Faith in Action Blog
Following the 2013 publication of her first children’s book, Monica Estill (’98) has recently released her first coloring book, Alaska’s Wild Life. The book features 32 black-and-white images of varying complexity designed to “spark creativity, relieve stress, and provide a window to explore an Alaskan dreamland.”
A 10-year resident of Anchorage, Monica describes herself as “a poet, artist, and philosopher.” Her previous work includes designing high-end residential interiors, creating sacred art, and her children’s book, The Bossy Boulder, the story of a rock who sits atop a mountain and — he thinks — the world, until time and change humble him. Like The Bossy Boulder, Alaska’s Wild Life features Monica’s quirky, detailed artistry, including images of a snowboarding fox and a mermaid swimming with a whale.
“Love is the real sunshine,” the author proclaims on the coloring book’s back cover, “and this is what I try to paint.”
In a thoughtful piece for Crisis timed for Holy Week, Don Quixote and the Via Dolorosa, Mr. Fitzgerald considers Miguel de Cervantes’ Adventures of Don Quixote as a fitting Lenten read:
“The adventures of Don Quixote are a Passion where the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. The novel takes up its cross, chapter after chapter, and follows after Christ. Chapter after chapter, the Knight of the Sorrowful Face falls, and, chapter after chapter, he gets up again and continues on. It is a book that plays out with all the pain and poignancy, all the humanity and humor, that composes the chivalric call of the Christian life. …
“[It] is the Lenten quest of every Christian soul: to bring harmony and order to times that are out of joint. What Don Quixote finds is that the world is sundered and senseless, and the work to rebuild among the ruins is treacherous. Though he is trampled and trounced time and again, Don Quixote resolutely rides on for the unity and wisdom of bygone days and is upheld by his vision as he battles through the divisions and disconnections of modernity.”
The headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Mr. Fitzpatrick writes frequently for Crisis. The complete article complete article is available via the magazine’s website.
Writing on his personal blog, Mark Langley (’89) reviews an off-Broadway performance of a new play — written and directed by a Tony and Pulitzer award-winning author — about two late members of the Thomas Aquinas College family, Louise and John Schmitt.
Louise and John SchmittThe Schmitts were the parents of seven Thomas Aquinas College alumni, including Mr. Langley’s wife, Stephanie (’89), and the grandparents of six graduates and six current students. Mr. Schmitt, moreover, joined the teaching faculty in 1974 and was instrumental in organizing the College’s first Commencement ceremony. He left in 1979 to found the Trivium School, a residential high school offering a classical curriculum in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Many Trivium graduates have gone on to attend the College, and several of the College’s alumni have gone on to teach at Trivium.
Yet the reason that Mr. and Mrs. Schmitt figure so prominently in John Patrick Shanley’s recently debuted Prodigal Son has to do with their work prior to their time at the College, specifically in the 1960s, when Mr. Schmitt was the founding headmaster of the St. Thomas More School in New Hampshire. One of his students was a talented but rebellious boy who found his time at the school to be transformative. That student was Mr. Shanley, who has gone on to great acclaim as the screenwriter of Moonstruck and Doubt.
Featuring music by none other than Paul Simon, Prodigal Son tells the story of Jim Quinn, a character based on the adolescent Shanley. The Schmitts show extraordinary patience and dedication to the young man, for reasons, the audience learns, having largely to do with their own great personal suffering. As Mr. Langley writes:
“Mr. and Mrs. Schmitt .. share a well concealed sorrow, a sorrow caused by the tragic death of their own son. This sorrow becomes the source of Quinn’s redemption. Their hearts softened by grief, and harrowed by suffering, impel them to see the good in Quinn, despite his many expellable indiscretions, and they are able to see him through to the end — drawing out his hidden talents and mercifully allowing him to graduate — thus providing him with a sense of self-worth and new opportunity. …
“The play revealed a hidden chapter in the lives of John and Louise Schmitt. The events occurred when my wife was only a year old. Perhaps strangely, yet somewhat typical of many in that generation, Stephanie’s parents did not air their personal lives. They never spoke about these events to me and rarely if ever to their own children. In point of fact, John and Louise Schmitt suffered through not just one, but the tragic deaths of two of their children.”
The founder and the academic dean of The Lyceum, a classical school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Langley writes that Prodigal Son “is about the mysterious role that suffering plays in life — even the seemingly senseless suffering and heartbreaking pain that comes with the death of one’s own child, one’s own son.” His wife, and her siblings, he adds, are “grateful for the gift that Shanley had given them through this play,” as it has helped to give them “an answer about the mysterious workings of God’s grace in the deaths of their siblings … deaths whose explanations until now had been consigned to the inexplicable mysteries of God’s Divine plan.”
Tonight an audience at the University of British Columbia will be delighted by a father-daughter concert featuring two Thomas Aquinas College alumni, Mark (’89) and Colleen Donnelly (’14). The concert, billed as Love Songs Old & New, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day, is set to begin with the “Ecco la primavera” of Francesco Landini (d. 1397), and then continue on “through seven centuries and three languages.” It will feature masterpieces by Mozart and Beethoven as well as many Broadway favorites. Notably, the production will also include the premier of Mr. Donnelly’s musical setting of Alfred Noyes’ classic ballad “The Highwayman.”
An opera singer, teacher, and composer, Mr. Donnelly is most famous for leading crowds in the singing of “O Canada” at Vancouver Canucks’ home games. Since graduating from the College two years ago, Miss Donnelly has enrolled in the UBC’s School of Music, where she is concentrating in opera performance.
Readers in the Vancouver area can still purchase tickets online!
When asked to submit a video that explores “various aspects of wood” for a contest sponsored by the International Wood Culture Society, filmmaker André Fox (’05) thought of two of his fellow Thomas Aquinas College graduates, Dominic O’Reilly (’12) and Alex Tombelli (’13). Mr. O’Reilly is the head winemaster at Topa Mountain Winery in Ojai, California, where he works alongside Mr. Tombelli, a winemaker and carpenter. By combining his two crafts, Mr. Tombelli has developed an innovative new form of artistry — carving oak furniture from discarded wine barrels — that is the subject of the above video.
The video, which earned an honorable mention award in the category of “Wood & Humanity,” includes an original score by another alumnus, Jake DeTar (’11). Mr. Fox, the owner of André Fox Productions, shot all the photography and edited the documentary. His work can also be seen on the College’s recently released video, Praying Twice: The Thomas Aquinas College Choir.
“There is no faster way to friendship than sharing the books you love,” writes Suzie Andres (’87) in her recent article, Books and Friendship with the Saints, in Catholic Exchange. “A friendship founded upon excellent books is bound to thrive.”
As a case in point, Mrs. Andres cites her own friendship with Thomas Aquinas College’s late founding president, Dr. Ronald P. McArthur. “This friendship started, as so many of his friendships did, with his sharing the Great Books that had such a profound effect on his life,” she recalls. “Ron McArthur had helped found a college; I needed to go to one. It was that simple, a match made in heaven through the medium of books.”
Fittingly, Mrs. Andres and Dr. McArthur’s last earthly encounters centered around a book on which the two collaborated, The Selected Sermons of Thomas Aquinas McGovern, S.J.:
“We’d both known (he, much longer than I) a wonderful Jesuit, Father Thomas Aquinas McGovern, who taught at Thomas Aquinas College for thirteen years, from the second semester of its founding to the second semester of my sophomore year. Father died suddenly of a heart attack in February of 1985. One day he was teaching my favorite class, the next morning he prayed at Mass ‘for all those who will die today,’ and that evening, he became one for whom he had enjoined us to pray.
“He left behind what amounted to three binders full of typed sermons, carefully polished gems of Catholic doctrine, pastoral guidance, and the love of Christ. From the time these were discovered, shortly after his death, Dr. McArthur hoped they could be made into a book.
“Twenty-nine years later, I had the privilege of bringing that book into being. It was certainly not a solo effort — many people helped bring that book into the world — but mine was the sweet joy of editing, the sincere joy of asking Dr. McArthur to write the foreword, the poignant joy of receiving that foreword from his family after he died (it was the last work he did and finished two days before his death).”
With Advent and preparations for the Christmas season now at hand, Mrs. Andres encourages — what else? — books as the perfect gift for friends old and new. “Don’t let the shiny things of this world distract you from the best we have to offer each other,” she writes. “Give a favorite book (or two or five or ten) and watch your friendships grow.”
And what better book to give than Mrs. Andres and Dr. McArthur’s own Selected Sermons of Thomas Aquinas McGovern, S.J.?
To celebrate His Holiness Pope Francis’s canonization of California’s patron, St. Junipero Serra, Wendy-Irene (Grimm ’99) Zepeda has written the following hymn:
To the tune of “For All the Saints”
O faithful saint! Apostle to the West!
Founder of missions, striving without rest!
With you we sing, Junipero the blest:
Siempre adelante! Siempre adelante!
Though suffering illness, violence and fear,
You gave His love to those God brought you near;
Your footsore journeys spoke the Gospel clear!
Siempre adelante! Siempre adelante!
Come, ring the bell you rang in days of yore,
Come, plant the Cross again upon our shore!
Bring California to Christ’s heart once more!
Siempre adelante! Siempre adelante!
St. Junipero Serra, pray for us!
“My husband teaches at a college where her Emma is read senior year by every student,” writes Suzie (Zeiter ’87) Andres, wife of tutor Dr. Anthony Andres, in a new essay for Crisis magazine. “I object, but only because I think the work to introduce [Jane Austen] in such a universal way ought to be Pride and Prejudice, accessible to the uninitiated but still brilliant to the reader who already knows her well.”
From there proceeds a glowing tribute to the author whom Mrs. Andres heralds as “The Divine Jane,” and “The Novelist.” Jane Austen, she observes:
“… charms 13-year-olds as well as 30-year-olds, 16-year-olds and 60-year-olds, 18-year-olds and 80-year-olds. Who can say whether the gladness one feels upon first reading her is greater or less than the mature joy one feels when returning to her for the who-knows-how-manyeth a time? You may as well compare the happiness of the convert with the beatitude of the life-long grateful Catholic, a Chesterton and a Belloc. It is safest simply to say, her charm endures.”
Inspired by Austen’s works, Mrs. Andres has spent the last four years composing her own recently published novel, The Paradise Project, which she describes as a “paean,” but more than “a simple retelling” of Pride and Prejudice, set in modern times. Its protagonist, Liz Benning, bears a certain resemblance to Elizabeth Bennet and, like Mrs. Andres, she is a devoted reader of Jane Austen. The Paradise Project, says its author, is “a story of those, like us and so many before us, who love Jane and are nourished by her books.”
The Paradise Project is Mrs. Andres’ first work of fiction, following on her two previous books, A Little Way of Homeschooling and Homeschooling with Gentleness, which are available via Amazon.com. She is also, most recently, the editor of The Selected Sermons of Rev. Thomas A. McGovern, S.J.
Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07)On June 12, some three years after entering the Carmel of St. Joseph in St. Louis, Missouri, Sr. Maria Battista of the Lamb of God (Maria Forshaw ’07) made her first vows as a Discalced Carmelite nun. “She remains as active in the musical life of the monastery as at the College,” writes her mother, Liza Forshaw. “At the Latin Mass celebrating her profession, she conducted her fellow sisters in Gregorian chant, and she plays the organ every day.” As a member of the this cloistered, contemplative community, Sr. Maria Battista is dedicated to a life of prayer in service of the Church.
Thanks be to God! Please keep Sister in your prayers as she continues to discern her vocation.
The video above promotes the release of a new musical album, Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia, which features the voices of three alumni monks: Rev. Thomas Bolin, O.S.B. (’96), Br. Mary Evagrius Hayden, O.S.B. (’08), and Br. Philp Wilmeth (’13).
The three graduates are members of an 18-member Benedictine community at Monastero San Benedetto, a 1,000-year-old monastery in Norcia, Italy, birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. Fr. Thomas serves as the community’s subprior; Br. Evagrius is currently pursuing graduate studies at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria; and Br. Philip is set to make his simple vows on September 8, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The album, drawn from the monks’ daily life of prayer, features 33 tracks of Gregorian chant, including traditional Marian antiphons such as “Regina Caeli” and “Ave Regina Caelorum,” as well as previously unrecorded chant versions of responsories and an original composition, “Nos Qui Christi Iugum.” Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia is available for sale via amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and directly from the Monks of Norcia website.