Earlier this week, Thomas More College of Liberal Arts student Stephen Lajoie shared reflections on the College website about his experiences traveling abroad in both Italy and Spain. Like every full-time sophomore student at Thomas More College, Lajoie spent a semester studying aboard in Rome, Italy. While there, he asserts that he matured into “something resembling a Catholic gentleman.” He also had a revelation. “I choose to go to Rome for pleasure, to do the things I always wanted to do, see the greatest sights in the world,” writes Lajoie. But he discovered he was in fact, “called to be a pilgrim and not a tourist.”
For that reason his next trip involved an adventure of a different type. He traveled to Spain for a teaching program he knew would be difficult. It was “in many ways, a better experience,” Lajoie writes. “By facing my own faults and weaknesses I was able to grow in ways I never could have in Rome.” He continued, “I learned paradoxically that the tastiest meal follows a long fasting, that the beautiful mountain top requires the difficult climb, and that the greatest joy is born from the harshest trial.” Some of the trials he endured included learning Spanish, going weeks without the Internet, sleeping outside, and completing physical tasks such as biking up a mountain in 95 degree weather. He writes that the purpose of the experience was to help others, not to see and do what he wanted.
Through these hardships, Lajoie learned the necessity of suffering for personal growth. “For me, piety was not enough, for without suffering my resolve would surely have withered in material distractions,” he writes:
“If I never suffered in Spain I never would have seen the natural glories of Cuenca, I would never have played soccer, I could not have learned about St. Phillip Neri, nor would I have had the frequent formative conversations I have relied on for guidance this past year. A whole host of memories, stories, and friendships would have never existed if I had decided to be comfortable at home or in Rome.”
Upon his return to the United States from Rome, Lajoie thought he had reached an ending. “I began to wonder if the highpoint of my life was already behind me,” he writes on the College website. But he asserts,“I now know that the greatest moments of my life lie always ahead of me.” He continues:
“I can still suffer so much more unlocking greater joys along the way. As St. Peter says: ‘the God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory in Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little, will himself perfect you, and confirm you, and establish you. To him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen’”
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts is recommended by The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.
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