Report from CEPHAS 2012


In August 2012 St Dominic’s Convent, Stone, hosted its first ever CEPHAS week.

A week exploring Catholic philosophy, that is, the philosophical truth that underlies and supports so much of the Catholic Faith.

The CEPHAS week was made up of ‘straight’ philosophy in the mornings, introducing five fundamental branches of philosophy:

  • Epistemology – the hierarchy of knowledge
  • Ethics – the pursuit of happiness
  • Physics – the philosophy of nature
  • Psychology – the nature of the human soul
  • Metaphysics – the philosophy of being
Dr George Corbett leading a workshop on ‘Psychology’

The workshops were led by Dr George Corbett and Mr Stephen Barrie.

I thought that the philosophy was excellent and very challenging. The teaching was superb and very engaging. The week was inspirational and encouraging.

Sr Valery’s theology seminar

In the afternoons, Sr Valery led discussions based on articles from the Summa Theologica of St Thomas.

In this way, the participants came to see how philosophy is indeed theology’s ‘handmaid’.

What made it (the week) a wonderful experience? Introduction to philosophy and link to S Thomas (classical principles – theological ideas); no necessity of profound knowledge; mixed audience; different aspects and understandings.

All this took place in the setting of the convent – a fine, Victorian, purpose-built convent, conducive to prayer and reflection. It is open to all participants to attend daily Mass and join with the Sisters in the Prayer of the Church (Divine Office).

In the evenings we gathered in the sisters’ community room to listen in a relaxed atmosphere to a number of interesting talks (one each evening). Talks on a variety of topics, all presented in a Catholic context: on art and music; on Dante; on the value of life.

Dr George Corbett delivering an evening talk on Dante’s Divine Comedy

The participants sum up the week’s experience:

The evening talks were all fascinating and on very pertinent topics.

For most people outside university life, finding places to study philosophy is not easy. Reading books is all very well – but dialogue and teasing out ideas with other people adds another dimension.

It was heart-warming for me to share fellowship with so many people who helped guide me into what I hope will be a new stage in my development as a Catholic and a Christian.