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The winners of the Register’s first-ever essay contest relate why “Catholic Is Cooler Than Secular.”
BY The Editors
First Place —
Catholic Is Cooler Than Secular
By Christopher Oppermann
Catholic Church is much cooler than the secularism of the contemporary West.
Indeed, secularism has a rather peculiar relationship with Catholicism: It is
not so much that Catholicism is directly opposed to secularism; rather,
Catholicism, more often than not, perfects the ideals of secularism. The Catholic life picks
up where secular uprightness can go no further. Catholicism provides meaning
and purpose, where secularism can only offer a superficial or feel-good
for example, our contemporary culture’s craze with social-justice issues. We
hear constantly of campaigns by Bono, Starbucks, Motorola and dozens of other
celebrities and corporations to buy their campaigns’ products or support their
causes. Yet their appeal is often made to a vague sense of “social
responsibility,” or to some emotional ethos that is difficult to articulate.
on the other hand, provides a solid intellectual foundation, grounding social
justice in the unchanging truths about the human person: Each man and woman is
created in God’s image and deserves our love and protection. Catholicism has
the power to transform the idea of “community service” into the reality of
passionate and loving charity. The Catholic Church delivers more food, water,
medicine, health care and other necessities of life to more people around the
world than any other private organization, and it does so with dutiful silence,
without pomp or publicity. Participating in and contributing to the Church’s
works of charity makes a person part of a social-justice movement that is
bigger, more effective and deeper in meaning than any secular organization in
the world today. It doesn’t get much cooler than that.
take, for example, how the Church gives new and better meaning to the supreme
secular virtue of “diversity.” Catholicism recognizes that to give up one’s
commitment to dogmatic or moral truth merely for the sake of avoiding conflict
robs him of anything worth living or fighting for. But at the same time, the
Catholic Church manages to draw members from all states and walks of life. In
her, the wealthiest businessman and the most destitute peasant both find
refuge. Only a constant commitment to truth and tradition, like that kept by
the Catholic Church, can create a lasting home for hundreds of cultures and
millions of peoples. Not even the university, the American incarnation of
diversity and tolerance, can match the unity among peoples that the Church has
effectuated throughout its history.
Catholic Church is so cool, in fact, that today’s secular society owes its very
existence to Catholicism. Western art and architecture, for
more than 1,000 years, evolved under the patronage and inspiration of the
Church. Catholic scientists developed the foundations of modern science. Catholic
monks preserved the records of the West’s ancient heritage. Canon law laid the
foundations of modern legal systems. The list of Catholic contributions goes on
little bit of true coolness that secularism can claim comes from the Church.
Catholic is cooler than secular — way cooler.
Christopher Oppermann is a freshman at Harvard College in
First Runner-Up — $750 Scholarship
Catholic Is Cooler Than Secular
By Kelly Conroy
are a great new technology with many benefits. They provide “pump up” music to
listen to when we run or “favorite tunes” while we wait on a bus. iPods are
small, lightweight and come in a variety of colors and styles. But what really
makes iPods cool is their potential — their potential to become “Catholicized.”
By this I mean the addition of the Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours, Gregorian
chant and Catholic talks to our play lists. iPods can be full of dirty music
with foul language and inappropriate themes, or they can be used as instruments
to help us learn more about and grow in our faith. iPods are just one example
of the way that we can escape the secular norm and use modern advancements for
am just a freshman in college, but in my 19 years, I have learned that it is
cool to be Catholic, to be a part of the 2,000-year-old tradition that helps us
to live fully so that we can share eternity with God.
my junior year of high school, my brother left home to enter the seminary. He
gave his room to my older sister, his boom box to one of my younger sisters,
and his coin collection to the other. He gave me his iPod. At first, I was
disappointed because he did not have any new “cool” songs. Instead, I found
religious songs, prayers and talks. I plugged the iPod into my car on the first
day of my junior year of high school and continued to do so every day. I never
realized what a blessing it would be to begin every day with a Rosary and end
the school day with lessons about the Church!
prayer life took a giant leap, and I felt more peaceful and confident at the
start of each day. The time I spent
listening to the iPod strengthened my resolve to attend Mass, confession and
adoration of the Blessed Sacrament more frequently.
Catholic faith is more important to me than secular entertainment because it is
what makes me happy for more than just a couple passing hours. So when my
friends ask me if I “jam out” to my iPod, I respond, “Oh yeah — I jam with
popular classmate of mine once walked up to my car as I was leaving school and
poked his head in the window. He asked, “What in the world are you listening
to?” After I told him, he just shook his head and walked away. A couple weeks
later, he brought up the incident and wanted to know why I listened to the
“Catholic stuff” and how I was always happy. These questions led to many
discussions on the faith. He continues to search, just like the rest of us, but
he did say that the Catholic Church seems “pretty cool.”
think it’s pretty cool that we can use secular advancements to share the
Catholic faith with others.
Kelly Conroy is a freshman at
Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Second Runner-Up — $500 Scholarship
Catholic Is Cooler Than Secular
By Melanie L. Souchet
Catholicism and secular society seem to have a one-sided love-hate
relationship. I say “one-sided” because only secularism indulges in the “hate”
bit — most of the time. Secularism can be positively bipolar in its treatment
of Catholicism. On one end of the spectrum there are books like The Da Vinci Code, which insists Jesus wasn’t celibate and that Catholics are a bunch of
crazy, conspiracy-hiding maniacs. Then you turn around and see the
Catholic-on-accident movie The
Exorcism of Emily Rose, which portrays
Catholicism in a respectful light. One second, secularism is tearing the
Catholic Church down; the next, it seems utterly fascinated by her.
might ask, “Why is this? If secularism doesn’t like the Catholic Church, why
doesn’t it just ignore her? What you don’t care about shouldn’t affect you,
right?” Obviously, this isn’t the case; otherwise, the works of people such as
Dan Brown or Richard Dawkins wouldn’t have a following.
only one explanation. The First Rule of Grade School Bullies: “He’s only making
fun of you because he likes you.”
right; the reason secularism loves to tear down and/or profit off of
Catholicism is that it knows something deep down, something that it rarely
willingly admits out loud.
Maybe, Secularism thinks, Catholic is
this is the case, then what makes Catholic cooler? It’s simple: Catholicism
offers things secularism only promises. How many people have steeped themselves
in secularism only to come away empty? They feel happy, but not for long. Most
of the time, they’re just empty. These people just sort of shuffle through life
feeling lukewarm and semifull. In some extreme cases, they even destroy their
lives in an attempt to find this happiness.
of these people search for lasting happiness and discover religion. Some
discover Catholicism. Then they know they’ve come home.
found everything they knew they were missing — and some things they didn’t even
realize they were missing: self-worth, purpose, forgiveness and an undying,
pervasive sense of hope. They find joy, that real happiness that lasts longer
than a few days or weeks.
— most importantly — they find themselves in the fullness of a truth they were
seeking all along. They find themselves in the arms of God, who cares about
them more than anyone else in the world, who never stopped loving them. Life is
worth living when you’re loved as God loves.
is cooler because, unlike secular, Catholic satisfies. She offers hope,
salvation and a life beyond the rat race. She offers the happiness and love
that all people long for. Catholicism has God, and that’s enough in itself.
are many other things that make Catholicism cool. The ancient nature of the
religion, the architecture of her churches, the Swiss Guards, the priests’ garments.
But I think one girl at World Youth Day summed up Catholicism best through this
cheer: “There ain’t no party like a Catholic party ’cause a Catholic party
is cooler than secular.
Melanie L. Souchet, a home-schooled senior in high
school, writes from Brunswick, Maine. She has narrowed her choice of college to
three Catholic institutions.
Points and Parity
judges in the Register’s first scholarship-essay contest had their work cut out
for them. The nominating committee — led by the magnanimous Register donor who
put up the money for the awards — pared the field to seven outstanding
finalists. Then five Register editors had the tough job of deciding which of
those presented the best case for why “Catholic Is Cooler Than Secular.”
judge awarded seven points to his or her choice for first place, six points for
second place and so on. There were no unanimous choices, but the integrity of
the simple point system bore out in the results: Each of the top three had at
least one first-place vote.
essays were lightly copy edited for presentation to our readers.
to our winners. Thank you, all entrants. And a special tip of our hat to our
donor who made the contest possible.