Every journey in faith is unique yet also similar. A person might be a “cradle Catholic” or a later convert, but the end result is still the same: a deep, abiding love for Christ and His Church. Transfer student Max Dugan’s journey reached its high point this past week, when he was confirmed in front of the college community in Christ the King Chapel. The road he took to reach that point was a long one, full of twists and turns, but all the more inspiring as a result.
Dugan, a native of Carmel, Indiana, was baptized a Catholic but did not attend his first Mass until he was 18 years old. Like many young people today, Dugan did not think about faith or God for most of his young life. He spent his days in public school, learning and spending time with friends but with no real end directing his actions.
Near the end of middle school, the question of faith started appearing in his mind, but his life took a nosedive soon after. Dugan fell into a depression around sophomore year of high school, ultimately dropping out of school, choosing to continue his studies online instead.
“At the time, I couldn’t figure out why I fell into my depression, but now I feel that a lot of the reasons were because of the existential problems with modern society,” says Dugan. “I went to a huge school, so I heard stories about suicide and drugs, and that really weighed down on me. After dropping out, I had way more time on my hands, leading to my search for meaning.”
His faith journey took several twists and turns from there. Dugan turned to politics, moving first from objectivism to Buddhism. During this time, he became more conservative but went too far in this direction as well, going alt-right and intellectually becoming neo-pagan. A study of the stoics, such as Cicero, helped steer him back on track, and he eventually became a Deist.
While most high schoolers are worrying about the number of “likes” on a social media post, Dugan was undertaking a heroic task at a young age that was as astounding in its scope as it was inspiring in its end result.
Like Blessed John Henry Newman before him, a study of history pushed Dugan further toward his eventual end. Reading about the building of cathedrals and hospitals helped give him a more positive outlook on Christianity, as did a study of C.S. Lewis’ writings.
Eventually he decided he wanted more — a denomination to join. History showed him that either orthodoxy or Catholicism was the route to go. A deeper dive into a certain historian’s works helped him come to a conclusion, in more ways than one.
“I found out about Christendom through Warren Carroll’s books,” says Dugan. “I didn’t know that he had even founded a college until I looked at the back cover. So, I found the college through his books and, further, the third volume (The Glory of Christendom) was what convinced me of Catholicism over orthodoxy, because of Carroll’s retelling of the Council of Florence.”
He eventually applied and was accepted to Christendom, but Dugan arrived as a new student still not really knowing his faith. That is where the Christendom community stepped in. His roommates, rather than shying from the task, helped Dugan grow, teaching him how to go deeper into prayer and the spiritual life. In the fall, Dugan received his first Holy Communion and became excited to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in the spring, taking instruction in the particulars of the Sacrament with college chaplain Fr. Marcus Pollard.
“I came to my friend and classmate, Liam Daigle, and asked him what I should do, because I really wanted to get confirmed,” says Dugan. “I spoke with Fr. Pollard and met with him, but I was also able to speed along the process because of the theology classes I was taking. We speak about and work through theological issues and aspects of the spiritual life here. I can learn by example from the faculty and students and also just by talking about things and asking questions. What I was learning in the classroom, from prayer to the sacraments, prepared me for confirmation and for everything going forward.”
On Friday, April 12, Dugan stood at the front of Christ the King Chapel with his sponsor, Daigle, standing behind him. Fr. Pollard marked Dugan with Holy Chrism and officially welcomed him into the Catholic Faith, now confirmed. Standing in the pews that day was Dugan’s father, Dave. While Dugan was a lapsed Catholic growing up, his father was a Methodist. During his entire faith journey, Dugan spoke with his father about everything. Through Dugan’s own conversion to the Catholic faith, he helped his father see the truth of the Catholic faith and will be with him as his father enters the Church next week. His mother, a lapsed Catholic, and his sister, also lapsed, are in the process of returning to Catholicism and the practice of the faith again, all as a result of Dugan’s conversion to the faith at Christendom.
In a message to the Christendom community before his confirmation, Dugan shared how much the students, faculty, and staff meant to him during this incredible journey.
“I just wanted to thank all of you for being such a great community and helping me to truly learn to live the spiritual life,” wrote Dugan. “I can’t express how thankful I am for seemingly stumbling upon such a strong, authentic Catholic community, that has taught and continues to teach me how to properly live the spiritual life. It’s truly a blessing to be a part of this community and I hope we can continue to grow for years to come.”
Carroll’s books ultimately led Dugan to both the Catholic faith and Christendom. It should not be shocking that Dugan wants to now follow in his footsteps as a history major at the college.
Every faith journey has its own twists and turns, but ultimately the same end in Jesus Christ. Christendom was founded to helped form lay people to go out and restore all things in Him. The college did just that for Dugan, forming him in a truly transformative way in just his first year alone. His family is already feeling the impact of that transformation. After the rest of his years of study, the possibilities of who else he could impact is endless.
Interested in Warren Carroll’s Christendom series? Check out The Glory of Christendom and the rest of the series on Amazon.