Common App Essay Example #7

Prompt #3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

Raised in a proud, traditional Catholic family, I wasn’t sure where to turn when I began to question the Church two years ago. There was no cataclysmic event that caused me to do so; rather, some of the dogma began to feel exclusionary and overly judgmental. I just couldn’t imagine God caring about much that the Church espoused as doctrine.

The first time I voiced a challenge was in my weekly catechism class. The teacher stated that anyone who didn’t believe in God would go to hell. “What about people in Africa?” I asked. She replied that if they had not had the opportunity to find Jesus, then they would be spared. I then realized that this meant my older brother was destined for a fiery afterlife. He had been a self-proclaimed atheist for years but despite these apparent sins, he was one of the most fiercely loyal people I had ever met. If you even mentioned a problem, he was there to help at the drop of a hat. I just couldn’t quite buy into the thought of him suffering eternal damnation for his beliefs when his actions were quite virtuous.

The conundrum of hell continued to plague me throughout the year. Wasn’t God supposed to be all-forgiving? If so, how could he justify abandoning sinners in hell? With the catechism class culminating in the sacrament of confession with our priest, I decided to take the opportunity to ask him these questions. While my stomach churned with nerves, his answer took me by surprise. Rather than reciting traditional church dogma, he simply replied, “I believe there is life with God or without God, and we choose the life we live.” In other words, to him, hell wasn’t a literal place, but a lack of divinity that was entirely up to us as individuals.

As nervous as I was to voice my concerns, this conversation ended up giving me a lot of peace with my spirituality. I learned that I don’t need to base my entire faith on the ideas of others, but can instead tailor my beliefs to what feels right for me. It seems ironic that I would learn this from a Catholic priest, but it is a testament to his own choice to inspire others and one that I intend to emulate throughout my life as well.