The Search for God: Testimonies to Grace

Jan 11, 2022
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Peter Bernardi, SJLumen Christi Institute

This weekly non-credit course is open to current Chicago area students and faculty. Others interested in attending should contact us. Registrants are free to attend as many sessions as they choose. Sessions do not presuppose previous attendance or prior knowledge of the subject.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Matthew Arnold described the receding of "the Sea of Faith" in the poem "Dover Beach." Today the culture of unbelief is even more pervasive, especially in secular academia. The stories of those who have struggled with intellectual doubts and personal conflicts in their quest for God and religious faith have much to teach and to inspire us. While each one's spiritual search is highly personal, our own faith journeys can benefit from the conversion stories of men and women who embraced Christian faith, freed by grace to flourish beyond what they could "ask or imagine" [Ephesians 3:20]. Using autobiographical accounts, this class will highlight the spiritual itineraries of philosophers, scientists, literary figures, artists and a variety of others who came to believe in God, and in God's Son Jesus Christ, and in Christ's Mystical Body, the Church.


6:00 PM Dinner | 6:30 PM Lecture


January 11 | The Contemporary Crisis of Belief [Hybrid event: online and in-person]

What reasons are given for rejecting belief in God and Catholic faith?  What reasons give credibility to believing in God and making a commitment to the Catholic faith?  Some Conversion Stories: St. Paul of Tarsus, William Wilberforce, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Dr. Francis Collins, Dawn Eden [Goldstein], Jennifer Fulweiler, W.H. Auden AND Miracles that changed lives.  

January 18 | St. Augustine of Hippo [Hybrid event: online and in-person]

"...our hearts find no peace until they rest in you."   

January 25 | St. John Henry Newman [Return to in-person only]

Apologia pro Vita Sua: "From the time that I became a Catholic...[I] have had no anxiety of heart whatever.  I have been in perfect peace and contentment; I never had one doubt... it was like coming into port after a rough sea; and my happiness on that score remains to this day without interruption."  

February 1 | St. Thérèse of Lisieux

The Story of a Soul: "But I feel especially that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making God loved as I love Him, of giving my little way to souls... Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth" [uttered a few weeks before her death at age 24 from tuberculosis]. Her dying words: “My God, I love you” 

Optional film viewing: Alain Cavalier's acclaimed film "Thérèse" 

February 8 | Dorothy Day

"We have all know the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community."

Optional film viewing: documentary film, "Dorothy Day: Don't Call Me a Saint" 

February 15 | Conversion Stories  

Edith Stein: "I could not put the book down [St. Teresa of Jesus's Autobiography] and read through to the end. When I closed it, I said to myself: This is the truth."; Rabbi Israel Zolli: Why I Became a Catholic

Optional film viewing: "Edith Stein: The Seventh Chamber"

February 22 | Conversion Stories:  Scientists, Philosophers and Literary Figures

Jacques Maritain;  Avery Dulles: "One miracle that stood up to every test was the Resurrection"; Flannery O'Connor; C.S. Lewis; Dr. Susan Greenfield (leading neuro-scientist at Oxford Univ.) who rejects "this unshakeable belief, which is as strong as any religious belief, that science is the only approach to understanding the world around you"; Muriel Spark, Scottish novelist and Catholic convert, responding to the question why she had become a Catholic: “Because it is the one thing that has stopped me from  going mad.”      

Optional film viewing: "Shadowlands" (the BBC version)

March 1 | Contemporary Conversion Stories

Special guests will share their spiritual journeys.  



Testimonies to Grace: A Film Series

Operating parallel to this non-credit course will be a series of film viewings hghlighting several of the conversion stories covered in the non-credit course. This series is co-presented by the Lumen Christi Institute and Calvert House, and will be held January 31 - Feb 21 at Calvert House (5735 S University Ave) and Gavin House (1220 E 58th St.. Registration is encouraged, but not required. Those who are not registered (or are not already registered for the non-credit course) will need to present a University ID or CNET ID upon request.

January 31, 5:45 PM

"Thérèse" (1 hr 34 min)
Directed by Alan Cavalier

February 8, 5:30 PM, at Gavin House

"Dorothy Day: Don't Call me a Saint" (1 hr 30 min)
Directed by Claudia Larson 

February 14, 5:45 PM

"Edith Stein: The Seventh Chamber" (1 hr 50 min)
Directed by Marta Meszaros

February 22, 5:15 PM, at Gavin House

"Shadowlands" (BBC version) (1 hr 13 min)
Directed by Norman Stone

Fr. Peter Bernardi, SJ is scholar-in-residence at the Lumen Christi Institute and Associate Professor Emeritus of Theology at Loyola University of Chicago, where he taught from 2010 to 2020. Before coming to Chicago he taught at Loyola University New Orleans from 1996 to 2010. Fr. Bernardi holds an Honors B.A. in Classical Languages from Xavier University (Cincinnati), an MA in Philosophy from the University of Detroit, a Master of Divinity from Regis College of the Toronto School of Theology, an STL from the Weston School of Theology with a thesis concerning soteriology, and a PhD in Systematic Theology from the Catholic University of America. His areas of interest include modern Christian thought; John Henry Newman, Maurice Blondel, and the Renewal of Catholic Theology; Theology of Vatican II; Christology & Soteriology. He is the author of Maurice Blondel, Social Catholicism and Action Française: The Clash over the Church’s Role in Society During the Modernist Era (CUA Press, 2009).  His most recent scholarly publications are "Blondel, Maurice (1861–1949)" in the Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Philosophers (2020), "Louis Cardinal Billot, S.J. (1846–1931): Thomist, Anti-Modernist, Integralist" in the Journal of Jesuit Studies 8 (2021): 585-616, and "Maurice Blondel's diagnosis of extrinsicist 'Monophorism': An enduring critique of Christian Integralism," in Pesando-Revista de Filosofia. Vol 13, No 30 (2022) Dossie Maurice Blondel, 100-113.