“O Infinite Creator … do Thou, who art in truth the fountain of light and wisdom, deign to shed upon the darkness of my understanding the rays of Thine infinite brightness…”
So begins the highlight of Friday afternoons for intellectual Catholics in the Anscombe Seminar. The club, founded by freshmen Alex Denley, Clement Harrold and Daniel McNichol, strives to bolster faith and reason among Franciscan University students.
Under the umbrella of the newly-founded Veritas Society, the weekly Anscombe Seminar provides students with the opportunity to refine their apologetic skills as growing Catholic Christians.
Clement Harrold, president of the Veritas Society, shared the inspiration for establishing such a society. He said, “Our motto at Franciscan ‘Academically Excellent, Passionately Catholic’ really speaks to the synthesis of faith and reason.” He referenced St. Pope John Paul II, saying “‘Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.’ That’s what it’s all about for us.”
“Today intellectualism is kind of equated with non-religion for the general society,” said Vice President Alex Denley. “Our mission for the society is to educate people so they can combat that common conception … to be able to empower people to fight that conception … to show that intellectualism is properly in the Church.”
Founded upon a shared passion for apologetics and mission to promote intellectual exchange, the Anscombe Seminar club seeks to “understand the other side better than they understand their argument,” said Denley. The three men found guidance in St. Thomas Aquinas, “the great medieval master of argumentation,” said Denley.
With St. Thomas Aquinas as their model, Anscombe Seminar members begin with intercessory prayer to the medieval master before proceeding into a presentation of a relevant secular argument. After listening to and discussing the objections presented, the seminar proceeds to unveil why the belief is commonly held.
“(This) is really key … engaging the other side, being familiar with what their arguments are and then being able to respond,” Harrold said.
Its founders hope to see the club expand by hosting campus-wide debates beginning in April. The seminar explores topics such as the historical validity of Christianity, criticisms of the “Old Testament God” and defense of Christian morality.
The Veritas Society is for anyone who wishes to delve into truth. “If you want to seriously engage with your faith on an intellectual level, then the Anscombe Seminar and the Veritas Society, as a whole, is a great avenue for you to do that,” said Harrold.
Secretary and founder Daniel McNichol said he comes “to learn about the Catholic world view and also opposing worldviews.” He thinks there is “always value in arguing things.”
“The faith doesn’t just live up on the hill, up here at Franciscan,” said Denley. “The faith lives out when we … go back and leave our university days and start into life. And we’re kind of taking this preparatory run, this first lap around the track, but then we have to go run the race.”
Denley said the Veritas Society and Anscombe Seminars give Catholics “strength, the warm ups, the training … so we’re not so dizzy and confused about what we do believe” when confronted in secular society.