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Thursday, September 4, 2008

How to Stay Catholic in College

Friday, August 22, 2008
By Father Mark

Dr. Christopher Kaczor was recently on the Life on the Rock discussing how to stay Catholic in college. Dr. Kaczor is a college philosophy professor and author of various books and articles. I thought he had well-reasoned insights into why many drift away from their faith during the college years. I would like to point out here a few points we discussed on the show.

To go to college is a privilege. We take it for granted now, but it is a privileged time to study and grow as person. We should approach this time with gratitude for an opportunity to develop ourselves.

Approaching college with an attitude of thankfulness and of humility for receiving this gift makes us good stewards of what we have been given. When we lose sight of college being a gift and make it just a time to follow whims and hedonism, we are wasting time and money.

Make friends in college who have good values and who will help you to stay on the right track. If we are around people who are immersed in the party scene, not serious about school work, or are of bad morals, we will be tempted to do the same. I often hear from college students that one can find what one wants on a college campus. There is a full spectrum on campus. You can find people who share your faith, and this can be a big help to you keeping yours. My first roommate in college was Catholic and he would drive me to Mass with him on Sundays. It was a big help for me.

Frequenting the sacraments and a daily prayer life are necessary for staying close to the Lord. It is good to go to confession at least once a month, and more if you are struggling with sin. Dr. Kaczor made a great point that if we are getting our hair cut more often than we are going to confession, we should probably be paying more attention to the beauty of a virtuous life.

A prayer life is necessary for a Christian. Don’t let the perfect spoil the good. Short prayers said with fervor can help us stay on track. A morning offering, examination of conscience at night, and short prayers during the day are a way of asking God for the grace to remain faithful to him.

The rosary, longer periods of meditation and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament are great sources of peace and grace in our lives. We should always be striving for a deeper prayer life, but don’t lose confidence in even a quick prayer.

We must also be aware that relativistic notions of truth and a philosophy of materialism dominate our college campuses today. Simply put, we have lost confidence in finding the truth, especially moral truth. We have made it purely subjective today. We simply define our own truth today. We have lost any sense of discovering or receiving a truth that is outside of “me,” a law that does not come from me. We have given up the search, the seeking of truth. How can we find it, if we are no longer searching?

Materialism denies a spirit world – or a spirit world of any consequence. We have reduced truth to what we can measure in the lab or experience with our senses. But philosophy and faith are real sources of knowledge and should not be discounted. Maybe we minimize these sources of truth to be free of their demands upon us, but we strip ourselves of the real drama of life where evil and goodness are possible and heroism is called for.

Frequently, in academic settings, the Church is discounted on account of her past failings. Holiness is of her essence, but we sinners find in her a home of forgiveness. We are a communion of sinners. The Catholic Church has made great contributions to civilization and she has had her failures. We acknowledge these failures and ask forgiveness. The Church has the fullness of Truth and Grace in this world. Her members are always subject to human frailty, but we do not dismiss the Church because of the errors of a few.

One final point is that the truth, found in any discipline of knowledge, can never be a threat to our faith. God is the source of all truth, and He cannot contradict himself. We are not afraid of nor do we stifle the truth.

College is a marvelous time in people’s lives to learn and grow into adulthood. Young people’s hope and idealism should be fostered at school and guided by our faith. Our faith takes nothing away from us that is true, good and beautiful. Our Catholic faith leads us to the one who is truth, goodness and beauty itself.

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