HUMANITAS refers to the excellence or virtue that is unique to the human person. That person, as the Church teaches, is a composite of body, mind, and spirit. Few experiences at St. Lawrence prove the limits of all three aspects of the human person as our Colorado experience.
For the fourth annual expedition to Colorado, we were able to deal with the unusually large number of participants through the generous use of a property in Edwards, CO from FOCUS. The theme of our discussions was relationship between God's creation and man's creations, i.e. nature vs. culture and technology, especially in the writings of Romano Guardini.
Students arrived for an early morning Mass, then piled into vans for our long drive to Colorado. It was a time to catch up on (or begin) reading our selections from Romano Guardini's Letters from Lake Como, to grow in friendship, and the occasional rosary. We stopped in Victoria, KS at St. Fidelis, otherwise known as the Cathedral of the Plains, a beautiful church constructed by immigrants out of local stone quarried by their own hands. It was a beautiful way to start our discussion of the relationship between nature and culture. With a final pit stop in Goodland, KS for a snapshot in front of the world's largest reproduction of Van Gogh, we were off to Colorado!
Late that night, we all arrived in Edwards, CO.
In the morning we had our introductory session on Romano Guardini, placing him in context and seeing how we might relate to the cultural changes he saw at the beginning of the 20th century. Students then had their first taste of hiking at the high altitudes of Colorado. We continued the discussion in the afternoon with readings from Sophocles and William Blake as supplements to Guardini's reflections.
Later that evening after Mass and dinner, students gathered in the dark to observe the Perseid meteor shower. We are rather fortunate that our Colorado expedition coincides each year with this annual phenomenon. The Perseids are also called the "Tears of St. Lawrence" as they occur around the feast of our Institute's own patron, St. Lawrence (August 10). Meteor showers take their name after the constellation from which it appears they emerge. This gave us the excuse to learn one of the central myths that ties together such constellations as Perseus, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Cetus.
The day with Mass outside the men's residence in the sunrise. Again, we had deep discussions about culture, nature, and the relationship between man and God. We read selections from Shakespeare and compared his view with Guardini's on the limits of man's ability to know and his place in the cosmos.
Afterward, we got an experiential perspective on the relation of the human person to nature on the rapids in Brown's Canyon.
An early morning as we arrived at the trailhead to Mt. Democrat. For some just to make it to the saddleback at around 13,300ft. was a victory in itself. Most students made it to the top of Democrat (14,148ft.) and a handful were even able to hurry along the ridges that connect Mt. Democrat with Mts. Cameron (14,238ft.) and Lincoln (14,293ft.). To climb a 14er can be a humbling experience. With so little oxygen, your heart races. Trees quickly disappear and pretty soon you are high enough that the only signs of life are lichen, maybe a few adventurous birds and insects. The wind bears upon you and the temperature drops dramatically. Suddenly, the sweatshirt that seemed absurd 30 minutes ago as you sweated up the mountain seems barely enough to keep out the cold.
And yet, the experience for most is a religious one that they shall never forget. The heavens and the earth proclaim the glory of God. Personally, I had a beautiful experience on the hike, coming upon a group that had stopped short of the saddleback. We crouched down and offered prayers of thanksgiving to the Father for His creation. We reflected on the Feast of Our Lady's Assumption whose Vigil we would celebrate that night. And then slowly, step by step, we made our way further up the mountain.
Tired and exhausted, but thrilled at the achievement, we made our way down the mountain to spend the afternoon in the quaint mountain towns of Frisco, Vail and Edwards. We treated ourselves to some much deserved ice cream and commemorative souvenirs.
Fr. Mitchel led us one more time in the celebration of the Mass as we reflected on the Feast of the Assumption and our own ascent that morning. After a final meal, we had time for one last session on Guardini where we took what we had seen, read, and experienced and tried to condense it into some practical resolutions for living the semester with an eye towards a living harmony of nature and culture.
A quick breakfast and we were driving down the mountains, reciting the morning office. We said a final farewell to the cool weather and in joy and gratitude returned to our native mountain: Oread.
If you weren't able to join us this year, we look forward to seeing you in Colorado in 2019! We have some exciting plans for next year and details are going to be posted soon. If you are a friend of the Institute and would like to sponsor a student who may not otherwise be able to attend next year, please contact Luke Murray:, the Berkel Chair of Theology: firstname.lastname@example.org