St. Benedict, Ore. — On Thursday, September 4, Mount Angel Seminary celebrated the inauguration of its new, fully-accredited Master of Arts in Philosophy program with a philosophical symposium, at which Professor William Desmond was the keynote speaker.
Desmond is a world-renowned Catholic philosopher who was born in Ireland and who now teaches in the United States and Belgium. He earned a doctoral degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1978. He writes about a variety of philosophical topics and his works include Being and the Between, Ethics and the Between, and God and the Between.
|Professor Desmond during the afternoon session of the symposium.|
After the community Mass in the Abbey Church, the faculty, staff, students, and guests of MAS gathered in the seminary’s gymnasium, the Damian Center, for the beginning of the philosophical symposium. Symposiums are a standard part of the formation program at Mount Angel Seminary, and typically they focus on theological or human formation-related issues. This year’s symposium addressing philosophical topics was the very first of its kind in the history of the seminary.
Desmond’s morning session was entitled, “Witness and Being Truthful.” Both theology and philosophy students were in attendance. In the first session, he reflected on the importance of being truthful, in light of Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Desmond’s afternoon session, geared more toward the seminarians studying philosophy, was held in the Mount Angel Abbey Library auditorium and was entitled, “Soul Music and Soul-Less Selving.” In the second session, he pondered why we have soul-music and not self-music while reflecting on the nature of the human soul.
MAS is one of only a few seminaries in the United States to offer a Master of Arts in Philosophy degree to its pre-theology students. Before a seminarian begins his theological studies, he must first have a philosophical foundation on which to build. Philosophy has been described as the handmaiden of theology. If a man enters seminary before he earns a bachelor’s degree, he could work toward a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy. On the other hand, a seminarian would be placed in the pre-theology program if he already has a bachelor’s degree, but it is not in philosophy. The pre-theology program consists of two years of philosophical studies.
|Professor Desmond with the MAS philosophy faculty (left to right): Dr. Owen Cummings, Mr. Mark Woolman, Prof. Desmond, and Dr. Andrew Cummings|
Pastores Dabo Vobis, Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation on the formation of priests, discusses the importance of philosophical study in the seminary: “A proper philosophical training is vital, not only because of the links between the great philosophical questions and the mysteries of salvation which are studied in theology under the guidance of the higher light of faith, but also vis-a-vis an extremely widespread cultural situation which emphasizes subjectivism as a criterion and measure of truth.”
The document then offers a way to challenge our culture’s claim that absolute truth does not exit: “Only a sound philosophy can help candidates for the priesthood to develop a reflective awareness of the fundamental relationship that exists between the human spirit and truth, that truth which is revealed to us fully in Jesus Christ.”
Mount Angel Seminary, established by pioneer monks, began forming men for the priesthood in 1889. MAS is the oldest and largest seminary in the Western United States, and the only seminary in the West that offers both a college and a graduate school of theology.
This year, MAS celebrates its 125th anniversary. Since its inception, it has formed thousands of priests with sound philosophical and theological studies for service to the people of God in nearly 100 dioceses and religious communities across the country and around the world.