In the last week of May and first days of June I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in a Fides et Ratio seminar organized by the Faith and Reason Institute. This seminar was held at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire. The goal of the seminar is to give Catholic educators an opportunity to study and discuss great authors of the Catholic Intellectual and Spiritual Tradition. The topic for the seminar I’d be attending was “The Church Fathers, Doctors, Popes, Sacred Art & Music I” and I hope to attend the second one next year.
My flight connected through Amsterdam (a first time there for me and it is a nice, clean airport) and then I arrived in Boston, just a little over an hour’s drive away from Merrimack. It was the first time I’d been in New England since 2014, when I spent the summer in Rhode Island to finish my doctoral dissertation, and it was nice to be back in the States, even if only for about a week. I made it to Merrimack from the airport without incident, and celebrated my return to America with some Chinese takeout thanks to the help of Ethan, an intern organizing the event.
I’d arrived a day early to get over the jet lag and read a little more to prepare for the seminar. I spent Saturday reading St. Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine, my first read, and it was nice to have hours of quiet study in a faculty lounge (I am a professor). The college is small, about ninety students, and they have a four-year liberal arts curriculum. The students were on summer vacation already, with the exception of around eight or so who had jobs on campus during the summer.
We had an excellent selection of readings. Church Fathers from the East and the West, including St. Athanasius and St. Augustine, Medieval authors, like St. Anselm and St. Bernard of Clairvaux, authors of modern spiritual theology, including St. Teresa of Jesus and St. Francis de Sales, and more recent popes, including St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Other than two high school teachers and one doctoral candidate, the rest were university professors and the wealth of knowledge present made for some very enriching discussions.
I also served as chaplain with daily Mass and time for confessions. On the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus the students prepared some polyphony to sing. It was the tenth anniversary of my diaconate ordination and the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, so I thanked all those present, since a priest sanctifies himself through performing his ministry, so by participating in Mass we were helping to sanctify each other. The next day the seminar concluded in the morning and it was time to return to Rome after a wonderful academic and pastoral experience.