Find some hope and peace and security in the pages.”

The of wife another alumnus, Andrew Montanaro (’78), a mother and grandmother, and a retired homeschooler and public librarian, Mrs. Montanaro has now published two diaries. In 2013, she released Diary of a Country Mother, which chronicled the life of her beloved son Tim, who died at the age of 15.

Mrs. Montanaro’s newest book has received the enthusiastic endorsement of a fellow alumna,  published author, and Carmelite secular: Suzie Andres (’87). “Diary of a Country Carmelite is a gift to the Carmelite Order and the whole Church,” writes Mrs. Andres. “Enough of short paragraphs that give us only a glimmer of the saints’ lives! Cynthia gives us whole lives, both her own and those of the Carmelite saints. These pages provide an invaluable resource for Discalced Carmelites, as well as a wonderful introduction to Carmel for the rest of the Church.”

 Ken May (’03)Ken May (’03)There are those, no doubt, who would argue that Ken May (’03), a cybersecurity expert and CEO, misspent four years of his life by pursuing a Catholic liberal education at Thomas Aquinas College. Surely he would have been better served earning degrees in computer science, or business, rather than studying the great books of Western civilization?

Mr. May disagrees. “My education at TAC did a wonderful job of preparing me for doing research, seeking original sources, and thinking critically,” he says. “It has served me quite well over the years.” So well, in fact, that Mr. May has authored a new book, detailing how history’s great thinkers provide invaluable insights into some of the most critical technological challenges of our times.

In his newly released The Art of Hacking: Ancient Wisdom for Cybersecurity Defense, Mr. May explores the teachings of the greatest minds in a wide range of fields — from Sun Tzu to Machiavelli, from Thucydides to Musashi — and how these can help small businesses and information technology professionals shield computer and data networks from attack. “The teachings of the greatest minds of the world have endured through countless generations,” he says. “The tools and techniques may change, but the primary principles remain the same.”

Citing age-old insights on warfare, politics, martial arts, history, and strategy, The Art of Hacking combines ancient philosophy with contemporary, practical advice. “The College’s curriculum was a driving force in my decision to write the book,” Mr. May observes. “Thucydides is in the book, as is Machiavelli. I was mostly focused on texts working with warfare, political strategy, and martial arts. I do wish dear St. Thomas wrote more on martial arts …”

Mr. May is chief executive officer of Swift Chip, Inc., an IT solutions firm serving more than 400 small- and medium-sized businesses in California, He is also an experienced educator, serving as a community instructor for SANS, the globally leading cybersecurity educational organization, where he teaches military, intelligence, and Fortune 500 teams in ways to protect the country’s IT infrastructure. He is the father of four young children, ages 5 to 11.

The Art of Hacking: Ancient Wisdom for Cybersecurity Defense is available in both printed an electronic formats via Amazon.

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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


“Thomas Aquinas College is a small college, but its reputation has spread far and wide. Because it lives off the masterpieces of thought and literature emanating from the Christian tradition of the Western world, it provides a first-rate education for a select body of talented undergraduates.”

– Avery Cardinal Dulles, S.J (†)