Fr. Matt Rolling St. Mary’s alumnus, class of ‘96 flies to Rome to defend his doctoral dissertation. Even COVID 19 couldn’t keep him away. Here are the details in his own words.
I (almost) have a doctorate in philosophy (PhD). The almost is because I don’t technically get it until I print the final draft with all final corrections from my professors, but that’s just a matter of time.
The topic is: “To Be Well-Disposed: The Factors that Contribute to the Development of Moral Character according to St. Thomas Aquinas.” It’s a mouthful, but in short, it’s about the various things influencing the kind of person we become, things like temperament, upbringing, culture, parenting, society, and education and other such little things. All nicely packaged in 250 pages.
I started this back in 2014 when I arrived in Rome to start on a license (European equivalent of a Master’s), and finished the lion’s share when I returned home in 2019 to reside at St. Gregory the Great Seminary, serve as Academic Dean, teach philosophy class, and do one-on-one formation with seminarians.
Because of COVID restrictions, I’m only in Rome for a week, but I shouldn’t complain because many of my peers are doing this virtually and, well, I’m in Rome, Italy. It’s great being back; in some ways it felt like coming home because, after all, it was home for 5 years. Nonetheless, restrictions kept some parts of the whole process from being normal. For example, how does one say good-bye, probably on this side of eternity, to people he’s been with for 5 years without being able to make physical contact with them?
The defense was good. It helped that I ran into my director the morning of the defense, and after asking me how I was doing, said, “Don’t worry about it. The paper was excellent. You have nothing to be concerned about.” That helps! The questions involved some expansion of ideas present in the dissertation while others involved taking a step further beyond the bounds of the topic itself, but that’s generally expected of one with such a degree: you ought to be able to think about and provide some insights into things that aren’t just the textbook answers.
The names of the priests in the photo are, from left to right, Fr. Matthieu Raffray, Fr. Serge-Thomas Bonino OP (director), Fr. Matt Rolling (me), and Fr. Dominic Holtz OP.