Faith in Action Blog

Faith in Action Blog

Plato and AristotleNumerous Thomas Aquinas College alumni — including several who have are now members of the teaching faculty — led sessions and presented papers at the annual meeting of American Catholic Philosophical Association last weekend. The gathering, held in Los Angeles under the theme “Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions,” drew more than 100 scholars from across the United States.

At the ACPA’s request, Thomas Aquinas College hosted two of the Conference’s satellite sessions, both on the subject of Aristotelian Natural Philosophy.  The first was chaired by Dean Brian T. Kelly (’88) and the second by Senior Tutor Glen Coughlin (’81). Dr. Coughlin also hosted a third session in his capacity as president of the Society for Aristotelian Studies, a national organization.

Several other alumni also spoke and/or presented papers at the conference:

  • Dr. Thomas Cavanaugh (’85)
    Professor of Philosophy, University of San Francisco
    “Socrates’ Burial? The Question of an Individual’s Immortality”
  • Dr. Anthony Andres (’87)
    Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College
    “Charles De Koninck on Contingency”
  • Dr. Anthony Crifasi (’92)
    Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Benedictine College
    “Aquinas on the Passions’ Contribution to Moral Reasoning” (commentator)
  • Dr. David Arias, (’02)
    Tutor, Thomas Aquinas College
    “Hylomorphism and Organ Transplants”
  • Dr. Daniel Shields (’05)
    Visiting Professor of Philosophy, Xavier University
    “Aquinas on the Moral Life of the Non-Believer”
  • Mr. David Grothoff (’07)
    Graduate Student, Catholic University of America
    “Geometrical Proportion and Continuity in Aristotle's Physics”
  • Mr. John Brungardt (’08)
    Graduate Student, Catholic University of America
    “The Existence of the Primum Mobile in Medieval and Modern Science”
  • Mr. Ryan Shea (’08)
    Graduate Student, Catholic University of America
    “The Figure Analogy in De Anima II.3 and the Methodology of Aristotelian Natural Philosophy” 

 Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93) Yesterday we noted that Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93) had penned an op-ed keyed to election day, and today we note that she has written a thoughtful, post-election analysis of what comes next for faithful American Catholics:

As Catholics, we have just begun the Year of Faith. If anything, this election tells me that we need to proclaim the truth that our faith teaches, particularly as it concerns the dignity of the human person. Let’s not try to sanitize the values issues with talk of the economy. It hasn’t worked. At the same time, there are a lot of Catholics voting who don’t understand or accept the Catholic Church’s consistent teaching on social values. That’s a great place to start our Year of Faith. As a church, we need to teach. As citizens, we need to voice our opinions, even when we fear that they might be unpopular.

Election Day has come and gone, but the Year of Faith has only just begun!


Among the issues at stake in today’s election is the future of marriage in four states, including Washington. There, a group of dissenting Catholics recently published an open letter that defied Church teaching on the subject. In response, Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93) and two other prominent Catholics have published a rebuttal in the Seattle Times titled, We Are Catholics and We oppose Referendum 74 to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage.

The article defends both the Church’s position and marriage itself, stressing the institution’s importance to families, society, and religious freedom:

The state does not involve itself in marriage in an effort to regulate its citizens’ sexual activities. It does so because marriage generally involves children by the very nature in which the spouses express intimacy and union. As such, the family becomes the basic unit of society and thus deserves special protection.…

As Catholics, we believe that marriage is the unique bond of love and life between a woman and a man, which is the source of the family. In union with our church and our bishops, we are voting to reject Referendum 74. We urge other Catholics and people of goodwill to join us.

Go read the whole article — and be sure to vote!
 


The late Charles De Koninck, one of the great philosophers of the 20th century, had a profound influence on the establishment of Thomas Aquinas College.

Charles De Koninck Dr. De Koninck was the teacher of three of the College’s founders, Mr. Mark Berquist, Dr. John W. Neumayr, and Dr. Ronald McArthur. In addition, his most famous student, Dr. Ralph McInerny, educated 11 of the College’s tutors, including late president Thomas E. Dillon, President Michael F. McLean , and Dean Brian Kelly at the University of Notre Dame.

Suffice it to say, the College owes a great debt to Dr. De Koninck’s legacy, a debt that two of its alumni have sought to repay by way of a newly launched website, The Charles De Koninck Project.

“In the 47 years since his death, De Koninck’s writings have unfortunately faded from view even as their relevance to contemporary intellectual life has intensified,” notes the site’s introductory page. The Charles De Koninck Project, it continues, “exists to put the entirety of his writings online and foster discussion about them.”

Under the direction Executive Director David J. Quackenbush (’88) and Managing Director Matthew J. Peterson (’01), The Charles De Koninck Project seeks to “collect, translate and make all of his writings freely available online,” so that they will be widely available and read, and so that others may “take up the letter and spirit of his writings, spurring discussion in pursuit of truth.”

Mr. Quackenbush — who began the project of collecting, transcribing and translating De Koninck’s texts nearly two decades ago when he studied under Dr. McInerny at Notre Dame — is a member of the teaching faculty at Thomas Aquinas College. Mr. Peterson is a doctoral candidate in political philosophy and American government at Claremont Graduate University.

“We expect to have the bulk of De Koninck’s previously published writings available fairly soon, along with a substantial portion of previously unpublished and newly translated texts,” says Mr. Quackenbush. “We hope to press on until all relevant material is available.”

The Charles De Koninck Project invites outside contributions. “We welcome essays, lectures, blogs, and such for posting and linking at the site, and hope to host an active discussion of agreement, disagreement, and development of De Koninck’s thought,” says Mr. Quackenbush. “The project is intended to be a cooperative effort by all those interested.”


A Little Way of HomeschoolingSome 18 months after its publication, A Little Way of Homeschooling continues to elicit great interest. The second work of alumna author Suzie (Zeiter ’87) Andres, the book profiles 12 Catholic homeschooling families and their use of the “unschooling” educational method, while drawing upon the works of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. John Bosco, and ancient philosophers.

On Friday morning Mrs. Andres appeared on the Mothers at Home radio program with Judy Dudich on BlogTalkRadio. You can listen to the broadcast in the player below.


Br. Mary Evagrius Hayden, O.S.B (’08)Br. Mary Evagrius (Dominic ’08) Hayden, O.S.B., is a Benedictine monk at the Monastero San Benedetto in Norcia, Italy, the birthplace of Sts. Benedict and Scholastica. The 1,000-year-old monastery had fallen into a 200-year period of disuse until refounded by a group of American Benedictines in the great Jubilee Year of 2,000. Br. Evagrius, as he is known, is now one of two Thomas Aquinas College alumni pursuing vocations there, the other being the community’s subprior, Rev. Thomas (David’96) Bolin, O.S.B.

In August, Br. Evagrius made his solemn profession, and shortly afterward sent the following reflection about the experience to the College’s president, Dr. Michael F. McLean:

Mortuus sum, et vita mea est abscondita cum Christo in Deo.” “I am dead, and my life is hidden with Christ in God.”

This was the hymn that echoed above me as I lay stretched out upon the cold floor, a black funeral shroud draped over my still body. The funeral bells rang their mournful cry announcing the passage of another soul from this world … and I wept. I had given God all that I had: money, time, energy, even my own life dedicated fully to Him. But of what value are the things that I seek to give to Him when He possesses the universe? My gifts are like ashes and smoke.

A wise Abba once told me, “In the end all that we can give to God is our dying, and that pleases the spouse very much.” I had finally given that little gift to Him as well, prefiguring my own death in the flesh with my death from the world. Now I have nothing left, except the years of waiting until I am finally brought in to the wedding feast of the lamb.

When will my death be consummated so that I can be with the Spouse? I do not know. But until that day comes I must prepare myself, for as the same Abba told me, “The monastic life is a preparation for martyrdom.”

The hymn continued: “Non moriar sed vivam, et narrabo opera Domini.” “I will not die but I shall live, and I will proclaim the works of the Lord.”

Having made my solemn vows, I am now given a mission, to proclaim the works of the Lord by my life until that time when He should call me to lay it down out of love, a holocaust consumed, emptied as Christ emptied himself, to die just as He did. Then death loses its sting, it is no longer a tragedy of pain, fear and sorrow, but rather a separation from the obstacles that keep the soul from union with God, a joyful transformation from orphan-hood to son-ship, a resurrection to life everlasting.


Be sure not to miss these recent articles by alumni writers:

In The Public Discourse, S. Adam Seagrave (’05), a professor of political science at Northern Illinois University, addresses the often unspoken question that lies at the heart of debates about marriage law: Why does the state concern itself with marriage in the first place?

Although civil marriage is now commonly understood in the elevated terms characteristic of marriage’s more fundamental and profoundly fulfilling aspects, the purpose of civil marriage is, in fact, more in keeping with its sterile legality. Governments assign legal responsibilities and benefits to marriage, rather than to other relationships, to help mitigate the potentially destructive and tragic consequences of irresponsible procreation.

Writing for the National Catholic Register, Sophia Mason (’09), a graduate student at the Catholic University of America and a blogger, describes an informal evening with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at Washington’s Catholic Information Center:

The separation of church and state is, Scalia noted, “a subject that has been particularly good for Americans and that Americans have been particularly good at.”

The American skill in distinguishing the two is due in part to the diversity of American religious views, the “300 religions,” which makes separation of church and state “more politically needful in the United States than elsewhere.” It is also due, Scalia added less happily, to the growing decline in religiosity. “If one is a skeptic, it is easy to believe that one’s religious beliefs should not be imposed. … After all, one might be wrong!”

Also be sure also to see Miss Mason’s September story in the Register comparing the sagas of superheroes to the lives of the saints.

Finally, The New Oxford Review, Christopher Zehnder (’87), the general editor of the Catholic Schools Textbook Project, considers the question: What does it mean to “serve Mammon?”

The possession of great riches, thought not to be condemned in itself, nevertheless presents grave difficulties to the soul that seeks perfection. Great wealth coaxes us with a delight that “chokes the word.” It deludes us with a false security, tempting us to hoard our riches and to pull down our barns for larger ones. We become unwilling to live like the birds of the air or the lilies of the field and seek the Kingdom of God (Lk. 12:22-31); rather we are anxious to maintain what we have amassed and seek to amass more.

 

 


Venerable Solanus CaseyVenerable Fr. Solanus CaseyMichele (Grimm ’81) Loughman, a mother of 10, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She will be undergoing more tests over the next few days, and she and her husband, Pat (’78), a member of the Greater Los Angeles Board of Regents, will be weighing her options.

The Loughmans invite all to join them in seeking the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes and Venerable Fr. Solanus Casey. Please keep Michele, her family, and her doctors in your prayers!
 


Dr. and Mrs. GrimmDaniel J. Grimm (’76) and his wife, Rose (Teichert ’76)Having obtained a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology in 2006; having completed 3,000 hours of supervised treatment of couples, families, and individuals; and having passed the two exams specified by the State of California, Daniel J. Grimm (’76) is now a licensed marriage and family therapist. He has an office in Ojai, Calif., and also sees clients at Stillpoint Family Resources in South Pasadena. Additionally, he continues to direct the Thomas Aquinas College Choir, which will be performing Bach’s Mass in B at its Advent Concert on November 30.


Greg Pfundstein ('05)The executive director of New York City’s Chiaroscuro Foundation, Greg Pfundstein (’05) has been actively defending life — from conception to natural death — in several publications, both print and online.

First, Mr. Pfundstein, who holds a licentiate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America, weighs in on a debate in the pages of The Human Life Review over whether pro-lifers ought to frame their arguments in strictly secular terms. We will not reveal which side of the debate he takes (for that, go see the full article), but it is worth noting that, in making his case, he draws upon three authors from the College’s classical curriculum: Euclid, Boethius, and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Next Mr. Pfundstein shifts his focus from the young and vulnerable to the old and vulnerable, writing in The Public Discourse about an effort to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in Massachusetts:

Tens of thousands of Americans commit suicide every year. Nowhere in the U.S. is it a crime to do so. It is an unfortunate fact that some people determine that their lives are no longer worth living. But we see it as a tragedy; this is why high bridges often have signs encouraging troubled individuals to seek help rather than jump. Suicide hotlines are open 24 hours a day because we hope to prevent as many suicides as possible. This consistent cultural message is contradicted when we give doctors the right to prescribe lethal drugs as a medical treatment. It is like replacing the suicide intervention signs on bridges and railroad tracks with signs that say, “Ask your physician if jumping is right for you.”

Finally, in National Review, Mr. Pfundstein looks at how the Massachusetts campaign and others like it are part of a deliberate effort to make doctor-prescribed suicide the law of the land by way of the Supreme Court, à la Roe v. Wade:

Now let’s look a few years down the line, when advocates bring the case of an individual in, say, Alabama who, being terminally ill, desperately wants his doctor to provide a lethal prescription. When that case proceeds to the Supreme Court, what will a look at the “laboratory” show? Suicide as a medical treatment was made legal in Washington in 2008, Massachusetts in 2012, Vermont and New York in 2013, and New Mexico in 2014. This looks like an “emerging consensus,” doesn’t it?

Mr. Pfundstein’s conclusion is powerful: “The lesson of the last 40 years is clear: Fight now, not later” — and so he leads by example.

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