Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!


Thank you for your interest in the August 2016 First Things Intellectual Retreat in New York City. All available seats at the retreat have been filled, and registration is now closed. If you would like to be informed about future retreats, please sign up for our email newsletter using the form at the bottom of this page.

First Things is pleased to invite our readers to New York City for a memorable weekend of seminars and lectures on Love and Friendship. Participants will have the opportunity to explore texts alongside scholars and First Things writers and editors, discussing ideas and questions about love and friendship in small-group seminar sessions.

There are no academic prerequisites or expertise required to participate; no grades or exams—although you will receive a certificate of attendance from First Things. If you enjoy reading First Things or discussing the kind of ideas found in its pages then this event is for you. Discussions will take place in small seminar sections led by faculty from Northeast Catholic College. Participants will explore substantial texts and questions of great significance in an environment animated by a spirit of friendship and a common purpose.

This is a rare opportunity to get together with like-minded individuals to talk about big, timeless ideas and how they inform our understanding of the issues that occupy our culture today.


Observers of contemporary society have long acknowledged an increasing confusion about the nature of love as well as an impoverished understanding of friendship. These conditions undermine human flourishing and pose a challenge to thoughtful people of faith who recognize the limits of modernity’s offerings.

Participants in this retreat will take up philosophical, theological, and literary texts from antiquity and the classical Christian and Jewish traditions to explore the nature of love and friendship as well as their relation to transcendence, faith, beauty, marriage, and reason.

By entering into conversation with texts from these traditions and considering perspectives largely forgotten by modernity, participants will discover truths that will enable them to live better lives and confidently propose alternatives to those in our age who wish to do likewise.


The First Things Intellectual Retreat will be held from Friday evening, August 5 to Sunday morning August 7, 2016 at the NYU Kimmel Center for University Life.

Friday, August 5, 2016
6:00 pm Cocktail reception
7:00 pm Dinner & Lecture: Robert L. Wilken

Saturday, August 6, 2016
8:15 am Continental breakfast (optional)
9:00 am - 5:00 pm Seminar discussions

15-20 participants per group
Lunch & scheduled breaks throughout the day

6:00 pm Cocktail reception
7:00 pm Dinner & Panel Discussion: R. R. Reno, Mark Bauerlein, and Robert L. Wilken

Sunday, August 7, 2016
9:00 am Continental breakfast (optional)
9:30 am Musical performance, with remarks by George Harne

The retreat will conclude with a concert by Canticum Scholare, a professional a cappella ensemble based in New York City that specializes in vocal music of the Renaissance and Baroque. Composed of talented artists that possess extensive vocal performance experience in polyphony with a great love of the tradition, Canticum Scholare will offer a program that expresses through music the theme of the retreat—”Love and Friendship”—a program that will include compositions by Tallis, Morely, Dowland, Victoria, Byrd, Palestrina, Durufle, and Tavener.

11:00 am End of intellectual retreat

Dress code: Business casual attire for cocktail receptions and dinners. Casual attire for breakfast, lunch and seminars.


Reading materials will be emailed to participants upon registration, with a bound copy to follow by mail. The readings will include excerpts from the following texts:

  1. Plato, The Symposium
  2. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermons on the Song of Songs
  3. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae
  4. Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics
  5. St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions
  6. C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves
  7. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations
  8. Dante Alighieri, Inferno
  9. William Shakespeare, Sonnets
  10. Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Family Redeemed
  11. Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
  12. The Book of Proverbs
  13. Bl. John Henry Newman, University Sermons
  14. St. Paul, First Letter to the Corinthians
  15. Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est
  16. R. R. Reno, “The Loving Intellect”

All participants will attend all seminars through the course of the day, in the following order:

1st Seminar: Love as Ecstasy

In the first seminar, devoted to readings by Plato, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. Thomas Aquinas, participants will take up the questions animating the whole retreat: What is love? How does love take us beyond ourselves and the limits of visible and material reality? What is love’s relation to human happiness, grace, beauty, desire, immortality, and wisdom?

2nd Seminar: Friendship

In the second seminar, participants will discuss texts by Aristotle, St. Augustine, and C. S. Lewis, considering the nature, foundations, and types of friendship, how a friend is an “other self,” and why friendship is so rare in the modern age. In addition to these topics, participants will also consider how friendship—as a type of love—stands in relation to other forms of love as well as how friendship can animate the best human life or corrupt it.

3rd Seminar: Eros and Marriage

In the third seminar, the voices of Dante, Shakespeare, Soloveitchik, and Frankl join the conversation—new questions emerge: what is the nature of eros and what is the nature of marriage? How are these related to each other, to reason, and the natural limits of human experience? How can we recognize their counterfeits and corruptions? And how does faith—Jewish and Christian—transform and elevate romantic love and marriage?

4th Seminar: Eros, Caritas, and Wisdom

Returning yet again to the image of the ladder of love, participants will consider more deeply the inner unity of the forms of love—particularly eros and agape—within an integrated human life informed by a theological vision. They will also explore the less known, though no less important, roles of love in guiding us to wisdom and guarding our faith.


Participants are responsible for their own accommodations. A limited number of rooms have been reserved at the Courtyard Marriott at 5th Avenue and 40th Street. The rate is $250 per night. Rooms can be booked by clicking this link, or by calling 800.321.2211 and referencing the “First Things Group” reservation block.


Cost: $625 per participant

You may make a deposit of $300, with the balance due at the event, or pay in full in advance. The fee covers seminar tuition, assigned text materials, and all meals, including two cocktail reception and dinner lectures with First Things editorial staff and faculty from Northeast Catholic College. There are a limited number of seats available for graduate students or seminarians; please contact us for details.

Companion tickets are available at $100 per ticket for participant companions who would like to attend the evening receptions and dinner lectures but are not attending the day seminars.

To register, please use the form below. Check the corresponding box to either make a partial deposit or to pay in full, and to purchase a companion ticket, if required. If you are registering two participants or more, please re-use the form to register one seminar participant at a time—let us know who are the members of your party by writing their names in the Comment Box. Please also use the Comment Box for any special requests, such as kosher or vegetarian meals, wheelchair access, etc.

If you would like to mail your registration, please include the same information along with your check and mail it to:

First Things
Attn: Intellectual Retreat
35 East 21st Street, Sixth Floor
New York, NY 10010

You may also register by telephone at 1-212-627-1985, or contact us at

Please note: The registration fee does not include travel to New York City or hotel accommodations.

Retreat Cancellation Policy: For a full refund of tuition fees, please cancel with at least three weeks advance notice from the event’s date. We reserve the right to substitute speakers, change venues, cancel seminars, or cancel part of or the entire event, due to circumstances beyond our control. In such cases, our liability is limited to a prompt refund of the registration fee, on a pro-rata basis, for the affected days.

In partnership with:

Northeast Catholic College

Northeast Catholic College