Hardesty for June: Five ways to keep your faith on campus
You just graduated from high school. Congratulations! Now college is on the horizon, a time full of promise and possibility. You will learn a lot, meet interesting people, choose a career, and possibly even find the person you will marry.
You will also make important decisions about your faith life. A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that two thirds of Catholics who leave the church do so before age 24. What will you do? It all depends on the plan you make now to nurture your faith during the grand adventure that awaits you.
Here are five ways to keep your faith on campus:
1. Own your faith. Let’s be honest: when you go to Mass or confession, it’s probably because your parents or your teachers are taking you there. You are Catholic because, well, that’s what they raised you to be. But, when you’re on your own it’s not up to them anymore. It can’t be. If you’re ever going to live a fully Catholic life, it has to be because that’s what you want. Otherwise it won’t stick. You have to make it yours.
2. Find your why. One of the best ways to make it yours is to put it to the test. Ask the difficult questions: “Why do Catholics believe Jesus is God?” “What’s so bad about premarital sex, getting drunk, or skipping Mass?” “Should I even bother being Catholic anymore?”
These are scary questions, but if Catholicism is true, it should stand up to such criticism, right? And at any rate, you need some answers. Without the “why” behind the “what” you believe and do as a Catholic, your faith will crumble at the first passionate atheist, Protestant, or secular apologist who comes along.
3. Find others to be Catholic with. Faith is confirmed through learning, but it also needs to be lived with others. Christ made us to be a Mystical Body. “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). A group of good Catholic friends can hold you accountable, look out for you, and show you that it’s possible to have fun and enjoy life and still be true to what you believe. Look for a Newman Center or a local parish’s young adult ministry. Look for someone making the sign of the cross before they eat. Look for dirty foreheads on Ash Wednesday. Good Catholics are always around. They can be the support system you need in order to live your faith well.
4. Serve others. I know you’re probably looking forward to that first Spring Break without any chaperones, but what if you went on a mission trip instead? That may sound boring or like too much work, but I can assure you: nothing will make your faith come alive like seeing how it transforms the lives of others. Someone you do not know is waiting on your spiritual or corporal work of mercy. Someone is waiting on you to share your faith with them. When you do, your smile will make them smile, and you will be so glad that you are Catholic.
5. Stay close to the gift-giver. As much as you are preparing for life after high school, keep in mind: your faith does not come from your own striving. “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). He gave it, and He can sustain it as long as you remain close to Him. This means prayer and the sacraments. They are your lifeline, the air your soul needs in order to breathe. There is grace in communing with God in prayer, receiving Him in the Eucharist, and returning to Him in confession.
With this grace you can be, not another statistic, but a happy Catholic full of life and in love with Jesus.
Nicholas Hardesty develops new digital courses for Vocare, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s online catechist certification process. Contact him with new course ideas at [email protected].