How to keep your faith at university - My top 6 tips.
Moving to a different city , surrounded by new people and having a sense of independence are all exciting factors about going to university. However, I often see many people fall behind on their faith lives whilst they are there. The fervent faith that encompassed their lives while they lived at home, surrounded by their parents and a thriving parish community, seems to have fallen short on this chapter of their lives. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. In no way am I blaming any individual for falling away from their faith at university. This mistake can happen to anyone at anytime, even me. Nevertheless, I think that there are certain steps we should take to keep Jesus a central part of our university lives. I want to discuss some of these with you.
Attending mass on Sunday , holy days and weekdays.
Attending mass on Sunday is not an option but a necessity. As catholics, we must keep holy the Lord’s day in order to obey God’s command. Now, this does not mean sleeping in and sitting around all day. When at home, we often don’t make the decision of attending mass on our own. We follow our parent’s lead. They go to mass and so we do we. When we move away from our family, we have to take this decision upon our shoulders, take a leap and mature in our faith lives. Likewise, we don’t have to limit our meetings with Jesus to a Sunday. Whenever you have a free time , after lectures , why not attend a weekday mass?! Every moment we get to have this intimacy with christ is the greatest blessing we could ever ask for. It is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet Jesus is preparing for us. And don’t forget about those holy days of obligation !
Confession is perhaps the most dreaded sacrament in any catholics life. I think it is even more so for us young people. We have to think about all the horrible sins we have committed and then state them to our parish priest. However, we often forget how great this sacrament is. When we as sinners approach this sacrament , our sins are washed away and forgotten by the grace of Jesus’ saving sacrifice for us. We are made one with God again. When the spiritual director/confessor of St Faustina encouraged her to ask Jesus to name the sin that he’d confessed recently, to test if the apparitions were true, Jesus responded that he did not remember. How awesome is confession! As university students, we need the grace of confession to ensure that we don’t tumble on our paths. Perhaps you can make the firm decision to go to confession once a month or at designated frequency of your choice.
“Run, jump, have all the fun you want at the right time, but, for heaven’s sake, do not commit sin!” ~ St. Philip Neri~
Keeping Mary close
One advice that my Dad gives me consistently, is to keep mother Mary as close as you can. He always tells me that if I keep Mary close then ‘everything will be okay because she will always lead you to Jesus’.
At home, we always have the comfort of our mothers right? If we are stressed with work or just overcome by everything, it is a great comfort to just tell mum! We can still have that even if we are away from home. Jesus gave us his mother because He loved us soo much. She is the most perfect mother to whom we can open up and tell everything. One of the ways in which we can remain close to the blessed virgin is to say the rosary daily. It takes 20 minutes of our time , so just take a break ,sometime during the day, to sit down, light a candle and say the rosary. The rosary is the biggest weapon against satan so we can be sure of Mary’s protection in our lives.
"Before, by yourself, you couldn't. Now, you've turned to our Lady, and with her, how easy!" --St. Josemaria Escriva--
Have a saintly crew on hand.
The saints are amazing ! I love having my saintly best friends beside me. The catholic church isn’t short of saints. We have plenty of holy men and women of all backgrounds and interests/ missions. The saints are given by Jesus, through His church, to aid and pray for all of us here on earth. During our rocky paths towards heaven, the saints are there to cheer us on when we tumble and fall back a little. So pick a group of saints that resonate with with you. Are you a musician? .. you have friend in St Cecilia!… Are you someone that loves the outdoors?… Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and St John Paul II are the people for you! ….or are you someone that loves the beauty of God’s creation?… St Francis of Assisi and St Therese of Lisieux are perfect !
Call upon these saints of yours at times throughout the day and ask them to look out for you. Believe me, saints are such faithful friends.
“The saints must be honored as friends of Christ and children and heirs of God. Let us carefully observe the manner of life of all the apostles, martyrs, ascetics, and just men who announced the coming of the Lord. And let us emulate their faith, charity, hope, zeal, life, patience under suffering, and perseverance unto death so that we may also share their crowns of glory.” ~St John of Damascus~
Have a prayer altar.
Do you love prayer altars? I love them! Making a prayer altar with a crucifix, a picture/statue of Jesus and Mary , prayer cards of saints and sweet smelling candles allows me to have a little corner to retreat from the business of life. You don’t have to be creative to do this ( I’m a person who doesn’t have creative hands). You can make a prayer altar that best resonates with you in the catholic faith…give it your own personal touch.
Pope Francis once said that when we see a crucifix we have to pause a moment to think about the ‘love that Jesus has for us’. Hence, a prayer altar can be a hook for us to remember what is most important in our lives. What is most important is Jesus! Everything that is His is ours too.
When we have a corner for Jesus , His mother and His friends we are able to be in constant contact with this heavenly family of ours. This family will be an aid to call us back to Jesus if we were ever to fall way from Him.
Avoid occasions of sin
This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of university life. It is not an ‘unknown’ thing that living out a life for christ is ‘difficult’. There are certain decisions that we as young people need to be stern about. There are some places we mustn’t go and some groups that mustn’t be a part of. This is hard because we are going against what the world expects from us.
Perhaps going for a ‘night out’ where there is high chance of making the wrong decisions in life isn’t a good idea. There are so many scenarios of situations that can lead us to do possible sins of which I am not going into detail about. These are times that call us to be ‘counter cultural’ and decide to be for Jesus rather than the world. Now, this doesn’t mean we cannot have fun and enjoy our time with ‘fruitful’ friends. Jesus wants us to live in the fullness of joy and those ‘good’ entertainments present in this world are for us to enjoy. However, there is always a degree of prudence needed to make the right decisions at the right time. For this we need grace upon grace!
But, how can we be sure then that we are making the right decisions? We need to keep our consciences alert and informed at all times. A way that I’ve found to be useful for the above is to talk to Jesus throughout the day. Tell Jesus everything you have planned for the day and talk to Him whilst you do those activities. Another thing that we can do, is to listen to talks, podcasts and radio shows that are authentically catholic. In this way we are constantly enlightening our minds with ‘everything’ catholic. Now, isn’t this a good idea ?!!
Everything that I have shared with you is with the hope that these will aid you throughout your time at university. Like I have said, I am on this journey too so I am not a bystander telling you all these points of how to live your life at university. I am someone who is simply trying to keep Jesus at the centre of my life.
However, remember that the challenges each of us face will be different. Thus, what is most important is that we do everything we can to stay firm in our faiths. And remember it is God’s grace that will aid us always!
- Jubia xx