I plead with you–never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged. Be not afraid.St. John Paul II
You moved into your first college dorm. You hugged your mom and dad goodbye, and you’re on your own for the first time. Now, you’re tasked with making sure you wake up and get to class on time, staying on top of your homework because no one will remind you to do it, and doing your own laundry. Oh yeah, and making friends and finding time for self-care will be helpful.
So where does your faith fit in to all of this?
When I started college, I knew that I had to take my faith into my own hands. I made every conscious effort to stay Catholic, and when I realized I’d have no problem with this, I was able to deepen my faith and grow in holiness. Whether you just started college or you’re a little further into your college career and want to come back to the faith, check out these “dos and don’ts” of staying Catholic in college:
DO pray every day
I made the mistake of genuinely forgetting to pray during my first few months of college. Consequently, I felt myself floundering as I tried to live my faith on campus. Your prayer life literally makes or breaks your relationship with God. If you want to grow closer to Him, you have to start by making time for Him. Make time to pray, and even schedule it in your day if you have to. Start with a realistic amount of time, like 15 minutes, and add more prayer time gradually as you’re ready and as you feel the Holy Spirit call you.
DON’T think that you have to do everything on your own
If you try to stay Catholic in college by yourself, you’ll have a hard time. Before I met my Catholic friends, I felt isolated and alone. I didn’t know where to go to Mass, or how to grow in my faith. We’re like hot coals that have to stay together. Otherwise, we burn out and lose our fire for the Lord. Finding friends and creating a community was releveling and comforting. Not only did it cure my loneliness, but I had a group of Catholic college kids by my side to grow with me and support me.
DO find a community
No matter where you go to school, you should be able to find a faith community. It could look like a club, a Newman Center, monks, friars, religious sisters, a local parish, SPO or FOCUS missionaries, but most likely, it’ll be a mix of all of these. God doesn’t want us to be alone, which means we’re literally made for community. No matter what the faith community looks like on your campus, hold fast to it. Plant your roots there. Call it your home and the people in it your family. Your community will be your shelter in the storm when life gets hard. They’ll be there to show you God’s love, and they’ll run beside you as you pursue Him.
DON’T give in to spiritual comparison
When you start hanging out with young adult Catholics, you’ll notice that not everyone is in the same place in their faith journey. You’ll meet the ones who go to Mass every morning and pray a holy hour every night, the ones who are just getting serious about their faith, and everyone in between. It can be easy to start to compare your faith with that of those around you. You might look at someone else who’s holier than you and feel discouraged. I like to call this spiritual comparison. When I experienced this, I was so hard on myself. I always felt bad about not having a stronger faith, but as soon as I overcame spiritual comparison, I experienced an outpouring of graces that allowed me to grow more than I thought was possible. I highly recommend avoiding this toxic form of comparison at all costs, but if you’re trying to break this habit, read about how I overcame spiritual comparison.
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DO receive the Sacraments often
When I was preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation, one of my teachers told me that the Sacraments are ways of spending time with Jesus, and he was so right. Every time we go to Mass, we encounter Him in the Eucharist. When we go to confession, He embraces us in our vulnerability and showers us in mercy. The more time we spend with Jesus, the stronger our relationship will get. Like with prayer, receive the Sacraments as often as you reasonably can, and work your way up from there. This is also a great way to build community as you can go with friends or missionaries!
DON’T forget who you are and whose you are
In college, everyone wants to find themselves. Everyone is asking “who am I,” “what’s my purpose in life,” and other existential questions. In the midst of discovering what makes you unique and finding your calling, don’t forget that you have a paramount identity that cannot be taken away from you. You are first and foremost a beloved child of God. He loves you so much that He became man to die for your sins so that you could have eternal life and be with Him in his Kingdom forever. You are worthy of his love and mercy and a relationship with him. As hard as pursuing your Catholic faith in college can be, when you put God first, everything else will fall into place.
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