To present in a robust way the Catholic intellectual traditionthats how Thomas Levergood describes the vision behind the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago.
That and to promote a better integration of faith, prayer and the intellectual life, he said.
Co-founded in 1997 by Levergood, now the groups executive director, and Paul Griffiths, then a professor at the University of Chicagos Divinity School, Lumen Christi is the result of efforts by local Catholic scholars to foster a renewal of Catholic faith, thought and culture in higher education.
On a practical level, Lumen Christi sponsors lectures, visiting fellows and other programs that promote intellectual work done in explicit relation to Catholic tradition. It also organizes Scripture study groups and other opportunities for spiritual formation.
The greatest theologiansAugustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure, Anselm, Gregory of Nyssawere saints, and their holiness and wisdom were deeply connected, said Mundelein Seminary professor Father Robert Barron, a member of Lumen Christis Board of Advisors.
This joining of spirituality and theology, which is the essential work of Lumen Christi, is thus an important contribution to the life of the post-conciliar church, he said.
Lumen Christi began by sponsoring events primarily at and for University of Chicago students and faculty, but over time began planning more regional events as well as events that are less academic, more popular, said Griffiths.
The institute now collaborates with a number of local secular and Catholic universities, as well as the Universitys own Catholic chaplaincy, Calvert House.
Cardinal George has also been instrumental in promoting the institutes work and serves as its episcopal moderator. I have been especially pleased by Cardinal Georges involvement, said Barron. As an academic and a bishop of the church, he embodies the goal of the institute to bring theology and prayer together.
Students at the University of Chicago are challenged to live the life of the mind in a very intense way, said Notre Dame University professor Jesuit Father Brian Daley, a Lumen Christi board member. Many, however, worry that they are not offered sufficient opportunities to nourish their faith ... Lumen Christi is aimed
to provide both serious theological conversation and stimulation and to offer the chance for contemplative prayer and liturgy for students.
The idea of Lumen Christi, said Levergood, grew out of a lecture series, a discussion group, and a lectio divina prayer group that he and Griffiths had previously organized. Since 1997, the Lumen Christi Institute has organized such diverse programs as a symposium on John Paul IIs encyclical Fides et Ratio, study circles that explore scripture and the writings of church fathers and an undergraduate colloquium on the science and ethics of stem cells and cloning. Most recently, it hosted a forum June 23 on the thought of Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Catholics are the largest number of those who declare a religious affiliation at the University of Chicago today, said Levergood. Respect for Catholic thought and tradition at the university dates to the 1930s, said Levergood, when university president Robert Maynard Hutchins and professor Mortimer Adler established an influential undergraduate Great Books program that included an emphasis on Thomas Aquinas.
Lumen Christi programs for the coming year will include a variety of symposia and conferences as well as the institutes Yves Simon Lectures, which explore themes in the history of Catholic thought. Lumen Christi will also help host the American Maritain Associations annual conference Oct. 16-19 on The Human Person and a Culture of Freedom. For more information, call (773) 955-5887 or visit www.lumenchristi.net.