Fides Quaerens Intellectum


A beautiful sunset behind Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. Photo Provided by: Elena Walz.

Elena Walz, Editor-in-Chief

The future was always something that freaked me out. When it came to college in particular, I was completely lost. Did I want a big school or a small school? What would my major be? Will I try to get recruited for sports? I looked at many different colleges and managed to condense my list to 3 schools I would be happy to attend. The problem was that there were specific things that attracted me to each school with little overlap. Only when I surrendered the decision to God was I given the assurance that Thomas Aquinas College was the perfect school for me.

My friends and I enjoying a morning hike to Santa Paula’s famous punchbowls. Photo provided by: Elena Walz.

Last July, I spent two weeks in Santa Paula, California at Thomas Aquinas College’s Great Books Summer Program. The program is designed to give high school students a taste of the unique curriculum, method of learning, and vibrant, faith-centered social life at the college. The funny thing is, I wasn’t even supposed to go. TAC wasn’t even on my top 3 list because I had absolutely no understanding of what the college did for its students. My plan was to attend a different college’s program, and since it conflicted with TAC, I originally declined my acceptance to the summer program last winter. Looking back, I can’t even imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t gone.

I went into the first day of section (class) absolutely terrified. Section is conducted purely through the Socratic Method, something I had little experience with prior to attending. Also, because of my belated decision to attend, I was not given any course materials until the night I arrived on the campus. So, I nervously stepped into my first 9 a.m. section on Sophocles’ “Oedipus.”

To be honest, the first day was rough. It was hard to form cohesive arguments about a text I hadn’t read, and the few remarks I did make seemed scattered and shallow. However, my lack of preparedness for the morning section on “Oedipus” and the afternoon section on Plato’s “Euthyphro” made me determined to understand the next day’s readings. That evening during study hall in St. Bernadine of Siena library, I tore through “Antigone” and the Pre-Socratics, reading and re-reading passages until I was certain I could present my thoughts well the next day. And while I certainly don’t claim to be the smartest student in my section, my confidence grew throughout the next two weeks as I became accustomed to the learning style.

As the first week went on, my eyes were also opened to the wonderful environment I was in. I began to seriously question why TAC was not on my list of strongest contenders for college, and I can point to a specific moment when a switch flipped in my head and I knew it was the place for me.

It was the Wednesday of the first week and I had just finished my morning section on the book of Genesis. Instead of hanging out with my friends or calling home, I wanted to walk around and explore the campus. I ended up settling in the garden on the left-hand side of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity chapel, watching the bees fly around to various flowers. I sat for a bit, but so many thoughts were running through my head that I jumped up and began to pace. Leaving the garden, I looked to my left and saw the beautiful statue of Mary on the other side of the chapel. I felt like Mary was calling to me, asking me to run into her outstretched arms. Rushing to her and falling on my knees, I prayed to the Blessed Mother to help me accept God’s plan for me the way she embraced God’s plan for her. After a while, I got up and went on with my day with thoughts about TAC still running through my head.

The statue of the Blessed Mother located on campus. Photo provided by: Elena Walz.

In that moment, I realized there was no need for me to question God’s will anymore. At TAC, I was living the life I am always called to live. My mornings started with Mass, I exercised my mental faculties daily in section and study hall, and the people I spent time with really put God above all else. How could I even consider attending a different college when God was so clearly working in the people at TAC? For the remainder of my time there, I talked to many administrators, prefects (program leaders), and tutors (professors), each encounter only solidifying my resolve to attend TAC.

Having now lived in that environment and read the founding document of the school, “A Proposal for the Fulfillment of Catholic Liberal Education,” I see how formative and unforgettable those two short weeks were for me. I will never forget the satisfying feeling of writing Q.E.D. on the blackboard to signal I had finished Euclid’s Proposition 13. The memory of singing at the top of my lungs on the bus ride back from our day trip to Santa Barbara will remain with me forever because truly, the people I met are what made this time so special.

I found myself sitting in a canoe with a girl who, two weeks ago, had been a complete stranger, laughing as we struggled to figure out how we came to know each other so well so fast. The pain in my ribcage was unbearable as I tried to hide my laughter and avoid a reprimand from a prefect after winking at my friend across the library. There were times when I’d look around at a quick game of volleyball or soccer and wonder where these incredible people have been all my life. I now realize that the reason why we were able to capitalize on even the smallest similarities and form deep friendships is because we all knew we shared the same beliefs on God, love, and the purpose of life, allowing us to withstand the test of physical distance between states. When I check my phone, my heart leaps seeing notifications from my friends in Colorado, Texas, other parts of California, North Carolina, Montana, Arizona, and Virginia.

Some of my fellow programmers at the Santa Barbara Wharf. Photo provided by: Elena Walz.

As I look forward to the 2021 college application cycle, I know that Thomas Aquinas College is my dream. I found that it satisfied the deepest desires of my heart, not just some of my earthly, temporal desires for excitement and worldly success. I hope that next year, I can call it home and reap the full benefits from the phenomenal spiritual and academic programs, living out their motto of “faith seeking understanding.”