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'


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

Pope Francis urges priests to stop giving boring sermons Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

After he ordained 19 priests last Sunday morning, Pope Francis reminded the priesthood of what they are taught to do. The Pontiff urged them to be servants of the flock, rather than managers. Pope Francis made comments on how they should be giving the Word of God to ... continue reading


'Peace be with You'

Image of

By Tony Magliano

"On the evening of that first day of the week," according to the Gospel of John, "when the doors were locked, where the disciples were... Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' " To his closest followers, who feared that they too ... continue reading


What really caused Apostle Paul's blindness? Scientists believe they've figured it out Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A comparison among modern celestial events may help find what caused Apostle Paul to lose his eyesight for three days. His temporary blindness is an important historical event for the Christians as it led to where religion and the world is today, making it a ... continue reading


Conference sets out to bring the Gospel to the streets

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

An amazing conference striving to bring the Gospel to the streets will be held in San Clemente, CA on May 2. Speakers will focus on inspiring followers of Christ to apply the Gospel to today's social issues. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Those attending will ... continue reading


Slaughter of Ethiopian Christians is 'a testimony which cries out to be heard,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of Depicted in a 29-minute video, entitled

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In speaking of the wholesale slaughter of at least 30 Ethiopian Christians by the Islamist State in Libya, Pope Francis declared that the blood of Christians "is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and ... continue reading


Catholic pastor warns parishioners faith is not enough for safety, encourages gun possession Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Issuing a pro-gun letter to the members of the church, Reverend Edward Fride encourages having guns and attending a concealed pistol license (CPL) classes. Through the letter, the pastor from the Christ the King Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, warned there may ... continue reading


Apostle of California, Father Junipero Serra, to be canonized by Pope during U.S. visit Watch

Image of Professor Guzman Carriquiry, Secretary in charge of the Vice-Presidency of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America recently expressed his displeasure at the news of the California Senate's wish to replace the statue of Brother Junipero with that of a NASA astronaut.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis is scheduled to personally preside over the canonization ceremony of Father Junipero Serra in Washington, D.C. on September 23 during his U.S. visit. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The ceremony will take place in the open space in front of the ... continue reading


'Faith must not be turned into power,' Pope Francis warns Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis, at mass in St. Martha's House, recalled that many people follow Jesus simply out of self-interest. This "spirit, which lies behind or beneath a varnish of Christianity leads people to live like pagans," he warned. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) ... continue reading


Oops! The Bible did not say that: 7 famous viral quotes people think came from the Bible Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Social media and the Internet has made it easier to share anything anywhere. Most of the time we spend in cyberspace, we see come across wonderful statements --- about life, love and other concerns. It assures us that we are not alone, we are going to beat every ... continue reading


The Experience of the Resurrected Christ: A Divine Dream Worth Dying For

Image of

By Deacon Frederick Bartels

The dream of God is a dream of unending, divine love. His only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, sacrificed his human life for this Dream: the redemption of humankind and the gift of eternal life and perfect happiness. Heaven is the divine dream that is not but a dream, it ... 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, Acts 11:19-26
19 Those who had scattered because of the persecution ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 87:1-3, 4-5, 6-7
1 [Of the sons of Korah Psalm Song] With its ... Read More

Gospel, John 10:22-30
22 It was the time of the feast of Dedication in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 28th, 2015 Image

St. Peter Chanel
April 28: In St. Peter Chanel, Priest and Martyr (Feast day - April 28) ... 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