Spring 2013 marked the successful end of Thomas More College’s regular series of all-college readings, lectures, and performances known as Traditio. Following the Spring semester’s chosen theme of Journey or Pilgrimage, the final seminar offered students and faculty alike a chance to reflect on and discuss Hilaire Belloc’s well-loved classic, The Path to Rome.
April’s seminar on Belloc’s 1902 account of a walking pilgrimage from southern France to Rome was led by College Writer-In-Residence Joseph Pearce, President William Fahey, and guest lecturer, Father Scott Caton, Professor of History at Roberts Wesleyan College.
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.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 a work of art in greater depth than the Humanities curriculum allows.
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 past Friday, attention was given over to a consideration of the life and work of Hilaire Belloc, a leading writer of the English Catholic Revival of the early twentieth century. Belloc, well-known for his humorous Cautionary Tales For Children, was by turns politician, satirist, poet, and adventurer. He is perhaps most well known for his friendship with G.K. Chesterton, as well as for his zesty defense of all things Catholic. A short poem of his sums up his vision:
Where the Catholic Sun doth Shine
There’s cheer and laughter and good red wine
At least, I’ve always heard that’s so
The seminar opened with an introductory lecture given by Father Caton, who led those present through the course of Belloc’s journey in The Path To Rome. After an hour of discussion between Mr. Pearce, President Fahey, and Father Caton, the floor was turned over to the students, who were invited to share their observations and to ask any pertinent questions. Following a break for supper, the seminar resumed with a session of open, Socratic-style discussion that centered on the theme of pilgrimage, often with quite lively debate drawing from numerous examples in literature and experience. The seminar proved to be very successful, offering students objects for further consideration during their last few weeks of class.
The readings and works considered during theTraditio 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.