Being Catholic in College can be both challenging and rewarding. Living in a secular culture, there is temptation everywhere, and movies, television shows, social media are all contributing factors. It can be overwhelming and can lead to confusion as to what to feel, how to think or who to talk to. Starting a new college, finding a new parish to attend Mass on Sundays or making new friends offers its own set of challenges. With these challenges comes learning experiences, room to grow and opportunity to change for the better.
I have had my own personal doubts and struggles about the (Catholic) Church, and since starting college, there have been changes nationally and within the Church that have caused a stir. People from the outside might look down upon the Church’s teachings on abortion or same-sex marriage and assume you are some anti-gay, women-hating person when that is far from the truth. Millennial Catholics are either leaving the Church or hiding out in fear of being misunderstood when this does not have to be the case.
It is not the easiest thing to believe in something you cannot see — even more so a Church with deep roots and rich tradition. It is easier, however, to believe in a higher power when things are going smooth. For example, passing an exam you thought you did horrible on or finding a parking spot without having to drive around in circles. Praise God for these things, but when I fail an exam or have an overall horrible day, giving thanks to any kind of higher power is nowhere on my to-do list. Despite this, believing there is something out there so much greater than myself brings me an unfathomable amount of comfort.
College is a season of change. It is a transitional period going from youth to having to figure out life on your own. While it is hard to go about this kind of change alone, finding a community of like-minded people can also be a challenge. Unless you already have a community built, sitting in an adoration chapel or having a conversation about the sacraments or going to daily Mass is not what most people consider “fun.” It took me until this year to find that community I longed for, but as I reflected on the past three years of searching, I now understand the different choices I was given.
There is a newfound freedom that comes along with attending college. I quickly learned I do not have to go to Mass. I do not have to go to confession. Instead, I choose to go to Mass. I choose to go to confession. Changing my “haves” to “wants” changed my perspective on my faith. I may have wanted a group of fellow Catholics to connect with, but ultimately my faith is not who my friends are. My faith is a personal journey that I continue to pursue, learn and grow from. Each person is different, but it is all about finding what works best for you and what it is that will challenge and encourage you.
Aside from having a shirt with Pope Francis’ face on it, I do not go around advertising my faith — not out of shame, but because it will not make me any better of a person. I understand my mission in life is not to convert anyone to Catholicism, but rather to be an example — to give love, to show love, to be love. While being Catholic in college has its challenges, there is always a silver lining. Remain hopeful, and do not be afraid to stand up for what you feel is right. This goes for any religion or anyone who believes in something greater. Do not be ashamed. Be proud.