Seven Mount students and philosophy professor Dr. Justin Matchulat attended the annual conference at the University of Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture held from Nov. 10-12. The theme for this year’s conference was “You Are Beauty.”
“The conference at Notre Dame was really amazing,” said senior Alyse Spiehler. “It was an incredibly enriching intellectual experience. My time there encouraged me to pursue the answers to questions I had not considered before, and to think more deeply about subjects that I have always been interested in. It was one of the greatest trips that I have been a part of during my time at the Mount.”
The conference began late the first day with presentations by graduate students. The first keynote speaker was Etsuro Sotoo, the lead sculptor of the nativity facade of the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Sotoo spoke about his experience on the project over the last 38 years and how the symbolism of his sculpting relates to stories of the Bible. The original sculptor, Gaudí, passed away before the cathedral was finished.
Sotoo was a favorite speaker among the students. “It was just incredible to know that I heard the artist who is carrying on the work of Gaudí in the modern world,” junior Kathryn Tombs stated. “I loved how simple, funny and humble he was, and how much he looked to his common origin with Gaudí in God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”
On Friday and Saturday, a vast array of topics were presented by many distinguished and professional people. There were conversations about how economics affect architectural beauty, another about food and wine, and how they bring people together, as well as the positive and negative effects of a cosmetic-centered society.
Another favorite among the Mount’s attendees was a discussion led by Alasdair MacIntyre, a major contemporary philosopher, about the importance of poetry. His works, including After Virtue, are used in the core curriculum Ethics classes. Three senior philosophy students that attended the conference are currently using MacIntyre’s Dependent Rational Animals in their capstone papers. These students had the opportunity to talk with MacIntyre after the discussion and got his autograph as well.
The closing lecture was given by speaker Mary Ann Glendon, a professor at Harvard Law School and Commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and member of the Board of Supervisors of the Institute of Religious Works. Glendon discussed how atheist poet Wallace Stevens can relate to a faith life. She explained how Stevens, over the course of his life, had faith, rejected it, but was still drawn to chapels and religious artworks.
“I felt uplifted and also encouraged in my education because I understood, from my studies, a lot of what was talked about in terms of philosophy, theology, music, art and literature,” Tombs reflected.
Photo courtesy of Rebecca Schisler.