Conversatio is the only course that all freshman at Saint Anselm College take, and it is also the only course they will all take together with same group of students all year. It is their introduction to the Saint Anselm Community, the Anselmian way of life.
Conversatio is a Latin word that means a common way of life followed with devotion, a mode of living followed habitually and with conviction. The word figures prominently in the vows a Benedictine monk takes to express their commitment to a way of life rooted in God. You might tend to confuse it with the English word conversation, which has the same root. We don't mind the connection since part of the Anselmian way of life is interchange of ideas based upon mutual respect, but the course you will take is not about conversation. (Though the English word conversation at one time, in the 14th century, meant something more like conversatio: cohabitation and the sharing a common life, and it carried the same connotation of intimacy as our modern phrase "living together.")
Brother Isaac explains the meaning of the term here:
So Conversatio is your introduction to at least three new ways of life for you: (1) your life as an Anselmian; (2) your life as a college student, scholar, and thinking person; and (3) your life as part of the larger Catholic Intellectual Tradition. You'll get to know the Monastery and its role in the college, and you'll learn how the Benedictine tradition informs what it means to be an Anselmian. The course also exposes you to the disciplines necessary to develop your skills in writing, speaking, and thinking that allow you to take your place as a free citizen of your community. In the first Semester, you'll concentrate on essay writing skills. In the Second Semester, you'll concentrate on rhetoric and develop some public speaking skills. The subject matter of the course also exposes you to the way of life developed within the Catholic Intellectual Tradition of philosophical and theological thought that values reason, sees free inquiry as the path to truth, and finds the face of God in the study of the natural world.
Conversatio exposes you to the greatest thoughts within this tradition about how a human life is best lived and the problem it encounters, but it is really about your struggle to find a way of life, a conversatio, for yourself. In the Fall, we look at the relation between your development as an individual, how you fit into a larger human community, and how both of these worlds are grounded in the divine. You will be doing the same thing during your college career: learning who you are as an individual, finding a way to take your place in a career and family and community, while at the same time trying to discover your role in the Universe as a guide to all your activities. In the Spring, we try to see how the Liberal Arts can help you find your way to a good life and ask you to formulate your own conception of the good life. Participation in the free governance of your community, learning the secrets of the natural world you inhabit, and appreciating and creating beauty are the contributions that the liberal arts make to a fully human life. You will try to see the role that Politics, Science, and Art can play in your own vision of the good life.
While your other courses may be trying to help you make a living, Conversatio will be trying to help you find your way to a life worth living.
You can find out more about the course of studies for each semester of the course here: