Diocesan News

Third Newman Institute lecture planned for Nov. 11

Story by Tess Wahlmeier

LINCOLN (SNR) - All are invited to the third lecture in the series “Reborn in Wonder” presented by the Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture.

Dr. John Freeh, a professor at Wyoming Catholic College (WCC) will present “As the Gentle Rain from Heaven: Shakespeare’s Heart of Mercy” Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. in the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.

The Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture has been presenting a series of fall lectures, beginning with “Reborn in Wonder” given by Bishop Conley and Thomas Foster in September (photos here). The second lecture, “Love, the Foundation of the Intellectual Life,” was given by Dr. R. R. Reno, editor of First Things magazine in October (photos here and video here).  

Dr. Freeh has taught English Literature to undergraduates at Oxford at Oxford University, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Gonzaga University, and Hillsdale College before his current position at WCC. He is on Bishop Conley’s committee for the Newman Institute of Catholic Thought and Culture, and has been involved with planning the program for the past two years.

Msgr. Daniel Seiker, pro-director of the Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, said, “we have had some great speakers offer stimulating lectures to allow people to taste something of what the Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture hopes to offer – the sense of wonder, and thinking about the world and our lives with a freedom that is based on the great works of our western classical tradition; and all of this for free.  It has been a chance to get together with good friends for good lectures and conversations.”

“I think the institute is a wonderful idea and a great adventure,” Dr. Freeh said.  “There’s a need for that type of program around the country, and it’s wonderful that it can be part of a fine state university such as UNL.” 

Dr. Freeh said the program will allow both Catholic undergraduates and interested non-Catholics alike to learn about the tradition of the West from a Catholic perspective.

Dr. Freeh’s lecture will focus on Shakespeare and the importance he places on the virtue of mercy.

“Shakespeare is, of course, one of the great lights of western literature,” Dr. Freeh said, “and he’s deeply imbued with all of the learning of Christian humanism, so his understanding of human nature is quite complete.  I hope to touch on the fullness of his understanding of the human condition: his wisdom, empathy, and plain street-sense.”

Dr. Freeh quoted St. John Paul the Great, who said that mercy is a second name for love, and is important to the Christian message.

“We tend to think of coming to understand the truth through the use of reason,” he continued, “which is one of the principal human faculties, but the beauty of a master poet like Shakespeare is that he realizes, as Pascal did, that reason alone cannot explain the fullness and the beauty of the human condition or reality, and therefore there is a poetic approach or imaginative approach, intuitive, you might say, to understanding those things that reason cannot comprehend.  So to understand fully who we are as human beings and to understand the fullness of reality, we need both reason and also imagination, which is what Bishop Conley means by the ‘poetic mode.’” 

Dr. Freeh said he is looking forward to visiting the Newman Center, meeting students, and preparing and giving the lecture.

He said, “I think the program promises to be a great benefit to the students who attend it, and I’m excited to help take part in the planning of it.”

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