Summer Program Blog
Wednesday dawned bright and early at the College, with the few clouds and last bits of fog burning off the hills during breakfast time. From 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. the students joined together for a discussion of the first 10 chapters of Genesis, which recount the story of Creation and the Fall. Mass was offered in the College chapel at 11:30, followed by lunch in St. Joseph Commons.
After lunch the students headed down to the athletic field for a volleyball tournament (there were no afternoon classes), which culminated in a game between the winning student teams (led by prefects Christina Kinney and Dan Selmeczy) and the tutor team. The students won that hard-fought match, and celebrated heartily.
After enjoying a chicken and tri-tip barbeque for dinner, the students were off to the library to study. They met up again later in the evening for a dance practice, led by the incredibly talented Mr. Selmeczy. After a few halting first steps, most everyone was settled in, moving well, and very much enjoying Dan’s engaging lesson in swing dancing, which lasted until 10:30 p.m. After a snack of homemade pretzels and mustard, everyone settled in for a well-deserved night’s rest.
In their second day of classes, the students really started to get into the swing of things! The morning session, on Sophocles’ Antigone, dealt with the protagonist’s prudence, or lack thereof, and delved into what it means to be a tragic character. After a well-attended 11:30 a.m. Mass and lunch, students went back into the classroom to discuss some of the pre-Socratic philosophers and their revolutionary, yet strange, ideas of how the world is constructed.
Afternoon recreation period consisted of more volleyball, soccer, and ultimate Frisbee. The group then headed down to cool off in the ponds, taking turns on the new rope swing.
Having worn themselves out all day, the students were eager to take advantage of the evening’s study period to recoup and to get a head start on the next couple days’ readings. Afterward they got together in the coffee shop, joined by the Summer Program’s prefects, where some of the group’s musicians brought out their guitars, took requests, and led the room in a rousing sing-a-long. Others played various card games, ranging from “Spoons” to “Bluff.” At curfew everyone headed back to the residence halls, where the conversations continued — the beginnings of friendships that will last a lifetime.
On Sunday, 128 rising high school seniors — the largest group ever — flocked to Thomas Aquinas College for two weeks of lively discussion about some of the most influential authors of Western civilization. While some attendees drove to campus, about 60 others came by way of Los Angeles International Airport. There they were greeted by the Summer Program prefect team, which is composed of some of the College’s current students and recent graduates. This year’s summer students hail from as far away as France, Spain, and the United Arab Emirates.
Upon arriving on campus, the students settled into their residence halls (St. Monica Hall for the ladies, and Sts. Peter & Paul Hall for the gentlemen) and met their roommates.
After touring the grounds, they shared a BBQ dinner with their fellow students and with the members of the faculty with whom they will be studying for the next two weeks. Later in the evening Summer Program Chaplain Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem (’94), offered a travelers’ Mass in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. An orientation session followed, after which the students headed to the residence halls before going to bed.
Already the group is proving to be thoughtful and lively. Our time together will undoubtedly be exciting and grace-filled!
There was a joyful, celebratory sort of feeling in the air on Friday morning. After two weeks of intense consideration and discussion of some of the most perennial questions of Western civilization, the students are excited to celebrate their achievement and time together.
After their last two classes, a final volleyball tournament on the athletic field, and a rosary before the Blessed Sacrament, the day will end with a formal banquet and dance. All those evening swing classes will really pay off, and there will be plenty of time to say goodbye, to take pictures, and to exchange addresses.
In addition to the wonderful memories the students will bring home, they will also take with them a few surprise gifts, including a copy of C.S. Lewis’ “Complete Signature Classics”(Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, and others), a Summer Program T-shirt, a Thomas Aquinas College messenger bag, and a framed picture of the group photo above (a downloadable, high-resolution version of which is available here) and one of their class section. We hope that these mementos of their two weeks at the College will serve them well in all their endeavors and remind them of their time here with us.
This was a truly excellent group of students, and we certainly enjoyed having them here!
Monday the students discussed Macbeth, asking questions such as, “Should we pity Macbeth, or is Lady Macbeth really responsible for their downfall?” They were also introduced to Euclidean geometry, discussing the principles and propositions. For the next five days students will be constructing and demonstrating propositions on the chalkboard. While this may be daunting at first, many students come to love Euclid, and even find that this becomes their favorite class.
The students were also given the opportunity to join Admissions Director Jon Daly and Admissions Counselors Scott Benigar and Louis Conklin for a brief admissions meeting. The students were able to have any of their questions about the application process answered. Mass followed, and after afternoon classes, some students headed down to the athletic fields, while others relaxed in the Commons playing guitars, singing, and continuing their classroom conversations.
Study hall found the students busily reading The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius and preparing the propositions for the next day’s Euclid class, before quieting their minds by praying the rosary. Finally, to end the night, there was the much-anticipated students vs. prefects basketball games. The girls’ game was first, followed by the boys’ game. Both were well-matched, intense, and a lot of fun, and the prefects managed to pull away for the win in each.
Below are two new slideshows from this weekend’s hike and trip to Santa Barbara.
Thursday morning found the students discussing a reading from Christian existentialist Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. The work offers several scenarios of the story of Abraham in an attempt to determine whether or not his faith seems rational. Conversations were spirited, and the students were intrigued by the question of what faith is and what it entails, especially as modeled by our father in faith.
After Mass, study hall, and lunch, the students, prefects, chaplains, and a few tutors boarded three coach buses for Los Angeles and the Getty Museum. There they viewed world-renowned paintings, ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, illuminated manuscripts, and other works of art, including some by Monet, Van Gogh, and Renoir, as well as sketches by Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Students also found time to take plenty of pictures around the museum’s beautiful gardens, fountains, and outdoor patios.
After dinner at the Getty, the group went to the Hollywood Bowl — the L.A. Philharmonic’s outdoor concert hall — to enjoy a performance of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor and Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World.” Listening to the beautiful classical music in the Hollywood Bowl’s outdoor amphitheater was a perfect way to end a day experiencing some of the culture offered in the greater Los Angeles area..
On Wednesday, after two days of literature and philosophy, the students finally dove into the Queen of the Sciences, sacred theology. They began their Scripture studies “In the beginning,” with the Book of Genesis. Reading all the way up through the birth of Isaac, they had plenty to contemplate in both the morning and afternoon classes as they considered Creation, man’s fall, Original Sin, and God’s covenant with Abraham.
Following afternoon recreation the students were treated to a talk by tutor Dr. John Nieto on the subject of art and beauty, in preparation for the following day’s trip to the Getty Museum. After explaining St. Thomas Aquinas’ definition of beauty, Dr. Nieto discussed the three aspects of beauty: integrity or wholeness, proportionality, and clarity.
Later in the evening, following the rosary, the students gathered in the Commons for a ballroom-dance practice, learning the steps to rumba, waltz, and basic swing. It was amazing to see how quickly they learned the steps, and it was delightful to witness their enthusiasm. Back in the dorms at curfew, the usual conversations began, with the students and prefects discussing the implications of beauty in music, stemming from Dr. Nieto’s talk.