One more week, and I'll be calling a small room in a mission-style building with a courtyard my home. Every day, I will walk across the well-watered lawn to the St. Joseph Commons for my meals. I will spend time reading in the St. Bernardine of Siena Library, and I will take classes in St. Augustine and St. Gladys halls, and study science in Albertus Magnus hall. I will walk the few hundred yards from my dorm to the big chapel which sits at the head of the quad, overlooking all of campus, for Mass. Surrounding the campus, I will be able to see reddish-brown mountains smattered with green plants. Every night at 11:00, the gate to my dorm's courtyard will lock, and I will be inside, getting ready for bed or studying or hanging out. I will sleep in my small room, in the small dorm, on the small campus of my small college. My small, Catholic college.
What made me choose a Catholic college? I'm already Catholic; is it really necessary to go to a school where nearly everyone else is, too? What difference does it make, if all I'm looking for is a college degree?
If that were all I was looking for, I wouldn't be going to a private, Catholic school. I definitely wouldn't be going to Thomas Aquinas College.
When I began my (albeit very brief) college search, I had three requirements: the school had to be a liberal arts school, it had to be small, and it had to be Catholic. Obviously, these requirements would be different for someone interested in a different field of study. But for me, choosing a college was about more than just the quality of the academics (although that was important, too). When you begin college, you're 18 years old, just starting out life as an independent person, making your own choices and building your own lifestyle. How much would environment affect that lifestyle, that person you become? A lot, I would think. You need a community of people you can trust, and who trust you. You need an environment that will support your morality and your Faith. Because at the tender age of eighteen, it would be all too easy to forget your upbringing and abandon your Faith, if you were formed in the wrong environment.
And that's really a lot of what college is, to me. It's a time of formation. It's a time when you solidify your values and dig deeper into the truths you're passionate about. You learn about the world, about your field, and about yourself.
In my opinion, there's too much at stake here to spend four years any old where.
And I'll tell you something else. Discerning your vocation is hard. No matter how much effort you put into it, sometimes God wants you to be patient and wait for an answer. But in order to hear the answer when it comes, you've got to be listening. You've got to be in the habit of listening.
This past year, I've come to realize a reason I'm so glad I'm going to TAC; a reason I didn't even consider when committing to it. At TAC, I can really, truly, intensely continue my discernment. I'll have all the tools necessary, and then some. Daily Mass (my choice of four!), Confession, spiritual direction, a chapel just steps away from where I sleep. And peers who are equally as committed to their Faith. As Sr. Scholastica told me during my visit to the Benedictines in Missouri, TAC is the best place I could be going to discern religious life. And it's no coincidence how many priests and religious have come out of there.
Anyway, this was a really roundabout and scattered way of saying this: going to a Catholic college is important because the four years of college form you as a person and prepare you for adult life, and being in a place where virtue and morality and a relationship with God are encouraged and upheld can only be a good thing. College isn't just a degree; it's a starting point, a launch pad.
Plus, an authentically Catholic lifestyle is the most peace-giving and rewarding thing you can have this side of Heaven.
I couldn't be more excited to begin the next chapter of my life at Thomas Aquinas College!