Hunger for Truth on Campus: Father Dominic Legge on the power of the Christian tradition to answer contemporary questions
“College students do not normally get out of bed to talk to a Catholic priest at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, but that’s how much they wanted to talk about this stuff.”
Writing in The American Conservative, author Rod Dreher had this to say about our own Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P., who had been invited to Notre Dame to give a faculty seminar on Dreher’s recent book, The Benedict Option:
“I sat at a table and listened to a conversation between [an] atheist and a visiting Dominican priest. It was deep and substantive. The Dominican—Father Dominic Legge of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC—took the student’s questions seriously, and gave him answers. It was thrilling, to be honest.”
Fr. Legge notes that “among the things the students at Notre Dame were asking me about were questions about how to reconcile contemporary neuroscience with some understanding of the human soul. And of course, on that question the Thomistic tradition has a whole lot to say.”
According to Fr. Legge, the great thinkers of the Christian tradition are increasingly unknown on secular campuses, “yet often, they propose answers to the very questions students are grappling with.” Typically, “they make much deeper claims about what is really true” than what the students have heard from other sources. “They speak about where to find the greatest happiness, and what the human being is made for. In other words, these are perennial questions, and our tradition has a great deal to say about them.”
“Students are enormously hungry for the Christian intellectual tradition, and especially Thomas Aquinas,” Fr. Legge added.
Fr. Legge went on to recount that the next day he was invited to continue the conversation with several students, self-described skeptics, over breakfast. “College students do not normally get out of bed to talk to a Catholic priest at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning, but that’s how much they wanted to talk about this stuff,” Fr. Legge observes.
Sometimes the answers skeptical students find in the wisdom of the Thomistic tradition lead to conversions to the Catholic faith—and even vocations to the priesthood and religious life. “Currently, in our novitiate, we have three novices who encountered Dominicans through the work of the Thomistic Institute on their secular campuses,” Fr. Legge says.