Yesterday evening, after a lovely dinner discussion over dinner with some dear students, I ran down to the chapel for our nightly benediction. Fr. Michael, our Polish Dominican, was just finishing the Tantum ergo as I entered, and behold, the chapel was full of devout young people on the vigil of St. Joseph’s Day. Thomas Aquinas College is not perfect, but it sure seems that way at certain moments. First, there’s no place like Southern California. The mountains and the sea, the cities and the farms—the very sunlit air brims over with life. Second, there’s no college like TAC. Her classrooms, her common areas, her fountain-splashed arcades and breezy lawns echo with Great Books and those who aspire to the most excellent of Christian culture. The College is a four-year retreat into the very foundations of all that is best in the achievements of Western civilization. Finally, there’s no chapel like that of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. Sunlight, moonlight and starlight illuminate her colored marbles and resplendent columns in various ways throughout the day and night, but never without at least a few students or tutors kneeling quietly before the tabernacle. Those who live here love God, and love to pray to him, and know to radiate his presence.
In a few months I will leave TAC for San Francisco. Certainly this impending farewell has gilded my impressions with antecedent nostalgia. But never will I forget these golden years in my middle age, when the founders and tutors of Thomas Aquinas College welcomed me into their community.
In 1978, when the College Founders moved to this location in the mountains of Southern California, Dr. McArthur’s wife planted a little statue of St. Joseph in a level place on the ranch property that was to become our campus. In front of that buried statue the first permanent college building would arise, and would be named “St. Joseph’s Commons.” A large white marble statue of St. Joseph would be placed over that little buried statue. At 12:15 today, about a hundred students and tutors gathered in front of that large white statue, resting on top of the original tiny statue. We read a few lines from Pope Francis’ homily this morning in Rome (today is the first anniversary of his papacy, and then prayed the Litany of St. Joseph, thanking him for being the “Father and Lord” of Thomas Aquinas College.