Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Jack Grimm ('15) in Kolkata, India

California Catholic Daily has recently published a series of letters that Jack Grimm (’15) wrote to his family during a six-week pilgrimage to the motherhouse of Bl. Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata (Calcutta), India. During his time, in which he wanted to experience the Missionaries’ life firsthand and participate in their works of mercy, he cared for the sick and hungry, served Mass, and prayed for the dead and dying. He also speaks frankly about the difficulties of such service — the constant noise, the exhaustion, the temptation to pride. Yet he concludes by describing his time in India, which culminated in Holy Week and the Easter Vigil at the motherhouse as “the most rewarding Lent of my life so far. Blessed be God.”

The full collection of letters is available via the California Catholic website:

  • Letter 1: “Today I went to Kalighat, which is the house of the dying and destitute people. It’s an amazing place, but very draining and sad at the same time.”
  • Letter 2: “Today I served Mass at Mother house. I was feeling sick so I didn’t want to go, but Mass was beautiful and of course miraculous.”
  • Letter 3: “This last week has been very good, although exhausting at times. I’ve been caring especially for the patients who can’t get out of bed, giving them bed baths and ointment, etc.”
  • Letter 4: “Kolkata is an amazing place, but the constant noise and smell, not to mention all the people, can be a little exhausting.”
  • Letter 5: “In general, life here has been very prayerful and beautiful. I still love doing the work with the patients. A number of them have died in the last couple weeks, so that has been more emotionally challenging.”
  • Letter 6: “Well, wonderful as Kolkata is, I still seem to be dreaming about home every night. Last night I dreamed we were all at Thomas Aquinas College for Mass.”
  • Letter 7: “Well, the last week has been a good one, but I was definitely beginning to feel a sort of spiritual dryness.”
  • Letter 8: “ I’ve realized that one of my goals this year, and for life in general, is to learn to love the silence.”
  • Letter 9: “Some people belong in books, they are just that good. R is one of those people.”
  • Letter 10: “A very happy Easter to all of you! Christ the Lord is risen indeed!

Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)“Most of us have a profound appreciation for our mothers that transcends description,” begins Dr. S. Adam Seagrave (’05) in a new essay, timed for Mother’s Day, in The Public Discourse. An assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, Dr. Seagrave then proceeds to consider the current state of motherhood in terms of social and public policy.

Americans’ affection for their mothers, he observes, does not translate into an appreciation for motherhood itself, particularly the stay-at-home variety. “As long as full-time motherhood does not produce some immediate economic benefit, economic and social pressures will continue to effectively foreclose this choice for many women,” he writes. “If it matters that women have a genuine choice in their own pursuit of happiness, this is a serious problem. It becomes even more serious when we consider that fully 84 percent of women don’t think it’s best for their children for them to work full-time outside the home. Women have indeed been empowered to work outside the home, but in many cases and in many unforeseen ways, they also have been forced to do so against their wishes.”

So, as his Mother’s Day gift to moms elsewhere, Dr. Seagrave proposes “a significant tax deduction for households with a full-time parent … on the order of 150 percent of the mean individual income.” That may not seem as charming as a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates, but, “such a deduction would provide women with a less constrained choice between being a full-time mother and pursuing work outside the home. It would also signal the value that society should place on the inestimable contribution of motherhood.”

And, on Mothers’ Day in particular, what could be more worthwhile than that? “Motherhood is a more important task for society than any other private occupation or public service,” Dr. Seagrave concludes. “No woman who would choose full-time motherhood should be unduly constrained by economic or social pressures to give up her all-important vocation.


Book cover: Priestly CelibacyWhenever the matter of mandatory priestly discipline arises, the arguments put forth in its defense are typically practical in nature, touching on matters pastoral or even financial, but seldom theological. Recognizing this shortcoming in the ongoing discussion, Rev. Gary B Selin, STD (’89) has authored a new scholarly work, Priestly Celibacy: Theological Foundations, which proposes a systematic theology of priestly celibacy, ordered around the Eucharist.

An assistant professor and the formation director at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, Fr. Selin holds a doctorate in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America, which is the publisher of this, his first book. Priestly Celibacy, according to the publisher’s description, explores the “Christological, ecclesiological, and eschatological dimensions” of the Church’s ancient discipline:

“The volume begins with a summary of the biblical foundations of clerical continence and celibacy, and then reviews the development of the discipline in the Latin Church from the patristic era to the twentieth century, while also tracing the emerging theology that underlies the practice. The focus then switches to the teaching of Vatican II, Paul VI and subsequent magisterial texts, as elaborated through the threefold dimension of celibacy. The final two chapters consists of Selin’s original contribution to the discussion, particularly in the form of various proposals for a systematic theology of priestly celibacy.”

Released on April 14, Priestly Celibacy: Theological Foundations includes a foreword by His Eminence J. Francis Cardinal Stafford, Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary and the former Archbishop of Denver. The book is available via Amazon.com.


Cover: Alaska's Wild LifeFollowing 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.”


Alumnus Author: Holy Week & Don Quixote

“There is a wisdom that belongs to idiots,” writes alumni author Sean Fitzpatrick (’02). “Don Quixote may be mad, but there are forms of madness that are divine.”

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.


Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys (Photos: Dana Rene Bowler) Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys (Photos: Dana Rene Bowler)

Wednesday morning, while the United States Supreme Court held oral arguments in the case that the College and 34 co-plaintiffs have filed against the HHS Contraceptive Mandate, Women Speak for Themselves organized a rally outside the Court. Among the speakers at the rally were two alumnae of the College, Meghan Duke (’08) and Elizabeth (McPherson ’99) Claeys.

A former managing editor of First Things who is now a writer in The Catholic University of America’s Office of Marketing and Communications, Miss Duke spoke about her time volunteering for the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have become the focal point of the national debate on religious freedom. Mrs. Claeys, who is chairman of the Washington, D.C., Board of Regents, spoke about the importance of the Catholic faith to the College and pressed the key points in the College’s case. The full text of her remarks is available via the College’s website.

 


Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)Dr. Adam Seagrave ('05)In honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the National Park Services, Dr. Adam Seagrave (’05) has penned a thoughtful piece for The Public Discourse about the role of the national parks — and Nature more broadly — in the American political tradition. “Over the past 400 years, we Americans have had a very different relationship with nature than the Europeans have,” writes Dr. Seagrave, “and this relationship has powerfully informed what is best in our political culture and public discourse.”

An assistant professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, Dr. Seagrave is the author of The Foundations of Natural Morality: On the Compatibility of Natural Rights and the Natural Law and editor of Liberty and Equality: The American Conversation. A regular contributor to The Public Discourse, Dr. Seagrave observes, “It was because of Americans’ early and unique experience with ‘Nature’ that they came to embrace Locke’s political philosophy in the eighteenth century, with its emphasis on the importance of natural rights and the natural law for politics.” Yet as the country became further removed “from this original experience of nature, through the passage of time and the development of artificial civilization and culture, the original meaning and political significance of nature progressively began to be forgotten. … By the early twentieth century, we were ready to ‘progress’ beyond the founders’ and Lincoln’s ideas, which now seemed naïve, about the political relevance of a grand and significant ‘Nature.’”

By restoring our awe, or reverence, for nature, Dr. Seagrave concludes, the National Parks play a vital role in helping Americans to “connect — or rather reconnect — with something important and distinctive about our national heritage.”

The full article I available via The Public Discourse.

Related


Sierra Silverstrings, featuring the children of Eve (Bouchey ’97) and Jeremy McNeil (’96) Sierra Silverstrings, featuring the children of Eve (Bouchey ’97) and Jeremy McNeil (’96)

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, KOLO 8, the ABC affiliate in Reno, Nevada, has put together the following segment about Sierra Silverstrings — a local Irish band whose members are the children of Eve (Bouchey ’97) and Jeremy McNeil (’96):

“When people say you play together, you stay together, it’s kind of true, because we were friends, but now we know each other better,” young Brigit McNeil tells KOLO News. “It’s hard to explain. It connects us. We play together, and when you play music, it’s such a joyful thing to create those sounds with each other.”

According to the Sierra Silverstrings website, the band is booked for three shows today, St. Patrick’s Day, and another two more on Saturday, the Feast of St. Joseph.


Joseph O’Brien (’93)Joseph O’Brien O’Brien (’93)In the pages of the Catholic Business Journal, Joseph O’Brien (’93) profiles three Catholic priests who are, as he puts it, “making confession a hallmark of their own Year of Mercy.” The managing editor of the Adoremus Bulletin, Mr. O’Brien asks the priests to explain the importance of penance, what role it has played in their vocations, and why it is so important to the ongoing Jubilee Year. Among those he consults are two of his old friends from Thomas Aquinas College, classmates Rev. Mark Moriarty (’95) and Rev. Jonathan Perrotta (’95), both pastors of Midwestern parishes.

Rev. Mark Moriarty (’95)Rev. Mark Moriarty (’95)The pastor of St. Agnes Parish in St. Paul, Minnesota, Fr. Moriarty (’95) recounts how his time at the College — and particularly the influence of then-chaplain Rev. Gerard Steckler, S.J. — heightened his appreciation of God’s mercy and, in turn, helped lead him to his vocation. “I was impressed with [Fr. Steckler’s] casual way of inviting us to experience mercy when he invited incoming freshmen to have 10 minutes of spiritual direction each week,” he says. “It wasn’t just a formality, but combined true vulnerability with a lifting of the veil of God. … I thought that was a truly beautiful thing. So that affected me in terms of my interest in being a priest.”

Rev. Jonathan Perrotta (’95)Rev. Jonathan Perrotta (’95)Fr. Perrotta (’95), meanwhile, observes that, as matter of human psychology, “There is overwhelming evidence that we have a need to confess, to speak to another our sins, even when we don’t go away knowing we have been forgiven.” Yet this sense of unburdening one’s self, he adds, is nothing compared to the true relief that comes when one avails himself of sacramental confession, thereby “knowing all of my sins have been completely destroyed; the sin and the guilt are no longer there.” In these moments, Fr. Perrotta tells Mr. O’Brien, “God and his mercy are present.”

For many more such words of pastoral wisdom, read the full article on the Catholic Business Journal website.


"Prodigal Son" - photo credit: Joan Marcus/©2016 Joan Marcus Prodigal Son - photo credit: Joan Marcus/©2016 Joan Marcus

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 SchmittLouise 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.”