Testimonials from Father Fessio About the Great Books Program
This was a very informative and inspiring [Angelicum Great Books class on Brothers Karamotsov]. I hope you keep doing this kind of work. It is going to form you people to be very solid citizens of both the earthly and heavenly kingdoms. God bless you all.
This particular [Angelicum Great Books class on Leviathan] session has been brilliant. It should be recorded and used in advertising for the program. The comments are excellent, well articulated – I’m sorry to praise you; I don’t want you people to lose humility. Well, you won’t lose humility if you read great books because you’ll realize how small you are in comparison to these giants we are reading.
Testimonials from Former Students and Parents
Thank you so much for another great year! Our oldest graduated this year, and I can’t say enough how thankful we are for Angelicum Academy providing this course to help us expose him to all the fantastic reading and writing challenges, along with good & thought-provoking discussions. We truly see how he has grown and matured over these past 4 years, which we credit in great part to Angelicum due to the excellent materials and coordinators of this program. Hopefully, Providence will allow our other 2 children to complete the program over the next 2-3 years. Thank you for all your time and efforts
I also wanted to say a massive thank you for everything you taught me during my years of doing the Great Books Program. I realise more and more each day how invaluable a part of my education it was, and I thank God for the wonderful people, including yourself, who took the time and care to help me develop a greater understanding of, and appreciation for Western tradition.
Whitney is doing really well! She is completing a Master’s Degree in Theology and hopes to go on to get a PhD, then teach Theology at a college or university. She is also discerning a religious vocation. She still talks about the Great Books classes as being one of the best things she has ever done, how the classes (and you teachers) really taught her how to think, and how they exposed her to the great thinkers and literary works. Her time in your classes was a great blessing. Thank you!! She will always be grateful (and we will always be grateful)! She hopes to be able to teach some future classes using the Socratic Method someday! She loved it! God bless you and God bless the work you are doing. It is invaluable.
I have been truly astonished at what an impact this program has had on me in the relatively short time I have been involved in it. My mom home-schooled me through high school, and we used the Kolbe high school program, which is pretty rigorous. After I completed it, I tried out a few online college classes with a nominally Catholic university (Saint Leo University). Discouraged by my experience there, I began to think I was done really learning. After Kolbe high school, all other classes seemed a little too easy and not very engaging. But then, I started this program.
I can’t put my finger on exactly what makes this program so powerful. Obviously the Great Books are amazing, but the live classes take them to a whole new level, making them more exciting and relevant and compelling than ever before! Seeing things from new perspectives, exploring the greatest works of mankind with the eyes of faith, teaming up with one’s classmates in the search for truth which has fascinated mankind from the beginning… It’s truly an intellectual adventure, and I’ve loved every minute of it! I’ve felt like I’m really learning and growing. I can’t tell you how many times in the past year I’ve stepped back and marveled at what I can feel happening inside myself just as a result of enrolling in this program. And when I remember that it was a “coincidence” that we even found out about it, I feel so profoundly grateful… “There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends, / Rough-hew them how we will.”
So, yes, I agree that this program is life-changing. I am so grateful to be a part of it, and I could never thank you and the other moderators enough for making it possible through your gift of time and labor. It’s so difficult to find real education nowadays, so I look on this program as an answer to prayer in my own life and a gift of God to my generation. I am wholeheartedly recommending this program to everyone who asks, in the hope that many, many people will be able to share this tremendous experience.
I was thrilled to learn of the Great Books Program two years ago, but I am so happy with how truly wonderful it is. I am just so thankful to you and all the professors for your time and efforts and genuine care for our education, and I cannot begin to express my gratitude for such a great online program as this.
Matias is one of your students this year, in the Friday Greek year discussion group. He has absolutely loved the sessions. There has been a tremendous value in sharing his views with his peers on the readings and in learning about his classmates’ points of view. We feel very grateful to Angelicum for this special educational experience.
I have truly enjoyed the Program. It’s been a mind-opener for me. My education was very science and medicine oriented so the Great Books is giving me something I had always missed. I’ll miss the tutorials over the Summer, but I think I will be re-reading quite a bit. You are able to stimulate thought and discussion without stifling either! My 80 year old friend, who is my ‘study companion’ is thinking of joining us next year.
Thank you so much for your guidance this past year! Your patience, humor, and deep knowledge of the Great Books made difficult subject matter enjoyable and easy. I have learned so much in the Great Books class, and am very much looking forward (no joke!) to joining the Roman class this fall. Thank you again and God bless!
She really enjoyed the class and is looking forward to next year. She has mentioned many times that she has learned so much from the class.
I would like to reaffirm that I am having the time of my life and thoroughly enjoying each class and all my
classmates. This course has been a Godsend in my life! I actually wake up giddy on Friday and count the hours until class. I can’t tell you how much more peace and excitement I have in my life now! This whole experience continues to be such a great gift in my life! And, it’s all y’all’s fault. Thank you!
With it being the end of the school year and all, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for everything you have done for me this year. I really believe I have learned and grown so much since I started these courses, thanks to you and to the other wonderful instructors in the Great Books program.
I wanted to thank you in particular for the extra time you spent helping me to understand the relation between the Great Books program and our Catholic faith. I will never forget that day you set aside so much of your time just to speak with me about it! Furthermore, you have always been so kind both in the classroom and in our email communications. It is a true pleasure and a true privilege to be your student. I have already enrolled for the Fall 2016 semester as a Medieval student. I really, really hope that I will “see” you often in that class! But even if not, rest assured that I will still think of you often, and I will always be praying for you.
Please feel free to quote any and all parts of this email…I apologize for the poor quality of writing. In my freshman year of high school, I took Great Books 1 with an online Protestant tutorial service. While I derived some benefit from the course, emphasis was placed on “teaching” the works, not “exploring” them. I must confess that I do not now remember in what year Aristotle was born, nor in what year he died. I only have a dubious recollection of how the Academy received its name, and I would not be able to recount the manner of Persian bridge making. Nevertheless, I would have continued with that tutorial service on to Great Books 2 had it not been for the fact that this tutorial reads many of the Church Fathers in the second year of Great Books. As a convert to Catholicism from Protestantism, I neither had nor have a great longing to learn about the Church Fathers from Protestants. I must not be ecumenical enough. Searching online, eventually my principal and I discovered a Catholic Great Books 2 program-one that was offered for college credit! We gathered information about the program, offered by Angelicum Academy, and shortly thereafter I registered for it.
The difference in approach between Angelicum Academy and the other tutorial service was obvious from day one. As Mr. Bertucci is wont to say, their program is more concerned with wisdom than information. It took me awhile to adapt to this different spirit, but eventually I was swept into the tide of the Great Conversation, with much thanks to Mr. Robert Hutchins’ excellent essay of the same title. Angelicum Academy’s Great Books program opens up the great books while opening minds.
Their program teaches students to think, not to memorize. Everything they claim about their program is true. I have taken my first steps into a larger world, a world I might never have known. I recoil at the thought that I might have lived out the rest of my days without the wisdom that beckons to us all in the great books. I will continue to read the great books for the rest of my life, though unfortunately it will not be with Angelicum Academy. I am leaving; in the fall I shall enter the University of Wisconsin. Though I was in Angelicum Academy’s Great Books program for but a year, and a very hectic year at that (through no fault of Angelicum Academy), their program is the defining element of my pre-collegiate education, my first great beacon to our world’s common intellectual tradition, and one of the few things I will regret abandoning for the halls of vulgar knowledge.
Angelicum Academy cannot provide the wisdom gained by suffering, nor that of a St. Alphonsus Liguori; however, it can well provide wisdom of the basic sort. Though for lack of a better term I call it basic, such wisdom seems to be infrequently found these days. Our civilization is rapidly advancing technologically, but the wisdom with which to use this technology no longer lies in our citizenry at large. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but a little wisdom can ensure that said knowledge is used for the good. You may slave over your mathematical science if you wish, but you will most likely forget more than half of it within the course of a few years.
Wisdom is not so desultory a guest. (Mathematical science is vanity, anyway; this is where St. Alphonsus’ wisdom proves useful.) A person should be loath to call oneself educated without an understanding of the tradition of the West. Only the educated are free, the philosophers say, and indeed we are all philosophers. The decisions we make from day to day are based on philosophy. Is it not irresponsible to base our decisions on philosophy if we do not have training in the thinking mechanism thus called? This email need not turn into an apology for philosophy or the Great Books, however; and to write on without end would diminish the chance that you will read this message. Suffice to say, Angelicum Academy provides understanding. You must enroll in their program, whether regular track or college track. If you lack funds, request a scholarship. It will be one of the best decisions you will ever make.
As a junior student in the program, I have to say I absolutely love Angelicum–something I really have to remind myself every Monday night as I struggle to finish that week’s reading. The reading list is incredible–you definitely get an idea of how western civilization developed, as you read all the books that influenced it. For instance, last week we were reading Hobbes, and he was defining the dignity of a person as something that depended on their rank and power in life, which got me off to wondering if it wasn’t that sort of attitude that had eventually lead to abortion and euthanasia.
However, if it wasn’t for the discussions, I’m not sure how well I would have understood the readings–if you didn’t understand the reading, you have a terrible time keeping up with the conversation. So I often find myself rereading passages, thinking about what on earth the author was talking about, etc. In the actual class, we frequently refer to the book to support our arguments, and if you can’t find a passage supporting your thought, woe is you. You’re not allowed to twist the book so that it supports your belief; you’re welcome to disagree with the author’s conclusions (and we often do), but it says what it says, and you have to accept that. Whether I think it’s stupid or not, Calvin honestly believed in predestination. In the Calvin class, we were really urged to explore why Calvin thought that, instead of just dismissing it. Did anyone come out of class a Calvinist? No, but we sure had a better understanding of where Calvinists are coming from–and ultimately, why they’re wrong. In having to come up with rational arguments against Calvinism, we developed a better understanding of why Catholicism’s position on free will is the correct one.
The teachers usually start out with a question, and at the end of the class, we’ve generally gone over several aspects of the book. Also, one or both of the teachers end class with a concluding statement which clears up any confusion in the class. But they do urge us to think it out for ourselves, and are careful during class to not give away their own conclusions too early. And it really does force one to think when you’re confronted with questions such as: “What is freedom?”, “What is the value of education?”, and (my favorite!), “What is the end of the state?” And you can’t ever answer, “Well, because I think it should be this way,”–oh, no. You’ve got to find reasonable arguments, preferably based on the text. One of the best classes we ever had was on freedom–we eventually concluded that true freedom was following God’s will, after two hours of wrangling over why freedom couldn’t be doing whatever you darn well please. A teacher could have told us this at the beginning of the class, but I never would have remembered it so well, or grasped so much more thoroughly why freedom is that and not getting our own way. There are so many people nowadays who are going around proclaiming notions that sound good (such as the peace and love movement of the sixties) on the surface, but really aren’t. In these classes, we’re really learning why what is true is true, and therefore, how to defend it. If you’ve already had an argument in class about what peace truly is and what its place in the world is, it’s a lot easier to discuss it with someone who think it means no war ever.
The class definitely improves from year to year. The students are maturing; and also the more we’ve read, the richer the experience is. When we were reading Galileo, and his ideas about motion and time, several of us recalled Aquinas’ definition of God as the First Mover, as well as some of St. Augustine’s theories about time in the Confessions. So you really start connecting everything. And I would say we’re a lot more used to the questions, and we’re delving a lot deeper than we did in the beginning. Some of the questions we keep returning to, and I’m always getting a better understanding.
Thank you so much for everything you’ve taught me the past four years. The GB class has been really enjoyable for me and through it I gained knowledge and wisdom. You and your colleagues Dr. Hancock, Dr Redpath, and Dr. Taylor have guided my way of thinking, and I will never forget it. If I ever have children I want them to take the GB classes.
Thomas is looking forward to your classes. They really are fabulous.
Thank you for all you do for our children. I have to say the results I have seen are outstanding!
I can hardly wait for school to start now! Look what you’ve done to me! Today I was excited to read Shakespeare. I’m suing you people.
I have never sat in on the class before today…J. won’t allow it. But A. wanted someone there today and I got to stay for the duration of the class.
I truly enjoyed it and I just want to thank you and Dr. Hancock for making the class so enjoyable. You are truly inspiring. Keep up the wonderful work!
I always enjoy listening in on your classes. I learn every time. M. is growing up in wisdom under your guidance.
Both the girls are really enjoying their GB courses. You do a superb job! Thanks for your dedication.
Just a quick note to say thanks for the work you do. As I read your note to the students on “justice is not a narrow topic” it nearly brought tears to my eyes.
The class is exceeding my most optimistic expectations – which were quite informed and quite optimistic since A. spent 8th grade with you, too. It appears to me that A.’s personality is being shaped most positively; that she takes pride in herself as a person who is embarking on the Great Books, and she takes joy in what she has learned.
Thank you for all you do to form these kids in knowledge and truth. The world is a better place because of your commitment and diligence!
I don’t know if you remember Madeleine N. who did some Romans and Moderns with you. We are close friends with Chris S. who recommended the Great Books, and it was a pivotal choice for Madeleine, who was a parent-resistant homeschooler. My sons loved all things ancient and mythological , but Madeleine just wasn’t clicking with me, so we took a chance with Great Books. Just to let you know, Madeleine graduated with honors from Johns Hopkins University as a double major in Classics and History of Art. She is continuing at JHU to get a Master’s in History of Art. I know you and Great Books were part of what got her there, I thought you would like to know she continued with her studies.
Would You Recommend Your Great Books Moderator?
Yes, I would because he always encourages each of us to form our own opinions on different subjects by asking us very basic questions. Like Socrates, he helps me to understand many things by asking me questions that seem simple, however they build upon one another and I end up being able to answer hard questions which I never would have imagined being able to answer.
Yes I would, because she helps me to understand the works in depth, and asks us many thought provoking questions which allows me to get more out of the works than I ever would have imagined.
Yes. Mr. B is clear, helpful, and respectful while being brutally honest.
Not only would I like to, I plan to!!
Yes. He is great and understands that everyone had different answers.
Yes, he is a blast, but don’t tell him that!
Yes, because he does a good job at referring to text from the books we read and he also always adds a twist of fun and good education in our classes.
Yes, because he is loads of fun, and helps me understand what I am learning more.
Yes, he is a great leader and facilitator of the discussion.
Yes I would, because she helps me to understand the works in depth, and asks us many thought provoking questions which allows me to get more out of the works than i ever would have imagined.
Yes. I love these classes and I love how the questions asked during them help with the further understanding of the readings.
Yes! I like that he can teach the class very clearly and rarely confuses what is being said.
Yes. All of them. He is the best teacher in everything.
Yes. I love these classes and I love how the questions asked during them help with the further understanding of the readings.
Mr. Bertucci makes the class very enjoyable while also making it very intriguing on difficult matters. It is always a pleasure to be in a class with him.
Yes. He’s obviously one of the experts in his field.
It would be great if I could. She’s a very thoughtful sort of moderator.
Yes, because I enjoy her teaching style.
Certainly. She lets the students read the discussion to review it again in class.
Yes, because she does everything very clearly and meaningfully. She talks about the readings and discussion materials in an interesting way.
Yes! He’s so kind and even though he has his opinions, he doesn’t make assumptions about the beliefs of the students.
Yes, he has very interesting topics!
Yes I would, because I love all of her discussion topics! They are very creative!
Yes, I am very challenged and I learn a lot.
Yes. She is to the point and kind.
Yes. She makes thing clear and easy to understand.
Yes, she is nice and funny.
Yes definitely. This is my second year with Mr. Bertucci and I love every class.
Yes! Mr. Bertucci is a fun and interesting teacher!
I would love to take my future classes with Mr. B.
Yes, because I feel that I am learning in a fun and easy to understand system and environment.
Yes, I would. Classes moderated by him are very thought provoking and well organized. I always walk away from class with a better understanding of the ideas discussed in the text.
Yes. Great leader!
Yes, because he’s an excellent teacher who always makes me learn something new.
Because she’s very kind and never makes another student feel bad about their views, I know this best because sometimes I’m the only one who agrees with something in the class. I wish this class was every day!