How to grow your faith in college

Students on the quad_Credit Piers Nye via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)As this year’s freshman class makes their way to college campuses across the country, many are probably asking, “how am I going to stay Catholic here?”

It’s no secret that the vast majority of places of higher learning have a reputation for being cesspools of moral relativism, binge drinking and fornication (to put it lightly).

So, let’s be honest, shall we?

If your only goal is to stay Catholic in college, you’ll probably either begin to practice only the minimum requirements of your faith or give it up entirely in the first few months and abandon your faith all together.

You’re stepping onto the bridge between childhood and the “real world” (read: post-modern secular America) and just trying to “stay Catholic” is not going to cut it anymore.

You’re going to need to want your faith and, even more, you’re going to need to fight for it. It’s up to you now. Mom and Dad aren’t there to pry you out of bed 15 minutes before Mass on Sunday morning (or evening).

So, without further doom and gloom here are a few tips on how to fall more deeply in love with Christ while in college.

Receive the Sacraments and develop a consistent prayer life

Christ gave us the gift of the sacraments to draw us deeper into relationship with Him. These are the outward signs of an inward grace acting in our souls.

In college, you will make mistakes. Some of them will be dumb. Others will be really dumb. No matter what, God will bring good out of them if you let Him. Genuinely ask for and receive forgiveness for your sins in confession. Receive your Savior in the Eucharist in the highest and most perfect form of prayer, the Mass! Pray in the presence of our Lord in adoration. Ask Mary for her intercession through the Rosary. If you develop these habits in your younger years — especially a solid prayer life — it will likely stay with you the rest of your life.

Become a part of FOCUS

Over 80 colleges and universities, from Cal Berkeley to NYU, have missionaries from the Fellowship of Catholic University Students. On each campus these young adults minster to college students through one-on-one friendships, retreats and Bible studies. On top of that, you’ll be able to meet other Catholic students and build community and fellowship with them!

Don’t have FOCUS on your campus yet? They also serve students through their new “Digital Campus” online. You can attend their massive annual conference in January, serve on a spring break or summer mission trip, or just keep up with their blog.

Find the Newman Center

For over a century, Newman Centers across the globe have been places for Catholic students to connect and grow in their faith. Named after Bl. Cardinal John Henry Newman, these centers have chapels for Mass, students can come to the centers for Mass, adoration and spiritual direction, among other things. Some campus Newman Centers even offer residence communities for Catholic students.

Choose your friends based on their character (not on their upperclassmen party hookups)

One of my biggest regrets in college was trying to fit in with the wrong group of people early on. I made the mistake of using alcohol and shallow relationships to medicate homesickness and anxiety about making new friends. Sure, you have tons of cool pics on Facebook and a ton of new “friends” after a night of partying, but come Monday morning you’ll be lucky if you can recognize, let alone remember, any of your new pals.

You will be lonely your first few weeks on campus. You will cry like a baby for your parents and your old friends. That’s OK. Go to Jesus in that hurt and let Him love you through it. Seek out other tear streaked faces in the caf or your Intro to British Lit class and give them the gift of Christ’s love with your attention and conversation. Who knows? You might just meet your new best bud.

Above all else, be patient with yourself. College is a scary time for everyone and you won’t feel at home right away. The one thing that will make the experience worse is cutting God and His Church out of your life. He wants to be with you in this time of transition and to draw you even closer to Him.

What tips would you recommend for growing your faith in college?