How to stay Catholic in college: the million-dollar question. I have read books and blogs, heard talks, and have had spiritual direction. Even so, after all of that, the one thing I’ve realized it always comes down to is making the choice to do so. Now, before you get mad at this cop-out of an answer and stop reading hear me out…
God gave us the will to choose Him freely and he wants us to make the choice to pick up our cross and follow Him daily. It can’t be forced or faked or read from a book. It has to be real and alive and you have to choose it. Are all those books your mom bought you pointless… absolutely not! I have gotten so many good tips from them about finding time to pray and prioritizing God every day, but no matter how many books you read or truths you know, it won’t matter unless you put it into practice. We all have the choice to act on our faith and unless we make the decision to do so it becomes very easy to let faith become second in our long list of things to do.
Now, I know that I’m coming from a different perspective… I literally attend the Catholic University of America. Even still, this campus is as Catholic as you make it and if I so desired I could go through these four years never once talking about God. So, what are are some choices that I’ve had to make while in college?
- When classes were canceled for a snow storm I was invited to a daylong party that I knew people would be talking about for a while. It was one of those things that everyone had on their Snapchat stories and to be honest with you I was super tempted to attend. Yet, there was something inside of me that knew I would not only be miserable if I went to that party but also that there was something so much better I could be doing with my time. So, instead of going to the party my friend and I decided to stay in and paint all day. Not only did I create probably one of my favorite paintings, but it was also one of the first full days I spent with my best friend and now roommate Irene. Would we still be best friends if we didn’t have this day, probably, and yet it was this decision to be with each other, paint Jesus things, and just be present that formed the kind of relationship we have today. It’s one of my fondest memories from freshman year and it seems crazy that I almost made the choice to go to a party instead of that. How does this relate to staying Catholic in college? My friendship with Irene has held me accountable in my faith. She has called me to greatness and has been a face of love and mercy in every single one of my faults. If I didn’t have her I couldn’t even imagine where my faith would be at today.
- I have never been excited for Valentine’s Day. As a woman who has never been in a relationship, it was just an annoying day for the world to remind me how single I am. Last year the day came around and my friends in relationships went out and those who were single decided to fill their loneliness in other ways. This statement is not judgmental in any way because it was so so hard for me to not seek the attention and love of a man. This story is meant to be an example of when, by the grace of God and divine intervention, I made the decision to spend my Valentines Day in our school’s chapel. I spent the night being ‘wooed’ by God and allowed His love to fulfill me for the first time. This decision to choose a night with Him over any other man was the catalyst in my decision to pursue Him first always. To seek Him and only Him. Making the decision to go out with the rest of my friends would not have been bad… There wouldn’t have been any guilt and yet my faith wouldn’t be the same without that night. It was one night, one impromptu decision to sit in the chapel for 10 minutes after dinner, that lead me to spend all night in there and many nights after that.
- I really struggled with making friends at the beginning of last year. I felt lonely and didn’t understand why I couldn’t just settle for friends who were “fine” or why I couldn’t talk to the people I knew I wanted to be friends with. My whole first semester was like that and instead of falling into despair or settling for those friends I decided to listen to the very tiny voice in my mind telling me to trust. I chose to listen to the quiet voice that said, “I am enough for you,” instead of the loud one that shouted, “No one loves you,” and “You are alone.” Every day I had to make the decision to trust that little voice, to say yes to loneliness, and for that sacrifice, God blessed me abundantly. He gave me friends who love me so well and point me to Him in every moment. Friends that sit with me in the chapel for hours on end. Friends who tell me take a breath and pray with me when I get overwhelmed. Friends that convince me to say a rosary with them at 11 pm every night even in snow storms. I made the decision to wait for God’s plan to unfold with my friendships and He gave me something greater than I could ever imagine.
- The final example I will give was my choice to educate myself in my faith. I’m a very passionate individual which tends to create a lot of opinions and very little ability to stay silent. Even things that I knew to be true I struggled to defend in high school. I hated not being able to logically articulate my faith and the beliefs that come along with it and so I started learning. I began to study theology and philosophy and I have developed an intense love of books that not only help me to improve my faith but also defend it. College is a time where you will be questioned on just about every single one of your beliefs. People will think you are crazy for being pro-life and won’t understand how you can study business or biology with theology. They will question all your motives and do just about anything to make you doubt. Heck, you may even have a couple professors who tell you God isn’t real. Making the decision to educate myself, to listen to other people’s opinions and take the time to learn the Church’s response to them, has empowered me so much in my faith and having this knowledge has deepened my love for God so fully.
Staying Catholic in college is all about making the decision to do so. It’s making the choice to get up 30 minutes earlier every day to have silent and necessary prayer time with Him. It’s making the choice to find the Catholic club, community, or center on or near your campus to become a part of. It’s making the choice to wait for those friends who will want what’s best for you and help you carry your crosses. It’s making the choice to stand up for your faith even when everyone else seems to disagree with you. It’s making the choice to say ‘yes’ to Him in every moment of your day no matter how tired, disheartened, or busy you are.
Going to mass on Sunday’s when you are free or don’t have “too” much homework is not enough to stay Catholic in college. Living with a lukewarm faith is not enough. College is really flippen hard and following God is even harder and yet we are called to do so. As counter culture as this may seem, you will have so much more fun in college and you will be so much more fulfilled if you pursue Him in everything. Pray for the courage to live your faith on a campus that may tell you to let it go. Pray for the will to get up every morning to pray even when you are crazy tired. Pray for protection from a world that may be against you. And remember, God is with you.
Please, please, feel free to reach out to me if you are struggling with this right now whether it be with the need for prayers or advice HERE. I’d love to talk with you about it.