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.
Course: The Mystics - Pathfinders to the Spiritual III
Sr. Patty Andrew osu
Starts Tuesday 20 July
Four sessions will be presented by Sr. Patty Andrew osu, featuring several men and women from the Christian mystical tradition who have illuminated the mystical path for those seeking a heart understanding of the divine. The series is a continuation of the work presented in 2020, however it is not necessary to have attended these sessions before taking part in the 2021 series.
Film Lectio II - The Other Son
Starts Thursday 22 July
The film centers on Joseph Silberg (Jules Sitruk), who is about to turn 18 years old and serve in the Israeli Defence Forces. During routine tests, his family discovers his blood type is different from theirs. Through further testing, including DNA testing, the family discovers that Joseph is not their son.
An investigation is conducted by the hospital Joseph was born in. Due to a bombing attack that occurred on the night he was born, Joseph and another baby were taken to shelters for safety and switched by mistake.
Course: An Australian Reading of Fratelli Tutti
Starts Thursday 2 Sept
Winton Higgins is a graduate of the universities of Sydney, Stockholm and London. Winton has presented a number of courses at Aquinas Academy, including one with Michael on Buddhist-Christian dialogue and another on Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’. Michael Whelan completed his post-graduate studies at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, in spirituality. He is Director of Aquinas Academy and Parish Priest of St Patrick’s Church in The Rocks.
Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, is a companion and complement to his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’.
Course: Aristotle on Nature
Rev Dr Andrew Murray SM
Starts Tuesday 1 June
This course will involve a careful reading of texts of Aristotle on nature and the workings of nature beginning with Physics I – III and then Meteorology I & II. Contrast will be made with the early modern conception of nature, much of which we live with today. For Aristotle, nature is a principle of motion and the world is understood best through its most sophisticated substances – human beings. Nevertheless, Aristotle was interested in the details of natural events and we will reflect on wind, rain, the saltiness of the sea and earthquakes, among other things.
Course: Developing Your Own Spirituality, Unit III
Remembering & anticipating, imagining & feeling
Starts Thursday 3 June
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?
Euthanasia: Some Questions & Issues Arising
A Paper by Michael Whelan SM PhD
Revised May 2021
“Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course”
(The Oath of Hippocrates, n 15)
Euthanasia is well and truly on the agenda in Australia and it is becoming increasingly difficult to sort out the fact from the fiction. Claims and counter-claims are made. The subject demands reasoned conversation and finely nuanced thinking. There is a lot at stake.
Read full Paper
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 Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time (20 June 2021)
Gospel Notes by Michael Whelan SM
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41 – NRSV)