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Faith in Action Blog

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 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.

Regina (Aguinaldo ’97) Sweeney Very dedicated readers may recall that, 10 years ago, the Thomas Aquinas College Newsletter published a story (PDF) about Regina (Aguinaldo) and Owen Sweeney (both ’97), an alumni couple and then the parents of six children, who helped to found a Catholic Montessori school in Great Falls, Virginia.

A decade later, the Sweeneys have relocated westward, but their devotion to the Faith and its application in Montessori education continues. “After moving away from the area, I transitioned to a homeschooling mom,” writes Mrs. Sweeney, now the mother of nine. “As time went on, I realized that the true genius of Maria Montessori was not in the materials and lessons which she developed for children. Rather, it was her brilliance in observing and understanding the God-given nature of the child, based in Catholic theology.”

Drawing on her experience of applying Catholic Montessori principles to the raising of nine children, Mrs. Sweeney is now sharing her wealth of knowledge with parents everywhere by way of her new website, Catholic Montessori Home. The site includes a blog as well as a virtual community for parents, The Hamlet — the fruit of many, many questions about child-rearing that the Sweeneys have received over the years.

“With current events causing children to be home full-time with their parents,” Mrs. Sweeney notes, she saw that “it was time for me to share more widely what has worked for us in raising our children.”

What “has worked” for the Sweeneys, as the website’s title suggests, was the incorporation of Montessori principles into family life and homeschooling. Indeed, what led the couple to investigate the Montessori method in the first place was when their eldest, then two years old, had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to a Montessori-based catechetical program.

That daughter, by the way, is now a student at Thomas Aquinas College, California — making the Sweeneys not only TAC alumni, but also TAC parents. “Owen and I just love our alma mater, in a different light too now — as parents,” says Mrs. Sweeney. “Our oldest finished her freshman year this spring. Just the first in many more to come.”

The Sweeney children The Sweeney children

Sean Fitzpatrick (’02)Sean Fitzpatrick (’02)As the headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Elmhurst, Pennsylvania, Sean Fitzpatrick (’02) knows well the importance of a graduation ceremony in the life of a student. So it is with sympathy that he pens his latest essay in Crisis, May You Live In Interesting Times, a letter to members of the Class of 2020 at high schools and colleges everywhere.

“Though many have suffered grievously from this virus, you, graduating seniors, whether from high school or college, make up your own category of sufferers,” Mr. Fitzpatrick writes. “You are the forgotten class, the class of plague and circumstance, the class that graduated without a graduation. But in losing those worldly trappings you have the opportunity to become small enough to give Christ room to dwell in you.”

Missing out on the glory and joy of a graduation ceremony, the headmaster observes, is an opportunity for greatness — indeed, for sanctity — for this year’s graduates. “You went to school to learn how to become saints,” he reminds them. “Embrace your littleness, your Covid obscurity, and let Christ do good things with you. If He was bold enough to become so little to accomplish great things, we must do likewise.”

In closing, Mr. Fitzpatrick quotes the verse from Psalm 115 that graduates of his alma mater sing at the end of each year’s Commencement, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to thy name give glory.”

An illustration from Tomie dePaola’s The Legend of the Poinsettia An illustration from Tomie dePaola’s The Legend of the Poinsettia

Sean Fitzpatrick (’02)Sean Fitzpatrick (’02)Late in Lent, Tomie dePaola, a longtime children’s author beloved by many Catholic families, died following a fall at his studio in New Hampshire. The news of his passing was largely lost amidst COVID-19 reporting, but alumnus author Sean Fitzpatrick (’02) has now penned an appropriately prayerful Easter tribute to Mr. dePaola in Crisis.

“It is at this time of resurrection that Catholics may …  remember those who have passed away in the hope of rising again, and especially those whose memory might be seasoned with the brightness they brought to life by their lives — how they participated in Christ’s work to make all things new,” writes Mr. Fitzpatrick. “Tomie dePaola may not have been religious, but he was certainly reverent. Though he lost the Faith, he never lost his love for the goodness, beauty, and perhaps truth of what he had once believed.”

Mr. Fitzpatrick continues:

DePaola saw the splendor of the Catholic Faith with its enduring power, its charm, its sacred mystery, and the mystical way it lent itself to lore and legend. As a writer and illustrator of children’s books, he famously presented the Faith, the heroes of the Faith, and the traditions of the Church with a vitality that is all but unmatched in the modern children’s library. ...

[His] hard lines, soft brushstrokes, and bright palette, coupled with his straightforward writing style, made the invisible aspects of sainthood and sanctity visible, tangible, and attractive, giving the heroes of the Church, and even the stories of Christ, a dimension that goes beyond stuffy histories or plain catechisms. 

“This Easter, Catholics should remember this storyteller and painter who thought it his vocation to bring children to God by bringing old things to new life,” Mr. Fitzpatrick concludes. “May his soul, like the soul of his Clown of God, rest in the hands of the Christ Child, and there find the glorious vibrancy he searched for and praised in his painting.”

Cover of "Secrets from Heaven" Cover of "Understanding Marriage & Family" 

Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94) Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94)

Ever prolific, alumnus priest Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94) has authored not one but two new books, both of which are being released today.

The first is Secrets from Heaven: Hidden Treasures of Faith in the Parables and Conversations of Jesus, published by Catholic Answers. “The origin of this book came about through a series of retreats I have given,” Fr. Sebastian explains in a recent episode of the Catholic Answers Live radio program. “When you talk to people, and you teach people, and you give retreats based upon the exact words of Jesus Himself in the Gospels, it just has a power to go straight to people's hearts.”

A professor of philosophy at St. Michael’s Abbey in Silverado, California, Fr. Sebastian warns that the words of Jesus can become so familiar that we unwittingly cease to give them the serious consideration they demand. “Sometimes we think that we just need to read the Bible the way we read any other book, and we fail to appreciate the fact that this is a book written by God,” he says. “In other books there are details that really aren't significant, but that's not true about the Word of God. That’s not true about the Scriptures, and preeminently that’s not true about the words of Jesus in the Scriptures.”

Thus Fr. Sebastian closely examines a number of passages from the Gospels, searching Jesus’ words for “hidden treasures”  — oblique references to other passages, carefully chosen words, telling moments of silence — that are rich in meaning. These, he says, are Our Lord’s gifts: “It’s as if Jesus were speaking directly to us.”

Fr. Sebastian’s second new release is Understanding Marriage & Family: A Catholic Perspective, published by Arouca Press. The book sets out to explain and defend the traditional understanding of marriage, using reason, revelation, and the context of our own human choices and experiences. The result is a work that presents the Church’s teaching in a manner that is not only clear and convincing but also deeply helpful to the lives of Catholic husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers struggling to live out their vocations in confused and confusing times. 

Understanding Marriage & Family has received several favorable reviews, notable among them one from the Most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of Springfield in Illinois, who, before COVID-19 upended calendars across the world, was set to be Thomas Aquinas College’s 2020 Commencement Speaker. “Ascending upon both reason and faith, Fr. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem., with providential clarity, charity, and certainty, dismantles the desolation of lives unmoored from human nature, and marriages divorced from their divine inspiration, proposing anew to all willing to hear, the freeing and fulfilling proposal of Christian marriage in all its solidity and sublimity,” says Bishop Paprocki. “Look within to regain hope, recover communion, and rediscover the fullness of married joy!”

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Isaac Cross (’19) -- quote 1

“The Discussion Method gives you a sense of finding the truth for yourself, and thereby owning it, rather than being told what to think.”

– Isaac Cross (’19)

Leominster, Massachusetts


“Thomas Aquinas College is uniquely positioned and equipped to let light shine once more in our world, in our society, in our communities, in our families, in our relationships.”

– Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, S.T.L., D.D.

Archbishop of Oklahoma City