A few days before the beginning of each academic year, the faculty and entering students of Thomas More College make a pilgrimage to the majestic White Mountains of northern New Hampshire as part of the orientation program for the new freshman class. The trip is an occasion for physical and spiritual refreshment, as the new students meet one another and are introduced to the College’s academic and community life. The students’ experience of the mountains, terrain and wilderness, its rhythm of ascent and descent, serves as a fitting metaphor for and as a rite of passage into the students’ every day itinerary as they embark upon that most challenging and most rewarding ascent toward truth and the possession of wisdom.
The storied White Mountains are thus an ideal place to begin four years of study in New England. Before climbing in Crawford Notch, students are asked to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “The Ambitious Guest”, which enables them better to appreciate the challenge of living in the rugged climate of northern New England and also provides them a first occasion to discuss their own ambitions as lovers of truth and seekers of God’s will.
In seeing the Crawford and Franconia Notches, the students also begin their study of the natural history of the region, as they see some of the highest points in four major river drainages: the Connecticut, the Androscoggin, the Saco, and the Merrimack River that gives the College’s township its name. They also have their first experience of the difference between the mixed forest of Oaks and Pines that characterizes our setting, on the one hand, and the Beech-Birch-Spruce forest that adorns the White Mountains on the other. With any luck, they will also see Gray Jays cavort and hear the mournful song of the White Throated Sparrow.
With the recitation of the Holy Rosary, the celebration of Holy Mass, and campfire talks by the Fellows of the College, orientation prepares the new students for the spiritual quest that is a Catholic liberal education.
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