Starting post-secondary education is really intimidating. Everything will be different- your friends, your living arrangements, your food, your schedule... but your faith life doesn't have to be. Here are some tips for Catholics starting University or College that are tested and tried by myself and my army of Catholic friends.
1. Don't be afraid to be open about your faith from the get-go
In my first week at university I sat down at a table of strangers in the dining hall and the boy sitting across from me made the sign of the cross, sat still for a moment, then made the sign of the cross again.
I reached across and tapped his tray, gasping, "Are you... are you CATHOLIC?!"
He looked at me kind of strangely. "Uh, yeah..."
I asked if he was going to mass this weekend. He was, of course, and with some other Catholics to boot! He put his number in my phone- Mass Buddy Russell- and the rest is history. His girlfriend is one of my closest friends, I have a community of Catholics surrounding me, and I have people to go to Mass with. What more could a Catholic girl want (aside from a Catholic husband and a plethora of children, or a really breathable yet warm habit?!)?
And all of that is thanks to one guy who was not afraid to be open about and true to his faith from the get-go. Thanks, Mass Buddy Russell.
2. Find the other Catholics
Even before I met Mass Buddy Russell, I had researched the Catholic chaplaincy on campus and found out when and where they meet. God blessed me with a school where the Catholic community is alive and well, so they weren't very hard to find.
But even if the other Catholics are hard to find at your school, don't give up hope. Ask God to send you Catholic friends. Having friends who share my morals and can encourage me in my faith has been a huge blessing. Bigger than I can even express. So, seek out those other Catholics.
3. Hit up Sunday Mass every week- make a habit of it
The devil is sneaky- he can make something sinful seem not that bad before you do it, and then after it's done he beats you up with the guilt of having done it. Don't fall for his whispers that you can skip Sunday mass just this once. He'll make you pay for having skipped it once it's too late, I can guarantee it. Make Sunday mass part of your weekly routine. Check out the Mass times at the Church nearby. Churches close to Universities and Colleges tend to have Sunday evening Masses for those sleepy students, and sometimes even specific Masses to young adults. Find those. Keep going, even when it's hard, even when you're busy. Trust in God- He is good at working these things out.
4. Put a picture of Jesus in your dorm room
And when things are hard, spend some time gazing at Him. He is who we are living this life for, anyway. Keep Him at the centre of your day. Putting up a picture- even a small Divine Mercy prayer card, is a reminder of Him to whom you belong, and Him who you can trust and fall back on when things get tough.
And if you think someone is going to judge you for it, don't worry. There are so many people at post-secondary institutions that if one person wastes their time judging you, it's easy to just cut them out and find someone else who will accept you (it sounds *savage* but... trust me).
5. Start each morning with a prayer
I start each morning by praying, "Jesus, I surrender this day to you," before I even get out of bed. It's super quick and reminds me who this day really belongs to.
I also love the Blessed Is She daily emails. Every morning the daily mass readings and a short reflection appear in my inbox. This way, I can't forget to pray, and I get a good dose of scripture and Catholic sisterhood on top of it. Ten out of ten, recommend.
Even when things are stressful and busy- especially when things are stressful and busy- keep praying. School may be pressing, but God is with you through it all. Turn to Him above everything.
6. Don't be afraid to approach your professors about faith-related issues
I must admit, I've never done this. I've written essays with a Catholic angle, but that's about it. Mass Busy Russell and his girlfriend, however, are old pros at this kind of thing. And they have always lived to tell the tale. Whether it is a History prof with an anti-Catholic angle, or an English prof who spouts out uninformed *alternative facts* about Christianity, these two have taken the time to visit their professors in their office hours, and to have a conversation about these issues. Not every prof will care, but most honestly didn't even realize they were in the wrong.
So, don't be afraid to approach your profs. Or, if you're like me, cheer on your friends who are currently bolder and braver. People who aren't afraid to teach the truth about the faith are going to change the world.
These six things have been invaluable in my time at university, especially in my first year when I was just trying to get my feet on stable ground.
Would you add anything to this list? What has helped you stay true to your faith in transitional and stressful times? Let us know in the comments below!
In the meantime, I am praying for you!
The post originally appeared on The Purple Seastar