What If You Could Spend Your Quarantine with Thomas Aquinas?

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Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) stained glass window. Cathedral of Saint-Rombouts, Mechelen (Belgium). April 2008 (Eddy Van 3000/Wikimedia via Flickr)

I have some high hopes for the Thomistic Institute’s Quarantine Lectures, which start at 7 p.m. D.C. time tonight — “Grace and Anxiety: Spiritual Growth in a Time of Turmoil.” (Washington is where they are based out of. The Dominicans have been a mainstay in my life, so I confess some bias.) So I asked Fr. Gregory Pine, O.P., assistant director of Campus Outreach for the Thomistic Institute, a few preview questions for those who might be intrigued. (Sign up at the link above if interested. RSVP includes the delivery of a free prayer-book PDF for these times.)

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Why on earth would someone want to listen to a lecture at a time like this? Many people may be in crowded apartments and homes thinking they are hearing too much as is.

Fr. Gregory Pine: With everyone anxious about getting sick themselves, and, heaven forbid, transmitting the disease to those who are more vulnerable, we feel paralyzed. It’s as if our normal lives are on hold. Places of worship, places of work, places of enjoyment — many have been closed to us. With events like this, we’re hoping to create a new meeting place for students of the faith to encounter the riches of the tradition in its proper setting of living communion to reinvigorate our pursuit of evangelical life.

KJL: Whom do you hope to reach?

GP: The Quarantine Lectures are especially addressed to students who have been sent home from their campuses. Many have ended study-abroad semesters early or have had their senior years cut short. The Thomistic Institute is especially invested in programming on secular campuses, but seeing as it’s now impossible to reach these fora, we’ve changed the playing field.

KJL: What do you want to accomplish?

GP: Anyone can listen to a lecture on his or her own time, but there’s something special about a live-stream in which you can ask questions, interact with your peers, and contribute to the event. At the Thomistic Institute, we are insistent that it is the students themselves who are the protagonists of the work. Live-streaming affords the advantage of greater involvement and thus of a more intense participation in the effort of intellectual evangelization of the academy and the world.

KJL: Is this open to people who are not Catholic? For people who are not Christians? For people who do not consider themselves intellectuals?

GP: It’s open to whomever would like to join. The Zoom webinar can accommodate thousands. For those who don’t want to deal with the technology of Zoom, though, you can watch on Facebook or YouTube.

KJL: What is the Thomistic Institute exactly? What is it supposed to help with?

GP: The Thomistic Institute is a research institute of the Dominican House of Studies. It began as a way to deepen inquiry within the Catholic Intellectual Tradition by academic research, publication, and conferences. Five years ago, we began our campus chapters program. Now, students on secular campuses can organize as a chapter and host top-notch Catholic intellectuals for lectures and seminars. Students form a network through the U.S., Canada, England, and Ireland, and regularly come together for conferences and retreats.

KJL: What made you decide to do these lectures?

GP: With dozens of cancellations on our campuses, our ordinary apostolate was cut off, and so we had to find a way to deliver content for students in isolation. While the work was reeling from the devastation of the virus and major disruptions to ordinary life, we decided to go on spiritual offense with what means we had.

KJL: As far as I’m concerned, we’re all students tonight — I’m signed up. Again, here’s the link.

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