Earlier this year I found myself studying Pope Pius XII’s 1950 encyclical, “Humani Generis” (On the Human Race). This dazzling document confronts the errors that the human mind can easily fall into, many rooted in either trusting human reason to pass judgment on divine matters, or conversely, taking Scripture as an isolated guide to the exclusion of human reason. The Holy Father remonstrates against a dizzying array of modern heresies and “-isms” that were just beginning to loom at the time of his writing. But I read the encyclical with increasing dismay, because I recognized in his warnings the opinions and mental habits that have become the norm today, even among educated people, even among faithful Catholics.
I was attempting to write a study guide by which teachers and parents could discuss the encyclical with young people. But I kept running into the same problem: we did not listen to Pius XII’s warning, and now we lack the education and the mental tools even to understand his message.
But there’s hope. I’ve seen in my own life the dramatic difference that was made by returning to the sources of our faith. Approaching the “perennial philosophy” as a student rather than a critic has benefitted my life even in practical ways: Aristotle’s On the Soul illuminates a clearer path to human virtue and fulfillment than all the psychology and self-help books at the bookstore.
Remedying the lacks that modern education has left us with is hard work, but it is possible and so rewarding. That’s why the Aquinas Institute is still striving to bring the possibility of personal engagement with the sources of our tradition to anyone willing to undertake it, through our online classes. This fall, students in The Philosophy of Man course will have the chance to study Aristotle’s On the Soul, as well as looking at it in light of the faith, by reading St. Thomas Aquinas’s commentary on it. Students in The Medieval Vision course will encounter Augustine’s Confessions, Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, and Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Our graduate theology courses will address the concerns of “Humani Generis” even more directly. Nothing brings home the continuity of the Church’s teaching like reading the works of the early Church Fathers. And no work of the human mind is more challenging, more humbling, and more rewarding than delving deeper into the mystery of the Holy Trinity. It’s never too late to embark on this study, and it’s never too soon to begin contemplating what will fill our souls for eternity.
Enrollment is currently open for the fall term. All courses will be held in the twelve-week session beginning August 30th and ending November 20th.
- The Liberal Arts Program will be offering the Philosophy of Man taught by Dr. Vincent DeMeo and The Medieval Vision taught by Dr. Jason Baxter.
Philosophy of Man (PHL 201) – Dr. DeMeo, who teaches at the International Theological Institute in Austria, and has also taught for the Austrian programs for Ave Maria University and Franciscan University of Steubenville as well as Thomas Aquinas College in California, will lead students in thinking about the question of man, focusing on Aristotle’s On the Soul; Parts of Animals and St. Thomas Aquinas Commentary on Aristotle’s On the Soul. The class will meet Tuesdays and Fridays 12:00pm-1:20pm CT.
The Medieval Vision (HMN 201) – Dr. Baxter, a professor at Wyoming Catholic College where he researches and teaches Greek, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance humanities courses along with art history and has published articles and writings on the Platonic tradition and the Latin West and Dante, will take students into the world of Dante’s Commedia: Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso, St. Augustine’s Confessions and Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy. Meeting times of weekends or evenings are to be determined with the students.
- The Graduate Theology Courses will include Church Fathers I, taught by Dr. Michael Foley, along with The Mystery of the Holy Trinity, taught by Dr. Susan Waldstein.
Church Fathers I (THL 513) – Dr. Michael Foley, a Professor of Patristics in the Great Texts Program at Baylor University and the author of approximately 300 articles and author of 11 books, will lead the students in a course of Patristics as guided by some of the great Church Fathers such as St. Clement of Rome, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp, St. Cyprian, St. Augustine, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Basil and Pseudo-Dionysius. The class will meet online, Mondays and Wednesdays 3:00pm-4:20pm CT.
The Mystery of the Holy Trinity (THL 522) – Dr. Waldstein, who has taught graduate theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and Ave Maria University, as well as the International Theological Institute in Austria, will guide the students in a closer look and understanding of the ultimate mystery of the Holy Trinity. St. Augustine (On the Trinity) and St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae I, qq 27-43) will be main sources along with the Preface of the Most Holy Trinity and the Council of Florence. Online meetings will be Saturdays 12:30pm-3:10pm CT.