Fall 2012 marked the beginning of a regular series of all-College readings, lectures, and performances known as Traditio—the Latin phrase for tradition or the handing down of stories and learning. The first of the series was on Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited, and was led by the College’s Writer-in-Residence Joseph Pearce and President William Fahey.
In this feature of Collegiate life, the students are invited three times per semester to consider a great work of literature, an historical figure or event, or work of art in greater depth than the Humanities curriculum allows.
All students of the College stop during these ‘Traditio days’ to read a common text or consider a great work together. On the assigned day, the whole College takes the morning to consider the work in very small groups of peers or with individual professors. After Mass and lunch two professors lead a long seminar for the entire student body. In the evening, the College supper is followed by a formal lecture—given at times by a fellow of the College, at times by a distinguished guest.
While these moments are an outgrowth of the Humanities cycle and always remain rooted in them, in Traditio students are expected to reflect upon and communicate to others the learning they have received in their previous classes and conversations.
“This new tradition,” said President William Fahey, “is a crucial part of our commitment to handing on a basic narrative understanding of the rise, fall, and perpetual rebirth of Christian Civilization. We hope too that it is effective in stimulating intellectual conversations outside the classroom and between students in different classes.”
As announced by Pope Benedict XVI, this October will begin the Year of Faith, and so in harmony with the Church’s current focus, the College’s first Traditio series will be centered on the theme of faith. Hence Brideshead Revisited being chosen as the first text to be studied.
“It’s a great novel,” said new Writer-in-Residence, Joseph Pearce, in anticipation of the discussion. “In my comments, I’ll be concentrating on the multifarious ways in which the action of grace can be seen in the lives of the main characters.”
“Joseph was a perfect guest to have at this particular Traditio on the theme of faith,” said Fahey. “He is a convert himself with a past that has provided rare insights into the movement of conversion, which sometimes takes a quite radical form, in the hearts of men.”
After an hour of discussion and debate between Fahey and Pearce, the students were invited to share their observations and to ask any pertinent questions. Following the seminar, the student body and faculty convened together in the Scholars Lounge for refreshments and a continuation of the conversation.
The readings and works considered during the Traditio seminars follow certain themes of universal human interest: such as Faith, Suffering, Nature, Love, Pilgrimage, Peace & War, Sacrifice, and Friendship. The lectures, seminars, and conversation of the Traditio sequence present to each and every student an opportunity to enter into the Catholic tradition and see that the reality of Christian culture provides a response not only to the “deepest longings of Humanity,” but to the questions that rise up in every human heart.