Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

'Reading the Signs of the Times' : Cultural Studies, the Humanities and The Catholic Intellectual Tradition

Dr Michelle Loris.

This paper proposes to join thinking from three related areas: thinking from Vatican II, ideas about the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, and new thinking in the Humanities. Forty years ago , Pope John XXIII called the church to read the signs of the times so that the Church could better understand her mission in the modern world. In "Reading the Signs of the Times:An Ongoing Task of the Church in the World, Anthony J. Cernera writes: " The process of reading the signs of the times as it was developed in GAUDIUM ET SPES recognized that this method of theological reflection would necessarily be ongoing....during every historical period. The times would change, new movements would emerge, and thus the Church would need to read the signs of the that particular time."
The Catholic intellectual tradition is a treasury of classic al works especially in the humanities and it includes contemporary intellectual works as well. It is a tradition that has, over time, necessarily had to adapt and transform itself. In fact, the dual task of scholars responsible for the tradition into the next century is both faithful transmission and ongoing development of the tradition.
It is here in the development of the tradition—in grappling with a rich tradition as well as a trove of contemporary intellectual, aesthetic, and religious thought—that the Church can better read the signs of the times. From Gaudium ET Spes we read: The...sciences sharpen critical judgment.... Recent psychological research explains human activity more profoundly. Historical studies make a signal contribution bringing men to see things in their changeable and evolutionary aspects.... [N]ew forms of culture...[give] rise [to] new ways of thinking.... {54} Gaudium Et Spes{44} states: the Church requires special help, particularly in our day, when things are changing very rapidly and the ways of thinking are exceedingly various. She must rely on those who live in the world, are versed in different institutions and specialities...
The special help the Church requires to read the signs of the times may be gotten from examination and development of the Catholic intellectual tradition—a tradition informed by thinking in the humanities.


Dr Michelle Loris  (United States)
Professor of Literature
College of Arts and Sciences Department of English and Modern Languages
Sacred Heart University

Michelle Loris holds a Ph.D. in American Literature . She has published a book on Joan Didion and edited a book on Gloria Naylor. She has published articles on Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, and Willa Cather. She also hold a doctorate in Clinical Psychology and has published articles in the areas of trauma and abuse. She teaches American Literature as well as Psychology at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield Connecticut.

  • Catholic intellectual tradition
  • Reading the Signs of the Times

(Virtual Presentation, English)