1. Spent Friday & Saturday at Thomas Aquinas College. My beloved wife had wanted to attend the graduation of Andrew’s class – we received a number of invitations, one from the college, and several from Andrew’s classmates. So we all went down, all 6 of us.
The trip and the graduation ceremony were beautiful and inspiring. More below.
2. In a little over 40 years, TAC has gone from a meadow in the foothills and some portable building to about as pretty a campus as you can imagine:
It’s that whole Truth and Beauty thing incarnate.
3. Was musing on our 6 hour drives both to and from, that if someone wanted to understand or at least get an overview of California, a good start would be to drive state highway 101 from L.A. to Eureka. You start in Hollywood, with a view of downtown; wind past both ends of Mulholland Drive and off into suburban foothills. Next, you snake past the beaches of Ventura and Santa Barbara, with glimpses of agriculture and the Channel Islands. Wind up toward San Luis Obispo through more scrub-covered mountains, back down to Pismo Beach and its sand dunes, then back into the interior eventually entering the Salinas Valley (of East of Eden fame) after passing oil fields – it has been said that the value of the oil extracted from California each year is greater than the value of the gold extracted over all of the state’s history.
And the value of the agricultural output dwarfs that of oil. The Salinas Valley is a fraction of the size of the Central Valley, yet contains mile after mile of some of the world’s most productive farmland. After a few bucolic hours, the highway exits the valley, passes through another agricultural area, then winds through a spit of the coastal mountains, through pine and eucalyptus forests, then back into the garlic farms near Gilroy (what’s left of them – they now import garlic for the annual Garlic Festival) and into the southernmost suburbs of Silicon Valley.
The produce of *this* valley is only as green as VC money, although a few orchards remain on the fringes of the ubiquitous technology parks and ‘campuses’. A few quaint suburbs later, and the road segways into San Francisco along Van Ness and Lombard and along the Marina. Cross the Golden Gate to Marin, which contrasts a dangerous amount of quaint with some rugged cliffs and mountains.
Agriculture resumes at Novato, although food is gradually losing out to suburbia there. Past the cows through the hills past Santa Rosa, and into Sonoma Valley wine country, the Russian River, and, once past Cloverdale, back into the rugged mountains full time. By Myer’s Flat, the road winds through the old growth redwoods and on up to Eureka, a Northern California coastal town with a very different spirit and feel from the balmy beaches of Santa Barbara.
Once you’ve done 101, then you can take the 89 down from Tahoe, to 395 down the eastern side of the Sierras, then on to 190 through Death Valley and up 127 to Interstate 15 – and you’d still need to see the interior mountains of the north, with their series of volcanoes, as well as the huge southern deserts, Yosemite, and the beaches of San Diego – and that would complete your survey class, part one.
California is mostly mountains and deserts, with huge areas of agriculture. The vast majority of the people live in the L.A., Orange and San Diego areas – on under 10% of the land area.
4. But I digress. While attending events at TAC, a number of the graduates came by to talk with us. They were charming, clean-scrubbed and serious. Not grim or anything, but serious. One young couple, preparing for their wedding at the school chapel in a couple months, mentioned that 3 of the graduates are going down to Phoenix to teach at a Catholic grade school being revived by Bishop Olmsted. This brought to mind this post – after the pope has restocked with orthodox bishops, and those bishops have replaced the seminary heads, and started to phase out the crazier priests, then the next step is to reform the schools.
To do that, they need smart, educated and devote teachers – which TAC is well positioned to supply.
5. Edwin Cardinal O’Brien gave a wonderful address. His Eminence took the occasion of the Pope and the Greek Patriarch making a joint pilgrimage to Jerusalem to highlight how inseparable Jerusalem, Athens and Rome are in founding and sustaining Christendom, otherwise known as Western Civilization. Here’s the Athens part:
Athens: From classical Greek philosophy, which lives here in Santa Paula as it lives in few other American institutions of higher learning, Western civilization learned that there are truths embedded in the world and in us, and that men and women can arrive at those truths through the exercise of reason. That confidence is at the root of our convictions about the natural moral law, as it is at the root of Western science.
You have learned here, I’m sure, that reasoning is hard work. But I expect you’ve also learned that the exercise of reason can be exhilarating. Love lifts us out of ourselves; so does learning. As heirs and trustees of the tradition of Athens, my hope for you is that you will all be lifetime learners, who never tire of stretching your minds, as I pray you will never tire of opening your hearts.
And in a culture that is increasingly confused about the truth of things, be, like John Paul II, witnesses to the truth: the truth that there is more than “your truth” and “my truth,” the truth that there is something properly called “the truth,” and we have access to it by our reason. There are other avenues to truth, of course: but it will be the task of your generation, tutored by the Pope and saint who wrote the encyclical Fides et Ratio, to remind the West that reason is part of our civilizational heritage, and that the Catholic Church is the great institutional safe-deposit box of reason in the 21st century West.
Brings a tear to me eye, it does.
6. Of course, it was sad, too, seeing all the young men and women graduating without our son. The class did choose Kentigern as their patron saint – Andrew went by ‘Kent’ while at TAC, for the simple reason that there were too many Andrews, and Kentigern is his middle name – and dedicated the graduation to his memory.
I’ll update the Memorium page with details at some future date.