College: An Eye-Opening Experience

Although I am a few years off from being able to say that I’ve "done it all," I have made it, quite successfully, through freshman year. I have learned to make my own bed, do my own laundry, and pay for my own meals; admittedly, being the youngest and the only boy out of four kids, I was used to having that done by Mom. I have become an adult, if not in every way just yet. It is hard for me to believe that a year ago I was taking state end-of-grade tests and apprehensively awaiting acceptance letters from the colleges to which I applied. If nothing else, I have learned as a freshman that my grandmother was right all these years: time flies.

Coming from the quintessential American college town of Chapel Hill, N.C. (home of the UNC Tar Heels), I expected the Catholic University of America and Washington to be somewhat like small, friendly, liberal college-town Chapel Hill. You know, a place where you can leave your bulletproof vest in the gun safe when you go downtown.

How wrong I was. Catholic is not only a world apart from the liberal bastion of Chapel Hill; D.C. is the center of the world in terms of politics, both domestic and international. D.C. is a big city. People do not stop for you to walk when the light says "Don’t Walk," people honk their horns, everybody is in a rush, and everything is political. Not that I mind political, Catholic just is not politically minded the way Chapel Hill is. As a conservative, I was glad for that, although I will not deny it was a bit of a culture shock.

In Chapel Hill, religion, never mind Catholicism, is a word and mindset synonymous with psycho. Cars are plastered with Kerry-Edwards stickers and others proclaiming lovely slogans like "I have rights. My fetus doesn’t." Don’t get me wrong — Chapel Hill is an awesome, albeit expensive place to live. The town simply runs too much on its heart rather than common sense.

I am happy I chose Catholic. Not only have I grown from a Christmas/Easter/Sometimes-Sunday Catholic to a daily Mass attendant, I have grown to understand not what I believe, but why I believe it and why it is a part of my Catholic faith.

Being from a progressive area nicknamed the Paris of the South, it was suicide to renounce gay "marriage" or abortion — I’m sorry, "reproductive rights" and/or "late-term procedures critics call partial-birth abortion" — if you wanted to have friendly neighbors. God help you if you put a Bush-Cheney sign on your lawn in 2004; you woke up with a swastika spray-painted on your lawn. Political hostilities aside, I love my hometown.

I am lucky to have such awesome priests in my life, namely Father Bob and Father Brad of the CUA Student Ministry Office. Listening to their homilies at the 4:30 Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, I learned to courageously live the Gospel and spread it with action and love. We should never retreat from the Gospel or natural law simply because it may offend our secularist neighbors in places like Chapel Hill.

While secularists claim that conservatives or religionists cannot impose their beliefs on them, the secularists are by default imposing their definitions of life, marriage and freedom of speech on a nation that was founded on Christian principles, so said our founders. Secular society is not the judge or the standard-bearer for morality, God is. I also have come to believe that if we do not defend right against wrong in a loving, compassionate way, we will indeed be punished come Judgment Day. Like any other moral question of right and wrong, if we do not defend what is right, we are, by our silence, complicit in perpetuating wrong, whether it be racism, abortion, the death penalty, or the redefinition of marriage.

As the late Pope John Paul II said, the power to decide what is good and evil does not belong to us. There exists a universal truth about the order of the world and what is good, which is knowable from human reason. If we lose sight of this, conscience disappears and we have relativism, in which everyone has their own individual, self-defined truth. We must not let the world succumb to relativism.

Catholic’s motto is "Do it All." It should be "Be Not Afraid." We are all afraid of starting college, of failing exams, of making friends, and in my case, of being Catholic. At Mass on Sunday, my parish priest, Msgr. Michael Clay, said that the last verse of the Gospel of John was left out in the Missal. The last verse is in fact, "struck with amazement and fear, they fled the tomb and told no one, for they were afraid." (John 20:11) While some may say that for the sake of twisted and often psychotic political correctness that we should live and let live, we cannot be afraid, for we must "walk as children of the light."