Lecture series for the month of December

For Advent, Hearts N Minds adult education participants are going to turn our hearts and minds to a more contemplative mode, using a series of lectures created by the late Richard O’Donnell, teacher, counselor, former priest, and a true Renaissance man.

One of the many things Richard did was to conduct series of lectures and discussions, known as the Hortensius Academy, over dinners in his Allentown home.  His lectures reflect his gentle spirit and expansive intellect, his humor and wide reading, and offer insights into human spirituality that are most appropriate to consider at this time as we await the incarnation.

Richard’s education took him from Villanova University to the Gregorian University in Rome to Fordham University, Catholic University in DC, and Columbia.  In Lehigh and Northampton Counties, Richard’s work centered around drug and alcohol counseling and teaching, reflecting his life-long commitment to education and service.  “Spirituality was the milieu in which he lived and breathed” ( 10, 2019).

You will need to devote about an hour a week to listen to each lecture, each “soliloquy,” either in pieces or all at once and to take notes, if you’re so inclined, or listen more than once.  You could consider listening to a segment each day as a daily devotional, and you may want to print this page on which to take some notes.  But please note, you do not need to listen to the lectures to attend class.

TO ATTEND THE SUNDAY ZOOM SESSIONS – online or via phone (audio only):

To join via Zoom:
Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450
To listen on the phone (audio only): Call 929-205-6099; when prompted enter the Meeting ID: 811 8422 0450, followed by the # key. You will be asked for the participant ID – simply press the # key again.


For each lecture simply click the arrow to listen. You can pause it (square button) and return to it.

Week 1
Passions of the Spirit: Focused Excitement of the Soul

For the first lecture, here are some questions to get your thinking started:

  • How would you define spirituality?  Do you believe in its existence?  in its importance?
  • What do you think of the concept of a “spiritual experience”?  Are they the same or different from “mystical experience”?  Do you have any examples, either personal or that you know about?
  • What is the difference between “willfulness” and “willingness”?
  • Have you ever experienced “metaphysical weariness”?
  • What is necessary to nurture spirituality?  What are its goals?

Week 2
Liberating the Spirit: Undoing the Walls that Confine Us

What wall(s) are the most difficult for us to break through:


For each of the walls, Richard describes its nature, suggests from where it might originate, and poses an “antidote” to its poison.

He says that we all know we need and we all want love — so why do we make approaching us a chore, as we do with the walls that we construct?  Why do we cling to those walls?  Why do we construct them in the first place?  Why is it so hard to tear them down?  Why do we tend to sabotage our own progress?

In our discussion this Sunday, let’s consider our walls and see how faith can help us break them down.  Consider other walls that divide us, in addition to those Richard discusses I encourage you to contemplate the e. e. cummings poem he cites in the end of the discussion:

may my heart always be open to little
birds who are the secrets of living
whatever they sing is better than to know
and if men should not hear them men are old

may my mind stroll about hungry
and fearless and thirsty and supple
and even if it’s sunday may i be wrong
for whenever men are right they are not young

and may myself do nothing usefully
and love yourself so more than truly
there’s never been quite such a fool who could fail
pulling all the sky over him with one smile


Week 3
And Who Will Sing My Song: Expressing One’s Own Spirit

In this week’s soliloquy, “And Who Will Sing My Song?” Richard explores how we express our spirit, our “lyrical unity,” to ourselves and to the world, having recognized its nature and the walls that can hinder its freedom.  He is particularly addressing mature spirituality, that which comes from many years of experiencing our inner selves and the world around us.

He says that throughout our lives, starting from when we are young, we build constructs, sustained perceptions that govern our actions.  Each of us has “core constructs” that define our self-identity, the deepest, widest, earliest formed, and hardest to change principles of which, I suspect, we are often not consciously aware.

These accompany “complementary constructs”:  those that determine how we perceive society and what we offer back to it.

We invite you to spend some time considering your core constructs, their sources, and how they are reflected in your perception of yourself and your interaction with those around you.


Week 4
Through a Glass Darkly: Exercises to Lessen Life’s Shadows