The Capstone Course
Participation in the capstone course is the culmination of three years of study centered on the Sacred Liturgy, Church History and Documents, Latin, Sacred Art, and Sacred Music. The completion of this course affords seminarians the opportunity to experience the Universal Church in The Eternal City, walk in the footsteps of our saints and popes, and see the beauty and stories of our Catholic faith come to life.
By grasping how faith and culture have interacted in the past, they gain some insight into the working of God’s plan in larger historical events.
As important as college lectures are, there is something special about studying theology in the physical place that is the center of our Catholic faith. Being in the presence of the Holy Father, celebrating Holy Mass in churches that are home to the sacred remains of the saints, and walking the streets of martyrs helps bring seminarians into the wide world that is Catholicism. The Program of Priestly Formation states college seminarians should understand the cultural roots of their faith. “By grasping how faith and culture have interacted in the past, they gain some insight into the working of God’s plan in larger historical events (149).”
St. John Paul II thought it was important for seminarians to visit Italy not only to visit the homes of the saints, but to see in art the expressions of the faithful as a response to the truth, goodness and beauty of God. Our Faith is incarnational, and all Catholic art is now a reflection on the beauty of God made flesh. St. John Paul II considered the sacred art and architecture of Catholic churches, monasteries, and sacred sites a source of evangelizing vigor and ecclesial vitality, “allowing one to see better the close connection of any plan or pastoral action with the very origins of the mission of the Church.”
One of the many areas of seminarian formation is in sacred music. If you have ever been to Solemn Vespers at the seminary, you know that our “Magister Capellae,” Tom Savoy, has high standards for our men. While in Rome, seminarians have further instruction in the history of sacred music with one of the finest choir masters in Rome and engage in liturgical events. This year, our men sang for a Solemn Mass at San Domenico in Siena. Seminarians return from Italy with a new zeal for sacred music. As St. Augustine said, "Music is given by God's generosity to mortals with rational souls in order to lead them to higher things."
Besides philosophical and theological studies, the pre-theology program should strive to provide seminarians with an understanding of the historical and cultural context of their faith...The Catholic intellectual tradition (e.g., literature and the arts) should be a part of such a curriculum.
Latin in the Forum
Latin in The Forum links foundational church documents and texts from the history of the Latin language to important physical monuments and places in The Eternal City. As the language of the Church, her buildings and artwork are filled with Latin inscriptions. The men try their hand at proper interpretations, rendering Latin into English, while our Magistra (Dr. Nancy Llewellyn) lends a helping hand.
Most young men in their early 20s have not traveled extensively and have never experienced the discomfort of being in an environment where they can neither understand the language or the mores of a given culture. To be a priest is not to be simply provincial. A man is ordained for the universal Church and all are the recipients of his mediation and pastoral charity.
While in Rome and other historical locales in Italy, our college seminarians enjoy guest lectures by priests and other subject matter experts on a wide range of topics from the Liturgy to Sacred Art, allowing them to become students in the same city where Augustine, Aquinas, and Seneca once studied.
Funding For The Capstone Course
Travel expenses for The Capstone Course are never paid for by capital campaign funds or the diocese’s seminarian budget. Each participating priest pays his way, and seminarians pay $1,000 towards their total travel expenses. The remaining cost of The Capstone Course is paid for by the proceeds of book sales and stipends collected by Fr. Kauth and Fr. Buettner throughout the year and donated to the Course. Other proceeds have come from interested donors who wish to see our men widen their intellectual horizons and have the experience that travel alone can bring.