Mount Angel Seminary photo by Phillip Shifflet
William Desmond visits with the philosophy faculty at Mount Angel Seminary: Owen T. Cummings, Mark Wolman and Andrew Cummings. The seminary has begun a masters of theology program.
Mount Angel Seminary photo by Phillip Shifflet
William Desmond visits with the philosophy faculty at Mount Angel Seminary: Owen T. Cummings, Mark Wolman and Andrew Cummings. The seminary has begun a masters of theology program.
SAINT BENEDICT —This fall, Mount Angel Seminary inaugurated a fully-accredited master of arts in philosophy program with a philosophical symposium. William Desmond, philosophy professor, was keynote speaker.

Mount Angel is one of only a few seminaries in the United States to offer a master of arts in philosophy degree to pre-theology students. The program consists of two years of philosophical studies. Before a seminarian begins theology, he must first have a philosophical foundation on which to build, seminary officials say. Philosophy has been described as the “handmaiden of theology.”

Desmond, the symposium speaker, is a Catholic philosopher who was born in Ireland and now teaches in the United States and Belgium. He earned a doctoral degree from Pennsylvania State University and writes about a variety of philosophical topics. His works include Being and the Between, Ethics and the Between and God and the Between.

After the community Mass in the Abbey Church, faculty, staff, students and guests of the seminary gathered for the symposium. Symposiums are a standard part of the formation program at Mount Angel Seminary, and typically focus on issues of theological or human formation. This year’s symposium, addressing philosophical topics, was a first on the hilltop.

Desmond’s morning session was entitled “Witness and Being Truthful.” He reflected on the importance of being truthful, in light of Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. The afternoon session was entitled “Soul Music and Soul-Less Selving.” In this session he pondered why we have soul-music and not self-music, while reflecting on the nature of the human soul.

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–à–vis an extremely widespread cultural situation which emphasizes subjectivism as a criterion and measure of truth.”

The late pope offers a way to challenge culture’s claim that absolute truth does not exist: “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.”

The writer is a seminarian at Mount Angel Seminary.