Josiah Savannah (’25) loved the Great Books even as a teenager, though he never thought that love would eventually lead him to the Catholic faith. Yet in the late hours of April 8, in the warm light of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel at Thomas Aquinas College, California, he was fully received into the Church’s open arms.
Josiah attended public school in Glendale, Arizona, until his mother enrolled her children at Great Hearts Anthem Prep, where alumnus Bruce Clark (’89) was teaching at the time. “Aristotle says ‘All men by nature desire to know,’ but it seems like there’s a real need to point that out to people,” says Josiah. “That’s what Mr. Clark did for me.”
Reinforcing Mr. Clark’s example was Great Hearts’ pedagogical model itself, which in many ways resembles the College’s own Great Books curriculum and use of Discussion Method in the classroom. Overall, Josiah found this education transformational: “It implanted the desire to talk about books and showed me that reading the Great Books can be a really good thing.”
But at the same time Josiah’s mind was opening to the Great Books, it was closing to the non-denominational Christianity of his youth. “I did a lot of looking into it, and looking at arguments,” he recalls. “I realized I didn’t have a reason to believe the things I did, and I thought, ‘Well, if I don’t have a reason for believing these things, why believe them?’”
This realization left Josiah intellectually hostile to Christianity, and he declared himself an atheist at around 16. “I was never bitter about my Christian upbringing,” he says. “It was just, ‘I used to believe and now I don’t; wasn’t it foolish that I ever believed?’” That dismissiveness diminished, however, during a gap year after high school, when he found himself thinking, “Other people believe this, and I don’t. I think that they’re wrong, but I can see how people could deceive themselves into thinking that.”
Drawn by the opportunity to continue studying the Great Books, Josiah came to TAC’s California campus as a freshman in 2021. Yet beyond entering a community that shared his love for classical education, he made friends who had examined the Christian faith, as he had done, but embraced it. These fellow young people lived morally upright lives with uncommon joy, which, he says was “a powerful witness and testimony,” and it gave him pause.
“I wanted to more fully understand where these people — who were living their lives for Christ — were coming from,” Josiah reflects. He began to consider the Faith. “It developed from a ‘you can be a not-silly person and believe this stuff’ into ‘this a pretty internally consistent system of beliefs,’ and then ‘this is a really good and beautiful thing, if only it were true,’” he says. “I wanted to believe, but I didn’t have that in me.”
Things changed in 2022, when some of Josiah’s friends embarked on Exodus 90, a program designed to help men get the most out of Lent and Easter, and invited him to join them. Though open to the program’s ascetic side, he was hesitant about its prayer requirements. “But my friends convinced me,” he says. “I thought it would be at least meditation — but it’s hard to pray for an hour a day without God working something in you!”
This spiritual regimen revived Josiah’s anemic relationship with God, and by last year’s Triduum he had decided to begin OCIA with the College’s chaplains. That preparation deepened his knowledge of the Faith, clearing the way for his full initiation into the Church at this year’s Easter Vigil.
“It feels really good being Catholic and receiving the sacraments,” Josiah reflects, who received a conditional baptism, was confirmed, and made his first Holy Communion. “It makes me so appreciative of what God has done in my life. In little ways, He was always there, showing me a new perspective, and it all culminated in my being fully united with His Church.”
Josiah is especially grateful to his friends for their example. “A big part of what made me interested and kept me going on the pursuit was seeing people committed to Christ; people should never underestimate the impact they can have on others,” he says. “The witness of people for their Christian faith in everyday moments, in little sacrifices, the little things that make sense only when you’re doing them for Christ, is powerful.”
Original story from Thomas Aquinas College.
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