Editor’s Note: The Cardinal Newman Society recently announced Sarah Niblock of St. Pius X Catholic High School in Kansas City, Missouri, as the winner of the Society’s second annual Essay Scholarship Contest for Catholic college-bound students. Niblock will receive a $5,000 scholarship toward her education at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California, this fall. Below is the full text of Niblock’s winning essay. More information about the Contest can be obtained here.
I closed the door to my room, sunk into my plush wicker chair, and let out a deep breath as a mixture of anger and exhaustion swirled within me. “What if I made the wrong decision?” I asked myself. My unease spread as I recounted the comments I had heard from well-meaning family and friends, after telling them that I would be attending a faithful Catholic college. “Are you sure your family can afford that?” one friend asked. “Will a Catholic school shelter you from the harsh realities of the world around you?” my dad questioned. As I replayed these scenes, I began to pray, asking God to open my heart so that I might hear His voice. After restlessly praying for a few minutes, my eyes wandered around my room until they rested on a holy card of Jesus that laid on my dresser. Staring at it for a few seconds, I recalled the words that were written on the back, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). These words seemed to pound in my ears as my eyes closed, and the details of my visit to a faithful Catholic college came rushing back with incredible vividness.
“I am the way.” Chapel bells begin to toll, and I watch as dozens of students appear from dorm rooms and classrooms, hurrying to Mass on a Wednesday afternoon. I gaze around a busy dining hall to see students bowing their head before diving into their midday meal. I listen to a chaplain preach from the pulpit, encouraging and advising students about dating. I pass by sign-up sheets for students to pray at a local abortion clinic. I glimpse an elderly priest sitting with students at lunch, laughing and asking them about their day.
“I am the truth.” My head whips back and forth as I watch two students debate Rousseau’s ideologies regarding the role of government. I hear the patter of a chalkboard as I see a young student jump up to prove a Euclid proposition. I listen to a freshman class discuss how to logically discover the validity of an argument. I pass by a student who is intently studying his Bible, doing some extra research for his theology paper. I notice a smile on my dad’s face, and tears in my mom’s eyes, as my family listens to the president address a Thanksgiving speech to students, asking them to “rededicate yourselves to what you came here for in the first place… not the triumph of your own opinions or the esteem of tutors and students, but rather things of far greater worth and enduring importance: deeper relationships with Christ our King and the beginnings of Catholic wisdom and virtue.”
“I am the life.” I see professors, along with their spouses and children, attending Sunday Mass at the campus chapel. I smile as a young man spots me heading to a classroom building, quickly pulling open the door for me to pass underneath. I overhear conversations between students, telling each other how former alumni have gone on to become doctors, lawyers, priests, sisters, engineers, and missionaries. I talk with an upperclassman who tells me her plans to become a lawyer, and how she turned down two full-ride scholarships in order to attend her dream school. I sit in a quiet dorm room as my hostess tells me that these four years have been some of the most challenging in her life, but she wouldn’t trade them for the world. Opening up to me, she tells me that through her deep friendships and the rich spiritual life on campus, she would be answering God’s call for her to enter the religious life.
I opened my eyes as these visions finally ceased flowing. Letting out a deep breath, I finally found the words that God had been whispering in my heart. “Here, at this college, you will find me. ‘I who am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’”