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Senior Reflection: Inspired by Reverence, Grounded in Intellectual Humility

Posted: May 29, 2019

Note: The following essay is adapted from remarks made to the Thomas Aquinas College Board of Governors at its fall 2018 retreat.


By Isaac Cross (’19)

From as early as I can remember, my mother and father were adamant about the importance of family dinnertime. Every night, with all my siblings gathered around the table, my parents would foster philosophical and theological discussions, with a healthy dose of football and politics as well. From an early age I found joy in struggling with philosophical questions, and this disposition attracted me to Thomas Aquinas College.

Looking back, I was perhaps too confident when I started as a freshman. My father was a member of the College’s first graduating class, and I had attended a classical high school, so I thought I knew what was coming. But as I dove further into the curriculum, I realized how my initial expectations were grossly inaccurate.

Over the past four years, my fellow classmates and I have studied the essential ideas and traditions of Western civilization, spanning more than 2,000 years. The scope is astonishing. Whether we are studying Euclid’s propositions early in the morning or fighting to complete long seminar readings before class, amidst all the toils of our academics, we have been bound to recognize with reverence the treasure of knowledge that God has allowed mankind to attain.

This reverence is one of the greatest gifts that Thomas Aquinas College has given to us, not just in itself, but because among its fruits is intellectual humility. A virtue required outside as well as inside class, intellectual humility stems from the reverence we have acquired for Western tradition. For by understanding our insignificance in the face of Western thought, we have come to realize that when we rely on our own ideas, we are often wrong. Moreover, in the classroom we have learned to submit our ideas to the censure of others, which has taught us that we can only make progress with the help of others.

Something in particular that has struck me is that this help can come from anybody. Often it is the case that the person whom you helped through math is the person who helps you get through philosophy class. And sometimes the smartest person in the class can be corrected by the most timid student with a simple objection.

Sharing our academic struggles with humility has helped each of us progress further in our intellectual formation, but it has also taught us something important about the contemplation of the truth: that it is a common good, meant for every man, and that the joy of understanding is all the more great when it is shared with others and not just kept to oneself.

Our reverence for Western tradition has also helped us to realize that so great a good should not be kept in the shadows. It is with this in mind that my fellow classmates and I prepare to move beyond college and lead independent lives. Our vocations and professions will be diverse, but in all cases it will be our desire and our duty, blessed by God with this education, to share its fruits with whomever He puts in our lives.

I have always been rather patriotic, and this has given me the desire to spread the goods of my education to the American public at large. I will be pursuing this goal as a journalist and hope eventually to become a political or social commentator.

During high school, my father strongly encouraged me to consider Thomas Aquinas College, and since then, when I have asked him why, he has told me that, in the face of a declining culture, there is no better place to receive the principles of Western tradition than at this school. Having experienced the education here, I now see what he meant and recognize all the more the importance of spreading the truth to a society that desperately needs it.

Though my particular career choice may change, I have this greater purpose of spreading the truth that will inform my life. I am thankful to you all here because it has been through your guidance and support that my education has helped me to this realization. And it is not just I, but also all of my classmates — we are indebted to you for your generosity. You have graciously given of yourselves for the purpose of our intellectual formation, and in honor of the faith that you have placed in us, we will endeavor, inspired by reverence and grounded in intellectual humility, to support the growth of the truth in others, just as you have done for us. Thank you, and God bless.

Mr. Cross is from Leominster, Massachusetts.

Isaac Cross, Commencement 2019

Isaac Cross (’19)

Br. Robert Nesbit

“It was at the College when I began to take my faith seriously. The community life, all the people, the faculty, the staff — and the Mass — all that really helped.”

– Br. Robert Nesbit, O.S.B. (’07)

“What you do here at this college is important not only for the individual salvation of your soul, but really as a witness to all of society.”

– Most Rev. Robert Francis Vasa

Bishop of Santa Rosa