As a Protestant at a Catholic University

Sometimes I ask myself, “How on earth did I go from dreaming about attending Patrick Henry College to this? University of Dallas, the Catholic School for Independent Thinkers??”

This thought initially unsettles me. I find myself asking God, “Why here, Lord? What is your plan? Where are you leading me?”

I mean, Patrick Henry College contrasts quite a bit with University of Dallas. As does Baylor, with the George W. Truett theological Baptist seminary integrated into the campus. I visited both, actually. And neither felt right. When I visited UD for the first time, it felt like coming home. Like it fit me right. Why, though?

I’m not Catholic, and sometimes I wonder if those of my friends raised strictly Catholic view me as one of those disturbingly enthusiastic Evangelicals. The kinds of people who jump up and down during praise and worship, the kind of people who speaking tongues and “twitch”. I wonder if they wonder if my pastor gives sermons with Calvinist abrasion and fury. I never thought of it before–I never questioned my chosen church/denomination. I grew up at the church I attend. It is more or less Evangelical, with Baptist roots since the founding pastor was Baptist. But now that I’ve begun to explore the rich Roman Catholic culture at UD, attended mass at the Cistercian Abbey, Dominican Priory, and Church of the Incarnation, all easy to reach around campus, I find myself thinking more and more about my own chosen denomination. The Roman Catholic church is the oldest church in history. It was the original church that began with the Apostles. The more I learn about it, the more I see how rich and rooted it is in traditions that are thousands of years old. My church was just founded back in the late 90’s. It has been growing fast since then, and it is rooted in the Baptist denomination, but at the same time I feel like I’m floating. Is the theology grounded in Bible stories introduced way back in my kindergarten Sunday School class enough? Is it substantial enough?

I was pretty overwhelmed by the rituals and liturgy performed during the mass. Each time it hits me harder than before. Is a session of praise and worship and a forty minute sermon afterwards enough? It seems so bare compared to the solemn liturgy and prayers chanted and repeated throughout the mass. The Eucharist is also a new concept. The wafers and wine taken during communion is seen as a crucial moment to receive the sacraments of Christ. Whereas, I’ve been raised to see this as a mere symbolic ritual. Far more emphasis is placed on communion in the Catholic Church than in my Evangelical church.

We bow our heads and listen as our pastor explains the reason for taking Communion, explaining that the bread represents Christ’s body, the “wine” (grape juice at our church???) is His blood. And then we take it. We stay in our seats. I am reminded to appreciate the Lord’s sacrifice on the Cross, but in my memory, it seems almost downplayed.

At Mass here at UD I find myself walking up the aisle to the priest, and wait with nervousness heating my face up. What if I trip? Should I bow, like my friends are doing before they receive Communion from the priest? Or is that just for the Catholic? Is it disrespectful if I don’t? Oh, and I can’t take the Communion…I need to cross my arms now, so they’ll know I’m an outsider… Am I imagining that the priest regards me with distrust? He blesses me, and I slowly walk back to my seat, my heart pounding. Each time these thoughts run through my head. Each time, a flush burns in my cheeks. I can barely take everything in that’s going on in the room. The incense, the holy water, the rising and the kneeling. And yet, through it all, it is beautiful. The words that they chant in honor of Jesus, I stand in awe as I listen. Never before have I seen this much reverence, this solemn, august reverence paid to my savior. It is so different, yet so awe-inspiring.

Before class begins, some of my professors pray, and lead the class in doing the sign of the cross and saying the Lord’s prayer. At times I feel self-conscious, though I know the Lord’s Prayer by heart. Am I missing something when I don’t do the sign of the cross? Exactly how much importance is placed on doing it?

And so, I ask again, Why? Why UD?

What if the picture is bigger than you see?
And God has you right where he wants you to be
Just listen to your heart
He’s telling you with every beat

“Still That Girl” by Britt Nicole

I sincerely believe that God does “have me right where He wants me to be”

He has drawn me closer in the past weeks, and I find myself turning to Him more and more in my quiet moments, when I am out running or walking to each class. He reminds me to trust in Him. The other day I opened His Word and read this verse:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight

Proverbs 3:5-6

For so long this verse has brought comfort to me when I am unsure, confused, anxious or filled with doubts. God chooses the best moments to reach out and touch my heart, whispering that He does have a plan, He does know what is best for me, He does have it all in His control. I need not fear anything. Thank God that He is the author of our lives.

Ironically, my Grandfather, Russell J. Young, a devout Catholic, discovered the church my family has attended since 2000. Way back then he met our founding pastor at the local mall, and my Grandfather, who loved to meet new people whenever possible, anywhere possible, struck up a conversation with two young men (my pastor and his deacon) as they discussed the church they had just begun. Grandpa learned about it, and I’m sure their discussion was lively as he engaged with them, as they told him about their vision, to begin a family-oriented church, with a mission for spreading the Lord’s Word in the DFW metroplex. My Grandpa went to my parents and told them about his new friends, who would be our pastor/deacon. “So, is there any chance that you and Danny [my Dad] will come back to the Catholic Church?”

My Mom replied, “Well, I don’t think so…” Since my Dad is Baptist, and my Mom joined his church, our family has been raised in the Protestant church.

“Well, then, this church I’m going to tell you about is the next best thing to being Catholic,” my Grandpa said, probably with the twinkle in his eye that I remember so well. 🙂

And truly, Valley Creek Church has been wonderful. I’ve grown up there. I’ve grown up with so many people there who are now off attending college just as I am. My parents have been in small groups with other couples and have formed a strong fellowship with other families, many of them homeschooling families like ours. In fact, a lot of the seniors in my [homeschooled] graduating class attend Valley Creek as well. It is a wonderful place where I’ve made many lifelong friends and learned so much about the nature of the Lord. I’m so thankful for having this church in my life. I have seen other kinds of Protestant churches, attending those with friends or family. But Valley Creek is my home base, and our current pastor speaks such relevant truth into my life that it is sometimes chilling, how strongly the Holy Spirit works through our pastor to reach my heart. I know that the Holy Spirit speaks in different ways through our pastor’s sermons to each and every person sitting in the room. And knowing that is breathtaking.

But I feel as though I’ve entered a whole new world each time I sit through a Roman Catholic mass and see a different side of Christianity that I’ve never known. A wonderful, beautiful side. A side with majesty and reverence in honor of Christ and the men and women who have died to themselves and lived for Him throughout the ages. I never could have imagined it, but as I type this I realize that this is one of the many ways that God shows himself to us. He uses our experiences (such as my choice to attend a Catholic university) to show us different aspects of His nature. He is teaching us, with every step we make in life, about faith in Him, about laying down our selves for Him.

I know that I wouldn’t trade life at UD for life anywhere else. If I were to go back in time, I know that I would make the same exact choice to attend this school and meet the people I have met. It is all part of the larger picture, as we encounter people and experiences that introduce us to marvelous Revelation in Him.

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The Fork in the Road

Like any high schooler in the college-selecting process, I faced a variety of options to choose from. My passions in different areas increased my confusion and uncertainty. Art universities offering a wide selection of specialized courses in animation, 2D and 3D design, illustration, and a number of other creative degrees that attracted me. I began to fixate on this idea of attending art school, as I do seek to pursue my artistic bent. However, during my sophomore year of high-school, a semester at a classical academy introduced me to a mesmerizing plane of academics. Classical education. I became entranced by the subjects of philosophy and literature taught with the classical approach, and enjoyed applying the methods of logic, thinking, and rhetoric, integral subjects to this form of learning, to my studies of history, literature, and everything else. I found myself eager to explore the tremendous depths of these subjects that students can only find purposefully, at a specialized school or with classical curriculum at home. I realized that my love for the visual arts now had competition in my avid learner’s heart. Around this time I turned my focus from a liberal arts college in Purcellville, Virginia to elsewhere. At a college convention I met several ambassadors of University of Dallas, a private Catholic institution in Irving, Texas. I recall that my interest in UD mounted the more I learned about it. They offered a Rome program during Sophomore year, an intensive “Core” curriculum that focused on the Classical foundation of learning—requiring all freshmen and sophomores to take a list of courses ranging from Literary Tradition to Philosophy to Astronomy. All of these subjects form the basis for a more concentrated major during the two years as upperclassmen. I relished the prospects offered at University of Dallas. It fit me perfectly. And yet, a small nagging voice persisted to whisper in the back of my head, “Wait! What about Art school? What about an exclusive art education?” That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t obtain an art education at UD. They rank as having one of the top traditional art programs in the nation, which I planned to participate in should I choose UD.

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image from the internet

As the summer before my Senior year opened, I decided to sign up for a 2D and 3D design and animation camp at the Art Institute of Dallas. My heart fluttered nervously whenever I thought of experiencing a taste of an art student’s life. In depth anatomy and design courses. High tech drawing equipment and digital tablets. I tempted myself with this shining dream. Of course, none of this is to undermine the delight of creativity, traditional and digital. Anyone with a passion for art possesses such a dream, to delve into this fervency to create, design, and dazzle others with mind-blowing visuals. I believe that all artists would love the chance to explore and develop their artistic skills at such a school. The courses at these universities can be invaluable, doubtlessly, to someone desiring to improve their abilities. Yet, I experienced a dilemma, as I still remembered the bliss of walking around the vibrant campus of University of Dallas, meeting people who enthusiastically pursued their faith and education. When I joined the other kids at the Art Institute’s camp, I found myself facing an entirely different atmosphere. Most of the kids here came from secular public school, lived secular, godless lives, and although they too shared a passion for the arts, I found it difficult to relate to them on a spiritual and intellectual level as their interests diverged from mine dramatically. Discouraged, I spent my first day hoping it would get better, that I would enjoy myself more at this idealized art camp. Yet, as the week progressed during my stay at the camp, I noticed that the teens at my camp bodily represented the mindset of liberal social media sites such as Tumblr. Their attitudes created a barrier between themselves and anyone who might possibly not share their same interests, worldview, or lifestyle. Their unwelcoming demeanors estranged me and I could hardly feel safe or comfortable when the camp leaders expressed viewpoints of homosexual lifestyles and other issues that diametrically oppose my Biblical standards. All in all, by the time Friday arrived, I was more than ready to leave the Art Institute with my parents. With a mixture of disappointment and relief I realized that I did not belong at the Art Institute or anywhere else like it.

Campus (Braniff Memorial Tower and Mall), University of Dallas

University of Dallas Mall and Braniff Tower (not my image)

The lure of an exclusively art-focused schedule during my university years has not failed to entice me with its promising tastefulness. Although the Core Curriculum at University of Dallas integrated a medley of subjects that I’d discovered a growing passion for within myself, Art school assumed the forefront focus in my mind as I idealized possibly attending a university like Savannah College of Art and Design, or Parsons Art and Design in NYC. These schools, as well as CalArts in San Francisco, are known for their top-notch courses and degrees, from which emerge many respected animators, visual developers, character designers, and story-boarders who are now working for corporations such as Disney and Pixar. As someone prone to idealism, I began to envision the promise of such schools. Until I visited the Art Institute of Dallas, another highly respected visual arts academy, did I obtain a clearer picture of the dark side of these campuses. However, any budding artist will desire courses like 2D and 3D design, anatomy, character design, visual development, and more. I nursed my dissatisfaction with my own situation and my parents’ expressed suspicions of such colleges. But they pointed out that SCAD and CalArts hardly provide a well-rounded education as does University of Dallas. They do not develop every part of the mind—the only side of my brain that would be served would be the right side—while the left side of the brain would languish in neglect. As aggravating as it was, I found myself agreeing with them. Why? University of Dallas pushes students to their limits, as they have campaigned, as I have seen by simply sitting in on the classes. Not only does this school challenge you in your area of study, but it also compels you to study hard in other areas, such as mathematics, the sciences, theology, history, philosophy, economics, and history. Sure, at a place like CalArts you are receiving a degree for extremely specialized courses throughout your four year tenure, but what beyond that? You are not exploring the great works, you are not discussing Plato’s The Cave, nor delving into the Rhetoric of the Bible. In fact, I’m pretty sure that St. Augustine’s Confessions would never arise in any discussion at one of those secular art universities.

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University of Dallas Church of the Incarnation (not my image)

So, I reached the verdict. As difficult as it proved to surrender my desire to attend SCAD, or CalArts, or a similar school, discussions with my parents and my summer camp experience led me to a final conclusion. I would not be abandoning my artistic ambitions. No, I would instead pursue them in the safter, Christian environment at University of Dallas, an institution that promotes a love of learning, an appreciation of the past masterpieces while integrated with the Catholic intellectual tradition that so intrigued me during my semester at Founders Classical Academy. I relinquished my idealistic image of what art school would be like and adopted a more realistic mindset. Once I finished the foundations of my education that University of Dallas would supply, I would delve in deeper in the areas that remained in need of development. Perhaps even graduate school at one of those art universities would become an option. But in the meantime, I determined to surround myself with like-minded people who would challenge me to mature in my mind and soul, not merely in the right side of my brain.

What of Heaven and Men?

Partially inspired by adventures in the highly illuminating Omnibus series, I find myself drifting back towards writing fiction. Like I said, yes, I am doing The Writing Month thingy this year. Finally. But still, I procrastinate and write about OTHER things BESIDES this imminent project that shall be here in like . . . gosh . . . 12 days. There is a blog thing going around in regards to the endeavors of National Novel Writing Month. One of my favorite blogs called Further up and Further In is hosting Beautiful Books, a project designed to provoke thoughts and questions concerning the novels. My answers to their questions should be here soon. In the meantime, have a short story meant to be expanded on in my WIP, Heaven’s Sight. 

The corners of Father O’Connor’s mouth curled slightly as he peered down at the paper in Anton’s hands. “Well,” he murmured, bending down a bit more. “What a work is this! What a work indeed.”

“My sketch,” Anton said tremulously. He forced himself to look straight up into the priest’s face. His eyes revealed that skittish anxiety which one could notice almost immediately when looking at him.

“Yes, my lad. That is quite a sketch. It is a wonder!”

Anton’s stricken features suddenly relaxed—an infinitesimal bit.

“You needn’t look as if I’m ‘bout to rap you o’er your knuckles, lad,” Father O’Connor sighed, and then laughed. He ruffled the boy’s dark curls, with a full-fledged grin spreading out his mouth. “I was in a good mind to when I called you to stay here, but I don’t believe Michelangelo’s teacher would have done that, if Michelangelo was working those marvelous hands o’ his.”

Anton sat in twitching silence, clasping and unclasping his own damp hands.

Father O’Connor laughed again. “Aye, lad! I will send you on your way now. You’re lookin’ a wee peaked now, and I believe you’ve been punished enough, by your own doing. And I’d be mighty pleased to see if you have a book of these sketches hidden away somewhere.”

“Oh, Father!” Anton burst out at last, terror etched sharply in his features. “I won’t ever draw in class again! I won’t! I won’t!”

“Hush, now. None of this. If you fear that I will seize your sketchbook, you have me quite wrong. Nothing of that sort shall come about, I am only desperately curious to have a look at your pictures.”

Anton, pleadings burning on his tongue, sat in heavy silence. A flicker of worry sent a faint chill through the priest. He laid his hand gently on Anton’s fist. “There, there, my lad,” he said softly, “you mustn’t be afraid of me. Or of anyone else here. What a blessing it is that you should be here now, reading books, learning, safe and warm with everything a lad could need! ‘Tis a fine blessing, Mother Mary’s benediction for you.”

Anton did not stir or speak. So Father O’Connor continued. “And I only asked to see your pictures, for I find you do a splendid job of it, a real dandy hand you have. You must have many a reason to thank heaven—”

His words might have been sparks to a bed of straw. Anton’s eyes took on an uncanny frigid brilliance. “Heaven hasn’t given me anything,” he said simply.

Father O’Connor’s eyebrows leapt up his forehead, and his mouth tightened at once. “Crikey, lad! What do you mean by that?”

“I mean,” said Anton still in that frank, slow tone, “That I haven’t ever heard or seen anything from Heaven good. Nothing will.”

“One does not see or hear a divine thing, my son. It is something beyond that. Beyond the tangible and the reasonable. And indeed, nothing is ever wholly good on this earth—that is only material. What is in it—that is the beautiful substance of life.”

But Anton had stood, his limber young figure akin to a healthy sapling. Father O’Connor let his tongue rest, even as he clasped his hands. He watched Anton silently gather his things, noting the masked expression—not even an expression, but some new hardness.

Ready or Not

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The game has been much afoot since August, I must say. There are many sides to that statement. I regret that I fall behind on the blogging thing, but anyways . . . as to the “game afoot”. ‘Tis more like, there are senior year responsibilites/tasks/to-dos afoot which hover round the head and chirp at me like so many obnoxious bird (whaaat? I’m a bit tired right now. Excuse my stupid similes)

Let’s go through the photos up there. The first one is of a blue and white striped backpack I found at Khols. To be clear, I get most excited about buying accessories like backpacks, purses, bags, aaand shoes, but other than that I get insufficient satisfaction out of a sartorial shopping trip. So I found this beautiful “Benrus” military backpack which is just awesome, with its leather accents and blue and white stripes. You’ll find out why I love blue and white so much now . . . but just to hold that question up in the air, I’ll say that between August and lovable October, life has seemed like this thrilling albeit stressful roller coaster. I have been very much in a state of Writer’s Block. BUT, I am finally resolving to put my foot down and take a shot at National Novel Writing Month this November (NEXT MONTH! :O) I have found the story to write, but now it comes down to planning it out, outlining, compiling an inspo-notebook (plus a Spotify playlist). ANYWAYS BACK TO THE BACKPACK. YES.

It is beautiful. It is perfect. I can see myself wearing it as a uni-student, and I’ll have on a preppy plaid red skirt, a dark scarf, a blue shirt beneath a jean jacket. And BOOTS, yeah. I love, love boots. And now that it’s October I feel it fitting to bring them out.

Next pic is of a cup with Plum tea that I sipped in my favorite local coffee shop. It is such a deliciously rustic, hippie-like place. It reminds me of Austin and long conversations about books, history, random stuff with special people (because we had those conversations at this little place). It reminds me of a chill in the air and then stepping inside and feeling a surge of warmth and my heart begin to race when I glimpse a certain somebody in the corner on a mac computer . . . ♥ but it’s not like coffee shops aren’t for fantasies, sitting alone and wishing something could happen, like a meeting in the coffee shop. Ohh my goodness, wow. Sorry, what a tangent. Excuse my totally chaotic, disorganized mind.

So the picture of the tea is capturing a moment. when I drove myself to the coffee shop to celebrate . . . celebrate becoming an official almost-uni student, as in . . . I was accepted to the university of my dreams and this means that next October I’ll be at My University delving into their beautiful Classical curriculum, reading Plato or Dante probably, walking around the mall with glowing autumn leaves scattering around . . . and I screamed, my family celebrated with me when I opened that letter.  So yeah. I know what I will major in: English. And I have decided to concentrate or minor in Studio art. Thus, the last picture is of my University’s seal.

Veritatem, Justitiam, Diligite.

(Truth, Justice, Diligence), the school motto in Latin. Beautiful.

Blue and white are the colors. I already have a lanyard from the Uni, with their name on it, so I can make it clear where I belong. I am totally, beyond belief, ineffably excited for next year to arrive. And it is only 45 minutes away from home so that takes the edge off of leaving home. Truly, I cannot imagine a better place–their Core Curriculum delves into Theology, Philosophy, Classic Literature, History, all taught with a foundation in classical education. Can I just say that I love all things classical (music, edu., art, literature, languages, architecture, sculpture, cities . . .)? Well, this is obvious of course, given the blog’s name.

More on this in a bit, because I want to discuss the fundamental aspects of the literature, theology, philosophy, and art that will be rigorously taught (BRING IT ON YEAH). OK. I must tone down.

I am definitely set on doing NaNo. I have no idea how it will turn out, but I already have everything I need barring the oh-so-valuable outline that I know would be invaluable. My next post will be a tag, sort of fun, just cause I wanted to. I also have some more writings I hope to post soon, and blog posts of my thoughts lately. Adieu for now,

Soli Deo Gloria,

Reb

Back in

Whenever I sit down to write a new blog post (usually at night when *magical* surges of inspiration happen) . . . I sort of freeze up (those magical waves of creativity obviously don’t help much). Maybe it’s the subconscious awareness that so many people could potentially see what I write, and then I get all introverted, even though I can’t see those people, and I huddle into my shell. I guess this will have to change, especially since next year I will be submitting papers to my professors, which essentially means breaking down my barriers of keep-everything-to-myself!

Some exciting little things that rouse my geekier side are currently underway:

Sims 4 comes out next month. Right after school begins. Dang.

It is “Lewis and Clark month” on Tumblr, which brings joy to me daily when I see people post about some of my favorite historical guys.

SCHOOL BEGINS. Yes, I AM excited. SO SO EXCITED. Why? SENIOR YEAR IS WHY.

And then there are the BIG things.

College begins next year!

Final SAT test this October

University of Dallas Odyssey Day happens in October as well

Jaw surgery. no. no. no . . .

Preparing transcript and reading list for college

Applying and getting accepted to my favorite college

FINALLY entering some writing contests.

If I manage to get into University of Dallas, I would hopefully get the opportunity to spend a semester of my sophomore year in Rome! Rome! As someone obsessed with ancient history, anything classical, the “dead” languages (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, etc.), getting to visit Roma Aeterna is the ultimate desire on my lifetime bucket list. It would make me so happy. The campus in Rome looks exquisite, breath-taking, with this haunting sense that I would be existing where the men and women of old lived and breathed. There would be St. Peter’s Cathedral, there would be visits to Greece, to Venice, Assissi, Florence–to quote from the UD website, “all the wonders of the Renaissance.” And in addition to Italy and Greece, I will be able to travel to other countries in Europe (The UK, of course, and France, AND Germany . . .) Now I must share some Pinterest pictures of this potential destination in my future! XD

L'Opera Garnier

L’Opera Garnier

Greece

Greece

The Tyrol

The Tyrol

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Florence

Florence

Paris

Paris

Venice

Venice

the Forum Romanum

the Forum Romanum

coast of Italy

coast of Italy

Library in Prague

Library in Prague

The Alps

The Alps

Verona

Verona

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Rome

Rome

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Mt. Vesuvius

Mt. Vesuvius

Rome

Rome