Founder of Catholic Magazines Reflects on Faithful Catholic Education

Graduates of Newman Guide colleges are making a difference for the Church and the world, and Rose Rea is no exception!  A graduate of Franciscan University in Ohio, Rose is the founder of Radiant and Valiant magazines for young Catholic women and men, respectively.  Readers can subscribe to Radiant and Valiant magazines, which are owned by Our Sunday Visitor, at this link.  We thank Rose for taking the time to share with us about how her Catholic education prepared her to share the Faith through these magazines.

Photo of Rose Rea by Lisa Wahl.

Rose, how did Franciscan University of Steubenville prepare you to serve the Church and achieve professional success?

Franciscan has a way of bringing people to campus who are not afraid to live out their faith in a beautiful and vibrant way. I had never seen anything like it in my high school years, so when I visited my older sister attending Steubenville, I knew immediately that this was the place I wanted to be. I made life-long friends there, studied abroad and traveled all over Europe learning about the history of our Catholic Church and most importantly, I was educated and formed in a Catholic environment by people who wanted me to succeed in whatever I felt called to do. Having Fr. Michael Scanlan as a spiritual advisor was also the biggest blessing. What a holy man he was!

How has your Catholic college education helped you communicate with young men and women in Radiant and Valiant magazines?

It sounds cliché, but to be around people who were cool and Catholic resonated deeply within my heart. So many adolescents and young adults feel very alone in their faith, because most of their peers around them are not living out a faith-filled life. At Franciscan University, we connected with people from all walks of life who were very great examples of people living in the world doing very normal things, but who were not “of the world”. That definitely motivated me to want to bring that mentality to young women and men everywhere. I felt that if I could just inspire one young lady to save herself for marriage because she is worth it or one young man to step up to make a decision God wanted him to make, even if it was difficult and hard, it would be valuable! The world is in desperate need of courageous men and women who are ready to answer God’s often difficult calling in their lives and we want them to understand that a small yes to God can lead to making a huge difference in the world! Every fire starts with a spark, right?!

What kind of articles can readers, including college students and graduates, find in these magazines?

Readers will find so many different topics covered! For the ladies, we cover topics like dating and relationships, include modest fashion in each issue, and highlight in-depth interviews and personal stories from well-known speakers and authors. We feature artists and photographers, as well as fantastic organizations, who are making a difference in their respective vocations. Overall, women will find all kinds of stories that will uplift and inspire them to grow deeper in their faith and allow them to connect with women just like them.

For the men, we share stories of courage, conviction and determination by guys just like our readers who were not afraid to answer God’s call in their own lives. We feature authors, bloggers, musicians, priests, military men and national speakers who are making a difference. It is so incredibly fun and rewarding to work with these talented young, Catholic men and women. Their stories are phenomenal!

This October, the Vatican will host a Synod on Young People. Some have suggested that the Church needs to back away from certain teachings and traditions to appeal to young people, but to the contrary, your readers and the students at Newman Guide colleges are attracted to the Church. How can the Church communicate Truth, Goodness and Beauty to today’s young people?

I completely agree with the latter; the doctrine and teachings of our Catholic Faith do not need to be updated or changed for our modern times. The teachings only need to be communicated in a more appealing and effective way to reach today’s young in the modern language that they speak. God’s gift to us, the teachings of the Catholic Church and the beautiful examples of the Saints and the martyrs need to be reheard and retaught to the new generation; so many of them are already responding in a positive way! There is much more work to be done, but I see the fruits of the sacrifices our parents and those before us have made. This is a difficult but special time to be Catholic, and our own happiness and the salvation of many souls depend on our complete abandonment to God. When that happens, then we’ll find peace! That is the goal of Radiant and Valiant magazines—to bring our readers to this peace—which we strive to do, led by our most blessed mother, the Virgin Mary.

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

Editor’s Note: The Cardinal Newman Society recently announced Sarah Niblock of St. Pius X Catholic High School in Kansas City, Missouri, as the winner of the Society’s second annual Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college-bound students.  Niblock will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, this fall.  Below is the full text of Niblock’s winning essay.  More information about the Contest can be obtained here.

I closed the door to my room, sunk into my plush wicker chair, and let out a deep breath as a mixture of anger and exhaustion swirled within me. “What if I made the wrong decision?” I asked myself. My unease spread as I recounted the comments I had heard from well-meaning family and friends, after telling them that I would be attending a faithful Catholic college. “Are you sure your family can afford that?” one friend asked. “Will a Catholic school shelter you from the harsh realities of the world around you?” my dad questioned. As I replayed these scenes, I began to pray, asking God to open my heart so that I might hear His voice. After restlessly praying for a few minutes, my eyes wandered around my room until they rested on a holy card of Jesus that laid on my dresser. Staring at it for a few seconds, I recalled the words that were written on the back, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). These words seemed to pound in my ears as my eyes closed, and the details of my visit to a faithful Catholic college came rushing back with incredible vividness.

“I am the way.” Chapel bells begin to toll, and I watch as dozens of students appear from dorm rooms and classrooms, hurrying to Mass on a Wednesday afternoon. I gaze around a busy dining hall to see students bowing their head before diving into their midday meal. I listen to a chaplain preach from the pulpit, encouraging and advising students about dating. I pass by sign-up sheets for students to pray at a local abortion clinic. I glimpse an elderly priest sitting with students at lunch, laughing and asking them about their day.

“I am the truth.” My head whips back and forth as I watch two students debate Rousseau’s ideologies regarding the role of government. I hear the patter of a chalkboard as I see a young student jump up to prove a Euclid proposition. I listen to a freshman class discuss how to logically discover the validity of an argument. I pass by a student who is intently studying his Bible, doing some extra research for his theology paper. I notice a smile on my dad’s face, and tears in my mom’s eyes, as my family listens to the president address a Thanksgiving speech to students, asking them to “rededicate yourselves to what you came here for in the first place… not the triumph of your own opinions or the esteem of tutors and students, but rather things of far greater worth and enduring importance: deeper relationships with Christ our King and the beginnings of Catholic wisdom and virtue.”

“I am the life.” I see professors, along with their spouses and children, attending Sunday Mass at the campus chapel. I smile as a young man spots me heading to a classroom building, quickly pulling open the door for me to pass underneath. I overhear conversations between students, telling each other how former alumni have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, priests, sisters, engineers, and missionaries. I talk with an upperclassman who tells me her plans to become a lawyer, and how she turned down two full-ride scholarships in order to attend her dream school. I sit in a quiet dorm room as my hostess tells me that these four years have been some of the most challenging in her life, but she wouldn’t trade them for the world. Opening up to me, she tells me that through her deep friendships and the rich spiritual life on campus, she would be answering God’s call for her to enter the religious life.

I opened my eyes as these visions finally ceased flowing. Letting out a deep breath, I finally found the words that God had been whispering in my heart. “Here, at this college, you will find me. ‘I who am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’”

National Essay Contest Winner Seeks the ‘Way, Truth and Life’ at Catholic College

Sarah Niblock of St. Pius X Catholic High School in Kansas City, Missouri, is the winner of the Society’s second annual Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college students and will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California.

“I finally found the words that God had been whispering in my heart. ‘Here, at this college, you will find me,’” writes Niblock in her winning essay, titled “The Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

The contest was open to high school seniors in the United States who participated in the Newman Society’s Recruit Me program and used The Newman Guide, which recommends faithful Catholic colleges, in their college search. The winning scholarship must be used for education at one of the 28 Catholic colleges and higher education programs recommended in The Newman Guide for their strong fidelity and Catholic identity.

With the innovative Recruit Me program, high school students can invite Newman Guide colleges to compete for them and provide information about their programs. Rising high school seniors who wish to enter next year’s essay contest can sign up for Recruit Me online at https://newmansociety.org/the-newman-guide/recruit-me/.

As a junior in high school, Niblock was exploring college scholarship opportunities online when she stumbled upon Benedictine College’s release about the winner of the Newman Society’s first Essay Scholarship Contest. To be eligible for the contest the following year, Niblock signed up for the Newman Society’s Recruit Me program.

It was through the Recruit Me program that Niblock first learned about Thomas Aquinas College and was contacted by the College about its various offerings. Niblock was especially impressed with the College’s Great Books program and its Socratic, discussion-style courses. In the end, Niblock decided to attend TAC and told us that she’s “very grateful for the Newman Society’s programs!”

The topic for this year’s contest was to reflect, in 500-700 words, on the following question: “How will a faithful Catholic college education prepare you for life?”

Essays were judged by how well they demonstrated appreciation for faithful Catholic education, as well as the quality of the writing.

“Sarah Niblock impressed us with the picture she painted of a faithful Catholic college in her winning essay,” said Kelly Salomon, editor of The Newman Guide. “She shows how a strong Catholic environment can provide students with the formation they need for life.”

Niblock relates how she’s faced challenging questions from well-meaning family members and friends about the value of attending a faithful Catholic college.

After finding the answers, Niblock is eager to join a campus where she is confident she will find Jesus, who is the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

She describes her visit to a faithful Catholic college campus:

I watch as dozens of students appear from dorm rooms and classrooms, hurrying to Mass on a Wednesday afternoon…

…I listen to a freshman class discuss how to logically discover the validity of an argument…

…I overhear conversations between students, telling each other how former alumni have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, priests, sisters, engineers, and missionaries.

The spiritual life offerings, academic environment, and overall formation provided by a faithful Catholic college convinced Niblock of its value.

Niblock’s entire essay can be read here.

Her $5,000 scholarship is made possible thanks to the generosity of Joe and Ann Guiffre, supporters of the Newman Society and faithful Catholic education.

“We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Guiffre for enabling this scholarship,” said Reilly. “They understand the unique value of a truly Catholic education, and they are thrilled to help a student experience all that a Newman Guide-recommended college can provide.”

Essays were submitted from students in 40 states. Most attend Catholic schools, about 30 percent are homeschooled, and the remainder attend public schools.

Students who participated in the contest applied to every U.S. residential college that is recommended in The Newman Guideplus Holy Apostles College and the University of Navarra in Spain.

Although there can be only one winner, many students submitted outstanding essays, including Maylee Brown of Iowa City, Iowa; Celine Gaeta of Van Nuys, California; Anna O’Leary of Fredericksburg, Texas; and Isabelle Thelen of Traverse City, Michigan. These will be published by the Newman Society on its website, NewmanSociety.org.

National Essay Contest Winner Seeks Catholic College Centered on God

The Cardinal Newman Society is proud to announce that Jace Griffith of Idaho Falls High School in Idaho is the winner  of the Society’s first annual Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college-bound students and will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan.

“I’ve decided I want God to be the center of my life,” writes Griffith in her winning essay, titled “Fullness.” “In the end, it only makes sense to choose a college that wants the same thing.”

The contest was open to high school seniors in the United States who participated in the Newman Society’s Recruit Me program and used The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College and My Future, My Faith magazine in their college search. The winning scholarship must be used for education at one of the 29 Catholic colleges and higher education programs recommended in The Newman Guide for their strong fidelity and Catholic identity.

With the innovative Recruit Me program, high school students can invite Newman Guide colleges to compete for them and provide information about their programs. Rising high school seniors who wish to compete in next year’s essay contest can sign up for Recruit Me online at https://newmansociety.org/the-newman-guide/recruit-me/.

The topic for this year’s contest was to reflect, in 500-700 words, on the following questions: “In general, why should someone choose a faithful Catholic college? And what do you, personally, hope to gain from a faithful Catholic education?”

Essays were judged by how well they demonstrated appreciation for faithful Catholic education, as well as the quality of the writing.

“Jace Griffith impressed us with her inspirational storytelling and her eagerness for the curriculum and community at a faithful Catholic college,” said Kelly Salomon, editor of The Newman Guide and director of membership for The Cardinal Newman Society.

Growing up in a community and schools with mostly non-Catholics, Griffith learned to explain and defend her Catholic faith, but she yearns for a Catholic college that forms “ethical and virtuous men and women with their eyes set on the great fullness that only God can give.”

“After all,” Griffith continues in her essay, “I’ve spent enough time struggling to explain why I’m skipping school for ‘a good Friday’ and fending off tissues from well-meaning classmates who noticed the ash smudge on my forehead.”

She looks forward to a liberal arts curriculum, studying psychology in the “context of human dignity” and being surrounded by young adults with “similar goals and morals.”

“Impressed by the unique academics and enamored with communities full of the vibrant, persistent, delighted love of Christ, I trust that faithful Catholic colleges will continue to teach their students the fullness that is real truth and real joy,” she writes.

Griffith’s entire essay can be read here.

Her $5,000 scholarship is made possible thanks to the generosity of Joe and Ann Guiffre, supporters of the Newman Society and faithful Catholic education.

“We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Guiffre for enabling this scholarship,” said Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. “They understand the unique value of a truly Catholic education, and they are thrilled to help a student experience all that a Newman Guide-recommended college can provide.”

Essays were submitted from students in 29 states. Most attend Catholic schools, but many others attend public schools or are homeschooled.

All of the participants have applied to colleges recommended in The Newman Guide, including colleges across the United States and as far away as the University of Navarra in Spain and Catholic Pacific College in Canada.

Although only one student was named as the winner, many students submitted outstanding essays.

The essay from Anthony Jones of Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Va., reflects on Catholic colleges’ commitment to truth. He quotes from Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Vatican’s constitution on Catholic higher education: “A Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God.”

“Unfortunately, many colleges that claim to be Catholic shy away from teachings they deem hard to accept,” Jones writes. “Such disregard demonstrates a lack of both respect and understanding of God’s word, inevitably resulting in an education that is seriously flawed.”

Adam Boyle from Mother of Divine Grace School in Ojai, Calif., writes in his essay that his “decision to attend a faithful Catholic college is essentially the same as Peter’s response to Jesus: where else would I go?”

“Faithfully Catholic colleges provide this ‘fixed definition of truth’ for all of their students, and that creates a culture centered around Christ and His bride, the Church, which we know is the ultimate truth,” Boyle writes, quoting from Archbishop Charles Chaput’s Strangers in a Strange Land.

Julia Kloess, a homeschooled student from Mount Horeb, Wisc., described faithful Catholic colleges in the context of truth, beauty and goodness.

“I have not yet discerned where God wants me to go after college, but this education will serve me well no matter where God leads me for the rest of my life,” Kloess writes. “Whether I become a mother, enter the consecrated life, or start a career, I fully intend to seek the Truth, the Ultimate Good, and Beauty Itself, namely God.”

Fullness

Editor’s Note: The Cardinal Newman Society recently announced Jace Griffith of Idaho Falls High School in Idaho as the winner of the Society’s first annual Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college-bound students.  Griffith will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan this fall.  Below is the full text of Griffith’s winning essay.  More information about the Contest can be obtained here.

I was fifteen the first time I attended the Idaho Catholic Youth Conference. Two thousand Catholic teenagers packed into a school auditorium. We were a community of similar age and similar beliefs, and on Friday night we knelt down together to adore one God.

The monstrance moved around the room for an hour in the shaking arms of the priest. His eyes were fixed on his Savior. In the darkness of the room, the illuminated host was the only light.

“Viva Cristo Rey!” came a cry from the back of the room.

Viva!” the congregation replied with one voice. For the first time, I understood that I was not alone as a Catholic youth, and my chest swelled up with fullness.

Growing up in a city where Catholics are a minority, dwarfed in number by “Latter-Day Saints,” has not always been a bad thing. Among Mormon classmates, teachers, and friends, I’ve learned to defend my faith and celebrate its differences. I’ve learned to turn to my Church when lonely. Most of all, I’ve learned that if I do not actively and willingly pursue Catholicism, my life will lack the fullness of God’s truth—and that I want to start that pursuit at a Catholic college. By fostering learning with an emphasis on the development of the whole person and surrounded by a like-minded community, Catholic colleges cater to those who wish to become not only successful in their careers, but also ethical and virtuous men and women with their eyes set on the great fullness that only God can give.

Catholic colleges are known for well-rounded development, encouraging community service, the pursuit of knowledge outside of intended majors, and rigorous academia. Curriculum at many Catholic colleges is centered in the Liberal Arts: this offers students a strong basis for philosophy, religion, literature, languages, history, and the fullness of truth. Not only do students learn the requirements for their majors and minors, they also learn things like why Aristotle is still important today, what exactly Ramadan is, and how many pages of procrastinated literature reading can be crammed into one night. For me, a dedicated daydreamer on track to become a psychologist, I want more from my education than a basic understanding of cognitive development. A Catholic education means psychology would be taught in the context of human dignity and the soul as a part of human health—and as I learn, I’ll be practicing those beliefs in the community through service projects and prayer alongside my classmates.

The benefits of Catholic colleges don’t end with the unique curriculum: Catholic colleges bring together young adults with similar goals and morals. Catholic colleges allow young adults to grow in their faith surrounded by people who are unlikely to criticize or misunderstand them for it. Instead, Catholic, Christian, and undecided students can find encouragement and community support in a mutually cooperative environment. Having spent most of my life with few fellow Catholics in my school, sports, and extra-curricular activities, I am ready to continue my development alongside hundreds of others with the same idea. After all, I’ve spent enough time struggling to explain why I’m skipping school for “a good Friday” and fending off tissues from well-meaning classmates who noticed the ash smudge on my forehead. I want to feel what I felt at ICYC when I was fifteen: fullness! Love and acceptance, strength in my community, and pride in my faith. I want to see that my faith is alive, and that it is alive in the people around me, each of us pushing and pulling each other on a stumbling path toward Heaven.

Impressed by the unique academics and enamored with communities full of the vibrant, persistent, delighted love of Christ, I trust that faithful Catholic colleges will continue to teach their students the fullness that is real truth and real joy. I’ve decided I want God to be the center of my life. In the end, it only makes sense to choose a college that wants the same thing.

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Newman Society Celebrates 10 Years of ‘The Newman Guide’ with 2017-18 Release

Today, The Cardinal Newman Society releases the 2017-18 edition of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College and celebrates 10 years of connecting families with faithful Catholic education through the Guide.

The Newman Guide recommends 29 Catholic college, universities, and higher education institutes for their faithful Catholic identity.

The late Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR, who wrote the preface to the first Newman Guide a decade ago, said it was the Newman Society’s “most important contribution to Catholic higher education ever.”

Since the first edition of The Newman Guide in 2007, the Newman Society has greatly expanded the profiles of the recommended colleges online at TheNewman Guide.com, distributed more than 100,000 free copies of the companion magazine My Future, My Faith, and launched the innovative Recruit Me! program to introduce families to colleges that truly form young people according to the mission of Catholic education.

“In the last 10 years, the institutions recommended in The Newman Guide have experienced remarkable success while remaining committed to a strong Catholic identity,” said Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly.  “The reputation of and appreciation for these faithful institutions is certainly growing in the Church, and they have become pillars of the New Evangelization in America.”

Exciting Updates at U.S. Residential Newman Guide Colleges:

Ave Maria University (FL)

In seven years, undergrad enrollment climbed 75%. Recent expansions include Catholic teacher formation and the Mother Teresa Project with the Missionaries of Charity to promote service.

Belmont Abbey College (NC)

Undergrad enrollment has grown 70% in five years. An innovator in reducing college costs, the College reset tuition in 2013 (and it’s still the same) and offers a three-year degree program.

Benedictine College (KS)

Benedictine has had 19 straight years of enrollment growth—43% in the last seven years—and 10 new residence halls in a decade. Daily Mass attendance has increased to about 625 students.

Catholic University of America (DC)

The largest of the Newman Guide’s U.S. colleges, CUA added the faithfully Catholic Busch School of Business and Economics to its 12 schools and hosted Pope Benedict and Pope Francis.

Christendom College (VA)

Enrollment is the largest ever at 477, and the College is building a magnificent new Christ the King Chapel and a $13.5 million endowment as part of its $40 million capital campaign.

DeSales University (PA)

Undergraduate enrollment jumped this year and has seen a total 8% increase over seven years. The University has earned a reputation in the arts, including its annual Shakespeare festival.

Franciscan University of Steubenville (OH)

The University known for its vibrant campus spirituality is expanding rapidly into online education. Two-thirds of the students are in Catholic “households,” and half study abroad.

John Paul the Great Catholic University (CA)

Undergrad enrollment at JPCatholic has more than doubled in seven years. At the rapidly growing Escondido campus, students earn bachelor’s degrees in just three years.

Mount St. Mary’s University (MD)

Despite a brief, rocky tenure with a mismatched president, the Mount’s now doing great—a testament to its firm Catholic foundation—under West Point’s former academic dean.

Northeast Catholic College (NH)

Undergrad enrollment has grown nearly 40% in seven years, with five new majors. The new “Arts of the Beautiful” program integrates music, visual arts and aesthetics.

St. Gregory’s University (OK)

Undergrads increased 15% in five years, with exponential growth in the new nursing program. A new initiative focuses on “seamless education” from the liberal arts to career preparation.

Thomas Aquinas College (CA)

Enrollment is the highest ever at 389, and TAC expects to open a new Massachusetts campus in 2018. TAC is top-ranked and second only to Princeton University for alumni loyalty.

Thomas More College of Liberal Arts (NH)

Enrollment grew 10% in the last year, the seventh straight year of growth. The College added Spanish internships and a Poland pilgrimage to its Rome and Oxford programs.

University of Dallas (TX)

Undergrad enrollment has grown 8% in the last seven years. Dallas recently built a new business school center and launched a Catholic teacher certification program.

University of Mary (ND)

The recent addition to the Newman Guide is rapidly increasing its Catholic student enrollment and led this year’s March for Life with seven busloads traveling more than 24 hours.

University of St. Thomas (TX)

Hitting its largest undergraduate enrollment this year in nearly a decade, the University’s percentage of students living in campus residences has increased from 20 to 50 percent.

Walsh University (OH)

The second-largest Newman Guide U.S. college has added six new majors for a total of 70. The University was able to decrease its net price while offering substantial student aid.

Wyoming Catholic College (WY)

Enrollment has grown 150% in seven years with the largest freshman classes in the last two years. The College’s former academic dean was recently appointed president.

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Founded in 1993, the mission of The Cardinal Newman Society is to promote and defend faithful Catholic education.  The Society is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit organization supported by individuals, businesses, and foundations.

To schedule an interview with the Newman Society, please contact Kelly Salomon, managing editor of The Newman Guide, at ksalomon@cardinalnewmansociety.org.

It’s About Navigating Life: The Importance of Philosophy & Theology

Here is one of the clearest criteria for choosing or judging a college: you can be almost certain that any college that has dropped philosophy and theology from its core curriculum is not serious about a liberal arts education. And in my experience I find that this is true of many of the colleges in America.

This raises two questions: (1) What are philosophy and theology, and why are they crucial to a young person’s education today? (2) Aren’t they outdated, impractical, abstract, irrelevant, elitist, superfluous and even dangerous to faith and sanity?

Some Definitions

“Philosophy” means “the love of wisdom.” Wisdom is the knowledge of ultimate causes, explanations and principles. It includes knowledge of values, not just facts. It gives you a “big picture,” a “world-view” and a “life-view.” It explores such questions as these: What is the essence of a human being? What is the meaning (value, goal, purpose) of human life? What is a good life? What is a good society? Are there higher laws than man’s laws? Are we here by chance or design? Are we fated or free? How do we know what is good or evil? How do we know anything? Is anything certain? Can reason prove (or disprove) the existence of God? Why do we suffer? Why do we die? Is there life after death?

Anyone who is simply not interested in these questions is less than fully human, less than fully reasonable. Reasonable persons, even if skeptical about the possibility of answering them, will not dismiss them as unanswerable without looking (that is not reason but prejudice) but will examine the claims of philosophers to have given reasonable answers to these questions before settling into a comfortable, fashionable skepticism.

Theology comes in two forms, philosophical and religious. Philosophical theology (“natural theology”) is a subdivision of philosophy. It uses natural human reason to explore the greatest of all questions, the questions about God. Religious theology (or “revealed theology”) is a rational exploration of the meaning and consequences of faith in a revealed religion—in our case, the “deposit of faith” or “Sacred Tradition” of the Catholic Church which comes from Christ and His apostles, and the scriptures they wrote.

In most Catholic universities today, Sacred Tradition is no longer sacred. It is treated as something to be “dissented” from (“diss” is the first part of “dissent”), as an enemy to enlightenment, progress, maturity and liberation, or at least as an embarrassment to be “tweaked,” “nuanced” or “massaged” rather than as a gift to be gratefully, faithfully and lovingly explored.

Most Catholic universities today have philosophy departments that are excellent spiritually as well as academically, but have deeply compromised theology departments. Their effect on students is much more often to weaken their faith than to strengthen it, not only in controversial moral issues such as abortion, contraception, cloning, euthanasia and sexual morality, but even in fundamental doctrines such as Christ’s divinity and resurrection and the historical truth of the Gospels.

We badly need good philosophy and theology. But why? To answer this question, look at where they are taught. They are taught in colleges and universities. So to find the “why” of philosophy and theology, we must find the “why” of colleges and universities.

The Goal of Education

Considering the trillions of dollars spent on universities by parents, governments and foundations, it is amazing that most of the people who go there (the students) and most of the people who pay for them (the parents and the government) never even ask, much less answer, this question: What is the purpose of the university? It is the most influential institution in Western civilization, and most of us don’t really know exactly why we entrust our children to them.

The commonest answer is probably to train them for a career. A B.A. looks good on your resume to prospective employers. That is not only a crass, materialistic answer, but also an illogical one. Consider what it means. It means that the reason students should study in universities is so that they can get high grade-point averages and thus get better jobs when they graduate.

What does “better jobs” mean? It means first of all, to most of them, better-paying jobs. But why do they need better paying jobs? For the money, of course. Silly question. But why do they need money? That is an even sillier question. Life has expenses. What life? Most of them hope to marry and raise families, and it takes a lot of money to do that. Why does a family need a lot of money? The two most expensive things a family needs money for are a house and a college education for the kids.

Ah, so a student should study to get high grades to get an impressive resume to get a good job, to finance his family when it sends his kids to college to study, to get high grades, et cetera, et cetera.

This is arguing in a circle. It is like a tiger pacing round and round his cage in a zoo. Is there a better answer? There is if you know some philosophy. Let’s look.

Probably the most commonsensical and influential philosopher of all time was Aristotle. Aristotle says that there are three “whys,” three purposes, ends or reasons for anyone ever to study and learn anything, in school or out of it. Thus there are three kinds of “sciences,” which he called “productive,” “practical” and “theoretical.” (Aristotle used “science” in a much broader way than we do, meaning any ordered body of knowledge through causes and reasons.)

The purpose of the “productive sciences” (which we today call technology) is to produce things, to make, improve or repair material things in the world, and thus to improve our world. Farming, surgery, shipbuilding, carpentry, writing and tailoring were examples in Aristotle’s era as well as ours, while ours also includes many new ones like cybernetics, aviation and electrical engineering.

The purpose of the “practical sciences” (which meant learning how to do or practice anything, how to act) is to improve your own behavior in some area of your own life. The two most important of these areas, Aristotle said, were ethics and politics. (Aristotle saw politics not as a pragmatic, bureaucratic business of running a state’s economy, but as social ethics, the science of the good life for a community.) Other examples of “practical sciences” include economics, athletics, rhetoric and military science.

The third kind of sciences is the “theoretical” or “speculative” (contemplative), i.e., those that seek the truth for its own sake, that seek to know just for the sake of knowing rather than for the sake of action or production (though, of course, they will have important practical application). These sciences include theology, philosophy, physics, astronomy, biology, psychology and math.

Theoretical sciences are more important than practical sciences for the very same reason practical sciences are more important than productive sciences: because their end and goal is more intimate to us. Productive sciences perfect some external thing in the material world that we use; practical sciences perfect our own action, our own lives; and theoretical sciences perfect our very selves, our souls, our minds. They make us bigger persons.

And that is the reason for going to college in the first place: not to make money, or things, or even to live better, but to be better, to be more, to grow your mind as you grow your body.

The Big Picture

What we have been doing for the last several paragraphs is philosophy. We need philosophy because we need to explore such reasons, reasons for studying, reasons for universities’ existence, even (especially) reasons for your own existence. For one of the primary questions all great philosophers ask is: What is the meaning of life, the reason for being, the point and purpose and end of human existence in this world?  If you don’t know that, you don’t know anything because you don’t know the point of everything. If you don’t know that, you may get all A’s in all your subjects, but you flunk Life.

The answer to that question for any intelligent, honest and serious Christian, Jew or Muslim is God. Supreme wisdom is about knowing God. And philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom. So philosophy is ultimately the pursuit of God, using the tools of natural human reason and theology by faith in supernatural divine revelation.

The “wisdom” philosophy pursues is not a factual knowledge like physics or history; but a knowledge, and understanding, and appreciation, of values, of what ought to be rather than merely what is. For instance, we need to know whether career (work) or family is more important, because most of us will invest enormous emotional and physical energy in both, and they will always compete and conflict to some extent.

We want to know the meaning of falling in love and romance and sex. What is its meaning, its purpose? For two generations now we have been asking every conceivable question (and many inconceivable questions, too), but not this one, not the very first and most basic one.

You see? Philosophy and theology raise the mind’s eyes to The Big Picture. If we can’t see that, we miss the forest and see only the trees; we count the syllables in the book of life but don’t know what kind of a story we are in.

Good Philosophy, Good Theology

One philosopher tells this story. (I paraphrase.) I was raised in a New York City slum. There were no books in my house. No one in my high school cared about education. I found an escape in the great 42nd Street library, where I devoured books indiscriminately. One day, I happened to read the famous “allegory of the cave” from Plato’s Republic. It changed my life. I found my identity. My life was that cave, and philosophy was the way out into another, bigger world. My mind was born that day. For the rest of my life I have explored the world outside the cave, the world of ideas, and taught others to do so. The biggest thrill in my life is finding among my students someone like me whom I can show that there is a way out of the cave, and that there is a bigger world outside.

That is why we all need to study philosophy (and, even more obviously, theology): because it is the discovery of another world, another kind of world, another kind of reality than the material world: the discovery that ideas are real, and that (in the words of a great book title) “ideas have consequences.”

The only alternative to good philosophy is bad philosophy. “I hate philosophy” is bad philosophy, but it is a philosophy: egotism. “Philosophy isn’t practical” is a philosophy: pragmatism. “Philosophy doesn’t turn me on” is a philosophy: hedonism.

Everyone has a philosophy, just as everyone has an emotional temperament and a moral character. Your only choice is between “knowing yourself” and thinking about your philosophy, or hiding from it and from yourself. But what you do not think about will still be there, and will still motivate you, and have consequences, and those consequences will affect all the people in your life up to the day of your death and far beyond it.

Your philosophy can quite likely and quite literally make the difference between heaven and hell. Saint Francis of Assisi and Adolf Hitler were not professional philosophers, but both had philosophies, and lived them, and went to heaven or hell according to their philosophies. That is how much of a difference thought can make: “Sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” Buddha said, “All that we are is determined by our thoughts: it begins where our thoughts begin, it moves where our thoughts move, and it rests where our thoughts rest.”

Philosophy can lead you to God, and theology can lead you further into God (or away from Him). And God is the source of all truth, all goodness and all beauty; that is, of everything we value. (If that is not true, then God is not God.) All truth is God’s truth; when an atheist discovers some scientific truth, he is reading the mind of God, the Logos. All goodness is God’s goodness; when an agnostic secularist loves his neighbor, he is responding to divine grace. All beauty is God’s beauty; when a dissipated, confused and immoral artist creates a thing of beauty, he is using the image of God in his soul, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, however anonymously, and participating in God’s creative power.

Philosophy is a necessity if you want to understand our world. Bad philosophy is the source of most of the great errors in our world today. Errors in philosophy are devastating because they affect everything, as an error of an inch in surveying the angle of a property line will become an error of ten yards a mile down the line.

Most of the controversies in our world today can be understood and solved only by good philosophy and theology; for instance, the relation between world religions, especially Islam and Christianity; human life issues such as abortion, euthanasia and cloning; the justice of wars; the meaning of human sexuality and of the “sexual revolution”; the relation between mind and brain, and between human intelligence and “artificial intelligence”; the relation between creation and evolution; how far we are free and responsible and how far we are determined by biological heredity and social environment; the relation between morality and religion, and between religion and politics; and whether morality is socially relative or universal, unchanging and absolute.

Revealed theology claims to have the answers, or at least the principles that should govern the answers, to many of these questions. So theology is even more important than philosophy, if answers are more important than questions. And of course they are, for the whole point of asking a question, if you are honest, is the hope of finding an answer. It is nonsense to believe that “it is better to travel hopefully than to arrive,” and good philosophy refutes that self-contradiction. If it’s not better to arrive at your goal of truth than to strain after it, then truth is not really your goal at all, and the straining after it is a sham.

That is not, of course, to say that it is easy to arrive at the goal of truth, or that all we need is a set of answers we believe on the Church’s authority but do not understand. The truly respectful attitude toward the authority of the Church—which is an extension of the authority of Christ—is to let revealed truth permeate our minds and our lives like light, not simply to preserve that light by hiding it under a bushel basket. All “ideas have consequences,” especially divinely revealed ideas; and it is our job to lovingly draw out those consequences, like philosophers, and not to fear them, like heresy hunters, or to claim them as our own in a spirit of superiority to our divine teacher, like heretics.

Answering Objections

But there are objections to philosophy and theology out there. If this were not so, the teaching of these subjects would not have declined so precipitously. Let us briefly consider and answer some of them.

What can you do with philosophy and theology anyway? We have already answered that question by noting that it is the wrong question. The right question is what they can do with you.

But they’re so abstract! Yes, and that is their glory. To be incapable of abstraction is to be less than human, or a less than fully developed human. Animals and small children, for instance, are incapable of abstraction. They do not talk about Fate and Freedom, or Good and Evil, or Divinity and Humanity, or Life and Death (all abstractions). They talk only about hamburgers and French fries, boo boos and bandages, malls and cartoons. These things are not “the real world.” They are the shadows on the walls of Plato’s cave. Philosophy and theology are not fantasy. They are the escape from fantasy.

But philosophy is a dinosaur—it isn’t up to date, modern, popular, etc. No. Neither is wisdom, virtue, happiness, piety, fidelity, courage, peace or contentment.

What does philosophy have to do with real life? Everything. It is more important to know the philosophy of a prospective employee or employer, landlord or renter, friend or enemy, husband or wife, than their income, social class or politics.

Philosophy is elitist. It speaks of “Great Books” and “Great Ideas” and “Great Minds.” Yes, it does. At least good philosophy does. If you prefer crummy books, stupid ideas and tiny minds, you should not waste your money on college. If you believe that all ideas are equal, rather than all persons, you are confused and need a philosophy course. (Is the idea that all ideas are equal equal to the idea that they are not?)

“Philosophy bakes no bread.” It does not make you rich.  It is contemplative, like monasticism.  True. But why do we make money and bread? Is money our means (of exchange) to our end? Money is for bread, and bread is for man, and man is for truth. The ultimate end of human life is contemplative: knowing and appreciating the truth. We will not be baking bread or making money in Heaven, but we will be philosophizing.

Religion makes philosophy superfluous. If you have faith, you don’t need reason.  Yes, you do: you need reason to understand your faith. And you need reason to know whether your faith is the true faith. There are many fakes. And how do you know that unless you think about it? And if you don’t want to think about your faith, then either you aren’t really very interested in it, or you are afraid it is so weak that it will not endure the light. In that case you need a faith-lift.

But philosophy can be a danger to faith. Many have lost their faith through philosophy. Yes, and many have gained it, too. Of course, philosophy is dangerous. So is love, and trust, technology and money. Bad things are always misuses of good things. Wherever great harm is done, great help could have been done.

Final Things

This is especially true in theology. I know a chaplain who was ministering at the bedside of an old, dying man who had “lost his faith” and left the Church decades ago. The chaplain asked him what he believed about life after death, and the man replied that he had no idea where he was going and he didn’t think anyone else did either, because no one had any idea where they came from in the first place or why they are here.

The chaplain disagreed. He said, “You know the answers to those questions. You learned them as a little boy. You forgot them. But you can remember them now. It’s not too late. You learned the Baltimore Catechism, didn’t you? Yes, you did. Do you remember how it begins?”

The man wrinkled his brow, retrieving an old memory. “Yeah. It went like this: ‘Who made you? God made me. Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” The man paused, lifted his eyes, and said, “You’re right. That’s true!” And a smile appeared on his face. And then he died.

You need philosophy and theology now because you will need it on your deathbed later.

 

prayer

A Checklist for Growing Your Faith

Participate in Mass

Bishop Ricken

There are frequent opportunities for you to have a personal encounter with Jesus on campus. This occurs most immediately in the Eucharist. Regular Mass attendance helps strengthen your faith through the Scriptures, the Creed, other prayers, sacred music, the homily, receiving Communion and being part of a faith community.

Go to Confession

Like going to Mass, you will find strength and grow deeper in your faith through participation in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Confession urges people to turn back to God, express sorrow for falling short and open their lives to the power of God’s healing grace. It forgives the injuries of the past and provides strength for the future.

Learn about the lives of the saints

The saints are timeless examples of how to live a Christian life, and they provide endless hope. Not only were they sinners who kept trying to grow closer to God, but they also exemplify ways a person can serve God: through teaching, missionary work, charity, prayer and simply striving to please God in the ordinary actions and decisions of daily life.

Read the Bible daily

Scripture offers first-hand access to the Word of God and tells the story of human salvation. You can pray the Scriptures (often times in a group setting in dorms or led by your campus chaplain) to become more attuned to the Word of God. Either way, the Bible is a must for helping you sustain and grow your faith during college.

Read the documents of the Church

College is a time of learning and studying, and expanding your knowledge of our Catholic faith is an important part of that. To become the kind of well-formed person you surely wish to be, you must understand what the Church really teaches and how it enriches the lives of believers.

Study the Catechism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church covers the beliefs, moral teachings, prayer and sacraments of the Catholic Church in one volume. It’s a resource for growing in understanding of the faith. Another helpful resource is the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCA).

Volunteer in campus ministry

Growing your faith can’t only be about study and reflection. The solid grounding of the Scriptures, Church teachings and the Catechism must translate into action. Campus ministry is a great place to start, and each person’s gifts help build up the community. Helping others brings Catholics face-to-face with Christ and creates an example for the rest of the world.

Invite a friend to Mass

A personal invitation can make all the difference to someone who has drifted from the faith or feels alienated from the Church. Everyone knows people like this, so everyone can extend a loving welcome.

Incorporate the Beatitudes into daily life

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) provide a rich blueprint for Christian living. Their wisdom can help you to be more humble, patient, just, transparent, loving, forgiving and free. It’s precisely the example of lived faith needed to make your campus years a time of your life that you will remember fondly for years to come.