Faith in Action Blog
Starting tomorrow (Saturday, September 29), EWTN is sponsoring a Novena to the Mother of God for the United States, seeking Our Lady’s intercession and Our Lord’s blessing on the country as we approach the upcoming elections. The novena has the nihil obstat of one of the College's graduates, Rev. Gary Selin (’89), the formation director at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver.
The inspiration for the Novena, says Fr. Selin, came from its author, Rev. Frederick L. Miller, S.T.D., of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland, who spent last year in sabbatical at St. John Vianney. During that time, the two priests discussed the state of the Church in America, the elections, and what Catholics could do for their country.
“I was concerned, as the year was going on, that we Catholics in the U.S. — starting with us clergy, but also the lay faithful — were not looking at the election enough from the spiritual perspective,” Fr. Selin recalls. From there, he and Fr. Miller thought of the Novena, which, in keeping with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom this summer, would “continue that spirit of prayer and fasting for our country.”
It was important to both priests, says Fr. Selin, that the Novena call upon the aid of the Blessed Mother. “I know from history and my own personal experience,” he notes, citing events from the Battle of Lepanto to the fall of Communism, “that when we invoke the Blessed Virgin Mary in time of great need — when we go to Jesus through Mary — Jesus has come through with very special graces.”
Thus the timing of the Novena to the Mother of God for the United States, which begins on the Feast of the Holy Archangels (September 29), and concludes on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7), just prior to the start of the Year of Faith (October 11). “Coming into an election, where so much is on the line for the Catholic Church and for our country with regards to attacks against religious liberty, the attack against the beauty of the Sacrament of Matrimony and even the marital act,” Fr. Selin explains, “we’re callings upon God through the intercession of Mary for very special graces on our country.”
Fr. Selin adds, however, that the act of transforming a nation must begin with our own, interior conversions. “First and foremost in this whole issue of the election, we have to start with ourselves, asking: How have we been faithful to God’s commands? How have we lived a deep prayer life, avoiding sin, growing in holiness and in our dedication to the Holy Eucharist? Then our public acts will be a beautiful overflowing of that commitment of faith.”
Fr. Selin has long had a devotion to the Blessed Mother. His senior thesis at the College was titled, “Mary: Archetype of the Church.” The Mother of God, he says, “has always been close to me in my vocational discernment and leading me here.” Likewise, she must play a role in the future of the nation: “Work has to be done in the public sphere — and that’s the work of the lay faithful to get out there, and we priests have to preach and encourage — but we cannot forget Our Lady.”
The Cardinal Newman Society has issued its 2012-2013 Catholic High School Honor Roll, recognizing “excellence in Catholic identity, academics and civic education at Catholic high schools across the United States.” To make the list, the Society explains, schools must have “an institutional commitment to providing a truly integrated and faithful Catholic education across all disciplines and in all areas of student activities.”
Notably, three of the just 50 schools honored on this year’s list are headed by Thomas Aquinas College alumni:
- Marguerite (Ford ’79) Grimm is the headmaster of Saint Monica Academy in Pasadena, Calif.
- Rev. Mark Moriarty ('95) is the superintendent of St. Agnes School in St. Paul, Minn., and the pastor of the parish.
- Michael Van Hecke (’86) is the headmaster of Saint Augustine Academy in Ventura, Calif.
“The Honor Roll schools are a reminder that Catholic education is getting better every day — not only academically, but in the renewal of Catholic identity,” says Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick J. Reilly. “We are delighted to see the increased level of competition among the schools that participated in the program this year.”
Congratulations to Mrs. Grimm, Fr. Moriarty, and Mr. Van Hecke!
Note: The following is a reflection by Kathleen Sullivan (’06), who is currently pursuing a doctorate in literature and who has helped out with the College’s High School Summer Program for the last eight years. It recounts a story she shared when on campus for this year’s program, describing an instance in which an unlikely student was touched by her faith and the formation she received at the College .
Kathleen Sullivan (’06)A few semesters ago, during my third year in a Ph.D. program for English literature at a leading Catholic university, I was pleased to be assigned a course teaching literature of fantasy. I enjoy fantasy works, so it was a fun winter break — organizing a syllabus, choosing, selecting, discarding, and finally deciding which works to use. I could not wait for the first day of class, eager to share my love of literature with the students.
However, my excitement diminished somewhat after that first class when a student approached me and introduced himself as a senior Politics major who was ready for the semester to be over, even though it had just begun. He proceeded to tell me that he did not want to take this course, but his adviser told him he needed it in order to fulfill a requirement. He did not like to read “unimportant” books; he preferred biographies or historical novels, and he had a problem getting up early in the morning, even though the class began at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Yes, I have to admit, his comments were a bit deflating.
As the semester went on, he would show up late to class. He would indicate that he thought the works were “silly,” and he would often mention that they were all too lengthy. Though blunt, he was not unkind; he was just blatantly uninterested. Since he knew the class requirements and expectations, as well as the attendance policy, I did not feel the need to admonish him for the lackluster attitude. So, he came when he felt the need, and sat there, and seemed to listen.
He did actually participate every once in a while. For example, during the class we had on C.S Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I brought attention to the moment when Eustace Scrubb, having been transformed into a dragon, is told by Aslan to bathe in the waters. We discussed that scene in light of baptism, and he seemed intrigued by the deeper layers of the text.
In any case, after finishing the course (he did mange to pass), he graduated from the university a few weeks later. The next school year, we were given back the course evaluations of the previous semester that the students had written. I recognized his handwriting right away, and thought, “Oh no, he is going to say how much he hated this course.” This is what he wrote:
I think she was the first truly Catholic teacher that I’ve had.
Way too much reading.”
I laughed at the last line (“way too much reading” … good one, for a literature course), then paused and thought more about the other two sentences. A great teacher? The first truly Catholic one in all at this Catholic university?
Though I remembered seeing him at some Masses, I realized he did not write that comment merely because he saw me at Mass. He must have recognized something more internal. Maybe he realized that my love of teaching, and even my love of “silly” literature, stems from the greater love of Christ. Maybe he appreciated my willingness to discuss these “unimportant” texts in the light of Catholic beliefs. Maybe he was grateful to look for the deeper layers in a story or in a character, to notice what is beyond the surface level, to recognize universal truths in everyday matters. Maybe?
Despite not knowing the exact reasons why he wrote what he did, I felt gratitude, first to my family for raising me to love and live the Catholic faith, and then to Thomas Aquinas College, for helping to form my character in a way almost unnoticed by me. Spending four years immersing myself in both the great books and the constant reception of the Sacraments, deepening my faith and strengthening my intellect, has allowed me, in a paraphrase of St. Francis, to “preach constantly, and if necessary, use words.” Thomas Aquinas College has also given me examples to emulate as I try to be a “great teacher.” To them, I am grateful. And to my Politics major, I am glad he found some unexpected value in my class … even if there was way too much reading.
The picture to the right comes from the College’s Facebook page. It depicts three of the College’s newest alumni — Nathan Dunlap (’12), Kellie Schramm (’12), and Noel Bulger (’12) — beside a stack of (almost all of) the great books they read while students in the College’s integrated academic program.
Although they have all completed the same curriculum, these three graduates plan to serve the Church and society in three distinct ways: Mr. Dunlap will be working as an animator, with hopes of one day making films. Miss Schramm will become a teacher for Mother of Divine Grace School, a distance-learning program. And on Commencement Day, Mr. Bulger accepted a commission as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Original drawings by James Langley (’85) are on exhibition at the Beatification of Rev. Pierre-Adrien Toulorge, O.Praem, in Coutances, France, through May 6. The works, which come from Mr. Langley’s Via Dolorosa studies, will then travel to Dublin, where they will be exhibited at the 50th International Eucharistic Congress from June 10 to 17.
A professor at Savannah College of Art and Design, Mr. Langley previously taught at Franciscan University of Steubenville and has lectured at the University of Notre Dame, Brown University, and the Pontifical North American College in Rome. More of his art can be viewed at his website, www.langleyart.com.
A professor of philosophy at St. Michael’s Abbey Seminary in Orange County, Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94), recently appeared on Catholic Answers Live, where he discussed The Power and Purpose of Celibacy. As a regular guest on the nation’s top-rated Catholic radio program, Fr. Sebastian has covered a wide range of topics, both philosophical and theological. Past episodes are available for streaming/download via the Catholic Answers website:
- Open Forum for Non-Catholics (December 12, 2011)
- How Biblical Inspiration Works (October 21, 2011)
- The Role of Logic in Apologetics (May 7, 2011)
- Are You Predestined? (February 10, 2011)
- The Nature of Prophecy (December 6, 2010)
- Can Doctrine Develop? (April 26, 210)
It was a reunion of two Thomas Aquinas College classmates when Dr. Jonathan Doylend (’96), a postdoctoral researcher with the Optoelectronics Research Group at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently spoke before the Catholic Business and Professional Group in Reno, Nevada. The group’s president, attorney Jeremy McNeil (’96), had invited his onetime roommate to address members about the alleged contradiction between faith and modern science. Among Dr. Doylend’s remarks was the following observation about why the Christian is especially suited for the natural sciences:
“Rather than being unmotivated to uncover explanations of what he sees in nature, a scientist who is also a Christian has two motivations that a non-Christian might not have. Firstly: He is confident that sense can be made of the universe, since he attributes its design to an intelligent being. His inquiry, in other words, is inherently optimistic.
“Secondly: He knows that by uncovering the secrets of the universe, he is not discovering a world which is chaotic and inelegant, and thus lesser than himself. Rather he is delving into the designs of the ultimate intelligence, and thus learning indirectly about God Himself.”
Mr. Doylend is, notably, one of several Thomas Aquinas College alumni to speak before the Catholic Business and Professional Group, including Rev. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem. (’94).
On the morning of Tuesday, April 4, friends, family, and many members of the Thomas Aquinas College community gathered at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles for the funeral Mass of longtime tutor and alumnus Michael J. Paietta (’83).
Mr. Paietta died late in the evening of March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, 16 days after entering the hospital with symptoms suggestive of a heart attack. Just prior to his passing, he received the last rites, including absolution and an apostolic blessing, from College chaplain Rev. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem (’78).
Fr. Garceau also served as one of the concelebrants at Mr. Paietta’s funeral Mass, joined at the altar by fellow chaplain, Rev. Paul Raftery, O.P, and a former head chaplain, Rev. Michael Perea, O.Praem. The principal celebrant was Monsignor Kevin Kostelnik, pastor of Our Lady of the Angels, where Mr. Paietta’s mother, Kay, is a parishioner. Following the Mass, Mr. Paietta's remains were interred in the Cathedral's crypt mausoleum, alongside his late father and brother.
Delivering the first eulogy was Daniel Paietta, who recalled his oldest brother’s great love of literature and encyclopedic memory. “Michael was the first Thomas Aquinas College graduate to get a perfect score on the GRE — in English, of course,” he remarked. “When one of the tutors asked him if he really knew all of the vocabulary words, he said, ‘Well, no, I did have to guess on one of them.”
Mr. Paietta’s former Thomas Aquinas College roommate and colleague on the faculty, Dr. Glen Coughlin, offered a second eulogy. “Michael was no scholar interested merely in the opinions and actions of men for their own sakes. His life was a pursuit of truth itself. His soul turned naturally to the nature of things, to the consideration of how we should live, to the highest and the best things, to the infinite good that Dante speaks of,” said Dr. Coughlin. “He was not content to know that someone else knew something or thought something. He wanted to know for himself.”
A Lifelong Scholar
From even his earliest days, Michael Paietta had a zeal for obtaining knowledge and a passion for sharing it with those around him. After serving a number of years in the U.S. Navy and briefly attending the University of California, Los Angeles, he enrolled at Thomas Aquinas College as a 25-year-old freshman in 1979. He graduated from the College in 1983 and went on to the University of Notre Dame, where he did his graduate and doctoral work.
In 1989 Mr. Paietta returned Thomas Aquinas College as a member of the teaching faculty. “Mike was noteworthy for his love of literature, music, and baseball,” observed his colleague of many years, President Michael McLean. “Not only did he love these things, he sought to understand everything about them. Above all, though, he was devoted to understanding the thought of our patron, St. Thomas, and was particularly sure that discussions with our founders, Ron McArthur, Jack Neumayr, and Mark Berquist, would help him in that pursuit.”
Dr. Paul O’Reilly, a longtime fellow tutor and the College’s vice president for development, offered a personal reflection saying, “Mike had a tremendous wit and a remarkable memory. We all wanted him on our trivial pursuit team. And those who had him on their team were on the winning side.” Reflecting on Mr. Paietta’s life, Dean Brian T. Kelly added, “Mike cared deeply about his students and mingled with them frequently in the dining hall. His deep-rooted sense of loyalty was manifest in his abiding love for the Catholic Church, Thomas Aquinas College, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He will be sorely missed.”
This sense of loss, however, was perhaps most poignantly expressed by an anonymous student who shares his late tutor’s love of poetry:
If only Life might slow its hurried pace,
That all the grief might pour like winter rain
From out the soul that weeps with hidden face
And feels the greatest depths of human pain.
I ask not end, but merely wish for pause,
As babes at nighttime cry out for the sun,
To have an end to sorrows without cause,
To weep when death begins and life is done.
I should have known him better than I do,
Though humor, knowledge, wisdom did I see,
And this enlightened, now I see the true,
I know he’s gone and feel but misery.
We’ll miss you, less as tutor than as friend,
We’ll love you, Mike Paietta, to the end.
A memorial Mass for Mr. Paietta will be offered at a later date in the College’s chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. Details will be provided on the Thomas Aquinas College website when they are available. Please keep Mr. Paietta and his family in your prayers.
May his soul and those of all the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
The funeral Mass for longtime tutor and alumnus Michael J. Paietta (’83) will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 3, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles. Mr. Paietta’s mother is a parishioner there, and he will be interred in the mausoleum underneath the Cathedral alongside his father and brother.
Directions and Parking: See the Cathedral’s website for directions. There are garage entrances on both Temple or Hill streets. Although the posted parking fee is $16 per hour, funeral attendees will receive validation for a flat rate of $5 (the rate the Cathedral has contracted with the owners of the garage). A brunch/reception will immediately follow the funeral in one of the Cathedral’s function rooms.
Information about the College’s memorial Mass for Mr. Paietta in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel will be posted when it is available. Please continue to keep Mr. Paietta and his family in your prayers.
Thomas Aquinas College tutor and alumnus Michael J. Paietta (’83) died late in the evening of March 25, 16 days after entering the hospital with symptoms suggestive of a heart attack. Just prior to his passing, he received the last rites, including absolution and an apostolic blessing from College chaplain Rev. Hildebrand Garceau, O.Praem (’78).
Mr. Paietta served for a number of years in the U.S. Navy and attended the University of California, Los Angeles, for a short time before enrolling at Thomas Aquinas College as a 25-year-old freshman in 1979. He graduated from the college in 1983 and went on to the University of Notre Dame, where he did his graduate and doctoral work. In 1989 Mr. Paietta returned to the College as a member of the teaching faculty.
Mourning the loss of his one-time student and colleague of many years, President Michael McLean said, “Mike was noteworthy for his love of literature, music, and baseball. Not only did he love these things, he sought to understand everything about them. Above all, though, he was devoted to understanding the thought of our patron, St. Thomas, and was particularly sure that discussions with our founders, Ron McArthur, Jack Neumayr, and Mark Berquist, would help him in that pursuit.”
Reflecting on Mr. Paietta’s life, Dean Brian T. Kelly noted, “Mike was a unique and beloved member of the Thomas Aquinas College community. He cared deeply about his students and mingled with them frequently in the dining hall. In class and at meals, he displayed charity, good cheer, and an extremely dry wit. Mike taught a range of courses in philosophy, theology, science, and mathematics. But he especially loved the arts; I trusted implicitly his views on literature and music, and happily followed many of his movie recommendations. His deep-rooted sense of loyalty was manifest in his abiding love for the Catholic Church, Thomas Aquinas College, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He will be sorely missed.”
Dr. Paul O’Reilly, a longtime fellow tutor and the College’s Vice President for Development, added a personal reflection saying, “Mike had a tremendous wit and a remarkable memory. We all wanted him on our trivial pursuit team. And those who had him on their team were on the winning side.”
Funeral arrangements for Mr. Paietta are pending. A memorial Mass will be offered at a later date in the college’s chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. Details will be provided on the College’s website when they are available.
Please keep Mr. Paietta and his family in your prayers.
May his soul and those of all the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.