Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Michael Terheyden

7/16/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

'Secular studies' led me to the Maker of the universe

I began my search for truth and the meaning of life by taking classes in the humanities, the physical sciences and the social sciences. Although I did not find the answers I was searching for, I did not walk away from these studies empty handed. I did not realize it at the time, but my secular studies prepared me to receive faith on an adult level.

The golden section is also known as the golden proportion, golden ratio, divine proportion, divine ratio, etc.

The golden section is also known as the golden proportion, golden ratio, divine proportion, divine ratio, etc.

Highlights

By Michael Terheyden

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/16/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Faith, Catholic, Church, Christianity, Religion, Secularism, Michael Terheyden


KNOXVILLE, TN (Catholic Online) - My adult journey toward Catholicism began with my search for truth and the meaning of life. As I explained in the introduction to this series, when I began my journey, I was surrounded by secularism.  The word "secularism" has two completely different meanings for me. The first has to do with secular studies or knowledge. The other concerns the ideology of secularism. Both meanings played a significant role in my decision to be Catholic.

In this second article of the series, I will reflect on some of my experiences when I undertook secular studies. I began my journey by taking classes in the humanities, the physical sciences and the social sciences. Although I did not find the answers I was searching for, I did not walk away from these studies empty handed. I did not realize it at the time, but my secular studies prepared me to receive faith on an adult level. However, different studies prepared me in different ways.

Take art, for example. Around the same time that people developed a greater interest in the human condition and the secular affairs of this world, Renaissance artists developed a new way to portray the natural world. I am thinking of perspective drawing. This technique enabled artists to represent spatial distances and three dimensions on a two dimensional surface.

Perspective drawing is not only more interesting, dramatic and beautiful for me to look at, I believe, it transforms art, from merely expressing ideas and giving them some permanence, into a whole new way of exploring the physical universe. When I look at Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks, among other things, I see a man learning and thinking about the structure of matter and space and using this knowledge to understand how things actually work.

While I have never produced a masterpiece, I have experienced this myself and you can too. I was once drawing the connection between a column and a beam in a building. As I was trying to make the drawing look right, I had a flash of insight about matter and its relation to space and gravity. In that same instant, I saw how to correctly line up the column and the beam.

Perspective drawing has not only given me a way to understand certain things about the physical universe, it has given me much more. When I view masterful works of art, especially detailed drawings, they have the power to transport me beyond myself, to open me up to all that is good and beautiful. And the experience makes me richer.

But it is not just art, other secular subjects have also given me much. For instance, it seems to me that mathematics is the language of nature. I have read about mathematicians who say that they see beauty in certain proofs and equations. As for me, I experience this beauty in certain geometric structures.

I find the golden section or the number phi (1.618) fascinating and beautiful. It is a simple proportion that can be used to construct rectangles, spirals, and other geometric shapes. The golden section can be found in many objects in nature: a nautilus seashell, a flower, a human face, a strand of DNA, a galaxy, the path a moth takes when it flies toward a light. It also has many applications in art, architecture and music. Some people believe it has mystical meaning, but that seems too speculative to me.

If math is the language of nature, then science must be its blueprint. I imagine the periodic table found in chemistry classrooms like a blueprint for nature. It contains such a dense amount of abbreviated information on the elements (the basic building blocks of nature) arranged in such a precise logical order that it amazes me to look at it. The quantum mechanical model of an atom also seems like a blueprint, except the energy levels and orbitals of the electrons sometimes remind me of cascading water and the fluid nature of the atom. 

I am also amazed by all the detail, precise order, and perfectly timed events associated with embryonic cell development: fertilization, activation and cleavage of a fertilized egg, formation of tissue layers, and organ development. Of course, many times something goes wrong, but it seems like a miracle to me that it has ever gone right.

The immensity and wonderment of it all forces me to pause and give thanksgiving and praise. But to who or what--myself, the state, the science that unveiled these hidden wonders, some impersonal force, a personal being? I knew that was the right question back in my school days; however, I was not ready to answer it. I wanted greater certainty. So I continued with my studies.

History also prepared me to receive faith. Perhaps what influenced me most was learning about the struggle for freedom. I learned that most people throughout history have lived under authoritarian rulers and that this was the cause of much human suffering. In the West, I saw the struggle for freedom emerge under the form of democracy. I first recall its appearance in ancient Greece.

What we would consider a limited democracy arose in Athens, Greece over a 200-year period; however, war with Persia followed by war between Athens and Sparta left Greece in a weakened state. Seeing an opportunity, the Macedonians capitalized on this weakness, gained control of Greece, and united it under the authoritarian rule of Alexander the Great.

Rome also had a flirtation with democracy. But after a time, Rome's leaders became overly self-serving and cooperation between them broke down. This led to civil wars. Although Rome remained too strong to be conquered by outsiders, it became too weak and divided for democratic rule. Consequently, Rome fell into the hands of  a dictator. 

It took over a thousand years before democracy began to surface again. In the 1100's, King Henry II took steps to objectify England's legal system. In 1215 the nobles successfully pressed King John into signing the Magna Carta. It limited the King's power and subjected him to the law. Although it originally benefited the nobility, it was later extended to all Englishmen. A Great Council was also established. It later evolved into Parliament. Yet, it took many steps and some civil wars before the formal establishment of England's Bill of Rights in 1689.
 
Further democratic reforms followed along with some setbacks, but by this time England had become a model for the rest of the world. Yet, the desire for freedom remained a difficult and ongoing struggle for most people. The American revolution testifies to this fact, as does France's bitter revolution and many others. And the struggle goes on today, as oppressed peoples around the world continue to struggle for their freedom, and as free nations struggle to maintain their freedom.

To a certain extent, reading history gave me a birds eye view of the life of many individuals and nations. This view left a deep and lasting impact on me. I saw the horror of war and oppression, that good and evil are real, and that human relationships are objectively ordered according to our nature. I saw nations rise and fall depending on their relationship with truth and virtue. I saw good ideas bring prosperity, and I saw bad ideas cause great suffering. Seeing these things taught me the value of freedom, and that it is worth fighting and dying for.

All of these subjects gave me partial answers to my questions. However, this was not good enough. I needed to conduct my search for truth and the meaning of life within a broader context. And I found this in philosophy. Philosophy used the fragments of truth found in other subjects and attempted to unify them through the use of rigorous reasoning. I learned that the branch of philosophy called metaphysics was concerned with searching for truth and the meaning of life.

That sounded like just the thing I needed. Philosophy brought me closer to what I had been searching for. It took me deeper and farther than I had ever been. But in the end, philosophy could only dance around the answers I was searching for. However, learning to dance, taught me the strengths and weaknesses of reason and gave me an abiding love for ideas. 

So by the time I completed my secular studies, I still did not have my answers, but I did have other things. I was filled with wonder. Just about everything fascinated me. I also remained hopeful that the answers were out there somewhere. Although I did not realize it at the time, my experiences had enriched me and opened me up to the possibility of life beyond myself; thus, preparing me to receive the gift of faith on an adult level at a future place and time.

Of course, not all the ideas I was exposed to were positive. Some were confusing and rather dark. In addition, like all of us, I have had to struggle with the secular ideology that has achieved dominance in Western civilization. But I will save these discussions for my next article.
 
-----

Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.

-----

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More Living Faith

Let the Holy Spirit Teach us How to Become Prayer Watch

Image of St. Paul wrote to the early Christians in Greece, telling them to pray without ceasing. (1 Th. 5:16-19) They did not live lives of ease, in any sense of the word. They had families, occupations, bills, and yes, difficulties and struggles beyond what many of us could imagine. They also suffered greatly for their faith. Yet, he instructed them to Pray without ceasing. Did he really mean it? I believe that he did.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he ... continue reading


Pope expresses regret with exodus of Christians from Mosul Watch

Image of

By Elise Harris (CNA/EWTN News)

In his weekly Sunday Angelus address Pope Francis mourned the fleeing of the last Christians from the Iraqi city of Mosul, who were told by ISIS forces last week to either convert, pay the Jizya tax or leave. (CNA/EWTN News) - "They are persecuted; our brothers are ... continue reading


Your Catholic Voice Foundation delivers for Sisters of St. Joseph

Image of They're on their way, thanks to you.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An order for 350 Bibles for a Catholic school in Grenada has been shipped to the sisters free of international shipping charges, thanks to you, the readers of Catholic Online. The shipping charges stood at approximately $800, and was covered by donations. Now, Your ... continue reading


This is Ch__ch. What is missing?

Image of What's missing? You are!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What's missing from this church? You are! Are we mistaken? Show up and tell us you are already there and get your daily prayer and more for FREE as our thanks.Click here now to say you're there!Now you can share this question with your friends. Are they at church? continue reading


Unaccompanied migrant children need our help

Image of This is an image of immigrant children presently housed in conditions that would be unconstitutional for convicted felons. These children are without their families, alone and afraid and without control over their future, they are the victims of many culprits.

By Tony Magliano

Tens of thousands of children fleeing desperate conditions have entered the United States asking for help. And many more are coming. What kind of welcome is being offered to them? The answer to that question is still largely undetermined. According to Human Rights ... continue reading


Freedom, Choosing and Becoming: Moral Life and Truth Watch

Image of Our Moral Life in Christ.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

What we choose determines who we become. Choosing what is good changes the chooser, empowering him or her to proceed along the pathways of virtue and develop the habitus - or habits- which promote Christian character. The Catechism of the Catholic Church ... continue reading


Pope Francis warns of migrant children falling prey to 'racist and xenophobic attitudes' Watch

Image of Pope Francis is calling for help and concrete solutions tot he plight of migrant children now flooding U.S. borders.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As hundreds of thousands of migrant children from Central and South American continue to flood the United States across the border of Texas, Pope Francis is calling for help and concrete solutions. Speaking at the Mexico's Foreign Relations Secretariat yesterday, ... continue reading


Pope Francis seeks 'urgent intervention' for migrant children flooding U.S. border Watch

Image of The U.S. has deported Honduran children as young as 1-1/2 years old this week. It was the first such flight since President Obama pledged to speed up the process of sending back illegal immigrant minors from Central America.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In response to the thousands of unaccompanied South American children flooding the Texas border, Pope Francis has called for "urgent intervention." The pontiff says the U.S. needs to welcome and protect minors who travel on their own to seek a better life in ... continue reading


Pope Francis prays and appeals for peace in the Holy Land

Image of Pope Francis waving during the Angelus address.

By Elise Harris

Pope Francis asks us to pray for peace. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Following his reflections on the Sunday's Gospel parable of the sower and the seed, Pope Francis called for peace in the Holy Land, asking participants to join him in a moment of silent ... continue reading


Should Catholics go out of their way to help fellow Catholics?

Image of Catholics should help Catholics in every way.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What is Catholic to you? Is Catholic a part of your core identity, is it part of who you are? Are you a Champion of the Faith? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - We call ourselves Catholic, but how often do we live our Catholic identity? Are we lapsed Catholics, ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10
1 The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 71:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 15, 17
1 In you, Yahweh, I take refuge, I shall never be put ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:1-9
1 That same day, Jesus left the house and sat by the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 23rd, 2014 Image

St. Bridget of Sweden
July 23: Saint Birgitta was the daughter of Upplandís Lagman, Birger ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter