Staying Catholic at Harvard: Aurora Griffin’s Story


Chengyudan "Ana" Liu '17

Aurora Griffin, Harvard grad and author, speaks before Montrose Classes of 2017 and 2018 in Founders' Hall.

Gabby Landry '18, Editor-in-Chief

“Going to a secular school doesn’t mean you’re going to lose your faith.”

On Thursday, September 29th, Montrose juniors and seniors gathered in Founders’ Hall to hear from Aurora Griffin, a 2014 Harvard graduate, about how she upheld, defended, and strengthened her Catholic faith during her time at Harvard and beyond.  These experiences were the subject of her recent book, How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard.  Her stories and advice captivated the audience.  As she spoke, Founders’ Hall boomed with laughter at one time and held its breath with fear at another.

Aurora shared several anecdotes from her time at Harvard and from her time preparing and interviewing for the Rhodes Scholarship.  She discussed one incident in which a Satanist group planned to steal a host from a nearby Catholic church and hold a Black Mass on Harvard’s campus.  Immediately, Aurora, members of the Catholic sorority she founded, and countless other Catholics rallied to protest and put a stop to the plans.  They gathered nearly one hundred thousand petition signatures within the week, and Aurora prepared to present the petition, along with a letter of explanation, to Harvard’s Dean.  But it was the worst timing: the Dean was out that day! Disappointed, Aurora returned to her dorm and later got a call.  

“Ms. Griffin?”


“This is Fox News,” the voice on the other line said.  “Can you come out to the black car in front?  We would like to interview you.”

Aurora later gave an interview with Fox News, further spreading the message of the Satanists’ plans.  Through her efforts, media attention, and the work of many others, the planned Black Mass was moved off-campus, and the host remained safe in the church.

Aurora also shared a story from her interview for the Rhodes Scholarship.  She told the audience how the interviewers, former Rhodes Scholars themselves, challenged her with questions regarding controversial issues, intending to throw her off.  These questions, such as “What is the proper relationship between faith and reason?” (which, by the way, drew a laugh from each junior and senior), could be in any category and regarding any issue.  The interviewers, aware of Aurora’s strong Catholic faith, wanted to see how she would respond as the sole Catholic among the finalists for the scholarship.  After her initial interview, she waited in a room with all the other finalists.  Wanting to talk about anything but the Rhodes Scholarship, they got into a debate about abortion: Aurora versus the rest.  The interviewers in the next room overheard her argumentation and defenses, and called her back in for a second interview.  A short while later, the interviewers deliberated and announced Aurora as the winner.  During her speech, Aurora told the audience, “I attribute the greatest success of my life to my faith.”

Juniors and Seniors raved about Aurora’s speech, and many said that they wanted similar speakers to come to Montrose in the future.  Kiran Kottapalli ‘18 said, “I thought her story was amazing! Her strength and courage are inspiring!”  Emma Lucy ‘18 added, “I thought her stories were really interesting. She seemed really nice and personal. Even though she did not fit the mold of a typical Harvard student or Rhodes scholar, she remained true to herself and still became really successful while staying true to her faith.”  One point that Emma took from Aurora’s presentation was, “It is still possible to keep your faith when you are living in a very secular world. You shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for your beliefs, and it is still possible to find people of similar beliefs even if you do not attend a Catholic college.”

Juniors Aine Ford ‘18 and Kira Dharni ‘18 both agreed that Aurora’s talk was personal and applicable, especially given that the message of her speech and recent book is directed toward high school students.  

Senior Mary Glynn ‘17 reflected on the main points she took away from the talk: “To be great in the big things, you have to practice in the little things of everyday life. Faith is built off hard work, patience and love, and it opens doors, not closes them.”  Alex Rider ‘18 added, “I think her story will encourage people to choose whatever college they feel is best for them while still remaining true to themselves.”

Aurora’s speech certainly resonated with the Juniors and Seniors.  Her insightful advice and vivid storytelling captivated the audience, drew them into her experiences, and gave them a new perspective on how to remain faithful in a secular environment.