To explore the various spiritual paths in the tradition of Catholicism, Immaculate Conception parish, Astoria, recently hosted its annual lecture series on three Mondays this fall.
The lectures have taken place each of the past seven years and are accredited by the diocesan Faith Formation Office and the Sacred Heart Institute. The series, entitled “Pathways: The Spiritual Path of St. Dominic,” concluded Oct. 3 in Lyons Hall.
Father Peter John Cameron, O.P., led this year’s series. He is a Dominican priest and the chairman of the department of homiletics at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, N.Y.
He is also the editor-in-chief of Magnificat, a publication that encourages liturgical and personal prayer; the artistic director of Blackfriars Repertory Theatre, Manhattan, and has authored 10 books.
The series began with “St. Dominic: Way of the Preacher.” The theme of the Dominican tradition continued with “St. Thomas Aquinas: Way of the Theologian” and concluded Oct. 3 with “St. Catherine of Siena: Way of the Mystic.”
“It’s my firm belief that we have a calling to educate not only children but educate adults,” said Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese, pastor at Immaculate Conception.
“In fact, if you look specifically at the Gospels, Christ educated adults and blessed children. We do the opposite: We educate children and bless adults. But I think Christianity is an adult faith, and we really do need more input for adults.”
The parish’s first five lecture series focused on the relationship between Christianity and other religions. Last year, the Pathways Series began investigating the different spiritual traditions of the Church through St. Benedict. With this year being the 800th anniversary of the Dominican order, the Way of St. Dominic was chosen.
A doctor of the Church, St. Catherine, the 24th of 25 children in her family, was known as a mystic. She rose to prominence in the small Italian town of Siena and helped transform the Church, both intellectually and morally.
“St. Catherine is a great saint, and she is relevant for the Church today because she really had her pulse on the problems in the Church and what is necessary to be a great saint,” Father Cameron said.
“Most people think mysticism is very impractical,” Msgr. Ferrarese said. “But she was very practical. She was involved in the politics of the time. She was a force to be reckoned with, someone that both kings and popes listened to.
“Mysticism and practical social engagement in the world are not separate things but one unity.”
Father Cameron focused on St. Catherine’s theme of the cell of self-knowledge, in which one develops knowledge of God’s mercy toward sinfulness.
“Holiness really begins with the starting point, and the starting point really is knowing ourselves and being honest with who we are in the sight of God,” he said.
Both Father Cameron and Msgr. Ferrarese were pleased with the turnout of all three lectures, as local Catholics explored their faith through education.
“I went to the first one out of curiosity,” said Immaculate Conception parishioner Mike Cadenillas. “I’ve always had an interest in history. It’s a hobby for me. I know the topic is mysticism through this particular saint.”
St. Catherine herself was a lay person, so she set the example to those in attendance of how one can achieve great heights of holiness by simply living out her faith each day.