“To say we have faith does not mean we automatically understand everything. It means we have the confidence to know God will help us understand.”
By Caroline Darrow ’21
Hello, my name is Caroline Darrow. Usually, I am the girl in the white gown sitting in the tiny chair next to Father, so you may not recognize me right now. But don’t worry I’ll be back there soon.
As I was trying to write this reflection for
the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, I wrote three different versions, but all of
them felt like I was leading a kumbaya circle. So I did
the typical Fenwick procrastination, I did other homework instead. Nevertheless, as I attempted to complete my
pre calc homework while at the same time contemplating Aquinas, I realized it
is very hard to think about faith and logic in the same instance. However,
Aquinas’ own teachings can help with this conundrum.
“Logic can clarify faith, while faith can prevent mistakes of logic.”
One of Aquinas’ most influential teachings was his study of the relationship between faith and reason. Throughout time, there has been a struggle as how to combine knowledge gained from revelation with knowledge gained from the observation of the natural world around us. Aquinas viewed both of these as compatible with each other as they both had been created by God. Logic can clarify faith, while faith can prevent mistakes of logic. In other words, using our logic we are able to reason through and clarify teachings of faith in order to fully comprehend what God is trying to tell us Faith keeps our morals in check, while at the same time teaching us things we cannot observe through our senses, as we observe a society in which humans are susceptible to other worldly perspectives.
What does it truly mean to seek God in faith and reason? Each day, we pray before classes in which we never speak about God. You most likely won’t contemplate Catholic teachings while solving logarithms, but you will have times when you question aspects of your faith because to say we have faith does not mean we automatically understand everything, it means we have the confidence to know God will help us understand. To aid in understanding, we must combine both our faith and logic to come to the best conclusion. God has instilled faith and logic in our lives, and it is our job to find a way to follow Aquinas, embracing both ways to gain knowledge in order to follow the path God has sent us on.
“Is there a fine line between optimism and reality?” The band Queen took the world by storm during its reign in the 1970s. They introduced the world to a new type of rock and produced hit songs that are still celebrated and sung today. Of these songs, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is perhaps the most well-known. The six-minute song is an unlikely source of optimism, but upon listening to the mere first verse, I was struck with the lyrics’ undiscovered potential. In these lyrics, I found the metaphorical line between optimism and reality.
Freddie Mercury begins the song by asking, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?” His rhetorical questions are the same that we must ask ourselves. Are we approaching situations realistically? Are we optimistic in setting our goals? We must ask ourselves these questions before reaching a decision. It is not enough to approach every situation with a singularly realistic point of view. With no optimism, life becomes dreary. However, on the other hand, we must make certain that optimism does not overpower our decisions and goals. Further along in the first verse, Freddie Mercury also sings the line, “Easy come, easy go.” Through this assertion, he perfectly embodies the relationship between realism and optimism. One must be able to handle any situation accordingly, but the person must also have hope that the situation will get better. Not only did Queen release an American icon, they also unlocked the secret to optimism and realism.
Realism is the tendency to accept things as they are. Optimism, at its core, is just realism interspersed with hope. An optimist must be able to look at reality with positivity and hope for a better future. Because of their relationship, optimism and realism co-exist. Being too realistic can be harmful to one’s outlook on life. Imagine a doctor telling someone that they have been diagnosed with cancer and have a slim chance of overcoming the disease. A realist would accept the diagnosis and understand that the survival rate is very low. Yet, is there not more? How can we just accept a dire situation like this, and not hope and work for a better outcome? Because of this, being too realistic is not beneficial to one’s life. One must also sprinkle in a little bit of optimism in every situation encountered. The Optimist Creed states that we must “talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person [we] meet.” In other words, every situation can use a bit of optimism. Through this codependency, one can find the blurred line between optimism and reality.
The stereotypical idea of an optimist is one who never stops smiling, no matter the circumstances. However, this is not an accurate description. True optimists use both optimism and realism to their advantage. They use realism to accept the situation that has been handed to them. They then use optimism to make the situation better. They are able to overlook the negativity and work for a better tomorrow. These optimists may not always be sporting a smile, but they remain hopeful for a better future. They do not solely rely on realism; nor do they solely rely on optimism. Similarly, we all must find the balance between these two philosophies in order to better ourselves.
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” although an unlikely source, has been my inspiration for optimism. This example goes to show that optimism is all around us, we just need to be willing to notice. Simply put, we must look at each situation realistically. Then, just over the horizon, the shining rays of optimism must be found. At that intersection, we all will find the “Fine Line Between Optimism and Reality.”
Optimist International is an international service club organization with almost 3,000 clubs and over 80,000 members in more than 20 countries.
On the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Fenwick junior from Berwyn reflected about the Blessed Mother’s special connection with the oppressed, the impoverished and the powerless.
By Chelsea Quiroga ’21
Today, we gather to celebrate and honor the virgin of
Guadalupe; the mother of Jesus, known to most of us as Mary. Just shy of 500
years ago the virgin of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, who was an Aztec
peasant who had recently converted to Catholicism, on the hill of tepeyac just
outside of present day Mexico City.
She appeared with a green cloak covered in gold stars
as well as having the same olive complexion of that of the native Juan Diego.
She told him to build a church in honor of her, and he humbly accepted. Juan
Diego went back down the mountain into town to see the bishop and informed him
of his recent encounter.
Juan Diego told the bishop of Mary’s request, and the
bishop was doubtful and asked for Juan Diego to bring him proof of her
existence before he approved any construction. Mary appeared to Juan Diego for
a second time, and she responded to his request for proof by telling him to
gather the wild plants around the hill, which was very dry and desert like. She
told him to put them into his tilma, which was like toga, and not to open it
until he saw the bishop.
Juan Diego listened and carried the dried plants down
the hill, and when he came to the bishop he let down his tilma. In the place of
the dried, wild plants out fell dozens of red roses, and the image of Mary was
imprinted onto his tilma. Soon after, a church in her honor was constructed.
Ten years prior to her visitation to Juan Diego, Mexico had been conquered by
the Spanish and Catholic conversion was pushed onto the natives.
La virgen of Guadalupe’s appearance to a native
peasant caused many similar to Juan Diego to feel a sense of belonging in Catholic
faith and caused Catholicism to spread like wildfire. Mary’s visitation to a
poor native peasant demonstrates God’s love for all backgrounds and the special
connection had with those oppressed, impoverished and powerless. Her visitation
was a triumph and allowed for Mexicans and Latin Americans alike to have a
personal tie to their faith and gain a strong feeling of home with God.
A Fenwick junior from Oak
Park offers up a web log on how a nine-day ‘fieldtrip’ to Central America was life
By Ben Groll ’21
It was Tuesday, July 30,
2019. Our flight to Costa Rica landed late the night before, and after three
hours of sleep, my roommate Vince’s alarm woke us up. Three hours of sleep is
not great, so my three other roommates and I were understandably exhausted. The
previous day’s traveling had drained us, and as we all start to get packed,
Vince moved the blinds, and we looked out the window. I did not take a picture,
but I see it as clearly now as I see this paper: The sight of a massive
mountain towering in the sky as the sun rose behind it. I saw the bright rays
of pink and red from the rising sun blasting through the dark blues of night,
mixing to create a beautiful sight that is unlike any I had ever seen. The “Ecology
of the Rainforest” trip was just that: unforgettable, breathtaking and
rainforest of Costa Rica acted as an excellent background to our ever-changing
trip, as our experiences each day were different from the last. Our first day
was spent traveling to Tortuguero, and even the several hour bus ride was fun.
All around us, we witnessed the breathtaking sights of the country, from banana
trees to mountains and everything in between. We even saw a sloth during
breakfast. What followed was a unique ride to our hotel, and our form of
transportation did not involve wheels. We spent an hour on a boat that took us
to our secluded hotel, and we spent the next three days exploring the surrounding
wildlife. We were able to live inside the magnificent rainforest for multiple
days and experience its wonders first-hand. On one of our boat rides, however,
the first-hand nature of our trip backfired. While on our boat, gentlemen’s
volleyball coach and English teacher Mrs. Whitman had an unfortunate encounter
with a caiman; an experience which she remembers as fondly as one would
remember an encounter with a caiman. The lurking caiman rushed through the
waters and tapped her side of the boat with a relatively small amount of force.
We were all surprised by it, and thankfully, nobody was hurt. Even our tour
guides were surprised by this encounter.
The trip was very busy
but in a good way. One of the mornings, we were awoken around 4 a.m. by the
sound of howler monkeys as they were just waking up. The ambient sounds of the
rainforest had woken us on plenty of the mornings, and this was no exception.
The busy-ness of the trip left little to be desired in terms of time spent
sleeping. Still, the incredible coffee and excitement of our time there kept me
energized the entire way.
The sheer awe and
amazement of the sights around us is a theme of this trip. Arguably, the most
incredible sight I witnessed was when we saw turtles come from the ocean and
lay their eggs on the beach. This incredible process only occurs at night, and
we were fortunate enough to see multiple, one-meter-long turtles emerge from
the ocean, climb onto the beach, dig patches for their eggs, lay their eggs,
cover up the eggs to protect them, and crawl back into the sea as elegantly as
they came from it. The lengths at which these turtles go to protect their eggs,
and their growing young, is remarkable and heartwarming. As we were waiting for
our time to view the turtles, we waited on the side of the beach, and there I
witnessed another one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen in my
life: the clearest night sky filled with a seemingly infinite amount of stars.
On the trip, we took part
in ecotourism, which is the process in which tourists experience nature first
hand, but in a way that supports the environment and leaves little to no
footprint on it. The country of Costa Rica does an incredible job of lowering
its reliance on fossil fuels and relying on renewable energy, and its impact is
clear. Their commitment to sustaining the environment was awesome to learn
about, and it helped me see the efforts required to sustain this world of ours.
While it seems complicated, it’s quite simple, and the impact is huge. We
witnessed this impact while on the beach before we saw the turtles. Mr. Menich,
my classmates and I sat on the beach and witnessed the sheer beauty of the
night sky. The stars dotted the dark sky and gave it a blue hue; all while
shooting stars temporary lit up the dark blue sky. The untainted atmosphere
here sharply contrasts that of Chicago, and this is a testament to Costa Rica’s
incredible ability to reduce emissions and help the environment. And the
results are breathtaking.
The Costa Rica trip was all part of the Ecology of the Rainforest course offered during the second semester at Fenwick. Each week, we were to complete modules online. The only time I spent in a classroom for this course was when I took tests and did the final presentation. While on the trip, we were split into groups and researched a specific aspect of the ecology of the rainforest. My group was assigned to research gene flow in plant populations. During our trip, we were able to see this gene flow through the symbiotic relationship between plants and animals. Both work together and benefit each other, and an example of this was with hummingbirds and Heliconias. On multiple hikes, we saw the curved Heliconias flower, which is specially adapted for the long beaks of hummingbirds. The hummingbirds’ beaks go into the heliconia flower, and the pollen is sneakily put onto the hummingbird’s forehead by the heliconia. Once the hummingbird reaches another heliconia, the pollen on its forehead pollinates that plant, and the cycle repeats. This incredible symbiotic relationship showcases the harmony in the rainforest, which I would not have been able to fully grasp had I not taken this course and gone on this trip.
Fenwick junior urges her classmates to learn from sisters Martha and Mary in
the Bible — and be more diligent with their prayer lives.
By Grace McGann ’21
In today’s Gospel, we learn about two sisters named
Martha and Mary. When welcoming Jesus into their home, Martha scrambles to
clean and organize the house while Mary simply sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to
his wisdom and prayer. Eventually, fed up and exhausted, Martha complains to
Jesus about the actions of her sister. Jesus simply explains to Martha that her
own anxieties and worries have gotten the best of her, and that Mary has made
the better decision by choosing to pray alongside Jesus.
It’s easy, especially as Fenwick students, to see
ourselves in Martha’s position. From what seems to be endless hours of
homework, maintaining grades and also maintaining meaningful relationships,
high school does come with a lot of things to be worried about. So many of us
have gotten to a point where it feels like these worries consume us. It’s at moments
like these where we must remember the Gospel. Jesus told Martha that she was
too focused on worrisome things and that she should focus more on the thing
that truly matters: prayer. We are all individuals with very busy schedules,
but as Jesus said to Martha, we cannot let our worries take priority over our
faith. In the long run, your grade in geometry is not going to have a
significant impact on your life. Your faith, however, can set your soul on fire
for the rest of your life, and that all starts with our prayer habits.
Yes, we do pray before every class and some of us might
pray before every meal. But it is easy to find ourselves stuck in the rabbit
hole where we are just going through the motions. We stand up, say a “Hail Mary”
or even an “Our Father” and sit down. But how often do you think about what you
just did? An easy step to take to improve your prayer habits is being aware of
what you are saying. We pray before class, for example, because we are asking
God to help us with our struggles, not to just focus on our struggles and
completely and ignore Him in the process. There are thousands of ways to engage
in meaningful prayer. For me, its praying before I go to bed.