Dr. John Crosby Lecture: Feb. 12

Dr. John Crosby, Professor of Philosophy at Franciscan University, will host a lecture on Friday, February 12 at 5 pm in the Demetree Auditorium in the Henkels Academic Building. Dr. Crosby’s lecture, titled “Thine Own Self: Edith Stein’s Philosophy of Personal Individuality” is open to the public.

Dr. Crosby was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Mobile, AL. He received his B.A. from Georgetown University in 1966 and his Ph.D. from the University of Salzburg, Austria, in 1970. His teacher in philosophy was Dietrich von Hildebrand. He has taught at the University of Dallas, the University of Salzburg, the Lateran University in Rome, and at the International Academy of Philosophy in Liechtenstein; since 1990 he has been serving as Professor of Philosophy at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He has published extensively on the thought of John Henry Newman as well as on the thought of Karol Wojtyla/Pope John Paul II. His work has centered around Christian personalism, as one can see from the titles of his books: The Selfhood of the Human Person (1996), Personalist Papers (2003), and The Personalism of John Henry Newman (2014).

The Parable of the Prodigal Son: The Animal Self, the Diabolical Self, and the Good and Merciful Father

AMU President Jim Towey posted his first blog of the spring 2016 semester on January 19th, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son: The Animal Self, the Diabolical Self, and the Good and Merciful Father.” Visit President Towey’s Blog for more!

Last night dozens of students kicked off the new semester and the Church’s “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy” by joining me for a study of the powerful parable Jesus told of the Prodigal Son.

As familiar as this tale is, students at Catholic colleges and universities should examine it closely.  The story of young adults taking their parents’ money and going off to a “distant land” to binge drink, party hard and engage in casual sex is all too common on American campuses.  Some institutions seem indifferent to, or even willing to facilitate, this so-called rite of passage.  Unenforced dorm visitation rules, co-ed dorms, readily available birth control, and well-established party cultures communicate very clearly that when it comes to student moral behavior, almost anything goes.

As Jesus’ parable recounts, such lives bring consequences that take their toll on a soul.  The prodigal son’s rite of passage led him to rebel against his father and renounce his son ship.  He squandered his father’s money “on dissolute living” and ultimately found himself in the company of pigs, starving for the restoration of his human dignity.  (Spoiler alert)  Fortunately, he came to his senses and returned home to the warm embrace of his loving father, who rejoiced that his son who was dead had come back to life.

It is fair to ask why the father gave his son all that money knowing that he would go on a sin-binge.  The answer is simple:  God endows us with freedom, and true virtue can be grown only through the proper exercise of it.  It can’t be imposed.  Virtuous conduct has to be freely chosen or else it is simply an appearance of virtue.  God loves us enough to give us our freedom.

The prodigal chose sin.  Blaise Pascal once described sin as “licking the earth,” and the young man abused his freedom and chose base pleasures.  He had licked the earth.  As was the case with Saint Augustine, whose own journey was hauntingly similar, he sought fulfillment through pursuits that failed to satisfy his innermost longings.  The hook-up, binge-drinking culture failed him miserably, as it unfailingly does.

A great 20th century Christian apologist and author, C.S. Lewis, is special to Ave Maria University because one of his important works, Mere Christianity, was the instrument the Lord used to inspire our founder, Tom Monaghan, to devote his wealth to our campus.  Mere Christianity is worth reading, and includes this passage:

Though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is not here.  If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong.  The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins.  All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting: the pleasure of power, of hatred.  For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become.  They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self.  The Diabolical self is the worse of the two.  That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute.  But, of course, it is better to be neither.

These insights of Lewis bring me to the elder son in the parable.  He had lived in the father’s house but was just as lost as his little brother.  His form of rebellion was simply different.  He was a slave to sin in a different way – he indulged in the pleasure of “putting other people in the wrong.”  He saw his time in the father’s house as captivity, and his obedience, involuntary.  He was no more like his father than his younger brother.   In short, the elder son was the “self-righteous prig” that Lewis described.  When his kid brother came back humbled by his moral failures and longing for repentance, the elder son was not moved with compassion and joy like his father, but instead was angry, resentful, and bitter.  He was like those Jesus unflatteringly described later in Luke’s Gospel “who believed in their own self-righteousness while holding everyone else in contempt.”

Luke’s parable makes clear that the father’s arms were wide open for both of his sons.  Indeed, he “ran out to meet” the prodigal son and “went out and began to plead” with the elder.  He, like the poet Francis Thompson’s “Hound of Heaven,” went in search of both of his lost sons.  His message to each was the same:  Everything I have is yours.  Come back home.

I asked the students at the end of our Bible study to describe the father.  They responded with these adjectives:  loving, forgiving, merciful, patient, wise, compassionate, and accepting.

They came to understand that the parable was as much a story about the heart of the father as it was the plight of the sons.  They discovered anew that their God was not some distant deity but a living, seeking, merciful Father who invites them to rejoice because everything He has is theirs.

God wants us to have the fullness of life appropriate to our splendid human dignity.  The Jubilee Year waits for us.  Pope Francis invites us to recognize our need to seek Divine Mercy, and to ask the Mother of Mercy to help us each day find our way to the glorious confines of the Father’s house.  On the first day of the New Year, the Holy Father invoked our University’s patroness with these words we can take to heart:

“Mary is an icon of how the Church must offer forgiveness to those who seek it.  The Mother of forgiveness teaches the Church that the forgiveness granted on Golgotha knows no limits.  Neither the law with its quibbles, nor the wisdom of this world with its distinctions, can hold it back.  The Church’s forgiveness must be every bit as broad as that offered by Jesus on the Cross and by Mary at his feet.”

I firmly believe that Ave Maria University will thrive and prosper to the extent we grow together in humility and mercy.   As this New Year begins, may we renew our commitment to the University’s Catholic identity and become “joyful, intentional followers of Jesus Christ through Word and Sacrament, scholarship and service.”

Have a great semester!

Jim Towey


Finding Calcutta: Marie Constantin’s photos of Mother Teresa

Finding Calcutta is an exhibit of photographs of Mother Teresa, taken by Marie Constantin. Ave Maria University is hosting the gallery on the second floor of the Canizaro Library until February 29th.

About the Photographer: Marie Constantin

Unbridled joy. Fierce determination. Unspeakable sadness. Life is a series of small, distinct moments during which anything can happen. And capturing these moments, one honest and revealing frame at a time, is the passion of Marie Bissell Constantin.

A native of Hartford, Connecticut, Marie attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, graduating with a journalism degree — yet she did not own a camera until age 32. Today she is an internationally known, award-winning photographer in high demand for commercial, corporate, editorial and humanitarian assignments.  But she is best known for more than a decade of association with one of the twentieth century’s most respected and inspiring figures.

At a time when most young photographers would be struggling to build a portfolio, Marie accepted the opportunity of a lifetime: an invitation extended to only two American photographers to document the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s travels and work in the Eastern United States and Calcutta. Quickly gaining her subject’s trust and friendship, Marie captured Mother Teresa in rare private moments seldom seen by others. Upon Mother Teresa’s beatification by Pope John Paul II in 2003, one of Marie’s photos was chosen to hang in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican — the official photo for the Beatification Ceremony.  Today, Marie is completing a book of images and personal reflections from 13 years with Mother Teresa, and also speaks publicly about their time together.

Work with Marie only once and you’ll be convinced that she always gets the shot. “I’m very sure of my creative process and where to put myself to take a good picture,” she explains. “There seems to be a place in my brain that I can go to for inspiration … it’s not always easy, but once I’m there, I know it.” And this dedication to her art is equaled by her interest in the craft of photography: She recently studied with the pioneering black-and-white digital printmaker Jon Cone and is applying her advanced knowledge to the fine art prints she produces, shows and sells.

Camera in hand, one gets the impression that Marie Constantin’s passion could take her anywhere at any given time. If there’s an extraordinary moment to be recorded, it surely will.

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AMU Hosts Religious Liberty Conference

Ave Maria University hosted an all-day conference in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Dignitatis Humanae, Vatican II’s document on religious liberty. The event featured internationally known academic scholars, including Thomas Pink (King’s College London), David L. Schindler (Pontifical John Paul II Institute), William McCormick, S.J. (Fordham),  Gabrielle Girgis (Princeton), Michael Breidenbach (Ave Maria), Joseph Trabbic (Ave Maria), and Steven Long (Ave Maria). Commentators included Ave Maria University faculty Michael Pakaluk, Fr. Matthew Lamb, Michael Novak and Seana Sugrue. The conference provided an opportunity for students, faculty, and scholars to discuss Dignitatis Humanae (“Of the Dignity of the Human Person”) and to learn more about the Church’s role with the State.

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Fr. Gregory Hrynkiw Presents Lecture at AMU

Hieromonk Gregory Hrynkiw, ASTH, recipient of the Aquinas Center’s dissertation prize for 2014, lectured at AMU on Friday, November 20th. An audio recording of the lecture can be heard below.

Fr. Hrynkiw has been a Byzantine-Catholic monk since 1989. While serving as Protohegumenos of the Basilian Order in Ukraine from February 2004 to July 2007, he fought on the front lines against systemic corruption. After suffering threats to his life, he was ordered to return to Rome, and in 2010 made his solemn profession of monastic vows into the Hermitage of the Three Holy Hierarchs. The Hermitage is a form of consecrated life, which follows the “middle path” of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, uniting both the contemplative (theoria) and active (praxis) aspects of monastic life.

In 2014, hieromonk Gregory completed his doctoral dissertation on Cajetan on Sacred Doctrine (In ST, I, q. 1): An Original Contribution towards a Theology of “Light from Light” by a Renaissance Cardinal and Theologian in via Thomae under the direction of Mons. Charles Morerod, O.P. at the Angelicum in Rome. At present, he is in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, preaching and teaching. He is also the publisher of The Asketerion, which is the journal of the Hermitage of the Three Holy Hierarchs.

Hieromonk Gregory Hrynkiw’s November 20, 2015 lecture at Ave Maria University:

Stein Center to Host Conference Nov. 5-6

The Stein Center for Social Research at AMU will host the conference, “Reimagining Care for the Poor” this Thursday and Friday on the campus of Ave Maria University. The Stein Center for Social Research is an interdisciplinary institute for advanced studies in social science and social thought, oriented to understanding the nature and character of human flourishing.

The keynote lecture, by David Lapp, will take place on Thursday, November 5th at 5 pm in the Demetree Auditorium at AMU.  All are welcome to attend this presentation. Lapp’s talk is entitled “A Poor Church for the Poor: How We Can Accompany Our Neighbors in Need–and Save Our Souls in the Process.”

We hope to see you on Thursday!

AMU Welcomes Columba Bush to Campus

The Ave Maria University community welcomed Mrs. Columba Bush to campus on Monday, October 12. Mrs. Bush was greeted warmly by AMU students as she toured campus and visited the Mother Teresa Museum.

Dealing with the Hand God Gave Me

Remembering the words spoken by then five year-old Valeria Tkacik still gives her mother, Anne, goose bumps. “I turned around to look at her and she was looking at me and smiling and I’ll never forget that day. She said Mommy, I was born to make people happy. I said to her I know you will. I truly believe she was getting a message from the angels right then. And from all her achievements, I know this to be true.” These days, Valeria is a standout lacrosse player for Ave Maria University in Florida. By all accounts, she is a leader on and off the field. Tkacik was named to the National Women’s Lacrosse League South Regional Team and is considered a talented athlete who loves playing lacrosse, basketball, golf, track, soccer and flag football. A good student in the classroom, Tkacik was also accepted as a Mother Teresa Scholar at Ave Maria. She has contributed service time for charity work, including a mission trip to Harlem, NY where she served the poor and homeless. Also, Tkacik recently got a haircut and donated 12 inches of her hair to Art of Wigs (Texas) to help cancer patients. As a freshman, she served as a representative on Ave Maria’s Student Government. For her sophomore year, Tkacik will serve on the Student Activities Board and was selected for Ave Maria’s Media Internship Program. And if those achievements aren’t enough, Valeria is also a motivational speaker, helping patients who are struggling with the loss of limbs and providing them encouragement. The reason? Tkacik can relate to their story. Read more…

Anthony Valle Wins Grant Awarded by the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation

Anthony Valle, Research Fellow in the Department of Theology at Ave Maria University, was named winner of one of ten grants given by the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation in Rome. Valle’s article, titled “Retrieving the christological core of Joseph Ratzinger’s communio ecclesiology”, is part of the volume “Proceedings of the international Symposium of Theology” (Dublin 2013), collecting the interventions of a Symposium dedicated to Ecclesiology of the Communion. The Symposium was celebrated in 2012 in Maynooth, Ireland, during the 50th Dublin International Eucharistic Congress, 50 years after the opening of the Second Vatican Council.