Back in school...
College is an exciting time of life. No matter if you’re a freshman with no clue where the cafeteria is, a super senior who can’t wait to be finished, or a graduate student like me. There is so much to do, and so many people to meet. With everything going on, it’s easy to become distracted. It’s very important to start out strong academically so you aren’t scrambling at the end of the semester. Trust me: that never ends well.
It’s also important to start the semester out strong in our faith.
When the work starts to pile up, and all the invites for different activities start coming in, our faith is often the first casualty. We say it won’t be, but it happens. The best way to prevent it from happening is to develop spiritual habits early on.
The Holy Mass is the central act of our Catholic life. To start your year off right, begin with attending Mass every Sunday. But don’t just go out of obligation. Go out of a desire to draw closer to God who is present in the Eucharist.
While you are there, remember that you are not there as an observer. Mass is not a “passive experience of the acts of the priest and the music of the choir[i].” It should be an active event. We should offer our full selves to God and to the community out of love. “The more we concentrate on what we bring to it, the more we … benefit from the ocean of graces that flow from the altar to our souls[ii].”
We cannot succeed alone. Going to Mass every week, and as often as possible during the week, connects us more intimately with our Lord and with a community to support us in pursuing our dreams.
Develop a habit of daily prayer. Set aside 10-30 minutes each day, as close as possible to the same time every day. Step away from the distractions of the world (phones, tablets, homework, etc.) and just be with God.
One of the best methods is the ancient practice of Lectio Divina (Latin for “Divine Reading”). This simple guide can get you started. Spending time with Scripture each day helps us grow in our understanding and relationship with Christ.
There are also several great apps you can download with different prayers. One of the most popular is Laudate, which includes a pray-along Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet. There is also iBreviary, which allows you to download and pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Both apps are free.
For 99 cents, iPhone users can download the Pure Faith app. Based on the prayer booklet of the same name from Jason Evert, the app is an easy to use way to keep all your favorite prayers with you wherever you go.
Build solid friendships
I’ve already mentioned how important community is to achieving our dreams. It’s also important for us to cultivate solid friendships centered on Christ. I have a great network of friends here in Buffalo, and they keep my head screwed on straight.
We should all desire to grow in holiness. We need good friends to help us. My friends keep me from making decisions which lead me away from Christ. When I face struggles in my faith, they put those struggles in perspective and help me find the path again.
Who keeps you on that path? Who is there to support you when you are weak?
Never forget, these friendships must go both ways. We need to provide the same love and support for our friends, even the ones who may not support us.
Do something BIG
Make a plan to do something big this year. Make memories.
Going on a summer study abroad trip to Russia was one of the best experiences of my life. I saw another world I may never have experienced.
Organizations like FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) and Life Teen offer multiple opportunities to join other college students from across the country in serving those in need around the world and here at home.
In January, FOCUS will host their biennial SEEK conference in San Antonio. Join me and 10,000 other college students for five days of inspiring talks, awesome entertainment and one unforgettable experience.
Whatever you do, and wherever you go, know that you are in our prayers. You always have a home here at St. Greg’s!
“Go forth and set the world on fire.” –St. Ignatius of Loyola
Bryan is one of the Core Team for our College Ministry. He's also madly in love with hockey and coaches at Canisius High School. In addition to his work Bryan is a student at Canisius College earning is Masters.
[i] McBride, Alfred. Father McBride's College Catechism. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2000. Pg. 209.