It’s that time of year for families to go their separate ways. Parents will soon drop off their son or daughter to the university or college they will call home for the next four or five years. College is an interesting time in one’s life. Young people feel a sense of freedom, in that, they no longer need to abide by the rules of the house. Some find it to be a liberating experience, as they cast aside the “traditional” and “conservative” beliefs of their parents for more “progressive” and “liberal views.”
I have only been a Catholic priest now for a little more than two months, but I once was a college student, at a university which identified itself as Catholic. I have seen friends from high school, who attended both public and private colleges, who were involved in Church until high school graduation, stop practicing their faith. I have seen the immorality they have espoused through their Facebook posts.
If you are a parent reading this, I encourage you to share this article with your college bound son or daughter. If you are going off to college, I hope you will take under consideration some of the points contained herein. Here are some points of advice about college life, from a Catholic priest, who cares about your soul.
1. Pray Everyday
Just because you are going away to college, doesn’t mean God should not be a part of your life. You might think the life of a Christian does not seem appealing, and your new friends might look down on you if you pray. Do not forget about God’s presence in your life. Make sure to keep up a relationship with God through prayer.
A few simple ways to pray—when you wake up in the morning, thank God for the gift of life. When you eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner, thank God for providing you with food. When you go to bed at night, call to mind what you did throughout the day, anything that might have offended God, and express your sorrow to God. Then thank God for all the blessings of the day.
If you want to take prayer to the next level, pray the rosary. Don’t want to walk around with the beads in your hand? Download an audio version and pray the rosary through your ear buds. Also, see if campus ministry, the Newman Center, or a local Catholic Church offers adoration or other opportunities for prayer.
There will be many times in college when you will feel like you are sinking, and need God’s help. In those moments, do not be afraid to turn to God. Cry out to Him just like Peter did when he was sinking—“Lord, Save me!”
2. Go to Mass
Sunday Mass is one of the most important things we do as Catholics. At each Mass we have the blessed opportunity to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. Right before we receive Communion, we pray, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” Jesus wants to heal us. Going to Mass is our appointment with the Divine Physician who can help us through difficult moments. Statistically, college students stop attending Sunday Mass. Perhaps it is due in part to whatever happened on Saturday night or it is disdain for their parents religious practices. Masses are offered at a variety of times, and many college campuses offer an evening Sunday Mass. Mass is available. Jesus is waiting for you. He wants you to enter under his roof, so He can enter under your roof.
3. Remember the Consequences
Sometimes it is easy to forget, but our actions have consequences. Many students experiment with different things in college. Often, it is not until everything hits the fan that one realizes the detriment of their decisions. Many people find the Church’s moral teachings to be burdensome, but the Church is a mother, and wants to look out for you. She desires the good of not only your soul, but also of your body and life. Think before you act.
4. Go to Confession
During your college years there might be a few times you are not proud of the things you have done. Know that God eagerly waits to forgive you through the priest. Check out times at the local Catholic parish for Confession, or see if your college offers an opportunity for the Sacrament.
In high school religious education, you probably went to Confession once or twice a year (during Advent and Lent). I’d encourage you to keep up that practice. If you have not been to Confession in a while, GO, the priest will help you through it. Satan’s biggest tactic is to instill fear, hoping we will not turn to God for mercy. No sin you have committed is too big for God to forgive. Approach the confessional, bring your past to the light, and experience God’s pardon and peace.
5. Do Good
I often tell people that serving the poor is good for the soul. After all, in Matthew 25, Jesus told us we would be judged on account of our service to the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the imprisoned. Many organizations at your college or university will allow opportunities for service. Help those who are less fortunate, those who might not have been blessed with a college education. Serving the poor helps us to realize God’s blessings in our lives and allows us to become a blessing to other people.
6. Reach Out
When life gets tough, when you do not know what to do next, do not be afraid to reach out to other people. Colleges and universities offer counseling services. If you are at a crossroads, do not be afraid to ask for help. Turn to Campus Ministry or the Newman Center. Everyone wants you to succeed. When you feel overburdened, instead of turning to drugs, sex, or suicide, turn to others, who can give sound advice and help you through whatever difficult moment you are going through.
7. Exercise Often
It’s no secret that most freshmen gain what is called the “Freshman Fifteen”. Your life is going to be different now that you do not have school athletics to keep you active. You will be spending more time in the classroom and studying. Sometimes you will choose unhealthy eating options out of convenience. St. Paul reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We want to respect that temple, and make sure that as God is generous in giving us life, we may cooperate in extending that life through good health.
8. Find Good Friends
During your college years you will meet a lot of different people. Immediately, you will have a roommate, who might become your best friend or arch nemesis. If you surround yourself with good people, you will most likely be inclined toward the good. If you are around people who indulge in vices, you too will begin to indulge. If your Catholic faith is important to you, I would encourage you to find like-minded people and spend time with them. Not only will they become your friends, but they will be people who you can pray with and break open God’s word. Friends like these are concerned about your soul and hopefully will not lead you astray from the paths of God.
College is a wonderful time in which you will become independent. It can be a time filled with many blessings and memories, or a time filled with regrets. If you keep God apart of your college experience, I promise you will experience many graces. As you begin college or return to your studies, entrust the year to God, seek the intercession of Mary, and the loving guidance of your Guardian Angel. By doing these things, you cannot go wrong!