Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Christopher Zehnder (’87)Like his fellow graduate John Finley (’99), Christopher Zehnder (’87) sees a connection between Pope Francis’s warnings in Laudato Si’ and the Supreme Court’s recent attempt to redefine marriage. Writing in his personal blog, Notes from the Wasteland, Mr. Zehnder observes:

“It is fitting, in a way, that the Supreme Court’s decision should so closely follow the pope’s encyclical, for the former brings into focus the major theme of the latter. That theme is not the threat of climate change, whatever those who want either to dismiss the encyclical or coöpt it say. A major — if not the major — theme of Laudato Si’ is that, both in the moral order and the natural order, everything is connected. How we treat the ‘environment’ is how we will treat ourselves, and how we treat ourselves is how we will treat the natural world outside ourselves. …

“Those, therefore, who insist on the integrity of the natural world but rejoice at Friday’s Supreme Court decision are self-confused. Those who deplore the decision, call for respect for the nature of marriage and the basic meaning of sexual acts but ignore the integrity of the natural world, are self-confused. Those who think you must respect unborn human life but can subject human labor to irrational market forces are as confused as those who think you may kill unborn children but not oppress the worker. Sooner or later, these groups will need to decide on their core principle — relativism or respect for nature — for mankind will not remain in a state of interior division forever.”

Mr. Zehnder is the general editor of the Catholic Textbook Project, which aims to create a new generation of textbooks for parochial schools that accurately, beautifully, and engagingly reflect the Church’s contribution to human history. A high school teacher and former headmaster, he is the author of three of the project’s books: From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of America; Light to the Nations II: the Making of the Modern World; and Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America.


Dr. John Finley (’99)In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and Pope Francis’s second encyclical, Laudato Si’, some Catholics have complained that the Holy Father has spent too much time talking about the environment, and not enough about the sanctity of marriage. Dr. John Finley (’99), however, suggests another perspective. In Catholic World Report, the alumnus and former tutor offers “three reasons why Catholics should take seriously the encyclical’s subject matter, precisely in view of the Supreme Court’s decision.”

“The concerns of Laudato Si' are not foreign — indeed, they are closely akin — to the age-old concerns hubristically dismissed by the Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges,” writes Dr. Finley. “In a pre-Christian world, the normative goodness of the natural world and of human sexuality could be recognized.… In a post-Christian world dominated by the will to power, the love of money, and an increasing enslavement to technology, rejection of Christ includes rejection of that greater whole, with all its parts, down to things as fundamental as nature and nature’s stewards: man and woman.”

A professor of philosophy at the Archdiocese of St. Louis’s Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, as well as a husband and the father of two young sons, Dr. Finley contends that modern attempts to redefine marriage are part of a larger tendency to view nature as the plaything of human desires. Thus “any work of evangelization today has a greater job than it did in the days of the early martyrs,” he continues, “for it has to be as much concerned with the natural as with the supernatural.”

The full article is available via Catholic World Report.


Dr. Lane (Smith ’04) Scott and family

“I was in my dress and getting ready to leave,” recalls Lane (Smith ’04) Scott, describing that woeful day in 2011 when she almost got her Ph.D.

After spending three years completing her coursework and another four writing a dissertation, she had made the six-hour, 400-mile drive from her home in Angels Camp, California, to Los Angeles to defend her dissertation at Claremont Graduate University. Then the phone rang.

It was her adviser. “He said that the department chair had not actually bothered to read my dissertation until the night before, and then determined that I had an incomplete understanding of the subject,” she sighs. The defense was canceled. “Dissertation defenses never get canceled. Everyone knows that once the defense is scheduled, you’re golden. It was mortifying — unprecedented. I was in my dress and on my way to the campus, and instead of being done I had to write an entirely new dissertation.”

Read more

Who Designed the Designer?

Dr. Michael A. Augros (’92)In May, Ignatius Press published Who Designed the Designer? A Rediscovered Path to God’s Existence, by Dr. Michael A. Augros (’92), a graduate of the College and a member of its teaching faculty.

Who Designed the Designer? is a direct, concise antidote to the “New Atheist” arguments against the existence of God. The book draws upon universal principles to demonstrate the logical necessity for an intelligent, uncreated first cause of the universe. In so doing, it relies heavily on the works of Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas, placing a renewed emphasis on great minds that have thus far received little attention in the ongoing public debates about theism, intelligent design, and evolution. The result is a profound yet highly accessible investigation, beginning with the world as we encounter it and ending in the divine mind.

More:


Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro

A Third Order Carmelite, Cynthia (Six ’77) Montanaro recently appeared on Radio Maria’s “Carmelite Conversations,” where she spoke about her book, Diary of a Country Mother. The memoir, which chronicles the life of her beloved son Tim, reflects her yearlong journey of prayer and meditation, begun about six months after Tim’s death at the age of 15 in 2005.

Diary of a Country Mother“This account of the life of my son simply reveals that each person, no matter his mental or physical problems, has a great worth beyond measure, and leaves an enormous impact on those near to them and those farther afield,” Mrs. Montanaro tells host Mark Damis.

At the beginning of the interview, Mrs. Montanaro also describes how she and her husband, Andrew (’78), met while students at the College. “Conversation is a very big part of anything that goes on at Thomas Aquinas because, since everyone has taken the same classes, we can speak about the same things with one another,” she reflects. “So we became very good friends and discussed the important things of life” — a friendship that eventually led to marriage and Tim’s adoption.

“Tim’s death was very sudden for us,” she recalls, “and so then the rest of life just became trying to accept it and to deal with it.” The Montanaros found consolation by uniting their suffering with that of Christ. “It helps us so much, whenever there is an especially deep trial in our lives, to remember that life is not always the picnic or the party, the banquet. It’s very often the walk, carrying the Cross up the Hill of Calvary,” she says. “And that was particularly true to us as we were suffering, to remember that we were suffering with Christ, and He was carrying us, and we were carrying the Cross.”

The full interview with Mrs. Montanaro is available via the Radio Maria website, and Diary of a County Mother is for sale, in paperback and Kindle formats, on Amazon.com.


Dr. John. J. Goyette (’90)Over the weekend the Ventura County Star published a lengthy feature about the latest assault on human life in California — physician-assisted suicide, now euphemistically dubbed “aid in dying.” The story includes quotations from both prominent supporters and opponents of Senate Bill 128, which would permit doctors to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. Among those opposed to the measure is an alumnus and tutor of the College, Dr. John. J. Goyette (’90).

“The very idea of physician-assisted suicide is an implicit judgment that a life that involves suffering is not really worth living,” Dr. Goyette tells the Star. “It’s seeing human beings as disposable.” Framing the controversy not so much as one of religion but of human dignity, he adds, “Natural law forbids taking innocent human life,” a prohibition of which “faith reminds us.”

Dr. Goyette continues by observing that assisted suicide’s supporters have a grimly utilitarian view of the end of human life. “The underlying assumption is that a death with pain and suffering is somehow meaningless or undignified — that doesn’t really fit with our experience,” he says. “Suffering is an opportunity for people to show care and compassion. A death that’s filled with compassion, that’s not a meaningless or undignified death.”

The full story is available on the Ventura Star website.


Sara Majkowski ('14), front right, and fellow members of Catholics in Action
Sara Majkowski ('14), front right, and fellow members of Catholics in Action

Less than one year since her graduation, Sara Majkowski (’14) is living just outside of Phoenix, where she is an educator by day and — in her spare time — she is learning the ropes of film production and finance.

This entrée to the movie business comes as a surprise. Like several other recent graduates, Miss Majkowski went to Phoenix to teach in the city’s rapidly expanding consortium of Great Hearts charter academies, classical schools that are, as she puts it, “very academically rigorous, with high standards in terms of behavior and academics.” But upon settling into her new city, she found herself a church — St. Anne’s in Gilbert — with ties to an emerging lay apostolate, Catholics in Action.

Directed by the pastor of St. Anne’s, Rev. Sergio Muñoz Fita, Catholics in Action is an American offshoot of Catholic Action, an international apostolate of the Secular Institute Servi Trinitatis. CIA, as it is known, is “about lay people obtaining sanctity in their lives as lay people,” Miss Majkowski explains. “We pray together in adoration. We receive spiritual formation. We reach out to the community, the poor, and young people who need formation, everything Christ directs us to do.”

Although a new member, Miss Majkowski is already heavily involved in CIA and its good works. She is helping to organize a trip to the 2016 World Youth Day in Poland, and she is busily raising funds for an upcoming film, Footprints.

The genesis of Footprints came about last summer, when two groups from St. Anne’s — one men, one women — made 40-day pilgrimages along Spain’s Camino de Santiago de Compostela. A camera crew accompanied the men’s group, obtaining footage for a film that aims, Miss Majkowski says, “to document their spiritual experience, undergoing psychological trials and harsh physical demands.” There will be a premier screening in June and a general release, they expect, within a year. “I’m working on raising funds to complete production through a Kickstarter campaign, selling merchandise, approaching businesses, and spreading the word,” she says.

Meanwhile, Miss Majkowski thrives at Arete Preparatory Academy in Gilbert, where she teaches history and Latin to elementary-school students. “There is so much that goes into teaching — finding ways to make the lessons ‘stick,’ holding students’ attention, being responsible with grading, working with parents, and planning events,” she says. “I like it. I like it a lot.”


Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01) and Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05)
Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01) and Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05)

The latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books features one Thomas Aquinas College alumnus writing about another: Dr. Matthew J. Peterson (’01), a visiting assistant professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, reviews The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, by Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05), an assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University.

“I wanted to title my review ‘Natural Law Photobombs Locke-ish Selfie: What Happens Next Will Shock Your Political Philosophy,” jokes Mr. Peterson via Facebook. “But they went with Nature Trail. I guess I’ll keep my day job.”

Alas, sans the Gawker-worthy headline, the review begins:

“The debate over what we mean when we speak of rights, especially in the American context, often concerns what John Locke understood them to mean. Locke’s ambiguity is a gift that keeps on giving to scholarly presses. In The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law, S. Adam Seagrave, a self-identified Aristotelian-Thomist, mercifully refrains from attempting the definitive commentary on what he rightly calls Locke’s ‘problematically vague and incomplete’ account of the basis of rights. Instead, he makes not a wholly Lockean but, as he says, a ‘Locke-ish’ case for how natural rights arise from the very structure of human beings.”

After a thoughtful analysis of Dr. Seagrave’s book — mostly positive, albeit sprinkled with a few objections — Dr. Peterson concludes his review with praise:

“[Dr. Seagrave] has eschewed the imposing vagaries of modern scholarship in favor of actually engaging in the act of philosophy rather than mere commentary or critique. True philosophic exploration of difficult questions is much like the art of negotiating a fair deal: if one side walks away in smug satisfaction, you’re probably not doing it right. Everyone will disagree with some chunk of S. Adam Seagrave’s provocative work, but his effort is a brave breath of fresh air in the stagnant, painfully insecure, and often comically compartmentalized world of academic books.”

The full review is available via the Claremont Review of Books.


Mark Langley (’89)“I do not see a flickering candle at the end of this year’s Lenten journey,” writes alumnus Mark Langley (’89) on his blog, Lion & Ox. “No, I see a burst of glory and the veritable Super Nova, that is Christ’s Resurrection from the tomb, and what’s more, I also see over two cases of a very fine pale ale, some of which will enable me to celebrate that Resurrection with more propriety.”

The founder and the academic dean of The Lyceum, a classical school in Cleveland, Ohio, Mr. Langley is also a husband, a father of 12, and an amateur brewer. In this last capacity, he has detected a relationship between his faith and his hobby. “Lent was specifically designed for brewing beer,” Mr. Langley writes. “The reason for this is obvious. Beer takes exactly 40 days (more or less) to ferment and grow from a weak sweet slop of ‘wort’ into a fine, noble, life-giving, heart-cheering, spiritually-enhancing liquid — whose foam raises itself in the glass as does incense in the chapel.”

And so, at the start of Lent, Mr. Langley began a new batch of English pale ale that will be ready precisely on Easter Sunday. “Of course we fast and pray for forty days first primarily in imitation of our Lord,” he observes. “But the same period of time is also roughly speaking an ideal space for brewing beer, and therefore I think it is obvious that this is a fitting thing for Christians to do in the first week of Lent.”

To read more of Mr. Langley’s musings on Lenten brewing, read the full post on his blog.

Related:


The Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone
The Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of California, at the 2009 dedication of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel

“If McDonald’s told its employees that it was unacceptable to diss its fast food as gross, disgusting, or unhealthy at either McDonald’s or in a public setting,” asks alumna journalist Katrina Trinko (’09), “would it elicit a heated reaction from lawmakers?”

The answer: “Probably not.”

Katrina Trinko (’09) Katrina Trinko (’09)Yet for myriad reasons, when the Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco and the College’s 2008 Convocation Speaker, made a similar demand of the teachers in his schools, several California politicians called for an investigation. In a new column at the Daily Signal, Miss Trinko — the online magazine’s managing editor and a member of USA Today’s Board of Contributors — examines the criticism and complaints, and finds them wanting.

“Lawmakers may vehemently disagree with Cordileone’s decision,” Miss Trinko writes, but “religious leaders should be free to make such decisions without worrying about interference from the government.”

The full article is available at the Daily Signal.