The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Putting academics before faith leads to unfulfilling path

Published: June 16, 2021   
Anthony Hailey

After recently becoming a part of the Catholic High alumni, I’ve had a lot more time to reflect on the previous four years. After having many nostalgic moments and asking myself, “How did this all happen so fast?” I began to look at the more serious aspects of my high school experience.

I entered the halls of Catholic High as a faithful graduate of Christ the King. At the start of that year, my faith was undoubtedly the most important part of myself. I was still well off academically, but when I first received my first semester report card I realized I wasn’t doing as well as I believed I could be doing. I was disappointed with my efforts and myself in general. This disappointment led to a decision(though technically academically beneficial) that I would reverse if I had the opportunity to do so.

I began focusing almost all of my efforts on my academics, which doesn’t sound bad at first hearing. It was bad because this intense focus led to my energy being taken away from my relationship with others as well as with God.

For about two years, numbers and class rank were my primary motivators. Both of these two evaluators of us as students are completely arbitrary when compared to maintaining a good faith life. I recognized that much later than I should have.

Academically, I was increasing my grade average significantly while the same went for my class rank, yet, I just didn’t feel as happy as I should have with numbers like those. I kept asking myself over and over again, “What am I missing?” I obviously knew the right answer, but I believed there was only an either-or when it came to academics and my faith. That belief is one of the few times I have been happy to be wrong.

Near the middle part of my junior year, I started gradually returning to my focus on faith. As the days, then weeks and eventually months progressed, I noticed not only did my mental state improve, but my grades continued on an upward trend. I finally found I was able to combine a good faith life with a good academic life.

The past year-plus has been the happiest time of my life. I completely attribute this to the Lord reeling me back in through his calling me to find happiness with him.

I had neglected for some time to go to confession. When I heard on the school intercom that Father Patrick Friend was hearing confessions during lunch, I knew I had to go. It was the next step in an ongoing process to return to the life of faith I want. 

As I had not gone to confession for a relatively long while, I had one of the most refreshing experiences when I walked out of the chapel that day. Again, this whole process of me returning to an adequate practice of my faith was gradual, but if I was to pick a moment I’d describe as a turning point, it would be the moment of that confession. Father Friend encouraged me on this road of mine -- a road most of us end up on -- and I will forever be grateful for his words of wisdom.

There is nothing more important than working towards a path to eternal life with the Lord. While I wish I had realized it sooner, I can always use my inability for those years to remind me to stay on this path.

Ever since I began to write seriously, I’ve believed I should write with some sort of a message in mind. My message for this column is every student is able to balance a good academic and social life with a life of faith. Remember, God is there every step of the way, whether we realize it or not. I cannot stress how important my own realization was to my happiness. 

I’m extremely grateful to have had a great family, group of friends and teachers to guide me through this path, and I will absolutely continue this throughout my life.

Anthony Hailey is a graduate of Catholic High School in Little Rock and an incoming freshman at Baylor University in Texas. Christ the King Church in Little Rock is his home parish.

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