Robert PorwollGustavus Adolphus College
*This course requires no advance training nor prior reading and is open to all for participation. All course reading will be provided electronically.
The Lumen Christi Institute has designed this two-day seminar to introduce major themes and debates from the Catholic Church's history to a wide online audience. It offers the opportunity to read primary sources in the context of a seminar-style discussion, led by Catholic faculty.
St Francis of Assisi was a ‘little poor man’ who casts a long shadow. His way of life, sayings, and adventures have inspired many and given rise to many interpretations of who Francis was. The myriad interpretations of St Francis gives rise to many questions: What motivated him? Why did he embrace poverty, service, and humility? What goals did he seek? This course will highlight St Francis’ relationship to the model and person of Christ, including Francis’ direct obedience, following the “footsteps” of Christ, a special devotion to the Eucharist, and even the celebration of Christmas. St Francis’ own words and the earliest account about him offer a window into these major themes and ideas.
Preparatory materials will frame St Francis in the larger history of spiritual renunciation and poverty and his more immediate context in the twelfth-century reforms. The three sessions of the course will prioritize discussion of our readings in the tradition of Great Books style discussion. The sessions organize the many facets surrounding St Francis according to topics, such as Living Poverty or Love of Nature.
Session 1: Wednesday, December 7 | 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. CST
Session 2: Saturday, December 10 | 10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. CST
Session 3: Saturday, December 10 | 1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. CST
Preparation for the Course
In the great tradition of Great Books reading and Socratic discussion, this online course prioritizes close engagement with the primary sources for St Francis’ life and thought. Online sessions will be most productive for all when students devote significant time to preparing for the course, especially reading and annotating the texts in advance.
Preparatory materials for the course include:
- Reading Instructions on Topics (see Sessions and Topics below)
- Video on Mechanics of Course
- 2 Introductory Videos on Monastic, Spiritual Tradition, and on Italian, economic, and cultural contexts
- Readings taken from Francis of Assisi and pdfs
Session 1: Wednesday, December 7, 6-7:30pm Central Standard Time
- Early Life and Conversion
- Early Followers and Papal Approval
Session 2: Saturday, December 10, 10:30am-12:00pm Central Standard Time
- The Footsteps of Christ
- Living Poverty
- Humility and Service
Session 3: Saturday, December 10, 1:30pm-3:00pm Central Standard Time
- Love of Nature
- Christ in Creation
NOTE: Course Schedule and precise readings are liable to changes.
Robert Porwoll has taught courses for the University of Chicago Graham School and History Department, and he is currently a visiting professor at Gustavus Adolphus College. His research includes the Christian liberal arts tradition in education, with a specialized focus on the liberal arts in Christian education at schools and at early medieval universities. He studied Historical Theology at Saint Louis University (MA) and the History of Christianity at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago (PhD). His scholarship includes the relationship of faith and reason, religious environmental ethics, Neoplatonic and scholastic thought, and the medieval School of Saint Victor Abbey (Paris).