Faith in Action Blog
A doctoral student at the Catholic University of America, Kathleen Sullivan (’06) has served as a prefect at the Thomas Aquinas College Great Books High School Summer Program for each of the past eight years. She has recently written a reflection about her experience in the program:
… [I]t took me a couple more classes before I gathered my courage to enter into my class conversation. Once I did, it was the light turning on again. This was how school should be! To be responsible for my learning, to develop my critical thinking skills, to learn how to effectively communicate, to read and discuss these texts without the filter of an editor was all in my grasp. I wanted to skip the rest of high school and enter Thomas Aquinas College right away. Yet I returned to high school with a new perspective on education, and found myself more frequently raising my hand to ask questions or propose comments. An education is not passive; it is active, alive, and all within reach at colleges such at Thomas Aquinas where to be liberally educated is to be truly free.
Be sure to read the whole essay, and please share it with any high school juniors who may be interested in attending the 2013 program!
Writer, illustrator, and educator Sean Fitzpatrick (’02) has a new story for Crisis magazine about the Pope’s surprising resignation, The Radical Return to Ratzinger. Long billed as a “radical” the Holy Father’s abdication, argues Mr. Fitzpatrick, is his first truly shocking act:
“For being such a radical Pope, the rest of the world can now truly say that Benedict came around to their meaning of the word. His resignation was, in a sense, the first radical thing this radical Pope ever did. If it is nothing else, it is at least surprising. But surprises are to be expected from those who follow Christ.”
Mr. Fitzpatrick is becoming something of a regular in Crisis, having penned two literary columns in December about fiction for the Christmas season.
When he graduated from Thomas Aquinas College, Matthew Kuemmerlein (’07) never anticipated that he would soon spend two years in the jungles of the Far East. Eastern Europe seemed more likely. He had studied in Prague for a year before coming to the College, and for one year after his graduation he taught English there. Upon returning home, he applied to several graduate programs in Eastern European studies.
Around that time, however, another idea captured his imagination — the Peace Corps. A tour of duty, he thought, would broaden his experiences, allow him to learn another foreign language, and satisfy his residual wanderlust. “It seemed like a program where I could use my skills as a teacher in a foreign country, while giving me latitude to work on a variety of other projects as well,” he says. So he deferred entry to graduate school and undertook the Corps’ lengthy application process. One year later, he received his admittance, as well as the assignment that would shift not just the geography, but the very nature, of his long-term plans....
Architect and planner Erik Bootsma (’01) has written a hopeful story for the Adoremus Bulletin about a positive shift in sacred architecture, as evidenced by a new church in Leesburg, Va.:
St. John’s is far from the first traditional church built recently in the United States, but it is one that gets the important things right. St. John the Apostle is an encouraging sign that the painfully learned lessons of the past half-century of sacred architecture are starting to be understood by the clergy and the Church as a whole. Laity and clergy alike have learned that sacrificing tradition for fads and the latest styles leads to irrelevance in the next generation, and that art and liturgy that is “up to date” is soon out of date. It is becoming a common understanding now that traditional architectural forms are valued for their usefulness liturgically and spiritually to foster deep connections to the roots of our faith.
Read the full story for more about St. John’s, as well as Mr. Bootsma’s thoughts about the state of liturgical architecture.
The owner of Bootsma Design Services, Mr. Bootsma received his master’s degree in architecture from the University of Notre Dame and is a board member of the National Civic Art Society and of the Mid-Atlantic/Washington Institute of Classical Architecture & Art. He also blogs about ecclesiastical architecture and the philosophy of beauty at The Radiance of Form.
Buoyed by the success of last year’s inaugural Pasadena Schubertiade, the event’s co-founder and artistic director, Stephen Grimm (’75), will soon be presenting the second annual Pasadena Schubertiade — which is set to run for an entire week! Taking place at several venues and offering a wide range of performances, the music festival will begin on Sunday, February 10, and continue through the February 17. Tickets are available at pasadenaschubertiade.org.
A member of the College’s first class, Mr. Grimm is the director of Pasadena Pro Musica. He is additionally a composer, a voice instructor, and a member of the Los Angeles Master Chorale. On occasion, he can also be seen assisting the choir at his alma mater, or directing choirs at St. Monica’s Academy and St. Augustine Academy, two award-winning Catholic schools headed by fellow Thomas Aquinas College alumni.
Two alumni of the College — Dr. Thomas Cavanaugh (’85), chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco, and Dr. Brian Kelly (’88), dean of Thomas Aquinas College — make an appearance in a lovely story about Dr. Ralph McInerny that appears today in Crisis magazine. The article, by Dr. Christopher Kaczor of Loyola Marymount University, is timed for the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, and fittingly so, given Dr. McInerny’s devotion to the Universal Doctor.
In addition to being a renowned Thomistic philosopher, a bestselling novelist, and a beloved father of seven, Dr. McInerny was the mentor and teacher to scores of accomplished young scholars. Among them were Drs. Cavanaugh, Kelly, and Kaczor, as well as numerous alumni and tutors of the College.
The piece, Remembering Ralph McInerny, is a delightful read, especially on this Feast.
The most recent issue of Thomas Aquinas College’s quarterly newsletter featured profiles of the College’s five newest alumni priests, all ordained within the last year. Those profiles are now available online:
- Rev. Jerome Augustine Zeiler, O.P. (’00)
Dominican Friars, Province of St. Joseph
- Rev. Joseph Bolin (’01)
Archdiocese of Vienna (Austria)
- Rev. Maximilian Okapal, O.Praem. (’02)
Canons Regular of Premontre, Orange County (Calif.)
- Rev. Fadi Auro (’03)
Archdiocese of St. Louis (Mo.)
- Rev. Francis Marotti (’07)
Diocese of Kalamazoo (Mich.)
Although many pro-lifers cheered Time magazine’s recent cover-story pronouncement that abortion champions have “been losing ever since” their 1973 triumph in Roe v. Wade, ethicist and theologian Dr. Pia de Solenni (’93) is less sanguine. Writing for the National Catholic Register, she observes:
Framing the abortion movement as in decline is particularly interesting, since the story was published just days before Planned Parenthood released its annual report marking a record number of abortions: 333,964.
The family-planning organization also received $542 million in government funding, possibly an all-time high, and had $87.4 million in excess revenue, with $1.2 billion in net assets. It seems that, for Planned Parenthood, business is booming.…
Noting Time magazine’s unflinching support for legal abortion, Dr. de Solenni suspects that political calculations are at the root of its assessment about the state of the abortion wars:
In Washington, D.C., it’s widely accepted that the party or issue that loses a political race inevitably gets a windfall in donations. After all, there’s nothing like a political loss to prove to supporters how desperately their cash is needed to advance this very important cause just before it’s defeated forever.
On the flip side, it’s much harder to create a fundraising urgency when people think that a particular issue is succeeding and well-supported by government policies. There’s no evidence that their donations are needed, at least not nearly as much. After all, they’ve reached the goal for which they donated, whether it’s getting a candidate elected or putting a policy in place.
Nevertheless, a well-placed article — let’s say, on the cover of Time — making the case that major advances are about to be lost creates a great sense of urgency for the supporters of that allegedly about-to-be-lost cause.
Dr. de Solenni (’93) discusses the matter further on “Register Radio” with host Tim Drake, audio of which is available online on the Register’s website.
Greg Pfundstein (’05) continues to wage the difficult battle to protect the unborn in New York. The executive director of the Chiaroscuro Foundation, a non-profit philanthropic organization in Manhattan, Mr. Pfundstein has issued a strong statement condemning Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s support for the Reproductive Health Act, which would further undercut the state’s minimal restrictions on abortion. “The notion that women need more access to abortion in New York is simply preposterous,” he says.
In support of that contention, Mr. Pfundstein cites extensive — and horrific — data that the Chiaroscuro Foundation has compiled about the rate of abortion in the Big Apple. “The rate of abortion in New York City is nearly twice the national average, with 40 percent of pregnancies ending in abortion in the city,” he notes. “In some zip codes, the abortion ratio approaches 60 percent.”
According to a Chiaroscuro Foundation poll, solid majorities of New Yorkers favor increased restrictions on abortion — as opposed to the more expansive abortion license that Gov. Cuomo proposes. “New Yorkers support sensible restrictions to bring down New York City’s unconscionably high rate of abortion, and Gov. Cuomo promises the exact opposite in the Reproductive Health Act,” says Mr. Pfundstein. “New York certainly needs abortion legislation, but the RHA is not it.”
Writer, illustrator, and educator Sean Fitzpatrick (’02) has reviewed two Christmas-season classics for “The Civilized Reader” feature in Crisis magazine. First is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which, he warns, “is no Hallmark affair to be taken lightly, much less dismissed as tacky and trite”:
A Christmas Carol is a preparation, and the process it initiates is not an easy one. Everyone knows in his or her own way that it is a steep path fraught with difficulty. But, as the ghostly mentors of Scrooge held up a mirror to him rigidly, relentlessly, and sometimes reluctantly, so too must we face our own inward conversions and cleansings, looking to don a garment worthy of the Bridegroom’s coming. Alongside of Scrooge, groveling in the shadows of our own tombstones, all are beckoned to declare themselves not the men they were but for the holy intercourses of the Advent season prompted by this wonderful story. Many hearkening to this call, swear to lead a changed life, an altered life that will honor the spirit of Christmas in their hearts, and try to keep it all the year, living in the past, the present, and the future.
Next, Mr. Fitzpatrick revisits The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter:
The Tailor of Gloucester is a tale that keeps alive the belief that there are ordinary things in the world that can accomplish extraordinary things. With God all things are possible. This is the principal theme of Christmastime, making it a time to faithfully hang our stockings by the fire with care in the hopes that elves will soon be there — because they are there, under the wooden wainscots, (“though there are very few folk that can hear them, or know what it is that they say.”)
Those looking to purchase these works may want to do so by way of the College’s Amazon Gateway. Meanwhile, when the Christmas season is past, be sure to see Mr. Fitzpatrick’s review of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes.