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Past Thesis Titles and Summaries

Get inspired by the thesis work of past students.

Explore the thesis work of past students listed by degree program and find inspiration. You may also search the GTU library catalog for more resources.

MA Philosophy

Corporeal Substances, Tangible Qualities and the Four Elements

Student: Robert William Verrill, OP
Michael Dodds, OP (Coordinator),Anselm Ramelow, OP, Marga Vega

Many contemporary Thomists believe that Aquinas’s philosophy of nature can be understood independently of his medieval science. For example, it is often claimed that Aquinas’s theory of the virtual presence of the elements in corporeal substances can be easily translated to a modern context in which the elements of the periodic table take the place of the four elements of earth, air, fire and water. In my thesis I argue against this belief and I show how important it is to understand Aquinas’s account of the four elements and the four tangible qualities of hot, cold, wet and dry, if we are to give an accurate account of his philosophy of nature. I believe that an understanding of Aquinas’s medieval science opens up further avenues of research that may one day lead to a far more Thomistic interpretation of modern physics than has been presented by contemporary Thomists so far.

What Language Tells Us About Who We Are: Thomas Aquinas and Donald Davidson on Language and Human Nature

Student: Michaela Teresa Sobrak-Seaton
Justin Gable, OP,(Coordinator),Anselm Ramelow, OP,Marga Vega

A Thomistic understanding of language seemingly tells us much more about how words are connected to objects than about how people use words to relate to each other. The philosopher Donald Davidson solves this apparent deficiency by situating his account of language in the context of the speaker-listener relationship. Ultimately, however, Davidson fails to account for the very aspects of language which he attempts to explain, because his understanding of language is inconsistent with his understanding of human nature. I argue that a Thomistic understanding of human nature, as ordered toward relation with others, is compatible with certain aspects of Davidson’s account while avoiding its inconsistencies. Thus, a Thomistic perspective allows for the development of a more holistic understanding of how and why we use language to communicate with one another, and what our understanding of language tells us about our nature as human beings. In bringing Aquinas into conversation with contemporary theories of language, I do not argue that his theory is in need of updating, but rather that our understanding of his work on language must be refined and developed, particularly regarding the relationship between speaker and listener.

Thomisms: The Methodological Plurality in the Study of St. Thomas

Student: Nicholas Case
Michael Dodds, OP (Coordinator), Richard Schenk, OP, Bryan Kromholtz, OP

Given the diversity of Thomisms the leading ones deserve a detailed account. How should the leading contemporary Thomisms be mapped? What truly separates the leading Thomisms? Are some Thomisms compatible, are some incompatible? How can we navigate and chart Thomisms? Does charting the diversity of Thomisms lead to a relativizing of Thomism? To address these questions this work engages four of the leading Thomisms, each widely recognized as divergent and influential: Leonine (Neo-Scholastic) Thomism, Transcendental Thomism, Analytical Thomism, and Ressourcement Thomism. These have been chosen because of their recognizable influence on Thomism in general and for that reason are easily discernible in both their shared agreements and differences. Analysis is completed in three stages: First, charting and characterizing the four leading models of Thomism, performing a typology which highlights authors and trends within the models. Second, opening a discussion on the evaluation and relation between the models. Finally, third, tying together the analysis with a brief conclusion and an anticipation of future research.

Plato on Mind-Body Interaction

Student: Jonathan Matthew Amaral
Eugene Ludwig, OFM Cap (Coordinator), Klaus Corcilius, Marga Vega, Ph.D

Contemporary approaches to Plato’s view of the soul tend to treat him as a kind of substance dualist. These accounts usually focus on the Phaedo and other early dialogues. My thesis attempts to offer a much more nuanced perspective based on the late dialogues, particularly Philebus, Timaeus, Theaetetus, and Laws X. On my reading, Plato is actually much closer to Aristotle. Both philosophers extend the Presocratic view that the soul is a principle or cause that directs the activities of living things, though they each express this idea differently. Timaeus, like De Anima, describes the activities of the appetitive and spirited parts of the soul as indistinguishable from the activities of bodily organs and directed toward specific ends that serve the organism as a whole. The exception to this model is the immortal part of the soul, which necessarily lacks a corporeal organ given the nature of abstract reasoning, just like the intellect in Aristotle.

The Philosophy of Illumination in Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Suhrawardi

Student: Ahmad Rhatib Karkoutli
Marianne Farina, CSC (Coordinator), Anselm Ramelow, OP, Dr. Mark Delp

This thesis investigates the role of light in the philosophical systems of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and Shahab ad-Din Suhrawardi. From the principle of the evident nature of light, this study argues that both the Dionysian and Suhrawardian systems offer a theophanous cosmology, comprising a metaphysics of illumination and a psychology of vision. Through a comparative analysis of the metaphysical and psychological role that light holds within each system, it is concluded that a philosophy of light offers a coherent framework within which deification is understood as the perfection of the soul’s intuitive vision of and contact with the light of the Deity.

Understanding Thomas Aquinas’s Doctrine of Analogy in Light of his Conception of the Science of Metaphysics

Student: Seth Kreeger
Margarita Vega, Ph.D (Coordinator), Anselm Ramelow, OP, Hilary Martin, OP

This study attempts to show that an analogy of proper proportionality is not as important for the philosophical and theological thought of Thomas Aquinas as is often supposed. After a systematic textual analysis of Aquinas’ major discussion on analogical predication ranging from the early work of “On the Principles of Nature” and the “Commentary on the Sentences” through the “Commentary on the Metaphysics” and the Summa Theologiae, the kind of analogy that is found to be of central importance is an analogy of one to another. Thus, even though proper proportionality is never repudiated by Aquinas, it is not the primary kind of analogy operative in Aquinas’s thought.

Unconcealing the Traditional Conception of Truth: Between Martin Heidegger and Thomas Aquinas

Student: John Robert Taylor
Justin Gable, OP (Coordinator), Dr. Margarita Vega, Anselm Ramelow, OP

An original, textual study of the early Heidegger’s critique of the traditional conception of truth as the adequation rei et intellectus. This thesis finds that Aquinas’ specific, systematic portrayal of truth outmaneuvers many of the criticisms put forward by Heidegger while he explained his novel understanding of truth as “unverborgenheit”. It seeks to find forgotten and unconsidered areas of similarity within the accounts of both, respecting their distinctive differences, and puts forward specific points of convergence meant for a further dialogical coalescence.

MA Theology

Sacrifice in the Natural Law According to Saint Thomas Aquinas

Student: Thomas Aquinas Pickett, OP (with honors)
Edward Krasevac, OP (Coordinator), Marianne Farina, CSC, John Hilary Martin, OP

This thesis examines how and why St. Thomas includes the offering of religious sacrifice among the acts prescribed by the natural law. We see that the offering of sacrifice arises from a natural human inclination consequent to rational reflection on the existence of God. As a part of the virtue of religion, the highest moral virtue, sacrifice connects intrinsically to human flourishing and happiness.

A Study of Mar Narsai’s Three Homilies on the East Syrian Liturgical Season of Annunciation

Student: Emmanuel Benjamin
Eugene Ludwig, OFM Cap (Coordinator), Thomas Cattoi, Susanna Elm

Mar Narsai, a 5th-century theologian who wrote in the Syriac language, penned three homilies on the East Syrian liturgical season of Annunciation, and has as his main focus in these homilies the forms and workings of divine revelation. Narsai presents a theological approach to history which has Jesus Christ as the object of all divine revelation prior to his coming, and the object from which all revelation proceeds after. He does this by presenting an exegesis of several Old Testament events, in particular those having to do with Abraham. In these Narsai demonstrates that the workings of divine revelation before the coming of Jesus Christ were to “announce” not only his coming but also that which he was to accomplish i.e. the renewal and salvation of man. Concerning the forms of divine revelation, Narsai teaches that after the enfleshment of the Word of God, Christ’s humanity now acts as the visible image by which the invisible God reveals himself in the fullness of revelation that man is able to receive.

Humanizing the Emotions: The Eucharist’s Perfecting of the Passion of Desire

Student: Judith K. Cole
Bryan Kromholtz, OP (Coordinator), Edward Krasevac, OP, Michael Dodds, OP

In the Second Vatican Council’s Lumen Gentium, the Eucharist is described as the “source and summit of the Christian life.” In order to understand what this looks like for the parts of the soul, and for the passion of desire in particular, I focus specifically on St. Thomas Aquinas’s “Treatise on the Passions” in the Summa Theologiae. In light of Christ’s exhortation to perfection in the Gospel of Matthew, I argue that the writings of St. Thomas demonstrate that the perfection of the passion of desire occurs in ways that are specific to the functioning of the passion, thus allowing for the possibility that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the entirety of the soul, rather than the intellect and will alone.

The Witness of the Magi: The Meaning of the Visitors from the East in Art and Culture

Student: Christopher Silva
Christopher Renz, OP (Coordinator), Michael Morris, OP† (Original thesis coordinator), Kathryn Barush, Ph.D, Eugene Ludwig, OFM Cap

This project discusses the tradition and iconography of the Magi in the imagination of Christians. Beginning with their identification in Scripture, the Magi are explored in art from the earliest surviving depiction found in the Catacombs of Pricilla, to the famed mosaics in Ravenna, concluding with the Shrine of the Three Kings in Cologne. Despite a sudden decline after the Reformation, the Magi never vanish completely from the minds of people. The work concludes with a contemporary analysis of how these figures invite change and renewal in the lives of people through the example of their immortalized act of tribute.

The Vernacular of the Tabernacle: Eucharistic Mysticism in Richard Crashaw and Saint Teresa of Avila

Student: Michael Harold Walker, III
Christopher Renz, OP (Coordinator), Joseph Boenzi, SDB, Christopher Ocker, Ph.D

This thesis explores the connection between Richard Crashaw, a 17th-century Anglican cleric, and Saint Teresa of Avila, a 16th-century Spanish nun. After early exposure to her writings and a flight from persecution in England, Crashaw converted to Catholicism. Throughout this ordeal, he expresses the influence of Teresa in poems such as “Hymn to the Name and Honor of the Admirable Saint Teresa, “An Apology for the Precedent Hymn,” and “The Flaming Heart,” revealing her understanding of Holy Communion to transform the human person into a tabernacle of God. The comparison reveals how both writers use “a vernacular of the tabernacle” to invite their readers into this shared intimacy with the Divine.

St. Francis de Sales: Preacher

Student: Christopher Ford
Joseph Boenzi, SDB (Coordinator), Marianne Farina, CSC, John Puntino, SDB

This thesis explores the preaching of St Francis de Sales (1567 - 1622), one of the seventeenth century’s most acclaimed preachers. It demonstrates that the sermons of St. Francis de Sales, in particular the 1622 series of twelve Lenten sermons given in Annecy to the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary, are a key source for understanding the Bishop of Geneva. As the originator of a unique school of spirituality, he had tremendous impact as an exemplary pastor, preacher, educator and founder delivering a clear spiritual message that remains vital and relevant almost four hundreds years later.

Saint Francis de Sales’ Youth Crisis: A Journey Towards Devout Life

Student: Fr. Adrian L. Mendoza, SDB
Joseph Boenzi, SDB (Coordinator)
Emmanuel Camilleri, SDB
John Puntino, SDB

In this thesis, St. Francis de Sales’ youth crisis is chosen as an entry point for understanding his spirituality and pointing to an important stage in his spiritual maturation. It was in this crucial moment of suffering that he made a leap of faith. His suffering purified him and led him to the truth – the Truth about God’s redeeming Love. Emerging from this suffering, Francis became an example of total trust in the Divine Will and became an inspiration and light to countless souls who would learn from him. He spent all his life witnessing to this love of God – preaching and writing that a life of holiness is possible for everyone.

Mystagogical Catechesis: Elements of Effective Mystagogy for RCIA

Student: Giulia Arcuri
Christopher Renz, OP (Coordinator)

My thesis is about the history of Mystagogical Catechesis in the West and methods of improvement in the 21st century. Primarily, it looks at how vibrant parish communities, well-celebrated liturgies, and properly formed catechists should be developed in parishes because these elements appear to positively correlate with efficacious mystagogy within RCIA.

Intention and Effect: Liturgical Anamnesis Withstanding Plato's Critique of Mimesis

Student: Elizabeth Kovacs
Christopher Renz, OP (Coordinator)

This thesis addresses the ontological and devotional legitimacy of Marian holy cards by comparing two schools of thought regarding the use of memory to access reality. I argue that the intention implied in liturgical anamnesis withstands Plato's critique of mimesis, demonstrating why there is sanctioned use of these cards. By examining the sacramental theology of the Eucharist, liturgical theology of icons, Socratic-Platonic discourse on images, and the historiography and theory of allographic art forms, I conclude that these devotional objects present an opportunity for a phenomenological and spiritual encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary, thus playing an important role in personal piety.

Concurrent MA Philosophy & Theology

Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus on the Will

Student: Matthew J. Sills
Anselm Ramelow, OP (Coordinator), John Hilary Martin, OP, Sr. Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ

This thesis presents a comparison of the principles and essential aspects of free will as found in the writings of Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus, and points to the theological value found in maintaining both accounts in their heterogeneity. This is done by appealing to a shared Aristotelian framework as the foundation for navigating significant differences found in the first principles used by Aquinas and Scotus to describe the will in relation to man’s other powers. It concludes, generally, that Aquinas’ method of exposition on this topic favors a viewing potencies and causation according to the mode of physics (i.e., causes of and potency towards motion), whereas Scotus’ method favors utilizing the metaphysical modes of causation and potency (i.e., causes of and potency towards being). This modal equivocation on the ‘potency’ of the will ultimately prevents any synthesis, but both accounts are seen to provide what is necessary for a fully Christian anthropology (viz., a free and self-determining will) with a difference arising about whether perfection begins by first knowing or by loving.

The True Forestructure: Gadamerian Elements in Congar’s Theology of Tradition

Student: Nicholas Senz
Anselm Ramelow, OP (Coordinator), Bryan Kromholtz, OP, Justin Gable, OP

The thought of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Yves Congar on the notion of tradition bear certain similarities. Both are keenly aware of the role of history, and both are conscious of the effect of received ideas (“forestructures”) in forming our thinking. Yet Congar’s thought avoids some of the relativist-leaning pitfalls of Gadamer’s ideas, due largely to the truths of the Christian faith which Congar accepts.

The Paradox of Petitionary Prayer to an Omniscient, Omnibenevolent and Immutable God”

Student: Tomasz Mikolajski, OP
Michael Dodds, OP (Coordinator), Marga Vega, Anselm Ramelow, OP

Many believe that petitionary prayer is not merely a wishful thinking, but rather an efficacious means through which some states of affairs may be brought about, which otherwise would not happen. It might seem, however, that the classical notion of God is inconsistent with the practice of prayer: Why should we petition an omniscient God who knows what we need? Should not a perfectly good God grant us what we need regardless of whether we ask for it? Finally, can our prayers affect an immutable God?

Omnis hierarchiae finis est unitas et similitudo ad Deum: The Role of the Corpus Dionysiacum in Thomas Aquinas’s Portrayal of the Church as the Hierarchical Context for Deification in the Scriptum super Sententiis

Student: Matthew Sanford Horwitz
Bryan Kromholtz, OP (Coordinator), Eugene Ludwig, OFM Cap, Michael Dodds, OP 

This study examines the “influence and noninfluence” of the Dionysian corpus—the pseudonymous collection of writings claiming the authorship of the Biblical figure Dionysius the Areopagite—on Thomas Aquinas’s portrayal of the Church as the hierarchical context for deification in his commentary on Peter Lombard’s Sentences. In the course of the study, I establish that Dionysian concepts govern, to a significant extent, the early Aquinas's vision of the Church as a hierarchical structure in which the end goal is deification. I further show that Aquinas is, in many respects, a faithful student of the Dionysian corpus, which is itself not always so far off from his own thought as the differing milieux of the two authors might otherwise suggest. I also demonstrate, however, that he does not refrain from significantly modifying Dionysius’s ideas, with the result that points of divergence obtain between the two thinkers, some of which I explore as well.

The Metaphysics of Meaning: Applying a Thomistic Ontology of Art to a Contemporary Hermeneutical Puzzle and the Problem of the Sensus Literalis.

Student: Peter Junipero Hannah, OP
Anselm Ramelow, OP (Coordinator), Edward Krasevac, OP, Christopher Ocker

The thesis explores a solution to the problem of the “literal sense” of Scripture. Whereas Hans-Georg Gadamer emphasizes textual subject matter as the site of meaning, and E.D. Hirsch emphasizes authorial intention, an analysis of the artistic object using Aquinas's four causes reveals the intrinsic relation between the two. Authors impart original formal determinations; yet later readers can unfold dimensions of the original meaning of which the author may not have been conscious, but still can be said to have intended in virtue of the text's final cause, which is to “be understood.” Thus historical-critical exegetical and reader-centered analyses—and by extension exegesis and theology—can be put into a harmonious and ordered relation.

The Indispensability of the Body for Human Happiness

Student: Christopher Thomas Caruso
Marianne Farina, CSC (Coordinator), Michael Dodds, OP, Bryan Kromholtz, OP

This thesis examined claims that Catholic Christianity views the body primarily as a stumbling block to human happiness with God. Through the use of historical, philosophical and theological studies, particularly the work of Thomas Aquinas, it demonstrates that the Church believes that the body is not only holy and integral to human fulfillment in this life but also indispensable for human happiness in eternity with God.

Philosophical Terms and Anthropology in the Christology of Mar Babai the Great and St. Maximus the Confessor

Student: Asher “Ephraim” Alkhas
Eugene Ludwig, OFM Cap (Coordinator), Thomas Cattoi, Susanna Elm

Mar Babai the Great of the Assyrian Church of the East and Saint Maximus the Confessor each wrote definitive descriptions of the person of Jesus Christ, as both truly God and truly man. Mar Babai wrote the definitive articulation of christology for the Assyrian Church, as did St. Maximus for the Chalcedonian Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions. This thesis examines how both thinkers express a contingency of faith in their full expressions of their respective theological traditions.

Analogy in Contemporary Physics and the Theology of Divine Action

Student: Christopher Louis Wetzel, OP
Michael Dodds, OP (Coordinator), Robert Russell, 
Marga Vega

How can we speak of God as acting in the world as described in Revelation while at the same time respecting the “laws of nature” which seem to order the universe? St. Thomas Aquinas addressed this question with the help of the philosophy of Aristotle by using the notion of the analogy of being. Contemporary physics, however, has diverged significantly from the paradigm of Aristotelian physics; Thomistic principles are rarely mentioned in discussions concerning the metaphysics underlying quantum field theory and general relativity. This calls into question the relevance of a theory of divine action based on Thomistic or Aristotelian thought. Can such a theory of objective special divine action meaningfully and concretely interface with contemporary science? This thesis presents the position of St. Thomas Aquinas on divine action and shows that the principles of Thomistic metaphysics, particularly the analogy of being, can address significant ontological questions that arise purely in the context of contemporary physics.

Aquinas’s De Regno and the Recovery of Political Philosophy

Student: Michael Grace, KM
Justin Gable, OP (Coordinator), Edward Krasevac, OP, Anselm Ramelow, OP

This thesis examines Leo Strauss’s diagnosis of the principal causes for the decay of political philosophy in the modern world. Strauss called for its renewed study through a deeper understanding of medieval political philosophy, especially as expressed in the writings of Maimonides and al Farabi. This thesis argues that the approach of Thomas Aquinas is more adaptable to the nature and circumstances of modern society than that of Maimonides or al Farabi. The recovery of political philosophy in the contemporary world requires a new look at Aquinas’s teaching, especially the recovery of virtue in private life, the common good in public life, and telos in civil society.

Lex Loquendi, Lex Orandi: Pickstock, Aquinas, and the Reform of the Roman Offertoria

Student: Jose Isidro Belleza
Bryan Kromholtz, OP (Coordinator), Anselm Ramelow, OP, Justin Gable, OP

Through a synthesis of Catherine Pickstock's work on liturgical language in After Writing and the Thomistic treatment on prayer in Summa Theologiae, II-II, question 83, this project challenges the characteristically modern philosophical assumptions imported into the twentieth-century reform of the Roman Rite. By linguistically situating the creature's subordinate relation to the Creator in the apostrophic voice—which is marked by the imperative and subjunctive moods—the Roman Offertory in the usus antiquior is shown to better reflect a dynamic relational ontology of the person that escapes the strictures of the modernist subject-object dichotomy. By contrast, the brief, syntactically asyndetic and modally indicative features of the Preparation of the Gifts in the usus recentior reveals an unwitting acceptance of certain modern assumptions on the part of the reformers, which may, in turn, lead to an over-wrought exaltation of the thinking subject and an unwarranted reification of Christ's substantial presence in the Eucharist.

How Readers Enter the World in Front of the Text: Reading the Rich Young Man in Mark’s Gospel with Paul Ricoeur

Student: Qi Zeng
Edward Krasevac, OP (Coordinator), Justin Gable, OP

My thesis is motivated by my own reading of the story of the rich young man in Mark’s Gospel. My philosophical framework is grounded in Ricoeur’s hermeneutic philosophy. My philosophical contribution lies in justifying the unique value of fictional narrative in producing an intensified, intelligible, emotionally participatory referential world of human action and emotion. My theological reflection follows Ricoeur’s philosophical proposal of a “hermeneutic of self” in the setting of biblical faith. By partnering with Ricoeur, I argue that the figure of the rich young man can serve as a useful hermeneutical key for a contemporary reader. If treated seriously with readerly empathy and patience, this figure may open up a nuanced and complex Gospel world in which profound truth claims about God may be unfolded for the reader in front of the text.