The Catholic University of America

Honorable Mention
Papal Essay Contest
Craig Mariconti
A psychology major from Warwick, N.Y., Class of 2009

Scholastically, a Catholic education must provide, along with knowledge of the liberal arts, an opportunity to gain, through academic contemplation, a thorough understanding of the doctrines and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. My experience at the Catholic University of America, however, has taught me that a Catholic education, while necessarily incorporating theological studies, transcends academia. I have learned through the love of friends and the joy of service that, essentially, Catholic education teaches one how to be a Catholic Christian. A Christian is a follower of Christ: one in whom and through whom Christ lives. Therefore, by incorporating academic excellence and the love of Christ, my Catholic education has served two ends: It has taught me to love learning and to love Christ in myself and others.

My parents first showed me what it means to love as Christ loves. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, they continually encouraged my participation in many activities leading toward a fully developed Catholic faith, including Sunday Mass, family rosaries and youth ministry. Further, they fostered my passion for reading and literature and pushed me to achieve excellence in school. I attended a public school, however, and it was not until I enrolled at CUA in 2005 that I experienced a private Catholic education and the beautiful integration of faith and academic knowledge in a classroom. My scholastic experience here has presented me with ample opportunities to form a base of objective knowledge concerning the precepts of Catholic theology. Whether through the abundant knowledge of my professors, the insights of my fellow students, or even in the simple presence of a crucifix hanging in every classroom, I have found that Catholic theology permeates the experience of every student on campus.

However, the objective knowledge that I have acquired at CUA cannot fully account for the abundant joy that my faith gives me, joy that I have only found since coming to this university. Only the unique experience of the eucharistic community at CUA can account for the abounding joy that faith in Christ has brought to my life. Two distinct joys have marked my developing faith in the context of the eucharistic ommunity: the blessing of friendship and the sacrifice of service. I have formed beautiful friendships with my peers, who have joined me along a path toward education and holiness, affirming me in my accomplishments, comforting me in my losses and holding me accountable for my shortcomings. Their sacrifices have enkindled my desire to reciprocate their love. Further, through the university I have served the poor of Kingston, Jamaica, who in turn have exemplified faith in the mercy of God and love for one's neighbor.

Just as no student can ever acquire all worldly knowledge, no man or woman may ever become a perfect and sinless follower of Christ. Still, I strive toward that goal, forever developing - with a passion for learning - my faith in the goodness of all people, in their ability and desire to see Christ in others and be Christ for others.