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Institute of Catholic Culture: A Model that Works

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Feb 11, 2010 | In Reviews

I’ve been generally aware of the Institute of Catholic Culture for some time, and have heard from many quarters of the good work it does. I admit that my first reaction (call it the reaction of the natural man) was that somebody had stolen our name. Another part of me pointed out that one of the reasons we had chosen the name for our web site in the first place was because nobody, not even the official institutional Church, has a monopoly on Catholic culture. Still, pouting does produce an exquisite sense of misunderstood righteousness.

Eventually I got around to doing what I should have done in the first place. I took a close look at the Institute’s program. This consists primarily of an ongoing lecture and seminar series capable of drawing hundreds to each session. The quality of this series is outstanding, and a good deal of it is available in audio files on the Institute’s web site for those who cannot attend in person—or for those who, quite rightly, do not wish to forget the message.

The Institute of Catholic Culture was founded by Sabatino Carnazzo, a Christendom College graduate who also earned a Masters degree in Systematic Theology at the College’s Notre Dame Graduate School. Now, as a founder of Christendom College who left to start Trinity Communications when Carnazzo was, well, about three years old, I take full credit for all of his achievements—and, by the way, for the achievements of any intelligent Catholic throughout the world who can spell “Christendom” properly. (This is even better than pouting.)

More seriously, Carnazzo’s Institute and our own Trinity Communications are cut, intellectually and spiritually, from the same cloth. Carnazzo’s dream began in 2006 as an educational outreach program of Saint John the Beloved Church in McLean, Virginia. Under his leadership and with the support of well-known pastor Rev. Franklyn McAfee, STD, the program began drawing so many people from beyond the parish boundaries that last year Carnazzo spun it off into a non-profit corporation with the current name. The Institute is fortunately located in an outstanding diocese (Arlington) and near the nation’s capital, and so has ready access to a large number of brilliant Catholic scholars and speakers, whether resident in the area or passing through. Here’s a very short list of past and future presenters and their topics, chosen almost at random:

  • William Marshner, STD, Christendom College, “Flesh and Blood: A Study of the Incarnate Word”
  • Robert Moynihan, Ph.D., Inside the Vatican, “Saint Athanasius’ The Incarnation
  • Dr. Timothy O’Donnell, Christendom College, “The Fall of Jerusalem: There Will Not Be Left Here One Stone Upon Another...” (scheduled for 2/18/2010)
  • Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, Ignatius Press, “The Pope, the Anglicans and the Mass” (scheduled for 2/21/2010)
  • Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, “After this Life: Heaven, Hell and Purgatory” (coming soon)
  • Christopher Check, Rockford Institute, “The Age of Martyrs: From Nero to Constantine the Great” (coming soon)

In the preceding list, those scheduled for the future have generally lectured on other topics in the past, and those from the past are scheduled for fresh topics in the future. In fact, a number of professors from Christendom and other outstanding Catholic colleges, as well as fine priests from the Diocese of Arlington and elsewhere, have made multiple presentations, as has Carnazzo himself. For example, Dr. William Marshner, one of the most intelligent and engaging theologians I have ever met, will be speaking soon on both “The Gift of the Holy Spirit: Partakers of the Divine Nature” and “Islam: History and Theology”.

The Institute of Catholic Culture attempts to respond to the Church’s call for “a new evangelization” by hosting “educational seminars specifically designed to build bridges of understanding, teaching authentic Catholic history, philosophy, and theology as a way of healing the wounds in the Body of Christ, and reaching out to those who seek knowledge of the Truth.” The Institute’s program should serve as an example for the efforts of others around the country and the world; but in the meantime, all who can take advantage of the impressive and growing list of audio downloads ought to consider supporting this work.

And if you’re in Northern Virginia, I highly recommend that you check the schedule and join Sabatino Carnazzo for one of his Institute’s truly valuable seminars or lectures. Very few have either the time or financial resources to study in the unfortunately small number of outstanding Catholic colleges and universities available today. The Institute of Catholic Culture is a model for Catholic education and formation that can work for everybody.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: koinonia - Feb. 13, 2010 8:56 AM ET USA

    I just learned of the Institute and was impressed with what I saw online as well. I hope the surge (and scourge) of historic snows comes to an abrupt end so that that the schedule remains intact. Dr. O'Donnell's New Testament lectures at Christendom College are among my fond memories of those days. I applaud both Dr. Mirus and Mr. Carnazzo for their efforts at restoration in Christ.