“You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”
The first time I entered Lauinger Library, I had no idea that this Latin phrase, Cognoscetis veritatem et veritas liberavit, loomed overhead. Ever-present, these words remind us of one of higher education’s greatest purposes: to help eager young minds in their search for truth. This is also ideally the goal of all incoming freshmen: to leave the Hilltop aware of and in awe of what is true, what is good and what is beautiful.
I, however, came to Georgetown with my own set of goals: to graduate with honors, to get a good job after I left, to make some new friends, to maybe meet a pretty girl, to experience the big city life … the list went on and on. Now, looking back on my four years, I am thankful for how misguided my initial aspirations for my Georgetown experience proved to be.
By October of my freshman year, I was struggling. I hadn’t found my social niche yet; I wasn’t really enjoying any of my classes; I was overwhelmed by all that Washington had to offer; and, most importantly, my Catholic faith had wavered. In my eagerness to embrace the college lifestyle, I had let the most important relationship in my life — my relationship with God — fall by the wayside.
Luckily, in His infinite love and mercy, the Lord wasn’t going to sit idly by and watch me flounder in my own confusion and ineptitude. One night, as I was walking from a friend’s apartment in Village B to Yates, I passed by Copley Crypt Chapel. It was around 10:15 p.m., and as I walked by, brooding over another lost day, I happened to peer through the door of the chapel.
Within, I saw a priest celebrating Mass with a small group of students. I was intrigued; at the time, I wasn’t even aware that there was a 10 p.m. Mass on campus. I decided to wait outside the chapel until the liturgy was over and then walked in to ask the priest if he could hear a quick confession. I told him that I was struggling to adjust to college and was struggling with my faith. In response, he happily invited me to start coming to 10 p.m. Mass: “It’s only 30 minutes long!” he promised.
With that exchange, I could begin to feel God’s hand gently molding my Georgetown experience. True to its title as the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit university, Georgetown became the guiding foundation of my spiritual life. By the end of my freshman year, I had joined the Knights of Columbus and become a server for the 10 p.m. Mass. During my sophomore year, I started to take advantage of all the spiritual opportunities that Georgetown affords its students.
From the wonderful and diverse Campus Ministry that has enabled me to learn about other faith traditions to the vibrant Jesuit community that has taught me so much about my own faith, Georgetown’s Catholic identity has been instrumental in forming me into the man I am today. As I look back on my undergraduate career, I cringe imagining where I would be if I had never walked by Copley Crypt that October night four years ago.
Being at Georgetown has shown me what the truth is. I have discovered that, while having a prestigious job with a nice salary would be nice, the most important thing in life is to know, love and serve God. Georgetown crafts its students to embrace the magis, always challenging students on the Hilltop to strive for “the more.” For me, the significance of the magis has been in compelling me to dive headfirst into the unfathomably rich depths of Georgetown’s Catholicism. I have emerged from these waters a new creation, ready, as St. Ignatius of Loyola said, to “go forth and set the world on fire.”
Throughout my time here, I have met so many people that have shown me Christ. In fact, when Fr. Pat Rogers, S.J., recently asked me to write a quick response to the question, “How have you recognized Jesus in your time here at Georgetown?” the best answer I could give was, “Really, as I look back on the last four years of my life, the hard question isn’t how have I recognized Jesus in my time at Georgetown — it’s how haven’t I? He is so clearly seen in everything here.”
In his “Confessions,” St. Augustine writes, “My heart is restless until it rests in you, my God.” Thank you, Georgetown, for showing me where to seek rest, or rather, in whom to seek rest. Thank you, Georgetown, for helping me to know the Truth.
Patrick Boyden is a senior in the College. He is a former Grand Knight of the Georgetown Knights of Columbus.