On the Secular University and the Church: Reconsidering Newman’s Philosophy of Education Today

When: Thursday, October 13th at 7:00pm

Where: Penn Newman Catholic Center

3720 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA, 19104

Co-sponsored by Penn Newman Catholic Community

Please join Collegium Institute and the Penn Newman Catholic Community for this historic inaugural lecture, the first part of an annual series that marks the legacy of the University of Pennsylvania as the site of the first Newman Club in America.

Dr. Don Briel is the founder, and was for 20 years director, of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of Saint Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota, which was the first such Center of its kind.  He has since led efforts to develop similar programs at both Catholic and secular research universities across the country.  At the University of St. Thomas he also held the Koch Chair of Catholic Studies and was the first non-clergyman to hold the Chair of the Theology Department.   He served for a time as Assistant Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  He now holds the Blessed John Henry  Newman Chair of Liberal Arts at the University of Mary.

Reception to Follow the Lecture

Please Register Here.  Any questions may be directed to Elizabeth Feeney at elife@sas.upenn.edu.

The text and video of Dr. Briel’s lecture can be found HERE.

Seeking the “Real” Francis of Assisi

Medieval Hagiography, Modern History, and Incarnational Theology

When: Tuesday, Sept 27th, 12:00-2:00pm

Where: Stiteler Hall, B26

A Collegium Institute luncheon lecture cosponsored by the Department of History, University of Pennsylvania

When Paul Sabatier published the first modern biography of St. Francis of Assisi in 1893, the medieval sources he favored and the approach he used to find the “historical Francis” behind the legends and myths triggered 100 years of contentious and often fierce debate about texts, interpretations, and proper historical method. By the 1980s many new sources had been discovered and the well-known ones had been meticulously edited and studied.  According to nearly all modern literary and cultural historians working on Francis, however, the historical man would always be hidden behind the source texts.  All that scholars could do was analyze the diverse “readings” of Francis produced by his medieval biographers.

Prof. Augustine Thompson proposes that this decision was a mistake and that the man behind the legends can be discovered, if not perfectly, with a high degree of certainty.  He demonstrated this conviction in his recent monograph, Francis of Assisi: A New Biography (Cornell Univ. Press, 2012), which has sold 70,000 copies over the last 4 years making it Cornell’s bestselling book of all time.  In this luncheon lecture, Thompson will explain the issues at stake, his approach, and the major changes of focus these imply.

Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P. (born New York, 1954), is a Catholic priest of the Order of Preachers and Professor of History at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology and member of the Core Doctoral Faculty of the Graduate Theological Union, Berkleley CA. He holds a Ph.D in medieval history from the Univ. of California, Berkeley CA. Until 2009 he was Professor of Religious Studies and History at the Univ. of Virginia, Charlottesville VA. His research focuses on medieval Italy and medieval religious history.  Among his monographs are Revival Preachers and Politics: The Great Devotion of 1233 (Cambridge, 2000); Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes, 1125-1325 (Penn State, 2006; Winner of the ACHA Howard R Marraro Prize for best book published in Italian History 2006); and now Francis of Assisi: A New Biography, winner of the 2013 Ennio Flaiano Prize in Italian Studies.

Lunch will be provided to all registrants during the lecture.

Register Here or contact Elizabeth Feeney for more information: elife@sas.upenn.edu.

Fall Faculty Colloquia Series: Between Justice and Mercy

Should our society be just or merciful? Should we forgive debts, pardon criminals, and offer private charity to the poor? Today, we often pit the two against each other, and question whether mercy is a virtue: we fear that mercy undercuts justice, which we understand in terms of rights and equal, impartial treatment. But mercy was long understood as a virtue that complements justice rather than contradicting it. This fall, Collegium Institute invites faculty members from the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, and other area universities to take part in a reading group spanning the history of justice and mercy, exploring the tension between the two and the values of justice and mercy in today’s world.

Our five-session survey may include:

1): The Ancient World: Selections from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Rhetoric and Seneca, De Clementia (On Mercy)

2): Christianity: Selections from Augustine’s City of God and Political Writings (Letters) and Aquinas’s Summa Theologica

3) The Renaissance: Dante’s Inferno (very brief selections) and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

4) The Enlightenment: Beccaria’s On Crime and Punishment and Kant’s Metaphysics of Morals (selections from book 6)

5) The Modern Era: C.S. Lewis’s The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment, Melville’s Billy Budd, Samuel Beckett, “Dante & the Lobster”

For more information or to participate, contact program coordinator Elizabeth Feeney: elife@sas.upenn.edu

Coffee With The Classics Module I:

Can Politics Be Redeemed?

When: 09/07 | 09/14 | 09/21 | 09/28

Time: Wednesdays, 6:30-8pm

Where: Harrison House


Conflict and animosity seem to have reached unprecedented levels in the current election season.  The most disturbing aspect of this phenomenon, however, may not be its shocking proportions, but on the contrary, its increasing inability to shock us.  We are no longer surprised. Verbal attacks, corruption, negative integration: these “scandals” now seem routine, if not banal.  Behind any compromise or agreement, we tend to assume not so much goodwill as an affinity of interests.  Is it sensible to be so jaded?  What is the end of politics anyway? How much or what kind of unity is necessary in a pluralistic society to be able to pursue a truly common good?  Is there hope for politics, or is that just another self-serving slogan?

This September, the Coffee with the Classics seminar will join students together with faculty facilitators in community to explore these timely yet perennial questions by sifting salient, classical responses to them.  We will consider brief selections from the great conversation of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Marx, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Winthrop, and Aquinas, none of whom were of one mind, and discuss them over dinner freely, uncompelled by requirements or grades, for our own sakes and, perhaps, for the sake of the polis.

To join this four-part weekly dinner series in September, directed by the Collegium Institute Student Association at Penn, please fill up this form with your contact information and a brief letter of interest (50-250 wds).

Admitted students will receive all dinners free of charge.


Previous Meetings of the Circle of St. Bede

January 2016

“Celebration of the Eucharist is the Heart of the Life of the Catholic Church.  The church is where the Eucharist is, and the Eucharist forms the church.”  ~Gerald O’Collins, S.J. Living Vatican II: The Council for the 21st Century

Jan 19“The Fight for Religious Freedom, John Coutney Murray’s Role in ‘Dignitatis Humanae'” America, Nov. 20, 2015.  Discussion led by Dr. Tom Finnegan, physicist.

Feb 2: “Contemporary Medical Miracles.” Discussion led by Dr. Michael Atchison, School of Veterinary Medicine.

Feb 9: “The Eucharist as the Telos of the Law in the Writings of Thomas Aquinas” by Robert Barron. Discussion led by Ron Day, retired law librarian.

Feb 16: “Ted Kennedy: Priest-Friend of the Australian Aborigines. Part 1″ Discussion led by Dr. Tom Connolly, professor emeritus of music.

Mar 1: “Between Religion and Science: Georges Lemaitre, Pope Pius XII and the Big Bang Theory.” by Alexander Van Biezen.  Discussion led by Dr. Tom Finnegan, physicist.

Mar 8: “An Ecologically Adequate Folklore: Responding to Pope Francis’s Invitation in Laudate Si” Presentation by Dr. Mary Hufford, Senior Research Scientist, Virginia Tech University.

Mar 15: “Holy Rosary: the luminous mysteries.” Led by Tom Connolly, emeritus professor of music.

Mar 22: “Stations of the Cross by Julian of Norwich.” Led by Dr. Tom Connolly, emeritus professor of music.

Mar 29: “The Dark Box: the Secret History of Confession” by John Cornwell, Basic Books, 2014. Discussion led by Joan Rolland, art historian.

Apr 5: “Psalm day. Bring a copy of your favorite psalm.” Coordinated by Ron Day, retired Law Librarian.

Apr 12: “The Jubilee Year of Mercy.” Presented by Meghan Cokely, Director of the Office for New Evangelization, Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Apr 19: “AINULINDALÉ – The Music of the Ainur.” Pp. 3 – 13. From The Silmarillion by J.R. Tolkein. Presented by Dr. Phil Cary, Eastern University.

Apr 26: “The Holy Rosary. Led by Dr. Tom Connolly, emeritus professor ofmusic.

May 3: “Natural Law” pp. pp. xiii – xviii in: Dissenting Opinions by Oliver Wendell Holmes. Vanguard, New York, 1929. Discussion led by Dr. Tom Connolly, emeritus professor of music.

May 10: “Not in God's Name: Confronting Religious Violence.” By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Discussion led by Dr. Dan Cheely, Executive Director of the Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture.

September 2015

“Appearances notwithstanding, every person is

immensely holy and deserves our love.”

          Pope Francis

          The Joy of the Gospel

Sept. 8 Marisa March: Put out into the Deep:  Finding Faith in the Depths of the Universe

Sept. 15 Tom Connolly: Essay on Faith and Science – Eugene Stockton

Sept. 22  Tom Finnegan: Laudato Si  Encyclical – Chapter 1

Sept. 29  Peter Dodson: Chapter from A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and the Great War

October 2014 

Tues. Oct. 7. “On the holy rosary.” Discussion led by Dr. Marisa Marsh, astrophysicist, Dept. of Physics.

Tues. Oct. 14. “On consulting the faithful in matters of doctrine” by John Henry Newman, 1859. Discussion led by Dr. Peter Dodson, School of Veterinary Medicine.

Oct. 21. Open

Oct. 28. Open

April 2014

April 1. “”Parker’s Back,” a short story by Flannery O’Connor.” Discussion will be led by a special guest, Dr. Phil Cary of Eastern University.

April 8. “Swedenborg and Osteopathy.” Special guest: Dr. David Fuller, D.O.

April 15: “Stations of the Cross with Meditations of Julian of Norwich.” Led by Tom Connolly, emeritus professor of music.

April 22. “Richard Wagner and his cultural impact.” Discussion led by Brooke McCorkle, Ph.D. candidate in music.

April 29. “Evangelii Gaudium – the Joy of the Gospel.” Exhortation of Pope Francis. Chapter 5, Spirit-Filled Evangelizers.”  Discussion led by Tom Finnegan, physicist.


Summer 2016 Platonic Symposia

On Virtue in the Polis,
and in its Leadership

The Platonic Symposia of Donald Antenen, Collegium alumnus, will continue this summer under the direction of Dr. Anne Hall, Penn English Professor and moderator of Collegium’s inaugural Coffee with the Classics program.

This summer, in anticipation of the election this fall, the reading group will explore Plato’s Meno, Gorgias, and Protagoras. These three dialogues raise three questions–what is virtue and who teaches it? what is the connection between virtue and human happiness? and what is the connection between virtue and human dignity?

Participants will meet weekly to discuss these dialogues in a convivial setting with light refreshments. Copies of the dialogues will be awarded to committed participants while supplies last. Sessions will begin in mid-June on Penn’s campus and take place on a regular evening agreed upon by the participants.

The group will be organized by Mark Hoover, summer student fellow at the Collegium Institute. If you would like to participate, please contact him by May 31st at hooverm@sas.upenn.edu.  You may also sign up for the group by submitting this form.

Please join the Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture and
the Penn Newman Center for

Alumni Weekend 2016
Sunday, May 15th

Mass at 9:30 a.m.
St. Agatha – St. James Church
3720 Chestnut Street

followed by

Brunch at Penn Newman Center


Remarks by Mattt Manion W’92,
President of Catholic Leadership Institute

“What is the Laity in the Age of Pope Francis?”

RSVP here.

For questions, write to Katie Becker at kbec@sas.upenn.edu

The Organization Professor? With Dr. Anthony Grafton

When: Friday, April 15, 2016
12:00-1:30 p.m.
Where: Cohen Hall 402
University of Pennsylvania

Collegium’s Spring 2016 Humanities Forum will focus on a seminal essay of David Brooks, the New York Times Columnist who is Penn’s Baccalaureate Speaker this year and the recipient of an honorary doctorate of humane letters.

In “The Organization Kid”  (Atlantic Monthly, April 2001), Brooks argued that Princeton students and their classmates at peer institutions were arriving to college as professional résumé builders – they were hardly interested in learning for its own sake, let alone for their own personal or moral development.  The article stimulated a lively debate in its own time: was Brooks’s assessment fair or was it dependent upon a romantic notion of university life that never existed in any age?  From that point forward, Brooks continued to write about the nature, purpose, and transformation of American higher education.

Fifteen years later, we will revisit how the Organization Kids have grown up.   Some are back in the same place –elite colleges– this time trying to teach, and moreover to publish.  The pressure to produce in quantity has never been greater for faculty and grad students.  Does professors’ (necessary) participation in this system of retention and promotion have any impact upon the force of their erstwhile admonitions for students to eschew over-professionalization, pursue the liberal arts, take time to read widely and think deeply, etc.?   If indeed there is a systemic problem affecting professors as much as students, what might be done to address it?

This is a luncheon lecture — to reserve you place, please register here!  For questions contact Katie Becker at kbec@sas.upenn.edu

Featuring Dr. Anthony Grafton
Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton University

Professor Grafton’s special interests lie in the cultural history of Renaissance Europe, the history of books and readers, the history of scholarship and education in the West from Antiquity to the 19th century, and the history of science from Antiquity to the Renaissance. Professor Grafton is the author of ten books and the coauthor, editor, coeditor, or translator of nine others.

He has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (1989), the Los Angeles Times Book Prize (1993), the Balzan Prize for History of Humanities (2002), and the Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Achievement Award (2003), and is a member of the American Philosophical Society and the British Academy. In 2011 he served as President of the American Historical Association.

Coffee with the Classics: Spring 2016

On Nature and Human Nature
Part II: From Galileo to Google

Students have been gathering this spring in continuation of a survey of Natural Philosophy begun last fall.  Sessions 1-3 covered the ideas of Galileo, Descartes, Bacon, Hobbes, and Newton.  Dr. Mike Kane facilitates.  Dinner, coffee, and all texts are provided free of charge for all participants.  Coffee with the Classics takes place Wednesday evenings in Harrison College House, Seminar Room M20.  A summary of previous sessions can be found at Collegium Portal.

Join us for special guest facilitators on March 24 and April 6!
Email Katie Becker (kbec@sas.upenn.edu) to register and get a copy of the readings.

Session 4: The Romantic Reaction
Wednesday, March 24, 2016, 6-7:30 p.m (dinner ready at 5:45)

Featuring special guest Dr. Michael Gamer

Associate Professor of English at Penn
Faculty Master at Harrison College House
The Romantic thinkers reacted against the excessive rationalism of the Enlightenment and the dehumanizing effects of industrialization.  In both of these areas, they challenged the existing ideas about human nature and the natural world.  The call to return to nature as a way of satisfying the human spirit was an essential part of the Romantic outlook, as was a sense of respect for the beauty of nature. Professor Gamer will be facilitating discussion on poems by Shelley and Wordsworth.

Session 5: Darwin
Wednesday, April 6, 2016, 6-7:30 p.m (dinner ready at 5:45)

Featuring special guest Dr. Peter Dodson
Professor of Veterinary Gross Anatomy
Professor of Earth and Environmental Science (paleontology)

Darwin’s Origin of Species was a scientific advance of enormous proportions, and one which represented nature in a new way.  For Darwin, nature is a self-evolving force, with a direction but with no telos as for Aristotle, and with selection but no design.  By showing humans as the product of evolution from lower species, Darwin also reshaped the discussion about nature and human nature (as well as faith and reason). Professor Dodson will be facilitating discussion on excerpts from Origin of Species and Darwin’s autobiography.

Session 6: The Human, the Natural, and the Artificial
Wednesday, April 20, 2016, 6-7:30 p.m (dinner ready at 5:45)

Featuring readings by B.F. Skinner, Ray Kurzweil, and Pope Francis

Skinner argued that we are simply the product of our environment and have little to no influence over nature.  We should therefore give up metaphysical ideas such as human freedom.  Kurzweil, chief futurist for Google, argues for the “Singularity”, the stage at which machine learning surpasses human intelligence and allows us to rewrite the human experience of the natural world.  This would culminate in personal immortality through technology.  Pope Francis makes the case for prudent restraints on technology as he urges us to correct for the excessive anthropocentrism of modern thought, and to care instead for the planet and the poor.