Real world rebel

By  M. Alejandra Castaneda, Catholic Register YSN
  • October 5, 2006
Last year I decided to leave my Catholic high school for a public school to take advanced placement courses. I figured academically a public school could open more doors for me than my little Catholic school. The only reason I attended St. Thomas Aquinas high school in North Vancouver was for the religion.

However, before I changed schools I attended a Catholic leadership camp and World Youth Day in Germany. One of the defining moments in those two months happened when a speaker told us about a successful girl who chose to leave her secular university, and attend a small private Catholic university. This girl went against the current choosing spiritual success over the world's idea of success. It was at that moment I realized I was making a grave mistake in leaving.

Consequently, I chose to stay in that Catholic community for it offers a faith immersion I could not find elsewhere. It offers me the opportunity to live out my faith as well as learn more about it. All students at St. Thomas Aquinas are united (whether they know it or not) by faith. I took responsibility for my beliefs and recognized that we all need to be consumed by our faith to be able to live charitably in this secular world.

In the Letter of Diognetus (an anonymous letter from the second century) there is a passage describing an eyewitness account of Christian life. It states "they (Christians) live in their own native lands, but as aliens."  This is true even today, when social norms and values contradict most aspects of Catholic teaching.  

Someone with morals and strong virtues is confronted with discrimination and alienation every day. An example of this is abortion. People who are pro-choice condemn Catholics for not believing in a women's right to choose. I find people are hostile whenever I stand up for a baby's right to live. However, this spiritual persecution can only strengthen one's desire for good and God.  

Since the beginning Catholics have been considered radicals. Take a look at our Saviour, He visited tax collectors and spent time with lepers. Never have we been looked upon as normal. Fundamentally, when we are baptized we are called to be different, both physically and spiritually. This radical lifestyle requires we live our lives for others instead of ourselves; we live our lives for God.  

The Catholic faith is essentially counter-cultural in a secular world. It means going against the grain not just in what you do, but in who you are. The cultural pressure is ever-present, expecting you to give in to desires and vices. Blurred distinctions between right and wrong relentlessly surround us.

I have been very privileged to attend a Catholic high school, where being Catholic is what is normal and accepted. I can publicly pray for others, teach and learn religious education, and openly discuss my faith without being scrutinized. I know this Catholic environment will give me the skills necessary to defend my faith, and continue in my radicalness after high school.

(M. Alejandra Castañeda, 16, is a Grade 12 student at Saint Thomas Aquinas high school.)

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