The Aquinas Academy
The Aquinas Academy was set up under the auspices of the Australian Province of the Marist Fathers by Fr Austin Woodbury SM in March 1945. The Academy began as a centre for the study of Philosophy and Theology in the Thomistic tradition. For some twenty-nine years it continued in this capacity under Fr Woodbury's guidance, in premises at the back of St Patrick's Church, Gloucester Street, in The Rocks (Sydney, NSW). For a short while the Academy offered a License in Philosophy under accreditation from the University of St Thomas in Rome. Since its inception, a number of qualified priests, religious and laity have been part of the lecturing staff. The Academy was one of the pioneers of Catholic adult education in Australia.
Since 1975, the Academy has increasingly focused on general adult education in the faith. Perhaps the most popular of the programs mounted was the Christian Growth Program, offering basic education in theology, morality, psychology and spirituality.
Thomas Merton: Contemplation and Action
Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation
During my sabbatical in Merton’s hermitage, the world, my own issues and hurts, all my goals and desires gradually dissolved and fell into proper perspective. God became obvious and ever present. (Sunday)
The contemplative life is not, and cannot be, a mere withdrawal, a pure negation, a turning of one’s back on the world with its sufferings, its crises, its confusions and its errors. —Thomas Merton (Monday)
Course: "Take off your Shoes" - The Sanctuary of Conscience
Starts Tuesday 2 March
We often hear the phrase ‘follow your conscience’. But what exactly does the word ‘conscience’ mean? How does ‘follow your conscience’ differ from ‘anything goes?’ How important is the role of ‘conscience’ - in the eyes of the Church and, more importantly, in the eyes of God? How can we understand the ‘primacy of conscience’ and the way it relates to the ‘primacy of truth’?
This four-week seminar is guided by the above questions. The overall approach taken is summed up in the phrase ‘lessons of encouragement’.
Course: Developing Your Own Spirituality, Unit II
Crises & dimensions, thinking & willing
Starts Thursday 4 March
This is a repeat of the Feb 2021 Evening Course
In Unit I we focused on some general principles underlying the development of a healthy spirituality. In Unit II we will focus more on particular concrete facets of spirituality. Walker Percy, the American essayist, wrote: “It is pilgrims we are, wayfarers on a journey, and not pigs, not angels.” (Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins: Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World, Avon Books, 1978, 104.)
Pilgrims frequently come to crossroads, choices must be made – sometimes without much knowledge of what the consequences might be.
Film Lectio I - Lion
Starts Tuesday 20 April
Lion is a 2016 Australian biographical drama film directed by Garth Davis from a screenplay by Luke Davies based on the 2013 non-fiction book A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley.
It is a heart-warming and an incredible real life story of Saroo Brierley, a 5-year-old Indian boy, who gets separated from his poor family. An empty train carriage drags him to Kolkata, a city that doesn't speak his language.
Course: Song of Songs - the Mystical Centre of the Bible
Starts Wednesday 21 April
Next to the Psalms the Song of Songs was the most commented upon book of the Old Testament in the pre-modern Church for it was held to be a mystical work that spoke of the Love of God. But from the seventeenth century on, with the rise of modernity, the Song fell out of fashion. Scholars argued that the Song was simply a small collection of very earthy erotic poems and the idea that they held deeper mystical meanings was, they argued, nonsense. In recent years, however, attention has once again turned to the Song and
Course: Developing Your Own Spirituality, Unit III
Remembering & anticipating, imagining & feeling
Starts Thursday 6 May
In Unit I we focused on some general principles underlying the development of a healthy spirituality. In Unit II we began to focus more on particular concrete facets of spirituality. In Unit III we will continue to do that. We often hear the advice: “Forgive and forget”. Why might this be very bad advice? What is the relationship between the past and the future in shaping the human journey?
What place do images, symbols and rituals have in human thriving? Can we think well without imagination being a crucial part of the process?
By Michael Whelan SM
Three months before he died on 7 March 1274, St Thomas Aquinas had an extraordinary “experience” while celebrating Mass. As a result of this “experience”, St Thomas refused to do any further work on the Summa Theologica – his major life project. The English Dominican Thomistic scholar, Brian Davies, tells us that Aquinas’ secretary, Reginald of Piperno, begged him to return to the writing. St Thomas replied: "Reginald, I cannot, because all that I have written seems like straw to me" (Brian Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas, Oxford University Press, 1993, 9).
The self-emptying of Divine Presence
Notes by Michael Whelan SM
•“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
Spiritual Practices and Attitudes 11 - A Primary Conversation
Notes by Michael Whelan SM
“I will be with you!” [Exodus 3:12] This is not only a promise, it is an expression of the very nature of God. To be God is to be with! Jesus enfleshes this same promise and the Divine Nature: “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Matthew 28:20).
We are made in the image and likeness of the One whose nature it is to be with. It is also our nature to be with. We are at our best when that “being with” is embraced generously and allowed to shape our lives. We thrive in constructive and life-giving relationships, we wither in the absence of such relationships. “Relationship is written into the very nature of human beings. As the Bible sees human beings, you cannot think about them, without recognizing that they are, as it were, made for relationship” (Aelred Squire, Asking the Fathers, SPCK, 1972, 20).
Gospel for the Second Sunday in Lent (28 February 2021)
Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
Transfiguration, Alexander Ivanov 1824
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean (Mark 9:2-10 – NRSV).