Faith on the Quad Jobless

Ah, summer! That wonderful time each year when students get to relax and take a break from their hard work and strenuous studies. But for many college students, summer is not simply about relaxing. Rather, many students use their free months to work, whether at a work-study job for school, an internship for college credit, or simply a job at a local restaurant or movie theater.

The Catechism tells us, "In work, the person exercises and fulfills in part the potential inscribed in his nature" (CCC 2428). It also notes that human work is both a duty and privilege by which we honor God through the use of the talents and gifts He has given us. Work can even be redemptive, a means of sanctification, if we embrace our cross and willingly unite it to that of Christ (CCC 2427).

However, this summer, jobs are especially difficult to come by. With a poor economy, the job market is suffering. It is hard enough for many adults to find a job, much less college students who only want a few months of employment.

During his recent visit to San Giovanni Rotondo in southern Italy, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a crowd of gathered young people, offering words of encouragement about this very topic. Speaking of the "phenomenon of unemployment which dramatically affects many young people," the Pope went on to say, "Do not lose spirit!! Be young people of 'great heart'. ... The Church does not abandon you; do not abandon the Church! Your contribution is necessary in order to build living Christian communities and societies that are more just and open to hope."

But despite these words, it can be difficult not to "lose spirit" and become discouraged when weeks of job hunting yield no results. What is worse, the summer can quickly become a period of laziness and idle boredom. So what to do if you find yourself out of work this summer? Rather than spending hour upon hour watching TV or surfing the internet, try some of these ideas to make your summer fruitful and rewarding:

First, I would suggest that you use your extra time to deepen your prayer life. College life is busy – with classes and homework, sports and other social activities, it can be very easy for us to let our prayer lives fall to the side. But if you find yourself unemployed this summer, you can use your free time to really focus on developing a strong prayer routine. See if there is a Church in your area where you can go to daily Mass or adoration. Get into a habit of praying the Rosary every day. Find some good spiritual reading. These are practices that will not only help you grow over the summer, but will help you develop a routine that you can follow next fall, when the busy college life starts up again.

Of course, without a summer job, many college students are left with financial concerns. Many need a summer job to help pay for college tuition and various expenses. On a practical level, you may need to cover these costs. One idea is to look for small jobs – such as mowing lawns, babysitting, or washing cars. These odd jobs probably won’t bring in the big bucks, but they are better than nothing.

Another way to ease the financial burden is by applying for scholarships. Various websites such as fastweb are set up specifically to bring you information about the thousands of scholarship opportunities that are out there. Many of us allow incredible numbers of scholarship possibilities to pass us by simply because we don’t have to time to deal with them. It takes time to sort through all the options to see which ones we qualify for, and then even more time to fill out the applications, and in some cases to write an essay or fulfill other requirements. But all that money is out there, and it is available to those who make the effort to apply. With extra time this summer, why not do some scholarship hunting? Look for the small ones – a few hundred dollars here and there – they can really add up, and fewer people apply for the small ones, so you will have less competition. A diligent scholarship-hunter may be able to make up a substantial portion of the money that he or she is not earning from a summer job, something that is certain to ease a considerable amount of financial stress.

Finally, I would recommend that college students without jobs this summer spend some time volunteering. There is plenty of work to be done for many worthy causes, and the abundant free time that accompanies summer unemployment creates a perfect opportunity to sacrifice a few hours here and there. Pick a cause that is important to you and offer your time to glorify God. Spend an afternoon at a soup kitchen, visit an elderly resident at a nursing home, volunteer with a local pro-life group, help out with a children’s camp…the list goes on. A little volunteering can go a long way for charitable organizations, and it will help to keep your free time productive.

So as June comes to a close, don’t despair if you haven’t been able to find a summer job. Instead, thank God for this opportunity to take a step back from your busy life in order to refocus in ways that you otherwise might not be able to. Spend your free time being productive for the glory of God, and you may be surprised at the blessings you find over the course of the summer.

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