Jonathan Culbreath
Jonathan Culbreath (’17) 

Just before leaving for Christmas Vacation, Thomas Aquinas College junior Jonathan Culbreath received some happy news: His essay, The Marian Vocation of the Philosopher, was named the sole runner-up in up in the 2015 Father Michael J. McGivney National College Essay Contest, sponsored by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America.

The annual essay contest asked students to reflect upon a quotation from the 1998 encyclical Fides et Ratio, in which Pope St. John Paul II described a “deep harmony” between “the vocation of the Blessed Virgin and the vocation of true philosophy.” Contestants were to submit an essay “commenting on the significance of Mary for philosophy,” including a discussion of “how Mary sheds light on the relationship between philosophy and theology.”

“Through her most intimate participation in the life of the God-man [the Blessed Mother] was given the power to communicate the graces of God to all the faithful; thus she is the bearer of Wisdom Itself even now,” wrote Mr. Culbreath in his 1,500-word essay. “In these ways, Mary was and continues to be the instrument of God’s work: God and His graces are made known through the motherhood of Mary. Likewise, philosophy has the role of contributing to theology itself, which is the making-known of God.”

Mr. Culbreath first learned about the Fr. McGivney Contest, named for the founder of the Knights of Columbus, from a poster on the campus bulletin board early this fall. He wrote his prize-winning submission — the second of two attempts — over the course of the following month. Writing the essay while keeping up with his regular studies “wasn’t too difficult,” he admits, “because I enjoy writing, and I spend a lot of my free time writing my notes and thoughts about philosophy and theology.” Mr. Culbreath hopes to pursue advanced studies in theology after he graduates in 2017, and then teach the subject at the college level.