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Called by the Church historian, Jaroslav Pelikan, “the most important theological thinker of modern times,” Cardinal Newman is perhaps best known for his work on university education. His most significant intellectual work, however, was in the area of development of doctrine, the relations of faith and reason, and the role of authority and conscience in the life of the Church. This course considers the contemporary relevance of Newman’s thought in each of these areas and examines his sermons and devotional writings, works which led T. S. Eliot to refer to Newman as one of the two greatest homilists in the English language.
In some regards the 13th century was a barbarous age, pre-scientific and sometimes superstitious, torn by conflicts and wars. At the same time it was an era of magnificent intellectual and cultural achievement, a time in which cathedrals were built and universities founded. St Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) was a man of his time but his work, like that of many of his contemporaries, transcended his century. Today Thomas is remembered principally for his Summa theologiae, the textbook on theology that he wrote for beginning students and for his numerous careful commentaries on the work of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher. Even so, as important as the Summa is, about a third of Thomas’s extant work consists of commentaries on Scripture. Another major portion of his work, much neglected, consists of efforts to defend the teachings of Catholicism against its critics, both internal and external. The focus of this course will be to explore critical elements of Thomas’s thinking as a theologian in three general areas: systematic theology, biblical commentary, and apologetics.
The development of modern Western culture is often described as a steady process of “secularization,” in which a distinctively Christian vision of reality inexorably recedes, leaving in its wake a “disenchanted” but presumptively real world best described by the natural sciences, or an exclusively naturalistic philosophy, with no place for God or the transcendent. Drawing on the recent work of Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor (A Secular Age, 2007) and others, this course examines recent challenges to this “master narrative” of a secularized modernity. How did this narrative come to achieve the status of unquestioned truth? How might we tell the story of modernity in a way that does not foreclose the reality of God and transcendence, but is also more than nostalgia for an imagined past? Recent debates over the coherence of “secularization” narratives provide the occasion for rediscovering the richness of the Catholic intellectual tradition as a vantage point from which to engage and critique modern culture.
The heart of any culture, as well as its continuity, can be found in its educational tradition, the distillation for the next generation of its highest ideals and most important truths. For the West this began with the Greeks, who set in place, some five centuries before Christ, the main aspects of a tradition that lasted, with significant developments, up until very recent times. This course will trace that tradition, using both primary and secondary source material, and will include: its origins in fifth-century BC Greece; its universalization during the Hellenistic period; its encounter with Christianity in the Patristic era; its Christian instantiation under the Carolingian Empire; the great Medieval educational synthesis and the rise of the University; the development of Renaissance humanism and the Ratio Studiorum of the Jesuits; Newman’s classic expression of the tradition in The Idea of a University; and the great challenge to that tradition and change that has taken place during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
In this course, we will read and discuss Dante's masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. While we will situate the poem in history and will pay close attention to the poem's engagement with political and theological controversies, our main task will be to attend to the language, structure, and imagery of Dante's poem itself.
This is a course that has been taught several times in CSMA. There is continued enthusiasm for the course among students and faculty, and the course fulfills an area requirement for students. Ecology and care for God’s creation is a vital concern in the Catholic intellectual and cultural tradition, and the course contributes to efforts at St. Thomas to educate students in that tradition.
This course introduces students to the origins and philosophical principles that have defined the mission and purpose of Western and Catholic education, both in approach and content, over the course of history from Classical Greece to present day United States. Reading the key texts that have shaped the course of educational history, students will investigate when and why Catholic education has diverged from modern philosophies of education. Additionally, the course examines the historic and current role of the Catholic school in society and within the Church through a careful reading and discussion of Church documents on education. Prerequisite: DVPT 575
This course will provide the occasion to consider the complex issue of "environmental stewardship" from the perspectives of traditional Catholic theses concerning the meaning of creation and the status of the human person within it. Special emphasis is given to the Thomistic categories of natural philosophy and theology. The course will be conducted in a seminar fashion, that is, common readings will be discussed at each class in light of fundamental themes developed throughout the whole.