Lessons Learned From A Catholic College’s Summer Bulletin


It’s late spring here in New Hampshire. Birds are chirping, frogs are cheeping, and loons are warbling. Red Sox fans, insufferable in victory, are crawling out of hibernation. After the long, snowy winter, two other unmistakable signals herald the arrival of warmer weather:

Motorcycles. Phalanxes of Harley-Davidsons, in fact, their baffled stock exhaust systems replaced with extrude-honed straight pipes, roaring up and down our scenic byways – mostly the one in front of my house. The BLAAAT BLAAAT of each stroke of their pony-keg-sized cylinders rattling windows, shaking loose fillings, and inspiring in me wicked daydreams involving taut fishing line and my .22 Ruger.
Mosquitoes, gorging themselves on my blood and my children’s till their eyes bubble. Not just any mosquitoes, mind you, but some kind of Africanized hybrid mosquito that scares bats and shows up on radar. And they fly by night and day, fearing not the sun. I call them the Biting Uruk-Hai.
But that’s not all. Across all of New England, a hothouse of academia, the month of May also means the publication of summer-session bulletins from our many fine colleges and universities. I happen to have two of these in front of me now – one from a well-known Catholic school whose faculty placed an ad in the NY Times protesting the Mandatum, but whose football team almost beat Clemson last year; and the other from a small startup college well-known for its fidelity to the Magisterium, ubiquity of jumpers and rosary rings, and predominantly homeschooled student body. And I’m happy to share some of their highlights with you:
Holy Dame University of Boston in the Jesuit Tradition
Theology 000: The Via Negativa
Ancient theologians taught that we are to pursue knowledge of divine truth by negation: since God is essentially unknowable, the path to wisdom consists in freeing ourselves of dogmatic formulas that can never express the full truth about the Creator. Students will therefore begin by reading the Summa Theologica and Enchiridion Symbolorum, then regress slowly to the Baltimore Catechism, back issues of Catholic Digest, the Joshua novels, and finally, Hope for the Flowers.
Deconstructing the Jesus Seminar
For decades we have been taught to believe in the literal existence of a Jesus Seminar (or “Jesus Seminar”), whose idealized, quasi-historical members are said to convene in Northern California twice a year to vote on the actual words and actions of Jesus. But recent scholarship casts fresh doubts on that traditional dogma. This course will demonstrate how the idea of the Jesus Seminar was not “revealed” to progressive Episcopalians, but was actually borrowed from a Canadian academic myth-tradition and adapted to the Dark Age culture of the Reagan Administration; that what we call the “Seminar” today was really a group of separate and autonomous local seminars: some voting with colored beads, others using slips of paper, still others preferring to send email; and that the Seminar’s entire canon of annual reports, with its textual variations and befuddling self-contradictions, in fact derives from a single, unified proto-report that no one has ever seen but, doggone it, has to exist. Possible excursus (time permitting): In Search of the Real John Shelby Spong.
The Vagina Monologues
This mainstay of Catholic university theater is justly renowned for its frank and unflinching examination of rape, incest, genital mutilation, sadomasochism, and other common vagina-centric experiences of which we all need graphic annual reminders. Course will exhaustively review and compare Monologues performances of years past to determine which most successfully challenge the forces of Phallocracy . . . and in the hopes of inspiring fruitful vagina dialogues among all studynts.
Liberation Theology for Undergraduates
Did you know that the early Christians, like, sold all their possessions and shared the money equally with each other? In a wild immersion experience, this course will totally explore the true original meaning of Christianity, before the Man came along and harshed it. Hands-on practicum will include eBaying all your gear, growing beans, picking beans, cleaning beans, eating bean mush, selling flowers at the airport, as well as making hemp sandals that are so like the ones John the Baptist wore. Cost per credit: how much you got?

Special Seminars:

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  • Comparative Religion: Whatever You Believe, That’s Great Too
  • Liturgical Flashdance: Advanced Choreography, Costume Design, and Pyrotechnics for Today’s Worship-Space Needs
  • The Social Gospel: How to Make it Pay Off (in five easy steps)
College of John Paul II the Awesome
Theology of Everything
You’ve heard of the Theology of the Body – well, that’s just the beginning! In this course you’ll learn how every field of human knowledge can be imbued with a tantalizingly vague spiritual significance. From the Trinitarian model of time, space, and energy (astrophysics majors, take note), to the Eucharistic symbols in Moby Dick; from the curious (though not accidental, as you’ll see) prevalence of the number seven in accounting textbooks, to the parallels between corporate law and the Mosaic Law – whatever your field of study, you’ll find a way to make it more Catholic.
Praying for Stuff
Do you have any prayer intentions? Sure, everybody does. This course will focus on praying for them, and for the intentions of other students, their families, and friends. The varied survey approach will utilize mental “offering up” as well as vocal prayer both rote and spontaneous, and touch on specialized intercessory forms such as the novena, prayer chain, fast from dessert, and Storming Heaven. Auditors and unnamed “special intentions” also welcome. Extra credit for miraculous healings, roses from heaven, and having your prayer answered according to your will instead of God’s.
Ressourcement, Old-School
It is widely recognized that true understanding of the foundational ideas of Western Civilization cannot be achieved through lectures or textbooks, but only by reading the original sources themselves. Those who are wiser still know not to trust the work of translators, who can rob Homer, Plato, Dante, Augustine, and Thomas of their poetical fire and nuances of meaning, and would therefore never dream of opening any text that some interloper had wrenched, in the interest of “readability,” from its original Greek, Latin, or even Middle English. In this course, students will go one step better, by encountering classical and early Christian source texts of philosophy, drama, poetry, and theology as God intended: through laborious examination of their original scroll or codex manuscripts. For only when stripped of modern accretions such as punctuation, minuscule, and word spacing can the Great Thoughts be appreciated in their most original, and therefore best, form.
Christian Marriage
This course explores the theological foundations for the Sacrament of Matrimony and a Catholic approach to sexuality, as presented in Scripture and Tradition, and in modern-day papal documents such as Casti Connubi, Humanae Vitae, and the Letter to Families. In addition to classroom study, field work (please sign up in mixed groups of two) will include intimate late-night rosaries, a trip to meet her parents, eight hours of sympto-thermal training, and learning to leave room for the Holy Spirit. Optional project for men: devising new ways to get that pesky vocations director off your back.

Special Seminars:

  • From Youth Minister to DRE: A Spectrum of Exciting Career Possibilities for the Theology Major
  • What Does the Pope Say? How to Stay Orthodox in Every Conceivable Circumstance
  • Dorms, Debt, and Dirty Laundry: And Other Ways It’s Like Going to a Real College


  • Todd M. Aglialoro

    Todd M. Aglialoro is the acquisitions editor for Catholic Answers.

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