So many young adults adore the college experience due to the freedom that comes along with it. You get to make your own schedule, take courses catered to your interests and make daily decisions with little-to-no parental guidance. College welcomes the idea of students finding their voice and pursuing their passions. Choosing to continue your education at a college or university gives you the opportunity to broaden your perspective which may change your stance on certain opinions or beliefs, especially the topic of religion. Despite all these great aspects that going to college offers, it may leave students feeling doubtful and unsure of their religious beliefs. You always hear of those whose faith fades while away at college and come back with a more secular way of thinking, but rarely hear about the story and struggle of those who endured to keep their faith throughout their college experience.
While everyone undergoes a different encounter with religion and is entitled to their own religious beliefs, this serves as my testimony to how I remained Catholic throughout my years in college.
The lifestyle of an average college student does not usually reflect the ideologies of the Catholic Church. The pressure of academics, athletics and other extracurriculars may make faith less of a priority than it once served in your life. Pridefulness, lust and abusing addictive substances make up just a few examples of the temptations that college students face on an everyday basis.
Although I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic school my entire life, college put my faith to the test. Parents and teachers no longer told me to go to church on Sundays and helped ensure that I pray before each meal. The decision of whether I weaken or strengthen my faith throughout life was completely up to me now. While this made my religion seem more liberating, the idea seemed very overwhelming to me.
Taking accountability served as my first step to staying in touch with my religion. Instead of questioning my faith as a whole, I questioned myself as to why I wanted to continue growing in my faith. I found a passion and purpose in my religion that I wanted to keep pursuing. That passion surpassed all the temporary gratifications that a typical college lifestyle offers. Little things such as saying a prayer before an exam, reading my bible in between classes and taking one hour out of my week to go to church enriched my spiritual life immensely.
Keeping physical reminders of my faith in Jesus Christ also helped me day to day. I keep rosary beads in my car.
I wear a bracelet of my favorite Bible verse around my wrist which makes it easily accessible for me to read. I also found friends with a Catholic background that helped me on my spiritual journey. We held ourselves accountable by organizing group Bible studies. We all went to church together before attending parties on a Saturday night. We even found ways to include our religion in social activities. Oftentimes, being a Catholic college student can get lonely. You might feel like an outcast or isolated from fellow students. Surrounding yourself with others who also practice their faith makes prioritizing your religion all the easier.
This does not mean staying Catholic throughout college came easy to me. The concept of not conforming to the pleasures of this world came with many struggles. I lost touch with friends. I got funny looks when I passed on going out on a Saturday night to ensure I get up for church in the morning. I got judged by just simply telling others I am Catholic. Remaining Catholic in a secular world comes with a great amount of mental turmoil and anguish on an everyday basis.
Without my faith in God, I can’t say that I would have made it through college.
When difficulties and unfortunate life circumstances come our way, many people tend to question God on why we experience hardships. Instead, I clung to Him. Even times when I doubted my faith, I asked God for clarity. During times of physical, mental and emotional distress, I asked for spiritual guidance from God only. Many people may misinterpret His word which also leads to college students going astray from the Catholic faith. Parents, teachers and those in religious authority might not always provide the right answers to all your problems. Seeking God through prayer and in His word served as the most effective way to strengthen my faith throughout times of difficulty.
Although living a Catholic life throughout college came with many struggles, my faith turned into something more fulfilling than I ever imagined. I learned to embrace the struggles and hardships in my life that shaped me into the person I am today. To say that practicing the Catholic faith gets easier after college would be a lie. We constantly face different temptations throughout life that we give into every now and then, such as drinking too much at a party, listening to secular music and gossiping about others. We undergo tribulations, temptations and spiritual battles at every phase of life.
We all experience hardships, losses and worries that keep us up at night, which makes both religious people and those not affiliated with a religion not so different after all. However my Catholic faith made experiencing difficult times like these all the easier throughout my life, especially during college. Continuing to entrust God with my life gives me peace of mind and a fulfilling purpose that will one day come to fruition regardless of if I’m ever made aware of it in this life.