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Local Christian Lecture Series Focuses on Role of Virtue
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
02:49PM / Tuesday, February 20, 2018
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The Rev. Aquinas Guilbeau preaches at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. He will deliver the fifth in a series of lectures at a Williamstown Catholic parish on March 21.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Looking out for No. 1 is merely a distraction from seeing what is important in life.
 
That is one message of a five-week lecture series that begins Wednesday evening at Sts. Patrick and Raphael Roman Catholic Parish.
 
"Virtue and Happiness" brings five scholars, authors and clerics from throughout the Northeast to Williamstown to talk about the theme of virtue and how it can be applied to day-to-day life.
 
"Virtue is a better path to happiness than pleasure seeking or self-expression or any number of things that we hear a lot about," said Jack Miller, a parishioner and one of the organizers of the lecture series. "This is highlighting the principle that virtue is the pathway toward a truer and deeper and lasting happiness."
 
The idea has particular resonance for Christians during Lent, the 40-day period of penitence and conversion when Christians prepare for Easter Sunday. The six weeks commemorate the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert prior to his public ministry, according to the Bible.
 
The series gets under way Wednesday with a lecture titled "Partakers of the Divine: Christian Perfection and the Gift of Grace," by Harvard University doctoral candidate Amy Chandran, and continues for four more Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
 
Other speakers include the Rev. Hugh Cleary of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in Bennington, Vt.,; Massachusetts author Leila Lawler; Scranton (Pa.) University theology professor Maria Poggi Johnson; and the Rev. Aquinas Guilbeau from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.
 
This is the third year the Williamstown parish has hosted the Lenten lectures. Last year's theme was "Recovering the Riches of Catholic Culture and Heritage."
 
Though not necessarily by design, the 2018 series might have a broader, ecumenical appeal, Miller said. And the organizers have been promoting the talks at other local churches as well as on the Williams College campus.
 
And past years' lectures have brought unfamiliar faces to the Sts. Patrick and Raphael Parish Center, Miller said.
 
"We've had a pretty wide mix from the surrounding communities," he said. "We've had a good response both from our parish and other communities."
 
And while the lecture series promises to be "intellectually and spiritually stimulating," it also is intended to be accessible to a wide audience, Miller said.
 
For Christians in particular, the message is timeless.
 
"Pope John Paul II's message to the world was summarized by one journalist as, 'God is real, his love is all around you. He wants you to know him and to be happy,' " Miller said. "That is, we were created for the true and lasting happiness of life with the God who is really there. Classical Christianity reminds us that this happiness is found in living a virtuous life in Christ, the Jesus of Nazareth.  
 
"Our series explores the meaning of virtue, its relationship to happiness, the ways that we might cultivate it, and the role of God's grace."
 
"Virtue and Happiness" runs Wednesdays through March 21 at the Sts. Patrick and Raphael Parish Center, 53 Southworth St., Williamstown, at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free.
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