I remember in the spring of 2005, when I was a high school senior walking around on the St. Thomas campus. One of the first things that caught my eye was the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. I remember being in awe of the great beauty I found when I stepped into the narthex, and thinking to myself “This must be a school that takes its Catholic identity seriously. What else could have inspired such a beautiful chapel?”
I came to St. Thomas hoping to deepen my relationship with God and to grow in my understanding of who the Church is. Looking back on my four years at UST, I can honestly say that both of those things happened. In the process, I also learned to look at the world through Catholic eyes.
Looking through Catholic eyes means looking at the world through the lens of the teachings of the Catholic Church, and learning how a Catholic looks at the modern world differently than a non-Catholic does. I strongly believe that this is something essential for Catholic students to learn, but something I believe non-Catholic students would find valuable as well.
There’s an old adage that the best way to understand someone else is to walk a mile in their shoes. In learning the teachings of the Catholic Church, and how the Church looks at the world in light of those teachings, a student is, in essence, walking a mile in the shoes of a Catholic. In the process, the student learns what it means to be a Catholic and who the Church is, viewed through Catholic eyes. Whether or not the student believes what the Church teaches, such insight is extremely valuable, and this is insight that can only be offered by a Catholic institution.
Unfortunately, many students on campus don’t seem to take advantage of this unique opportunity. They see St. Thomas’ Catholic identity as more of a burden than a blessing, and an unwelcome intrusion of conservatism on campus. In truth, the Church is neither liberal nor conservative. She is, has been for over two millennia, and always will be, in the words of Cardinal George “Simply Catholic.” But one must learn to look at the world through Catholic eyes in order to understand this.
To my fellow Tommies, I offer this word of advice: take advantage of this opportunity to learn to look at the world through Catholic eyes. It is an opportunity you may never find anywhere else, and it’s something a Catholic educational institution can offer you that a non-Catholic educational institution, by its very nature, cannot.
When you learn to look at the world through Catholic eyes, to quote a Phil Collins song, “you’ll be amazed what you find.” That was certainly the case with me, and I hope and pray that the same will be true for all students who graduate from my beloved alma mater.