Christendom College Vision Statement
Our Lady Queen of Christendom looks over students daily as they cross the piazza in front of St. John the Evangelist Library.
Foreword “A little learning leads men away from the truth, a large learning confirms the truth.” Hilaire Belloc
The only rightful purpose of education is to learn the truth and to live by it. The purpose of Catholic education is therefore to learn and to live by the truth revealed by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, “the Way, the Truth and the Life,” as preserved in the deposit of faith and authentically interpreted in the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church, founded by Christ, of which the Pope is the visible head. That central body of divine truth illumines all other truth and shows us its essential unity in every area of thought and life. Only an education that integrates the truths of the Catholic Faith throughout the curriculum is a fully Catholic education. On the foundation of this principle of immutable fidelity to the truth of the Catholic Faith, Christendom College was founded in 1977 by lay Catholic educators. Christendom College seeks to form its students using a challenging curriculum centered on faith and reason, on the truths of Divine Revelation as taught by the Roman Catholic Church, and the truths of natural reason as derived from natural law and human experience in fidelity to the Magisterium. The curriculum undertakes to integrate harmoniously the knowledge acquired from these sources. The College desires to foster in its students a commitment to the lay apostolate, that is, the task of transforming the social order in Christ. The faculty and administration present the following document as a statement of that vision of Catholic undergraduate liberal education, which the Founders undertook to restore and promote by the establishment
“Thank you for all that you are doing!” These are the words of Pope Benedict XVI to College President Dr. Timothy O’Donnell. Such profound affirmation from the head of the Roman Catholic Church greatly moved the entire College Community. Love for the Holy Father is deeply rooted in the heart of Christendom College.
of Christendom College.
A Crisis in Education
The cultural revolution which swept across the United States in the late 1960s struck a devastating blow to Catholic higher education. The damage became evident with the Land O’Lakes statement in 1967, in which Catholic universities formally broke their ties with the teaching Church and repudiated their duty of obedience to her. There followed a wholesale loss of Catholic identity in these institutions. Not only were crucifixes stripped from classrooms, but the foundations of Western civilization were stripped from the curricula. The very existence of objective truth and absolute moral principles was denied, explicitly or implicitly. There was no longer a place in these transformed universities for what had always been the primary purpose of Catholic education: to lead young minds out of narrow perspectives into the world of known truth under the guiding light of the Catholic Faith. Most especially, there was no longer a place for a sacred discipline that had the task of ordering and illuminating all other disciplines. This abandonment of the Queen of Sciences was defended in the name of intellectual “emancipation.” But the goal of Catholic education had never been to produce unthinking assent, nor to send students on an intellectual journey which would never reach a destination. The goal was, and should always be, to communicate a knowledge that furnishes reasons why and thus imparts to students a wisdom, both natural and supernatural, that enables them to make discerning critical judgments.
Students come to Christendom from 49 States and several foreign countries.
Grace does not destroy, but perfects nature; the teaching Church has always defended man’s ability to reason correctly about both the material and spiritual worlds, recognizing for both faith and reason a common source in Almighty God. Jesus Christ said: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Divine Revelation gives order and purpose to teaching and to the learning process. Genuine liberal education begins in wonder and ends in wisdom, flowing from the knowledge and certitude of truth attained and possessed. When guided by the Catholic Faith, it liberates man from ignorance, error, and the forces of darkness which surround him in the post-modern secularized West. Bereft of this vision, scornful of this tradition, and consumed by the desire to conform to contemporary society despite its intellectual chaos and spiritual apostasy, most “Catholic” universities today have abandoned or drastically cut back their core curricula. Theology has been replaced by “religious studies,” often with the Catholic Faith treated less fully than other religions, or presented by dissidents who reject essential doctrines. Often, no more than two courses in “religious studies” and/or two in philosophy are now required of the undergraduate. Other subjects are taught almost exactly as in the secular universities, even when their subject matter cries out for a Catholic orientation, as is the case with history, psychology, and the humanities in general. To fill the void left by the abandonment of strong core requirements in philosophy and theology, Catholic universities have substituted courses in disciplines that tend to study human needs and behaviors without reference to higher truths or morality. They feed the dominant relativism and skepticism which, like cancers, devour and eventually destroy intellectual life. Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Constitution Ex corde ecclesiae, called on
the Catholic university to “consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth,” to distinguish itself by the “free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God.” Only the Catholic university, the Holy Father declared, can give us a “universal humanism which is completely dedicated to the research of all aspects of truth in their essential connection with the Supreme Truth who is God.” Tragically, this great and beautiful document of guidance from the Vicar of Christ has been almost totally ignored by today’s Catholic universities in America. With no God-centered core of humane studies to focus the university’s mission, today’s colleges have turned to senseless “diversification” and mindless growth. In the name of diversification, the genuine liberal arts have been replaced largely by mere vocational and professional training. There has been an endless proliferation of courses and majors, among which students are allowed to choose without guidance or purpose, with the inevitable result that most of them never even deal with the fundamental questions about God, man, and reality; never even encounter the most challenging works of Western civilization. All these problems are exacerbated by the size of the modern university, which Russell Kirk happily named “Behemoth U.” The lack of personal guidance for the student, already distressingly evident in the abandonment of sensible parietal rules, becomes still more disastrous in the stultifying impersonality of a campus of thousands, where students are left to wallow in the worst of the “youth culture.” Furthermore, the deep wellsprings of Christian virtue, which should animate common courtesy between men and women, and civil decency between individuals of diverse background, have been replaced on most college campuses by the oppressive atmosphere of “political correctness”—the power politics of gender, race, and lifestyle. To meet the challenge of this crisis and to offer a solution in keeping with the thousand-year-old tradition of the Church as university educator, Christendom College was established in 1977. The goal set for the College from the beginning was to provide a truly Catholic liberal education in fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and thereby to prepare students for their role, as laity in Christ’s Church, of restoring all things in Christ.
Christendom’s athletic program consists of both intramural sports (soccer, t e n n i s , vo l l ey b a l l , f l a g football, basketball, and racquetball) and varsity teams in soccer, basketball, baseball, men’s rugby, and women’s volleyball.
The best way to develop the students’ intellectual gifts is through a liberal education, and the best way to prepare them to restore all things in Christ is to provide them with a Catholic liberal education by which they may learn to know and love the Truth. In this way both the mind and the soul may be ordered toward the Way, the Truth, and the Life Who is Christ, our Lord and our God, our beginning and our end. Ever since its founding, the College has been unwaveringly loyal to its founding purpose and actively responsive to the repeated calls of Pope Paul VI and John Paul II for authentically Catholic colleges and universities. Pope John Paul II himself, speaking personally to its founder, called Christendom College “a great work for the Church.” As the world moves into a new millennium, Christendom College is committed to maintaining its mission and preserving its fully Catholic identity, not only for the upcoming generation, but, God willing, for many more generations to come.
Marks of a Truly Catholic Liberal Arts Education 1. Institutional commitment of faculty and administration to the Magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church in their spiritual, moral, and intellectual life (cp. Ex corde ecclesiae, para. 13). 2. Commitment to undergraduate liberal education devoted to the discovery and appropriation of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful for their own sakes (cp. Ven. John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University), in contradistinction to career, technical, or vocational training. 3. A strong undergraduate core curriculum of History, Literature, Classical and Modern Languages, Political Philosophy, Mathematics, and Science, in which Catholic Theology and Thomistic Philosophy hold a central place and exercise a sapiential role for the whole curriculum, so that all the disciplines are informed and illuminated by Catholic Truth. 4. Development and maintenance of a Catholic spiritual life, including daily sacramental practice, a sound moral climate, and abundant opportunities for liturgical and personal prayer. 5. Development and maintenance of a Catholic social and cultural life, including parietal discipline conducive to good manners and morals, a high liturgical culture with musica sacra, and a wide range
The aim of the Christendom College liberal arts education is, as John Henry Cardinal Newman said, â€œto open the mind, to correct it, to refine it, to enable it to know, and to digest, master, rule, and use its knowledge, to give it power over its own faculties, application, flexibility, method, critical exactness, sagacity, resource, address, and eloquent expression.â€?
of collegiate activities involving the fine arts. 6. Commitment to a humane scale in the academic community, in which every faculty member and student may be personally known to one another, on the model of integral Catholic communities such as the medieval academic collegium.
Liberal Education From its beginning, Christendom College has been committed to Catholic liberal education, but few in our time understand what liberal education is. An explanation must begin with freedom: a liberal education is the education of a free man. It prepares man for true freedom and fosters that freedom within him. The most obvious characteristic of the free man is that he is not a slave, that he is able to choose for himself, but the modern mind stops here. It understands freedom only as a lack of repression. But true freedom is not just a lack, it is something positive, an ability to direct one’s actions rationally. No one can direct himself rationally without a goal, without understanding the true purpose of human existence, the achievement of the good. The truly free man, then, lives a good life; he pursues what is truly good, both for himself and for society. Because the free man pursues what is good for society, true freedom presumes a knowledge of how to be a good citizen in a wise political order. The free man thus must be a man of virtue, justice, and prudence. But it would be unfitting if, pursuing what is good for others, he failed to achieve what was good for himself. The free man, then, also pursues his own perfection, especially the perfection of that part of himself which is best. Since the soul transcends the body, the free man cultivates his soul and pursues for its own sake the soul’s proper object: wisdom, the knowledge and understanding of the whole of reality. But man is born with neither a strong inclination to the good nor even a knowledge of it. Even as a man matures, he does not spontaneously become wise and virtuous. He must acquire wisdom, both practical and speculative, through learning, and the beginning of that learning process beyond childhood is called liberal education. Liberal education, then, pursues two ends: a knowledge of virtue and justice, and a knowledge of the whole of reality, its ultimate cause and purpose. These two ends, each good in itself, are united in one order: the practice of virtue and justice serves to bring about the acquisition of wisdom. Liberal education is thus an education of the whole As a Catholic liberal arts college, Christendom’s essential purpose is to place man; an education in wisdom and in the virtues which serve wisdom. students on the path to Christian wisdom, a wisdom born from the contemplation Even now, our account of liberal education is not complete; justice and virtue are and love of both natural and divinely not the only requirements for wisdom. Just as a craftsman, before he even begins revealed truth. to make anything, must learn what his tools are, and then how to use them, so the man who would be wise first must find and learn to use the tools of learning, which Toward this end, the academic and other programs at the College work in since medieval times are called the liberal arts (cp. Dorothy L. Sayers, The Lost Tools conjunction.The chief goal of the academic of Learning). Each of the liberal arts contributes in a unique way to the formation of program is to form intellectual virtues the mind, enabling it to understand every aspect of reality. For instance, grammar in the students. The activities, events, equips a man to express his thoughts with clarity and accuracy, and to understand community and spiritual life on campus the expression of others; logic enables him to test the validity of a line of reasoning; also foster the cultivation of wisdom, and rhetoric teaches him how to frame beautiful and persuasive discourses. Again, helping students to form the moral virtues, literature and history reflect the experience necessary to understand realities of the the habits of Christian living, which will moral and political life. Also, mathematics fosters a love for rigor and precision. enable them to order properly the goods and things of the body and the higher In general, the liberal arts provide the skills and habits necessary for the pursuit of goods and things of the soul. wisdom and so are an integral part of liberal education.
Liberal education, then, must have at least these three parts: first, it must include training in ethics and politics; second, it must include the liberal arts, the indispensable tools of learning; finally, it must include the pursuit of wisdom itself, which is called “philosophy.” An education, however, which simply combines these disciplines in a shapeless whole is not complete. Cardinal Newman teaches that the philosophy which liberal education seeks “consists in a comprehensive view of the truth in all of its branches, of the relation of science to science, of their mutual bearings, and their respective values.” That is, the parts of a liberal education fall into a determinate order. Each part is good in itself, perfecting the mind in a fundamental way, but the first two parts of liberal education are also servants of the third part. That is, ethics, politics, and the liberal arts, while enjoying a legitimate autonomy, have an intrinsic ordering to philosophy. Liberal education becomes a coherent and fulfilling education for the truly free man through this ordering.
St. John the Evangelist Library, with a capacity for 150,000 volumes, has a high quality collection which is specifically designed to support the Catholic liberal arts curriculum of the undergraduate College, as well as the theological, philosophical, and catechetical studies of the Notre Dame Graduate School and faculty research.
Faith Seeking Understanding
An education that came to an end with philosophy, however, could never properly be called a Catholic education. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Divine Word of God, came to earth as a man to teach us the Truth, so that the Truth might make us free. The Truth which He taught was a Truth beyond the power of the unaided human mind to discover, but instead was revealed to the Apostles, handed down to us in Holy Scripture and Tradition, and preserved by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. No Catholic would believe that he received a true liberal education, an education which makes him truly free, unless he were educated in the redeeming Truth of Christ.
At the beginning of each new academic year, although not mandated by ecclesial law, Christendom College’s entire faculty, both graduate and undergraduate, voluntarily takes the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. In fact, Christendom remains one of the only Catholic colleges in the nation whose entire faculty takes this oath annually.
Theology, then, becomes the principal part and crown of a Catholic liberal education. Perhaps the best way to describe theology is in the words of St. Anselm of Canterbury: Theology is “faith seeking understanding” (fides quaerens intellectum). Even in the present life, the highest perfection of our minds consists in an understanding of God as He is revealed to us through faith. Thus, the ultimate goal of a Catholic liberal education is the acquisition of theological wisdom, and that wisdom has an illuminating effect on all parts of liberal education. The Catholic studies the liberal arts and uses those tools in the service of theology. He studies ethics and politics, but adds to that study a knowledge of Catholic moral principles. Finally, he studies philosophy, not just for the sake of a knowledge of reality, but also because philosophy serves to increase his understanding of the Creator of all things. He studies each of these disciplines for its own sake, but also uses them in the service of something higher. The Catholic tradition, then, does not destroy or diminish liberal education, but rather perfects it. The Catholic free man studies all of the disciplines, both for their own sake, and in the service of Theology, the “Queen of the Sciences.” The essence of liberal education may be eternal, but its concrete manifestations are not; they vary according to the times and circumstances. At Christendom College, liberal education has taken shape according to the needs of the modern world. First, the College testifies to the importance of a complete education by its commitment to a strong core curriculum that includes a full three years of both philosophy and theology. That core also includes the liberal arts necessary for the study of higher things, and courses in politics which introduce the student to the Catholic social order. At the same time, the College testifies to the intrinsic worth of the lower disciplines by a variety of major programs in the liberal arts and political science, as well as philosophy and theology. It harmonizes and orders the disciplines, bringing them all to the service of Christ and His Church.
The text of the Oath of Fidelity is that promulgated by the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “On assuming the office of teacher at Christendom College, I promise that I shall always preserve communion with the Catholic Church in the words I speak or in the way I act... In carrying out my charge, I shall preserve the deposit of Faith in its entirety, hand it on faithfully, and make it shine forth. As a result, I shall shun whatsoever teachings are contrary... With Christian obedience, I shall associate myself with what is expressed by the holy shepherds as authentic doctors and teachers of the Faith, or established by them as the Church’s rulers.”
CORE CURRICULUM: Freshman Year
English 101 Literature of Western Civilization I History 101 Ancient & Biblical World Mathematics 101 Euclidean Geometry Philosophy 101 Introduction to Philosophy Theology 101 Catholic Doctrine I Language 101 Latin, Greek, French, or Spanish
English 102 Literature of Western Civilization II History 102 Formation of Christendom Philosophy 102 Philosophy of Human Nature Science 102 Introduction to Scientific Thought Theology 102 Catholic Doctrine II Language 102 Latin, Greek, French, or Spanish
Sophomore Year First Semester
English 201 Literature of Western Civilization III History 201 The Division of Christendom Philosophy 201 Ethics Political Science 201 Political Theory Theology 201 Old Testament Language 201 Latin, Greek, French, or Spanish
English 202 Literature of Western Civilization IV History 202 Church & World in the Modern Age Philosophy 202 Metaphysics Political Science 202 Church Social Teachings Theology 202 New Testament Language 202 Latin, Greek, French, or Spanish
Junior Year First Semester
Philosophy 301 Ancient & Medieval Philosophy Theology 301 Moral Theology
Philosophy 302 Modern Philosophy Theology 302 Catholic Apologetics
Rome Semester Abroad (Optional)
History 301 Art and Architecture of Rome English/History/Theology 300 Roman Perspectives Italian 101 Elementary Italian
An 84-hour core curriculum of carefully selected subjects required for all students is Christendom College’s fundamental response to the crisis in higher education explained above. It is a response deeply rooted in perennial truth and long centuries of Catholic learning. This extensive core curriculum is constituted from seven discipline areas: three years of study in Theology, three years in Philosophy, two years of study in English Language and Literature, two years of study in Classical or Modern Language, two years in History, one year in Political Science and Economics, and one year in Mathematics and Natural Science. It is a curriculum worthy of any young mind. It is an arduous good requiring sacrifice and courage from any student wishing to attain it and from any faculty member wishing to impart it. As such, it is the kind of good that no consumer survey is likely to affirm or endorse amidst the futile but seemingly pressing hyperactivity of our culture. Yet this kind of education is urgently needed by the future citizens and leaders of our nation, by the fathers and mothers of our children, and by the priests and religious of our Church, if we are not to slip blindly into the dark and chaotic night of a dying West. First and foremost, the required 36 semester hours in Theology and Philosophy reflect the College’s strong commitment to Thomistic wisdom as the fundamental ordering principle of the curriculum. The student of St. Thomas at once recognizes that much of modern culture has limited the domain of knowledge to the practical order—the effort to remake man and nature—while banishing the speculative order: the discovery of the truth of a given (not constructed) order of reality. In the modern secular and pseudoCatholic university, the natural, social, and technical sciences are thought to advance man’s technical and political liberation, while theology, metaphysics, and ethics languish because they are seen as the products of emotional or religious feelings impervious to rational justification. The twelve courses in Theology and Philosophy dominate Christendom’s core curriculum precisely to help the student overcome this distorted judgment through exposure to the rich Catholic intellectual heritage enlightened by the Faith and right reason. The student is led to see that Christian philosophy, under the guidance of supernaturally revealed Truth, becomes the defender of speculative reason against its perversions. Second, the required courses in History, Literature, and Classical and Modern Languages reflect Christendom College’s commitment to the Western cultural heritage. History provides an awareness and appreciation of the triumphs and failures of man in building, maintaining, and defending the Faith and Christian culture. Since the Incarnation, history becomes an essential study in the now ennobled temporal journey of man through time until the end of time, giving transcendent significance to all that men do either to advance or to hinder the cause of Christ. Literature develops the student’s moral
imagination as he reads epic, tragic, lyric, and dramatic works of Western man. These literary works assist the student in the right ordering of his passions in the service of reason and truth. In this way, the student’s reflection on the exemplary sufferings and hopes of fictional men and women overcomes the modern disassociation of sensibility and reason. Classical and modern foreign languages not only enhance the above disciplines by allowing the student to enter more fully into the documents and life of past and present cultures, thereby transcending present limitations, but they enable the student better to grasp the nature and structure of language itself. In particular, mastery of Greek and Latin opens the riches of Biblical and ecclesial literature and the sources of Christian culture. History, literature, and languages support Thomistic wisdom by enriching the student’s intellectual experience. Third, the required courses in Political Science and Economics focus the student’s theological and philosophical studies through an examination of political theory and social reality. The student is introduced to classical political philosophy and the rich social teaching of the modern Popes. Such essential elements of Catholic thought as natural law, social justice, subsidiarity, and the common good are examined. The student is shown how these principles differ fundamentally from Marxist collectivism on the one hand and from a materialistic utilitarianism on the other. Fourth and finally, the study of mathematics and natural science introduces the student to the methods of the disciplines that have most profoundly shaped our contemporary world. In a context of the broader Thomistic vision, the student is shown how to place these disciplines in the hierarchy of human knowledge and aims. He sees how modern mathematics is the basis of the rigor and predictive power of the natural sciences and how the natural sciences have enhanced our understanding of the created universe. By making clear their proper place in the hierarchy of human knowledge, the student is enabled to appreciate the sciences without unduly glorifying them. The core curriculum is foundational for advanced study of any academic discipline and, indeed, extends into the junior year. At this time the student selects a major course of study in one of six disciplines offered. That major usually requires an additional twenty-seven hours of course work, beginning in the third year. The student supplements and refines the intellectual skills and knowledge gained from the core with focused study, research, and writing in his chosen discipline. He caps his major with a senior thesis (of at least 40 pages) on some problem or topic in his chosen field of study. This deeper comprehension of one discipline culminates the intellectual progress begun in the core.
Christendom provides its students with a well-rounded education in a personal environment. Students are immersed in a carefully structured curriculum of liberal arts disciplines. Its graduates are able to read critically, to think logically, and to express themselves clearly – skills necessary for any profession.
Christendom College believes the student will carry with him upon graduation the perspectives and consolation of Christian wisdom. Moreover, his developed skills in analysis, synthesis, reasoning, and written discourse will enable him to excel in whatever career choice he makes. By the adoption of its core curriculum, Christendom College has rejected the proliferation of majors and the consequent perceived equality between all disciplines so characteristic of the modern multiversity. The College sees that the speculative credentials of many modern disciplines are problematic, either in their very principles or in their actual practice. Yet the growing numbers and academic demands of these disciplines have been primarily responsible for the destruction of core curricula in American universities of the past century. For Christendom to multiply majors and new academic departments would be to invite a reliving of this often tragic academic history. It is Christendom’s 84-credit-hour core curriculum, ordered by Thomistic wisdom within a historical matrix, that makes it unique in American higher education.*
*With the addition of the Junior Rome Semester Abroad Program, students may participate in a 93-hour core curriculum.
Faculty & Pedagogy
If the curriculum of the College is aimed at knowledge of God, man, and nature in and through a liberal education, and at serving God through the restoration of all things in Christ, the rest of the College must be compatible with this goal. Not only what teachers teach but also how they teach and act should manifest this goal. If each Christendom teacher is to further this goal, he must be a committed Catholic, faithful to the Magisterium, and loyal to the Pope as the Vicar of Christ on earth. Furthermore, the faculty must have a love for the students, a love for learning, and a love of teaching. The role of the faculty as teachers is to guide and introduce the student to the great tradition of the liberal disciplines and to foster in them a “philosophical habit of mind,” in Newman’s phrase. The intellectual and social interaction of faculty and students, both within and outside the classroom, forms an essential and irreplaceable component of the Christendom educational program.
With a 14:1 student to professor ratio, the professors of Christendom are able to become mentors to students. Students eat meals with professors and have the opportunity to attend events held at faculty homes. It’s not business, it’s personal.
The professoriate at Christendom College consists of men and women learned in their disciplines; each faculty member with an advanced or terminal degree in his field. Nevertheless, they resist overspecialization and compartmentalization by striving to be conversant with the nature, purpose, general content, and interrelatedness of the core curriculum as a whole. Christendom faculty members do not rest content with the current fragmentation of intellectual life, but foster the development of Christian wisdom in their own lives as in those of their students. The pedagogical methods employed vary according to the material being examined, the level of preparation of the students, and the disposition of the professor. What is being taught also affects the method of teaching. Even though the mind is naturally inquisitive, some material naturally raises more questions than others. In material that is philosophical in nature, many questions arise, so that a continuation of the Socratic method of interrogating students along with lecturing is more appropriate than simple lecturing. In introductory classes, lecture is used primarily, though often with an element of Socratic dialogue to engage the student personally. Occasionally seminars also are used to develop a habitus of critical reflection and close reading. In a seminar, students, led by the professor, will discuss a classic work and take up a difficulty found in it. The seminar aims to understand the intention of the author, and to discover the truth that he conveys. In advanced classes there may be a greater or even exclusive use of the seminar method. In any case, classes are characterized by tripartite interaction between professor and students and among students, for which there is no adequate substitute.
Lecture, at its highest form, is the communication of truth with explanatory reasons. What is communicated is thus not mere information, but a critical knowledge derived from personally achieved wisdom, toward which the student in turn must aspire. The seminar format, even at the introductory level, has the advantage of forcing the student to formulate and articulate ideas, problems, and solutions and to present them orally to his professor and peers. Thus, while there is always an emphasis on student participation throughout the curriculum, the faculty try to strike a balance between lecture and seminar, utilizing the best aspects of each within the dynamics of the class, without mandating the one or the other. Professors are urged to use, wherever practical, primary works rather than secondary treatments, so that the student may be introduced directly to the great authors of Western civilization. For example, our freshmen read Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and Plutarch’s Lives as they read Newman’s The Idea of a University and Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man. Our students are introduced to the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas as well as to complete texts by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Shakespeare, and others. By these, the students are exposed to varieties of literary genres, styles, and modes of thought, as well as to the great questions about human life and existence that have driven intellectual discourse in the West for over two millennia.
C h r i s t e n d o m a l u m n i a re employed in almost every field possible, from Information Technolog y to Education, Marketing to Medicine, Law to Academia.
Size on a Humane Scale
One of the features of the majority of American colleges and universities is their large, even immense, size. Today, students at “Behemoth U.” number in the tens of thousands, and the individual student is lost in a sea of anonymity. However, whether with one thousand or forty thousand students, the reigning ambiance on such campuses is that of the general “mass” culture. In earlier years, when the prevailing culture supported moral virtue and the “common decencies,” the fact that the student body differed little from the surrounding culture presented no problem. In today’s world, there is little cultural support for virtue of any kind; indeed, our secular, relativistic, neo-pagan culture is increasingly hostile to the morally good, the intellectually true, and the aesthetically beautiful. We are in the midst of a culture war of vast proportions, and the battlefield is the heart and soul of our youth.
With the projected total enrollment of 450 students in the undergraduate program, the College will still have the “large family” characteristics that make it a school of choice for so many.
Christendom College’s commitment to a humane scale in the undergraduate academic community, in which every faculty member and student may be known personally to one another, is therefore imperative. At the founding, the upper limit was set at about 450 students. The reasons for this limitation are several. First of all, the model for Christendom’s residential college is more the society of the extended family than the “multiversity.” Christendom College is a residential community where virtually the entire student body lives on campus in residence halls, where each student is immersed in a vibrant, living Catholic counter-culture twenty-four hours a day. Women’s and men’s residence halls are located on opposite sides of the campus, with the chapel, refectory, and classrooms located in the center. The residence halls are conducive to social and intellectual interaction in a home-like atmosphere, as is the common dining area. Thus, in our resident academic community there are no “nameless faces.” Each person is known as an individual, not as a mere statistic, and is valued as an immortal soul redeemed by Christ. With smaller overall size, classes more easily may be kept at an optimum size, where classroom interaction between students and professor is both encouraged and practiced. Faculty members take meals with students in the dining hall and often meet informally with students. Furthermore, Christendom College is actively engaged in the culture wars to reclaim the hearts and souls of its students to Christ and His Church. It reclaims their hearts and souls by maintaining a manageable student population and by integrating each new entering class intellectually, spiritually, morally, and socially into the Christendom community. Its task is aided by the physical environment of the campus. The College’s hundred acres, situated northeast of historic Front Royal, VA, include lovely grassy fields and serene woods overlooking the Shenandoah River. The grounds will comfortably accommodate facilities for approximately 450 students while retaining a pastoral character. All campus facilities have been built to complement this natural setting and to be conducive to study and reflection. Lastly, the goal of 450 will produce an economy of scale that would be relatively easy to maintain, without the constant need to expend great energies in fund raising. The energy of the College administration, from the President on down, then might be devoted more single-mindedly to the educational mission of the College.
Christendomâ€™s Chapel of Christ the King is located in the heart of the campus.
Catholic Culture The “Catholic thing,” the res catholica which the College strives to make real for its students, implies an organically Catholic way of life which needs to be nurtured and protected by the community in which Catholic culture thrives and grows. Ample provision must be made for the spiritual life of both students and faculty. Following the directives of Vatican II (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, articles 112-122, and the Instruction Musicam sacram, article 19), in the Chapel of Christ the King, as an ecclesia major, or larger church, outstanding by reason of its artistic and historical importance, the College strives to carry out the Divine Liturgy with all due splendor. Part of this effort naturally includes the cultivation, in performance by volunteer student groups such as the College Choir and the Schola Gregoriana, of the “treasury of sacred music” whose integral parts include Gregorian chant and the sacred vocal polyphony of great Catholic masters such as Palestrina, Victoria, and Josquin des Prez. In this way, the Christendom student is able to experience Catholic culture at its best, indeed, to “breathe Catholic air” when the community gathers for worship. No other Catholic college in America offers a program even remotely approaching this unique initiative.
The Christendom Players, a student group of amateur actors and actresses, stages a production for the entertainment of the College and the wider community each year. Past productions have included Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest and Lady Windermere’s Fan, G.B. Shaw’s St. Joan and Pygmalion, the Broadway Musicals Oliver!, and The Sound of Music, the suspenseful Witness for the Prosecution, and A Man for All Seasons.
The pursuit of what is true, beautiful, and worthy of praise is not limited to the spiritual or intellectual spheres. God in His Goodness can also be found in the beauty of the arts. Since works of art, especially music, influence man tremendously, these should generally aim students as well as faculty toward God. The point here must not be misunderstood; just as all truth leads to God, so all beauty leads to God. Just as teachers are not always talking specifically about things Catholic, but must always be concerned to teach the truth, so we must be concerned to make what we see and hear beautiful. This is accomplished especially in the Liturgy and in sacred music. It is done also in the paintings that are displayed in the halls. It is fitting that some should be religious in subject matter, but all must be beautiful. It is also good that the grounds and buildings of the campus be pleasing to the eye, reflecting the order and beauty of the students’ intellectual and spiritual formation. No less than in the spiritual and intellectual spheres, the social life of the student body is governed by the principles of Christian morals found in the Gospels for the development of charity, civility, and modesty in daily living. For example, rules governing dress code and non-intervisitation of the opposite sex in residence halls further support a healthy Christian way of life. Key aspects of student life likewise reflect the joy found in Catholic culture and festivity, such as the annual celebrations of Oktoberfest, St. Cecilia’s Musical Evening, St. Patrick’s Eve, the Feast of St. Joseph, as well as Rosary processions on feasts of Our Lady, and the annual consecration of the entire Christendom community to the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts. In their activities, students learn to distinguish those elements within contemporary culture which are conducive to good morals from those that are not. Beyond the daily experience of a college centered on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, The Beato Fra Angelico Fine Arts Program offers our students a further opportunity to experience directly the higher and more aesthetically praiseworthy aspects of Western civilization and our contemporary culture through live performances, lectures, art exhibitions, and other on-campus events throughout the academic year.
Reprinted on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of Christendom College.
Restoring All Things in Christ 134 Christendom Drive, Front Royal, VA 22630800.877.5456www.christendom.edu