The Best Beginning of a Search for Truth
Editor’s Note: The Cardinal Newman Society recently announced its third annual Essay Scholarship Contest with a $5,000 prize for high school seniors who have signed up for its Recruit Me program. Essays and applications are due by February 18, 2019. Last year, the Contest asked students to reflect on the question, “How will a faithful Catholic college education prepare you for life?” The Newman Society received many impressive responses and has posted some of the runner-up entries, including the one below by Isabelle Thelen of Michigan.
At the beginning of each cross-country race, my teammates and I would pass around a certain aphorism: begin with the end in mind. In context, it meant using that immense feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing a race to motivate yourself to get through the grueling reality of running: mud, rain, muscle pain, and exhausting uphill climbs. As I sifted through potential colleges last fall, I found that phrase echoing in my ear again. Choosing the right college will be the most consequential decision I have ever made. My choice will mark the beginning of my life as an adult—and I very much want to begin with the end in mind. The overarching end I hope for myself is not a career, a house, or even a family—but what comes after all that: basking in God’s glory for all eternity. Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and that “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In other words, seeking Truth will help me fulfill my deepest desire, and only at a Catholic college can the fullness of Truth be taught.
Secular colleges limit students to seeking Truth through reason and logic. To the culture of higher education, truth can only be found in the tangible, the knowable, what can be seen through a telescope or magnifying glass. Undeniably, glimmers of Truth can be found using reason alone. At a secular college, I could taste the slightest hint of the vastness of God in the galaxies or marvel at His omniscience in the delicate intricacies that permit the human body to function.
Yet, trying to seek Truth though reason alone would be stifling. It would be like studying the words in a book but neglecting their meaning. Why memorize every date in history without bothering to notice the incredible, divine plan that binds them all together? The galaxies are pathetically simple compared to His grandeur. The complexity of human history pales contrasted against the unfathomable depths of the God who wrote it. To lead me back to Him, God gave us a profound thirst for Truth, and I know without a single doubt that a secular college could not quench that desire.
Only at a Catholic college are students free to uncover Truth. They don’t limit students to what can be seen and known. In the words of Pope Saint John Paul II, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself” (Fides et Ratio). At a Catholic college, students are allowed to use reason to uncover God in the world around them as well as use faith to explore the intangible, unknowable, and unfathomable.
I want to simultaneously take a class on unalienable rights in constitutional democracy and a class on why human dignity can only come from God. I want to enjoy developing great lasting friendships and discuss why love matters in a small group meeting. I want to run cross-country and learn why my body matters at a Theology of the Body seminar. Only at a Catholic college will I be able to experience both. Only at a Catholic college will I be encouraged to meld faith and reason into a better understanding of Truth. And only by understanding and living Truth can I aspire to love Truth Himself forever in Heaven.
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