Sunday, August 26, 2018

For those going off to college

Due to some unforeseen delays, parts eight and nine of our series on the seven sacraments, describing the sacrament of Holy Orders and the ceremony of reception of converts respectively, will be published on Wednesday and Friday instead of the usual Sunday and Thursday. In the meantime, with the beginning of the school year rapidly approaching, I thought I'd share some advice for those going away to college for the first time. This is based on my experience as a Catholic at a very large and very, very liberal university.

  • Go to Mass every Sunday. No exceptions. Got a lot of homework to do over the weekend? Do it Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Got work/practice/game/rehearsal/whatever on Sunday morning? Go to Mass on Saturday evening or Sunday evening. When you're on your own for the first time, it can be tempting to skip Mass. Don't do it. Go to Mass. There are two reasons you should go to Mass every Sunday. First, it is a commandment of the Church to attend Mass every Sunday and every holy day of obligation. Missing Mass on a Sunday without grave reason is a mortal sin that cuts us off from God and can damn our soul to hell for all of eternity. Second, especially as you are learning to live on your own and conquering the new world of college, you will need God's help more than ever before. Assisting in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is one of the best things you can do for your spiritual health.
  • Everything I just said applies to holy days of obligation as well. Holy days of obligation are just as important as Sundays. Missing Mass on a holy day of obligation without a grave reason is a mortal sin. If you live in the United States, the holy days of obligation are (in the order they occur in the school year) All Saints Day on November 1, the Immaculate Conception on December 8, the Nativity of Our Lord on December 25, the Circumcision of Our Lord (or Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God) on January 1, the Ascension of Our Lord on the Thursday forty days after Easter (technically only of obligation in certain dioceses), and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on August 15. Go to Mass on these dates. If you are going to college in a big city like Seattle, you have access to a lot of parishes with Masses at a lot of different times. Find one that works. If the only option is at 6:00 a.m., then go to Mass at 6:00 a.m. and offer up your tiredness to God. Here at UW, our Newman Center offers a Mass at 9:00 p.m. on Sundays and holy days of obligation, so if I have no time during the day, I can go then. (It's even surprisingly reverent by Newman Center standards.) You might have to miss class or an evening event to go to Mass. More than once, I've simply e-mailed a professor and told him, "I am Catholic, and this Wednesday is All Saints Day, which is a holy day of obligation. I will not be in class on Wednesday, because I have to go to Mass." It's really easy to make up excuses about why you can't go to Mass. God doesn't want your excuses. He wants you at Mass. Make getting to Mass on holy days of obligation a top priority.
  • Go to confession as often as possible. Once a week or even more if you can. As you go away to college, you will experience a lot of temptation to sin. Sins of lust and gluttony are especially promoted by today's secular culture. This is even more true if you will be at a large, public university like I am. By going to confession as often as you can, you will stay in a state of grace and be better able to fight temptation. Know when nearby parishes offer confessions.
  • Go to Mass and receive Communion more than once a week if you can. Try to find a weekday when you are usually available at a time when Mass is offered, and make it a priority to go to Mass then. The more sanctifying grace, the better!
  • Try to have at least one or two close Catholic friends at college. It is important to have someone to confide in and to support you in your spiritual life.
  • There should be at least one priest in your college city who knows you by your first name. His phone number should be an emergency contact in your phone. If you are in a bad car accident and need the Last Rites in the middle of the night, he will get out of bed faster if he knows who you are.
  • Pray every day. At a minimum, say a few prayers when you wake up and when you go to sleep.
  • Discern God's call for you. College is a time when we decide the general course of the rest of our lives. Pray to God to reveal his will for you. Be open to the possibility of the religious life or the priesthood.
  • An important part of discerning a vocation to the married life is finding a good and holy spouse. Dating is an integral part of the college experience. Date someone you could see yourself marrying. To this end, think twice before dating a non-Catholic. Is this the best person to support you and your future children in your journeys to become saints? Fr. Mike Schmitz made an excellent video on this topic.
  • Whoever you date, stay chaste. If being alone together is going to be a temptation to engage in inappropriate physical contact, then don't be alone together. Having sex outside of marriage is a mortal sin. This includes any sort of inappropriate touching. If you wouldn't do it in public in front of your parents, don't do it at all until you're married.
  • Do not photograph your genitalia for any reason.
  • If you choose to drink, take it easy and know your limits. It is a mortal sin to be so drunk that you lose your use of judgment. Also, it's not fun to be around someone who is out of control. If you've never had alcohol before, go slowly. Make sure you drink water and eat food.
  • The above goes for marijuana as well. Don't lose your use of judgment.
  • Treat your studies as a divine vocation and commit yourself to them. Offer your work up to God. God wants you to do well in your classes.

A few bits of practical advice not directly related to Catholicism:

  • Have a plan. Know what classes you need to take every quarter/semester in order to graduate on time. Your school has advisors who can help you make such a plan. Your plan will likely change. My plan has changed in some way every single quarter. However, it is still important to have a plan and know what you're doing.
  • Take classes that you enjoy, not just classes you have to take.
  • Stay busy and involved so that you can make the most of your college experience. Staying busy will also help you stay away from sin.
  • In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.” Replace “Hogwarts” with the name of your school. If you need help, ask for it. Your professor, advisor, or whoever you need help from wants you to succeed and will be happy to help you.

And finally:

  • You can do it! It won't always feel like you can, but you can. With God's help, you can succeed at your endeavors and live a happy, fruitful life in accordance with his will. Be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, and bring God's love to everyone.

I will be praying for all of you who are freshmen this fall. Have a great school year, study hard, and serve God!

Best wishes,
Nate from Holy Mass and More

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the article, as well as for your prayers!