Monday, September 17, 2012

Catholic on Campus and the Importance of Your Church Family

Life can be pretty lonely as a Catholic student.  At the university I attend, though there is a chaplain available and a student's group, being a Catholic makes one instantly isolated from the rest of student life.  Aside from the usual awkward questions, one usually has to routinely sit through class lectures that go on about the Church controlling everything back in the day, and it all gets extremely dull to hear. 

But what is the worst part is that you are smack dab in the middle of Relativism Central, where everything is "true for you" and Catholics are outdated, old-fashioned bigots.  Most views, religions, and groups are respected, but Catholics tend to get the short end of the stick.  The anti-abortion group on my campus isn't even allowed to actually be a club, and routinely fight  for the right to even be one.  Yet groups that talk about other controversial things are allowed.  So much for relative truth, but that's a whole different can of worms that I don't have the energy to open and deal with.

That's the nice thing about having a larger family through the Church.  On my first fall term day, I wandered about an incredibly busy campus, rattling with all kinds of sloganeering, wifebeater-shirts, and bands, feeling as alone as one could in a crowd.  But then I ran into a friend of mine, and it all changed; and the odds of running into someone on campus like that are almost nil.    It made my day, because it reminded me that I wasn't alone at all.

My Catholic friends and I can be wierd together.  We can make the Sign of the Cross before enjoying a pint and a meal, and feel like we all protect each other from the mudslinging of the world.  We can talk openly amongst ourselves of our faith without having to worry one of our party will suddenly start throwing chairs in a rage about how evil and patriarchal the Church is.  It's a strength in numbers thing I guess, but more than that, it is a solidarity of love for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.  We can stick together, no matter how hard the waves beat against us.

When I run into a Catholic I know, even if I barely know them, there is an instantaneous bond there - we both belong to the same family, we know each other in Christ at the very very least.  It's a comforting thing for someone like myself, as I struggle intensely with feeling quite down and isolated sometimes.  But when I see the smiling face of a Catholic friend on campus, amidst all the force-fed ideologies and relativisms, I am reminded that I am not alone in the midst of it all.

We do stand out as Catholics on campus - it's like people can just smell it on you (maybe it's the incense lingering!).  I know that in my case, it's definitely not the scent of holiness.  But we do stick out, and that's why I think it is important that we gather around each other, especially ones who seem lost, like Musk Oxen might gather around their young to protect them from wolves and the like. 

But then my worry is that we will become an insular faith in the world.  We aren't called to hide and be a pious little secret club, but a light in the world.  It's hard though to even shine that light when everything is relative, and when practically our entire faith stands in some kind of "uncool" contrast to the world's varying ideologies. 

That's where our Church family comes in - my wife, who is not Catholic nor religious in any sense, always reminds me when I feel lonely being Catholic that we are a faith of over a billion people.  Sometimes, she just chuckles and asks "Remember how at home you felt in Ireland?"

So it's good to have friends - we are a communion, a family, and our bond, who is Jesus Christ, is unbreakable.  Be not afraid on campus, or at work, or anywhere else - you're in good company.


  1. I hear you! I went to a secular university and it was hard- even Newman was pretty lousy- do you have a monastery close by where you could go to prayers every once in a while? That helped me!

  2. On the other hand, Jason, being a insular faith is not new for Catholics. Remember, how we began. And, it is much better than to adopt the modern thinking that leads to hell.

    I am from South America, and I know to where the liberation theology leads, the priests just became communists, forgetting Christ, because they taught that Catholic Church was far from the people.

    Christ said that we are in the world but we do not belong to the world (John 15,19). So, we are suppose to be used with isolation.

    Pedro Erik

  3. I don't know when you were in Ireland last, but let me assure you that I am an Irish student and I was nodding in agreement with everything you were saying about the anti-Catholic attitude in University life. I'm now studying for a year in France, and it's the same situation here. Had I not found the chaplaincy recently I would be very very homesick right now. I found the sense of solidarity to be even more powerful in a foreign country. The words of the Mass may change, but the intentions of the prayers remain the same, which is a great blessing. We have been given a global family, and I for one will be welcoming any foreigners to my uni in Ireland with open arms. I do think it's pretty much the same situation everywhere, young people have no tolerance whatsoever for Christianity, which is hypocritical beyond belief. Then again when have Christians not been persecuted?
    Thanks for a great article.