The St. Thomas Aquinas chapter of the National Honor Society inducted four new members in late May. The annual ceremony features existing members who are chosen to deliver a speech on one of the four pillars of the organization. Caleb North ('22), Vinny Vingl ('22), Nonah Dowsett ('23), and Anya Moorehouse ('23) each delivered their own reflection on one of the pillars. The speeches are included here in their entirety.
Caleb North delivered the introduction for the guest speaker, Michael Warren Davis
My name is Caleb North; I am a senior here at Mount Royal and the President of the St. Thomas Aquinas Chapter of the National Honors Society.
On behalf of the Mount Royal Academy Administration and Faculty, I would like to welcome you all the 2022 Induction Ceremony.
Today, we come together to celebrate 4 students who have been trailblazing examples to their fellow students in Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Character. Their exemplary actions, in and out of school, are worthy of recognition.
To honor these students properly, the current members of the National Honors Society invited published author and fellow catholic Michael Warren Davis to address the inductees. It is our privilege to have him speak to us today.
Mr. Davis is known for his recent book, The Reactionary Mind, which he has described as a book about how to lead a happy life, and why a reactionary mindset might be the key to restructure our spiraling society. He is also an accomplished essayist and has written articles that discuss a variety of subjects - ranging from religious matters to modern political debates. He has written for many famous publications such as The American Edition of The Spectator, The Catholic Herald, Crisis Magazine, The American Conservative, and New York Post.
He has been reading, writing, and thinking in the public sphere for at least a decade.
I hope you all look forward, as I do, to hearing his address.
Nona Dowsett spoke on service
The Oxford Dictionary defines service as, “the action of helping or doing work for someone.” In the National Honor Society, our mission is to serve those in our community. This being our duty we seek to serve others in various ways and to accept students that exemplify specific virtues.
The ways in which NHS seeks to help the community is by offering personal resources and talents as well as sacrificing personal interests and time. Concrete examples of service in the society are as simple as hosting bake sales and purchasing items for the school. While others are as extensive as creating fundraisers and participating in the Tray It Forward Kearsarge Neighborhood Partners program which aims at helping those locally by meeting and exceeding their needs.
The members of the National Honor Society not only serve others through events, but also through their disposition. Specifically their disposition towards their teachers and fellow students. Members possess an obedient and kind attitude towards the staff and pupils. Because as members of the society they are a model to their fellow students of how to properly and respectfully interact with those around them.
The participants of the National Honor Society not only encompass a respectful disposition, but also three honorable virtues. The first being patience. The members of the society frequently exhibit this virtue through weekly meetings and through cheerfully awaiting events to come together. In planning events, it takes a couple months for all the details to form before the event can become a reality.
The second virtue is hard work. Participants in the National Honor Society consistently model their hard work through the creation of ideas of service through countless meetings. Also by repeatedly arriving at events early to assist in setting up.
Thirdly, members of NHS are frequently shining examples of charity through fundraisers. Specifically their most recent fundraiser for the Ukraine in which they raised money for the Ukrainian people. The charity of the society’s participants is also evident in their willingness to offer personal supplies in order to make events for the community possible. As evidenced by the bake sales and dances.
Now that examples of service in NHS and the virtues of the society’s members have been discussed, it is necessary to understand why serving the community is good and holy. The first being that God is the ultimate example of service, and since man is created in His image and likeness, man partakes and is designed to partake in the service of others. Secondly, participation in service is participation in Christ’s life and commandment to love one another as He loves us. Finally, service faithfully leads man to heaven, his ultimate goal in which he wil be in total communion with his fellow men and the Divine Creator.
In conclusion, service is the act of helping another, and is the purpose of the National Honor Society. The ways in which the society seeks to serve the community is through bake sales,creating fundraisers, and hosting events. The society is able to accomplish this because its members possess the virtues of patience, hard work, and charity. Most importantly, it is a good and holy act to serve others because it allows man to partake in the serving aspect of God, it allows man to participate in Christ’s commandments and life, and guides man to his ultimate end.
Thus, the pillar of service is best encapsulated in Pope John-Paul the second’s quote, “ we must reflect the light of Christ through lives of prayer and joyful service to others.”
Anya Moorehouse explained scholarship
What is scholarship? To start off, it may be easier to define what scholarship is not. It is not the 3.5 GPA that qualified you to receive an NHS application in the first place. It is not a grade you receive on an essay. It is not some sort of “smart gene” that you inherit from your parents. Rather, scholarship is a habit – an intentional habit of hard work and a drive that accompanies you through life, being one of your greatest assets in taking on any responsibility. Scholarship is the enthusiastic discipline that got you that 3.5 GPA. Scholarship is the effort you put into writing that essay. Scholarship is the wish to know truth and possess goodness simply for the sake of knowing truth and possessing goodness. Scholarship is, in part, the desire and drive to do what is right in any given circumstance, and doing what is right is doing God’s will. In short, scholarship is a disposition that assists in orienting you towards doing the will of God.
Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you are serving the Lord Christ. These words from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians perfectly sum up how we, as Christians, should approach work. (For scholarship is directed towards work, generally of an academic nature.) Paul does not say work heartily only in matters of great importance, but in all situations, whatever your task. In this being said, work, even unimportant and seemingly futile tasks, takes on a new meaning and a new importance. Putting effort into work is no longer dependent on the nature of the work. We are commissioned to put effort into all the work we do, from learning our ABC’s as a preschooler, to doing our times tables as a fourth grader, to writing a dissertation in our final year of college. This is what scholarship is all about – completing any work you are given to the utmost of your ability.
This is all good and well, very inspirational (and it even has Biblical roots), but how do you, as high school students, concretely apply this principle to your daily lives? (For resolve without action is useless.) To begin with, know that you are all scholars. Your high grades in school reflect this. The teachers who reviewed and accepted your applications have acknowledged this. Your scholarship is part of what got you here, sitting in these seats at this induction ceremony. Now that you are members of National Honor Society, you will be held to a higher degree of scholarship. Though you are being recognized now for it, you must continue to grow in scholarship. As high schoolers, you can live this out most obviously in completing your school assignments, and completing them well. Even when a particular assignment is time-consuming, annoying, or downright silly, you will complete it – and complete it well. Even though, in all probability, you will not use double-augmented matrices in your life, you will complete the problems, and complete them well. I have been using the phrase “complete well” when describing scholarship, so it would serve us well for me to explain what exactly I mean by this. The point at which something goes from being completed to being completed well is intentionality and effort. Though it may be easier to read the SparkNotes, or get the answer to the math problem from the back of the book, or count on your teacher going over the answers to the review questions during class before you hand in your homework, this is not completing an assignment well. Sure, you handed the work in, and even on time, but you did not put effort into it. You finished your assignment only for the letter grade, not for the sake of doing your work because doing so is good. The one who possesses and continually strives for scholarship does his work to the utmost of his ability every time because it is the right thing to do.
Though scholarship manifests itself most directly academically, the values and principles it imparts on you are universal and stay with you beyond the classroom. Now that you are members of NHS, your call to scholarship will only grow. Your journey of scholarship does not end with NHS. It does not end when you graduate, moving beyond the classrooms of Mount Royal Academy. It does not even end when you graduate college, learn a trade, or enter into a religious life. If formed correctly and deeply imbedded in you, scholarship will accompany you throughout your life. Though you may not constantly be studying, as you do now as a student, your hard work, discipline, drive, and above all, habit of seeking to do God’s will (which are all products of scholarship) will serve you well. These qualities are valuable in any stage of life, in any place, regardless of whether you are in an academic setting or not. Develop scholarship through your studies now, and cultivate it wherever God leads you.
This pillar of National Honor Society is multi-faceted, as you can now see. It is more than getting good grades. It is more than going to the best college. It is more than natural intelligence. It is an attitude. It is a disposition. It is a driving force. It is the active pursuit of truth and goodness – the active pursuit of God’s will in any and all circumstances. Scholarship requires a decision – a decision you have made and a decision I sincerely hope you will continue to make. Thank you.
Vincent Vingl reflected on character
“War brings out the worst and best in people. Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.” These are the words written in the memoirs of the late Major Richard Winters, and though we are fortunate not to find ourselves at war, it is life’s difficulties from which our characters are formed.
We frequently like to equate character with personality and mistake it as something seen surface to distinguish ourselves from others. This is incorrect. Character can be defined as the distinct and moral qualities out of which an individual is formed. What we look for in our members, both new and old, is no feat of grandeur but rather the ability to embrace the challenges in which we forge our greatness. Let us look at a real-world model of character like Major Winters, an everyday teenager from Pennsylvania who served through World War II’s fiercest battles and is viewed by many as an American hero. His resilience and tactful thinking led the men of Easy Company to several decisive victories across Europe, where he was able to maintain an unmatched calmness amid the stress of combat. Richard Winters was an ordinary man similar to me and you, but in the face of danger, his character persevered and likely saved the lives of many soldiers around him. Likewise, for us to embody the proper character in our routine lives, we need the ability to assess a given situation, discern right from wrong, and act accordingly for the sake of ourselves and others around us.
As we look at ourselves, we must remember that all people in the world possess a unique character, and sometimes, we are admittedly confronted with its inherent flaws. Nobody is born perfect, unless we count Jesus and Mary. For the rest of us, however, our character can be shaped and molded into whatever we strive to be. Whether we have our share of bad habits or lack the confidence to take action, these are shortcomings we can overcome. The world is already filled with plenty of bad characters, people who refuse to choose right from wrong and approach their lives in ways that can only be described as wicked and reckless. Yet these people, as well as ourselves, all have the choice to develop our characters into something extraordinary. When we freely embrace God, we are guided by an understanding of good and evil and able to discern what is truly right and wrong according to Natural Law. Only then can we lead by example and become beacons of character for others. Even people with the greatest, most righteous characters must begin somewhere, there is, after all, no limit to good character.
When you look at the students of the National Honor Society, you will see that this type of character is ingrained in all of us. We might not be analyzing battlefields like Major Winters, though we are given the chance to take initiative and better our school as whole through fundraisers, events, and most importantly, service missions. Our collective efforts are led by character and its endeavor to further the National Honor Society by upholding its purpose as an integral component of our school community. Character, as one of the four pillars, could not thrive without scholarship, leadership, and service. What kind of character would you have without a proper education and refined insight? Exceptional character cannot grow from ignorance. The more we understand, the better our judgement becomes. Leadership is the essential quality of anyone who exhibits excellence and ambition for the greater good. This zeal is the core essence of all our successes thus far, compelling our members to accomplish better and greater deeds. Service is where a person’s compassion for another is shown. Doing good for others, whether it be a seasonal fundraiser or a visit to the soup kitchen, is the greatest gesture of character any of us can express. I would argue that Major Winters embodied these pillars in every aspect, adapting to his hardships in ways that furthered his character, leadership, and service unlike anyone else. To corroborate his scholarship, however, might require a glance at his report cards.
Although we appear to live relatively manageable lives, life is far from convenient. More often than not, we are pushed out of our comfort zone and traverse unique experiences on a regular basis, experiences which we are frequently more capable of than first assumed. We believe that this personal growth makes the National Honor Society such a pivotal aspect of our High School careers. Most notably, these are opportunities that improve and build on our character, forming us not only as students of Mount Royal Academy but also as future leaders in today’s society.
Luke Kalpakgian spoke about leadership
WE LIVE IN A CULTURE OF DEATH TODAY.
The renowned G. K. Chesterton wrote in his book, The Everlasting Man, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” Today it is all too easy to be swept away in these currents of popularity and pleasure. Today, it is all too easy to give up our individuality and dignity to live in a way that society says that we have to. Today, it is all too easy to give up what we know is right to fit into something that will never fully accept us. Although this may seem like a small thing, this is the culture of death. The world calls us to compromise who we are, all for the sake of being something that will never fulfill us, as that is not who we are meant to be. This is what the world wants. This is what we must fight against. There are countless people who did this who we honor. They are the ideals that we are told to imitate because they were great and they made a difference. Sometimes their difference lasts; sometimes it does not. However, what are ideals for if they are not followed? The only way to fully stop this culture of death is if everyone decides to not go along with this river that leads to the waterfall that is just around the bend. We must all turn upstream. YOU have taken up this call by entering National Honors Society. In submitting your application, you have said that you are willing to turn against the tides of our time and strike against the current. You have chosen to fight this culture and the way in which you do this is through this pillar of leadership.
Now of course there are always the images of the secular version of leadership that come to mind when you hear that word. That of a CEO or the president or whatever. However, because of our education here at Mount Royal Academy, we know that a true leader is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the perfect model for us to imitate because of his sacrificial leadership. His laying down of his own life for the good of everyone else is essentially what we must follow. This Leadership is the putting of yourself at the service of others in order to help them. This is what you say you will do by joining NHS today.
Mount Royal, despite it still being school, is a great blessing to us. They protect from most of these corrupting influences of the world through their excellent teachers, amazing education, and familial social atmosphere. However they cannot stop everything. There is still some of that influence that leaks in. And there will be more once we leave this safe haven. That is why we must learn to be a leader now rather than in the future when we are not surrounded by such a good community and sheltered from the brutal rapids of the unchecked culture. And this is not completely up to you. We all have the duty and obligation to take up this call to be a leader. National Honors Society presents you with a special opportunity. You are taking up the challenge to be a model of this leadership, and you are allowing yourself to be brought into the light of scrutiny. You have an extra responsibility, now: to live this more openly. You are to show this virtue of leadership in a public way as to be the light that guides more to follow you. Through your example and your actions you will lead. This is what you say you will do by joining NHS.
But what is it that you are leading others to do? You are leading them in Service. This is the mission of National Honors Society and what we must do as Catholics. The way in which we are to combat this culture of death is if we die to ourselves and serve as Christ did. The other pillars of NHS, Scholarship, character and service, are all used through this pillar of leadership to help others. These other principles are supposed to be taken to help and serve others and to help them do the same. By entering NHS, you are choosing to sacrifice yourself and become a leader.
Now in this speech, I have talked a lot about “Today.” There are many problems that we face today. However we cannot focus just on today. There is alway another day coming. And that day will have its trials too, but we cannot shrink from that task. Instead, let us choose to be ready for it. Let us meet it and the world. Through leadership you will be ready. You will be able to help others because of it. It may seem daunting, but we can only change the way the world is going if we all step up and decide to do something different. That is why we must respond all the more vigorously. This is what you must do. This is what you are doing when you join National Honors Society. Good luck and thank you.