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Celebrating our Recent Graduates

On May 18 we celebrated 14 students graduating from various DSPT programs. We had a beautiful Commencement Ceremony, with encouraging speeches from DSPT alumna Margaret M. Turek, STD and DSPT graduate, Br. Nikolas Barth, OFM Cap. We also heard a reading of 1 Corinthians 12: 3b-7, 12-13 from DSPT graduate Megan Watson.

Watch Dr. Margaret M. Turek's Speech

Watch Br. Nikolas Barth, OFM Cap.'s Speech

Among the graduates were Fr. Andrew Thomas Kang, OP and Fr. Columban Mary Hall, OP who were ordained to the order of the priesthood on May 25, along with Fr. Matthew Wanner, OP, who graduated from DSPT in 2023.

View the full list of graduates, as well as their thesis topics and abstracts (if applicable) below!

Certificate of Philosophical Studies:

Dominicus Maria Armbruster, OP


Certificate of Theological Studies:

Katherine Arnaud-Seybold

Łukasz Pasich, OP

Bartłomiej Rogula, OP


Master of Divinity:

Nikolas Barth, OFM Cap

Chris Renz, OP (Advisor)

Master of Divinity and Master of Art (Theology), Thesis Option

Andrew Thomas Kang, OP

“Instinctus Spiritus Sancti, Instinctus Rationis: The Relation Between Divine Instinct and Human Reason in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit According to St. Thomas Aquinas”

Marianne Farina, CSC (Coordinator) Michael Dodds, OP Dennis Klein, OP

While there has been a renewed interest in St. Thomas Aquinas’s doctrine of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, recent literature on the topic has been disparate. Given St. Thomas Aquinas’s later exposition on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, it seems that the gifts cannot be properly understood without a careful

analysis of the Spirit’s prompting, or instinctus. In this thesis, I argue that, in St. Thomas’s doctrine of the gifts, the operation of the gifts precludes discursive deliberation without removing the freedom proper to human action. This is one aspect of the way that the Spirit’s motion enables the sanctified agent to act in a higher, divine mode without doing violence to its nature or agency. The study includes an analysis of the major interpretations of St. Thomas in the last century, a study of the analogy between the Holy Spirit’s motion in the gifts and the reason’s motion in the moral virtues, and a defense of the position that the Spirit’s instinctus is a special kind of operating actual grace.

Master of Arts (Theology), Thesis Option

Scott Norgaard, OP

“Sacrifice Your Son: A Thomistic Comparison of the Akedah and Calvary as the Basis of Worship”

Matthew Thomas, DPhil (Coordinator) Bryan Kromholtz, OP Luke Buckles, OP Christian theologians have long developed the Akedah/Passion typology—viewing Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac as a type of Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary. But relatively little attention has been given to comparing the Akedah’s function in Jewish theology (as a foundational sacrificial event memorialized in subsequent liturgy) to the Passion’s function in Christian theology (as a foundational sacrificial event memorialized in the Mass). Recently, scholars have explored the role that the Akedah serves in Jewish conceptions of sacrifice (e.g., Levenson) and in Christian understanding of the Eucharist (e.g., Levering). I argue that Second Temple and Rabbinic Jewish texts on the Akedah are consistent with Aquinas’s view that the Old Covenant sacrifices were imperfect and prefigure the perfect New Covenant sacrifice. I show how these Jewish texts’ descriptions of the theological significance of the Akedah (and subsequent liturgies) prefigure the theological significance of the Passion (and subsequent celebrations of the Mass). 

Master of Art Philosophy and Master of Art Theology

Megan Watson 

Justin Gable, OP (Advisor)

Master of Arts (Philosophy) Thesis Option

Columban Mary Hall, OP

"Finding Wisdom: Why Metaphysics Depends on a Proof for Immaterial Being"

Michael Dodds, OP (Coordinator) Marga Vega, PhD Anselm Ramelow, OP

The science of metaphysics, classically, was held to be pinnacle of human science, wisdom in the fullest sense. Aristotle insisted on the difficulty of arriving at this science, a judgment with which St. Thomas

Aquinas concurred. For a long time, Thomists have debated how one enters this science. While most recognize the importance of what is called the judgment of separatio—the judgment that being need not be material and mobile—many have insisted that this judgment can be reached without a demonstration of the existence of immaterial being. The converse position, however, is the correct one. Metaphysics is formally established by a proof for the existence of immaterial being. This opens to us a science beyond the philosophy of nature: first philosophy, the study of divine things by way of the study of being as being. This theological focus unifies metaphysics, drawing together the various tasks assigned to it: the ontological, aetiological, and sapiential aspects of metaphysics come together in its theological inquiries. This points the way forward in bringing the two sides of the debate together. Without this theological component, only a metaphysics of material being would be available to us: in other words, physics would be first philosophy, and would take on some of the characteristics that in truth belong to metaphysics. This thesis constitutes an extended argument to that effect, then briefly concludes with a note on the eudaemonistic import of metaphysics and some of the implications of this study.

Joshua Peck

"The Essence of Story: An Investigation of the Inception, Creation, and Reception of Stories"

Anselm Ramelow, OP (Coordinator) James Kintz, PhD Raphael Mary Salzillo, OP

This thesis argues for, and expands upon, an essential definition of "story," using the philosophical tradition of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. "Story," as it is used here, refers to a species that identifies a particular kind of artifact in the world. However, to arrive at a proper definition, one must investigate the common principles that are shared by all members of the species, from the very best—i.e. literature—to the absolute simplest and worst stories. One principle, is the storyteller himself, as the cause of the story's existence, but another is the rule in the storyteller's mind that dictates what elements belong to that particular story and which do not. This is called a "principle of selection." While there is one principle of selection that belongs to the storyteller, there is a second, which is proper to the individual story. The selection principle in the story itself is analogous to an Aristotelian substantial form, both in the role it plays in generation—i.e. as an end—and as the principle that makes the work intelligible to both the storyteller and the audience. With these conceptual tools, one can better understand how stories are made, as well as how they express mimetic content to their audiences.

Concurrent MA Study Option

Ruvianne Dela Cruz Mercado

“The Compatibility Between Self-Love and Self-Denial in the Spiritual Life According to the Teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas”

Matthew Glowasky, Ph.D. (Coordinator) Michael Sherwin, OP Michael Dodds, OP

Christ teaches that Christians must love God above all things and love their neighbors as themselves. Christians who wish to follow Christ must also imitate him by taking up their crosses in acts of self-denial. Yet, how can a Christian both love and deny himself when self-love and self-denial are contraries? I argue that self-love and self-denial can exist together in the spiritual life. In this thesis, I affirm the compatibility between self-love and self-denial by examining St. Thomas Aquinas’s order of charity and giving special attention to his teachings on self-love. St. Thomas on self-love is an aspect of his teachings that seems to have been interpreted in various ways due to what is known as “The Problem of Love.” St. Thomas’s teachings on love, hatred, friendship, charity, and the order of charity allow for one to give primacy to God, next to oneself, to one’s neighbor, and finally, to one’s own body, integrating both the necessary existence of both self-love and self-denial in the spiritual life.

Paola Pruett-Vergara

“The Mystery and the Glory: An Augustinian Critique of Giorgio Agamben’s The Kingdom and the Glory”

Michael Glowasky, PhD (Coordinator) Anselm Ramelow, OP Russell Hittinger, PhD

This thesis engages the Italian political and literary theorist Giorgio Agamben and his interpretation of Augustine of Hippo’s contributions to Christian theology as the foundation for Western political power. More specifically, this thesis will focus on Agamben’s interpretation of Augustine in his work, The Kingdom and the Glory (2011), exploring the ways in which he applies and negotiates the various strains of political and social theory he inherits from postmodern political philosophers with the Christian theological tradition as set forth by Augustine and the patristic writers of the early centuries of the Church.

Starting from Agamben's methodology, I explore how his historical materialist lens leads him to separate faith from reason within Augustine’s work, leading to a deficient understanding of the mysterium which motivates and guides Augustine’s theology. I note, moreover, how Agamben’s methodological mistake leads to misinterpretations of Augustine’s Trinitarian theology. As a result, Agamben lacks a robust Christology, which is actually key to understanding Augustine’s work on the relationship between the immanent sphere and God’s transcendent nature.

I suggest in my conclusion that Agamben’s diagnosis of contemporary political structures parallels Augustine’s critique of earthly politics. I maintain that Augustine’s work remains relevant to contemporary philosophy as it provides answers to Agamben’s questions about the relationship between transcendence and immanence manifested in the sphere of politics.

Paschal Strader, OP

“Arguments From an Ordered Universe: Fine-Tuning vs. Final Causality”

Michael Dodds, OP (Coordinator) Anselm Ramelow, OP Dennis Klein, OP

Physicists have realized that if certain constants in the laws of physics had been slightly different, the universe would have been incapable of supporting life. The fine-tuning argument (FTA) presents these findings as strongly implying that some intelligence designed the universe to be life-supporting. The FTA’s argumentation from the universe’s apparent orientation toward the goal of life to the existence of an intelligent Creator invites comparison to St. Thomas Aquinas’s Fifth Way, which argues from the orientation of natural things toward ends to the existence of God.

This thesis compares the fine-tuning argument to the Fifth Way with respect to the type of argument each is, the workability of their premises, their probative force, and the robustness of their conclusions. From the philosophical point of view, the key difference between the arguments is the workability of their premises. The conclusions of each argument are also compared theologically: What kind of God does each argument point to? Is the Supreme Intelligence of each argument necessarily the omnipotent, transcendent God of Catholic theology?

This thesis argues that, while the Fifth Way is built on a combination of defensible natural philosophy principles with universal observations, the FTA is based on probabilities that are difficult to firmly establish, making the FTA the weaker argument. It is further argued that lessons from Aquinas’s philosophy of nature on the grounding of orderly behavior in substantial forms can be used to refine the FTA to more clearly point to the God of Catholic theology.

Kellen Troxell

Partem Capere: A Thomistic Contribution to the Understanding of Actuosa Participatio in the Liturgy

Bryan Kromholtz, OP (Coordinator) Chris Renz, OP John Thomas Mellein, OP

The notion of actuosa participatio has been a prominent theme in liturgical theology from the nineteenth century Liturgical Movement up to today. Moreover, the cultivation of proper “active participation” was a leading motivation for twentieth century liturgical reform. Although the understanding of “active participation” has been elaborated in various ways over time, the lack of a formal definition in magisterial texts leaves this concept open to disparate interpretations, suggesting a need for further reflection. In particular, some theologians have suggested the potential fruitfulness of considering “active participation” as a philosophical concept. This thesis explores a philosophical grounding for actuosa participatio in Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine of metaphysical participation. First, an exposition of participation in Saint Thomas illustrates how Thomas’ teaching on participation also informs his anthropology and his treatise on the virtue of religion. Second, an historical overview of

magisterial pronouncements on liturgical participation elucidates the Church’s official teaching, namely, that active liturgical participation properly understood primarily signifies one’s interior disposition toward the sacred, with exterior actions oriented to the interior, and that this teaching is open to further philosophical and theological elaboration. Finally: Thomas’s hierarchical ordering of the acts of religion (the exterior acts being ordered to the interior, and the interior being ordered directly to God) not only show a strong congruence between Thomas’s treatise on religion and the magisterial notion of active liturgical participation; this link helps to illustrate the enduring relevance of Aquinas’s metaphysics in liturgical reflection and for mystagogical-catechetical efforts within the Church today.