Wednesday 15 August 2012

Lost but not forgotten...

Keeping or Re-finding the Catholic Self in the College years

NB. Neither of us claim to be psychologists, only men who reflect upon our life experiences. Our thoughts in this post are drawn from those reflections, and not necessarily from professional education.

Its seems that when young people leave home to go to college they can feel excited by the challenge; freed to be their own person, yet have an unseen vulnerability, developing ‘masks’, and adopting to the values of others in this bright new world in order to ‘fit in’. For Catholics, there might be taking leave of the Faith to one degree or another. Thus the ‘real me’ can get lost along the way, leaving us asking, ‘How do I stay (or get back to being) the authentic me?’ Well, preparation is the best option, but the tasks of preparation should also be tasks of maintenance.  

First of all, we should develop our prayer life. Without this our connection to Christ grows weak. Mass must have a central focus too: if people know we are regular at Mass, Benediction, Novena’s etc, they will see us in a different light.

A good Spiritual Director is important. Not only will he help us to discern the movement of grace in our lives, but where we are ‘adapting’ to this present world and if this adapting is arising from a fear of being on the outside or just or an over-emphasis on our independence.

Writing down a list of our values and why we hold them can help us to keep or re-engage with our true self as God created us to be. Telling people our values when we first meet them helps them see our boundaries.

If we get lost along the way we can...

Re-engage with former good friends, especially someone very close who knew us well. They will remind us of who really are; who they know us to be.

Prepare current friends for an up-coming change by dropping into our conversations such ‘headlines’ as, “Well...I don’t know; I’m changing my thinking on that one”.  And the more we stand up for ourselves the more we will value ourselves and be content within ourselves.

Try looking at old photographs; they help us to get in touch with who we were, and remind us of who were truly are; of what has always been important to us.

Finally, we can let dates know we are a devout Catholic in our earliest conversations; wear something religious (cross and chain?) when meeting up; wear modest clothing; invite our date to Mass etc. These are a good gauge as to whether they are interested in who we really are or not, and any rejection of us, though hurtful, shows they are not good for us anyway.

Note the above is pastoral but not infallible or professional advice. Still, we hope it’s useful to someone, somewhere!

Fr Dickson and Andrew McDowell.


  1. There is no mystery about how to keep one's Catholic faith through the college years. Try what the Mormons do: expect all Catholic youth to go on a mission. Doesn't have to be a two-year mission like the mormons. But Catholic high schoolers must go on frequent missions because a) that is the very reason for the existence of the Church - to evangelize and b)you will get to keep what you so selfLESSly give away. The Church needs to develop mission opportunities for high school and college age youth. They will be on fire with the faith because young people like action - just sitting aorund strumming guitars will NOT sustain them.

  2. Find the Newman group or the Catholic Student outreach or Young Adult Ministry in a parish near campus and you will surround yourself with likeminded people who are on the same journey. :0)


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