Updated: How To Strengthen Your Faith In College

This post was published last winter.  Now that it is getting to be back to school season, it seems that now is a good time to re-publish it.  I added some additional thoughts at the end.

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Will The Crucifix Be There In Four Years?

How do you keep your faith in college? It can be done. 

The following advice was written by Peter Bullen, a Stanford grad, who has long been a member of the St. Francis of Assisi.

1.    Make a conscious decision to love every single person you meet.  Love is an action rather than a feeling, so it’s the key to living your faith actively.

2.    Love yourself because God loves you and you are His child.  College is hard, and you will fail sometimes, so you may have a hard time loving yourself, but if you don’t love yourself, it’s harder to love others and love God.

3.   Get involved in a Christian fellowship on campus.  Christian friends can support each other in their faith and encourage each other towards Christ.  We’re all members of the Body of Christ, so we’re meant to work together.

4.  Pray and share your faith with your friends.

5. Take time to pray when you have down time, such as when you’re walking to class.  Praying often helps you keep God at the center of your life.

6. Put your faith into your regular schedule.  For example, go to daily mass on a certain day of every week or read the Bible at a certain time.

7. Do not be afraid to ask questions about your faith.  Questions can help you grow if you take the effort to find the answers.

8. At times when you doubt your faith, be active instead of passive. Pray for stronger faith, talk to someone who has a strong faith, and learn more about your faith.

9.   Learn more about the mass and the Eucharist.  The mass can be so rewarding if want to love it.

10. Participate in a community service activity.  Faith without works is dead.

Update (August 6, 2011):

I would add a couple of thoughts to Peter’s excellent summary.

+    Everything your professors think they know about Catholicism is wrong.  Their mistakes will seep into their teaching (mostly) unknowingly and they will rarely reflect well on the Church and her teaching. Most often, they will say or suggest that Catholic Church believes “X” and imply that “X” is really stupid.  Stop and think: Would a billion Catholics believe it if it were really stupid?  Would the Church teach it if it were really stupid?  Is this professor really smarter than some of the most brilliant thinkers known to history — St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bl. John Paul II — thinkers who believed what the professor is mocking?  Uh, no.

So, if they tell you something troubling about Catholicism or the Church, ask someone who knows.  You will find either that the professor has misstated what we and you believe or that the professor simply does not know why we believe what we do — reasons that the Church has probably believed and taught for, oh-I-don’t-know, centuries.

+     “The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.”  Bl. John Paul II, 2002.

In college, you will experience new-found freedom.  Much of the so-called ‘college experience’ is nothing more than an attempt to find happiness by “excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.” Have lots of fun — just choose your fun well.

+     Grace.  Participate in the sacraments — they are the ordinary means of receiving sanctifying grace.  More than anything you need grace.  Grace opens the door to Heaven — nothing else.  Your faith will wither without it.

+     The Church Will Always Be There For You.  The Church carries within her and freely gives out a love like no other.   Your professors don’t.  The guy you met in the bar who’s plying you with drinks and pretending that he likes you doesn’t.  The girl who’s doing shots with you so she can forget what she’s about to do doesn’t. They won’t be there when the chips are down.  They will abandon you; the Church will not.

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Updated: How To Strengthen Your Faith In College

This post was published last winter.  Now that it is getting to be back to school season, it seems that now is a good time to re-publish it.  I added some additional thoughts at the end.

___________

Will The Crucifix Be There In Four Years?

How do you keep your faith in college? It can be done. 

The following advice was written by Peter Bullen, a Stanford grad, who has long been a member of the St. Francis of Assisi.

1.    Make a conscious decision to love every single person you meet.  Love is an action rather than a feeling, so it’s the key to living your faith actively.

2.    Love yourself because God loves you and you are His child.  College is hard, and you will fail sometimes, so you may have a hard time loving yourself, but if you don’t love yourself, it’s harder to love others and love God.

3.   Get involved in a Christian fellowship on campus.  Christian friends can support each other in their faith and encourage each other towards Christ.  We’re all members of the Body of Christ, so we’re meant to work together.

4.  Pray and share your faith with your friends.

5. Take time to pray when you have down time, such as when you’re walking to class.  Praying often helps you keep God at the center of your life.

6. Put your faith into your regular schedule.  For example, go to daily mass on a certain day of every week or read the Bible at a certain time.

7. Do not be afraid to ask questions about your faith.  Questions can help you grow if you take the effort to find the answers.

8. At times when you doubt your faith, be active instead of passive. Pray for stronger faith, talk to someone who has a strong faith, and learn more about your faith.

9.   Learn more about the mass and the Eucharist.  The mass can be so rewarding if want to love it.

10. Participate in a community service activity.  Faith without works is dead.

Update (August 6, 2011):

I would add a couple of thoughts to Peter’s excellent summary.

+    Everything your professors think they know about Catholicism is wrong.  Their mistakes will seep into their teaching (mostly) unknowingly and they will rarely reflect well on the Church and her teaching. Most often, they will say or suggest that Catholic Church believes “X” and imply that “X” is really stupid.  Stop and think: Would a billion Catholics believe it if it were really stupid?  Would the Church teach it if it were really stupid?  Is this professor really smarter than some of the most brilliant thinkers known to history — St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bl. John Paul II — thinkers who believed what the professor is mocking?  Uh, no.

So, if they tell you something troubling about Catholicism or the Church, ask someone who knows.  You will find either that the professor has misstated what we and you believe or that the professor simply does not know why we believe what we do — reasons that the Church has probably believed and taught for, oh-I-don’t-know, centuries.

+     “The greatest deception, and the deepest source of unhappiness, is the illusion of finding life by excluding God, of finding freedom by excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.”  Bl. John Paul II, 2002.

In college, you will experience new-found freedom.  Much of the so-called ‘college experience’ is nothing more than an attempt to find happiness by “excluding moral truths and personal responsibility.” Have lots of fun — just choose your fun well.

+     Grace.  Participate in the sacraments — they are the ordinary means of receiving sanctifying grace.  More than anything you need grace.  Grace opens the door to Heaven — nothing else.  Your faith will wither without it.

+     The Church Will Always Be There For You.  The Church carries within her and freely gives out a love like no other.   Your professors don’t.  The guy you met in the bar who’s plying you with drinks and pretending that he likes you doesn’t.  The girl who’s doing shots with you so she can forget what she’s about to do doesn’t. They won’t be there when the chips are down.  They will abandon you; the Church will not.

One Way To Help Build A Culture Of Life, part I

The premise of the culture of life is that each person is made in the image of God and called by Him for a purpose that no one else can fulfill.  It follows from this that each person is and always remains a person.

Many things we say contradict this idea.  We often encounter people who have lost their minds.  Life for these people and those around them can be very difficult.  Often one hears  “oh, so and so — (let’s call him “Bob”) —  has been gone a long time.”  But that’s a lie, isn’t it? Bob is still there.  The Bob that we want to remember; the Bob that we have constructed in our memories (who may never have been there in the first place as memories often have a life of their own) may be gone,” but that’s NOT Bob.   The Anchoress made this point poignantly when she discussed her own situation:

Not so the neurological issues. At the peak of my illness I was unable to figure out how to do the dishes; my organizational skills have never fully recovered, and verbally I sometimes wander into strange lands, referring to cereal as cookies, or to hats as helmets. When that happens, and after I have apologized to my family for sending them into hysterics or on goose chases, I will ask, “Are you going to get rid of me, when my mind is gone?”

In the article from which this quotation is taken, she makes the point with a story:

A neighbor of mine works as a therapist for Alzheimer’s patients, both high-functioning and low. She recently described one sixty-ish daily visitor. “He is a saint. Every day he brings his lunch and eats with his wife. She doesn’t recognize him, so every day she is meeting a new friend. When we told him he needn’t come so often he said, ‘But she is my bride; if I did not see her, I would miss her.’” (emphasis in original).

That “sixty-ish daily visitor” is a hero of love.

What can we do? The answer is simple.  Never say or do anything that suggests that a person whose mind is gone is no longer a person or even the same person.  We may never be called to bear the burdens that the Anchoress will bear, that the “sixty-ish daily visitor” is bearing, and that others close to people who’s minds are gone are bearing.  We can, however, always affirm that people who have lost their minds are still people and always the same people that God created, loves, and wants to be in Heaven with Him.

The Real Face of Jesus, Part I

The Church Guys have finished the “Real Face of Jesus.  Is this Him?

UPDATE:

Re-reading this post, what sticks out is the Incarnation.  God became one of us in all things but sin.  He had hair. His eyes were bluish-gray.  His hair brown.  He had a mother.  Thinking about that  mystery leaves me dumbstruck with awe.

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The whole topic of trying to figure out what Christ looked like provoked a lot of discussion.  Some guys thought that we were the “face” of Jesus and trying to find the literal face of Jesus was illegitimate.  Others thought that we fell so short of Christ that talking about being the “face” of Jesus was almost sacrilegious.

Although I was an advocate of one view, the more I think about it, both positions miss the point — and suffer from the same error.  The point is the incarnation.  Christ was a flesh and blood person.  The two positions, however, spiritualize Christ.  The first is a metaphor in the same way calling the Church the “Mystical Body of Christ” is a metaphor.  The second is almost Gnostic; by(over)emphasizing our unworthiness, it almost reaches a point where matter, the physical, the concrete, are evil — in its rush to save Christ’s presence from being physically embodied in us, it ends up divorcing Christ from the world.  That is error — an error any Church Guy ought to recognize having just studied John’s Gospel.

So where does that leave us?  The ‘you are the face of Christ’ idea has much to recommend it.  I think it needs to be understood a little more accurately, though.  When we are in a state of grace, Christ’s very life is in us.  We return His love with the only thing worthy of an infinite gift — by returning His love to Him through acts of service and of worship.  We are unworthy to untie the sandals of His feet.  But we can, if we want, hand on what we have been given — His grace.  Through the sacraments and the ministry of the Church, we grow in our capacity to manifest that love.  Not because of any merit or ability on our part — how can a finite creature repay even the smallest infinite gift?  Our money’s no good.  But God gives us what we need through the Church.  Grace to have something to return.  Grace to be pleasing to Him.  If we understand being the “face” of Jesus to mean giving whatever grace we have back to Him and to those He loves out of love for Him, then yes being the “face” of Christ is our highest aspiration.  Realizing that it is not our grace and that we really have nothing to give (except what we have been given) means accepting our limits.

The debate over the real face of Jesus turns out to be one of those debates where both sides were advancing a partial truth as if it were the whole truth.  Whether we should try to figure out what Jesus looked like is the topic of Part II.

Help The Little Sisters Of The Poor – Vocation Bake Sale