Rome: Academia

I’m sitting here during our “study hours” (one of the joys of being a seminarian) in the library of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, thinking about all of you back in Oswego with grateful affection and, due to the weather, a tinge of pity. It was 48 degrees when I left for class this morning and I overheard one of the Italians say “Winter has arrived in Rome!” We’ve got it hard over here, folks; keep us in your prayers, won’t you? 
If it’s any consolation, I’m kind of looking forward to the snow and Chicago winter when I come back in January. 

Anyway, lest any of you think I’m just over here on a long vacation or some kind of field trip on steroids, I thought I’d share a little of the academic life of Rome with you all.

For a long time, Rome has been a major cultural hub of Europe. The concept of a university as we think of it today was developed by the Church in monasteries and other places of learning in the middle ages. Thus it is only fitting that there many of the finest universities in the world (at least for the study of philosophy, theology, canon law, and relevant subjects) can be found here in Rome. Some universities are overseen by the Vatican’s congregation for education, and these universities bear the status and name “Pontifical.” These schools are also licensed to give certain “degrees” (the Europeans call them “licenses”) from the Church, things like STB, STL, STD (varying levels of the study of Sacred Theology), JCB, JCL, JCD (varying levels of Canon Law), etc. Also, if I’m not allowed to make jokes about the STD (doctorate in Sacred Theology), then neither are you. 

While in Rome, I am studying at a place called the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also called the Angelicum because St. Thomas Aquinas is known as the “Angelic Doctor” for his work, among other areas, in the study of angels, knows as “angelology.” You might wish I was joking, but I’m not; there really is an area of study called angelology and it is absolutely fascinating. 

The “Ange” is about a 2 mile, 40 minute walk from our house near Piazza del Popolo and is situated right next to the Roman Forum. Up the street and around a (couple of) corners is the Colosseum and to the right and up (and down) some hills is the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major). 

The university offers programs primarily in theology, philosophy, and canon law. As a college seminarian, I am required by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Program of Priestly Formation” to study philosophy, which I was a little reluctant to do at first. The truth is, however, that none of the theology of the Church, its sacraments, social teachings, moral teachings, etc make sense without philosophy. Without the study of the soul and its implications for human dignity, matter and form/accidents and substance and their relevance to the sacramental life of the Church, logic and forming good arguments, (believe me, the list is endless) none of what I am studying as a seminarian or will practice as a priest makes any sense. 

We also have the chance to study art, some theology, and a course involving the social dimensions of the Church through history. 
So, real quick like, a run down of this semester’s courses:
Modern Philosophy is taught by a Spanish Dominican living in Italy teaching about French and German philosophers to English speaking students. This is stuff like Descartes, Locke, and Kant. 

Art and Architecture is a survey of church art, art media, the evolution of sacred art and its relevance to the life of the Church.

Spiritual Theology: Theology of the spiritual life/relationship with God. Basically getting one’s mind blown every Wednesday from 8:30-10:15am by a former spiritual director of Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta. 

Church and Culture is a class sponsored by our home university in St. Paul and is taught by one our own professors. 

Intro to Italian: Va bene. 

But seriously, there’s no way I’m letting the academics get in the way of my education while living here in the heartbeat of the Church. Every walk down the sidewalk is a lesson in itself. 

Thanks and praise always to God who, besides being the Man, never fails to satisfy. No matter what subject it is, at the end of the day we are always studying him and his goodness to us lowly creatures here who, for some odd reason, he loves so much. 

Same as ever,

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