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letter to cahtolic high school students about choosing a catholic college or university

letter to cahtolic high school students about choosing a catholic college or university

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Published by: Center for the Study of Catholic Higher Ed on Feb 11, 2009
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A Letter to Catholic High School Students About Choosing a College or University

Dear Students: You are preparing to embark on an amazing journey: a college education. The fact that you are considering a Catholic college or university indicates that you are already making wise choices, the key to a successful and fulfilling college experience. Many Catholic students choose to attend non-Catholic colleges because of important financial, geographical, academic and other considerations. But it can be said truly that only a faithful Catholic college or university lives up to the full promise of higher education: the search for and transmission of all truth. Pope John Paul II wrote in Ex corde Ecclesiae, the Apostolic Constitution for Catholic Universities: “Without in any way neglecting the acquisition of useful knowledge, a Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God. The present age is in urgent need of this kind of disinterested service, namely of proclaiming the meaning of truth, that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished. By means of a kind of universal humanism, a Catholic University is completely dedicated to the research of all aspects of truth in their essential connection with the supreme Truth, who is God.” At a Catholic college or university, then, the revealed truths of faith and the observed truths of science and beauty are equally appreciated. The theology major seeks understanding in the liberal arts and sciences; the pre-medical student seeks wisdom in the teachings of the Church; and the business major tempers his ambitions with ethical behavior rooted in a Christian concern for serving the common good. Moreover, the intellectual, literary, artistic and cultural treasures of the Catholic heritage are available to all those who seek them. The teachings of Jesus Christ have no boundaries; they apply to every facet of life. So it should be expected and appreciated that at a Catholic college or university, the institution’s Catholic identity impacts activities outside the classroom. Expectations for moral Christian behavior extend to the residence halls, the student clubs, the athletic fields and the social gathering places. If you are considering a Catholic college, chances are you welcome a campus life that respects the dignity of its members and shuns the excesses that have become commonplace on many American campuses. Some have argued that the Catholic Church’s moral teachings improperly limit the freedom that should characterize a college education. To the contrary, a college or university that rejects the distractions of unhealthy and disrespectful behavior and the tyranny of radical relativism offers

students an environment where all topics can be explored freely with genuine concern for the truth and the common good. Most young men and women yearn for freedom. That is natural and healthy, a sign that you are excited to take responsibility for yourself and make independent decisions about your behavior and course of life. Unfortunately, it is all too common for college students to rebel against their faith and upbringing, making choices that enslave them to immoral habits and cause serious physical, psychological and spiritual harm to themselves and others around them. If you want freedom, you will find it in Christ! Sadly, even at a Catholic college or university, you will be confronted sometimes by critics of religion and, especially, Christian morality. The contention is that ancient taboos and unenlightened moral prohibitions are thwarting human progress—especially with regard to sexuality. They will say that human sexuality is a biological phenomenon that should be free of all religious (and therefore all moral) restraints. People must be able to experience their sexuality in any way that they choose, otherwise their freedom is curtailed, the critics say. But on the typical American college campus, one finds many examples of alcohol abuse and other drug addictions and sexual activity outside the proper context of marriage. These are having a serious negative impact on students. If a total lack of restraint is supposed to lead to more human freedom, then why is it leading to addiction and slavery for so many people? It is because of God’s spirit in us that we hunger for truth and beauty and love. Only God Who is all truth and total beauty and the fullness of love can totally satisfy us. This is why Catholic colleges and universities are such blessings to the Church, because they offer young men and women important opportunities to grow closer to God without artificial separations between faith and reason, freedom and love, vocation and career. Regardless of which college you choose, set an example for others and lead them to Jesus, who is waiting for them with open arms. Avoid sin and seek out worthwhile activities. Get involved with your Catholic campus ministry and find ways to serve the less fortunate people in your community. Practice sharing the good news of Jesus and his Church with others, witness to the great promise of chastity and proclaim the dignity of all human life. Take your studies seriously, but remember that your spiritual development is always the greatest priority. Pray often, spend time quietly before the Blessed Sacrament and ask Jesus to lead you. Worry less about choosing a major than listening to God’s calling in your life. Seek out guidance from priests, faculty and counselors to ponder how you can be leaven to the world. Pope Benedict XVI tells young people like yourself that when God calls, you must “be prepared to respond with a generous ‘yes’ without compromise.” Ultimately there is great joy in this, but our Holy Father reminds you that embracing God’s calling in total love and obedience always “comes at a price, that price which Christ paid first and which every one of His disciples must also pay, although at a far cheaper price than the one paid by the Teacher.” That price which you must be prepared to pay “is the price of sacrifice and self-denial, of faithfulness and perseverance, without which there is not and cannot be true love, which is entirely free and a source of joy.”

Your parents and your Church have prepared you for this sacrifice of love, to put your talents at the service of God and your brothers and sisters. I know most of you have had an excellent education and upbringing. This has prepared you to bring the love of Christ to your peers. I pray that God will guide you in your choice of colleges and bless your college experience. As disciples of Jesus, you are well prepared to help transform the world and renew all things in Christ! I am sincerely yours in the Lord,

Most Reverend Elden Francis Curtiss Archbishop of Omaha

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