Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dear Student Headed Back to a Public or CINO School...

Dear Student Headed Back to a Public or CINO School,

congrats on returning to school this Fall semester! If you're a freshman, good luck on your new journey. If you're just continuing, good luck on the rest of your journey. If you're a senior, you're almost done! It'll go by faster than you'll expect so enjoy every moment. :D

Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, I'd like to address issues I've seen (and, unfortunately, continue to see) as a faithful Catholic at a not-so-orthodox school. It's really hard holding onto your beliefs and/or being vocal about them at a place where Catholicism and/or religion is seen as something that needs reform and/or to be squashed. I saw it when I was at public community colleges (I didn't get a chance to give my pro-life rebuttal in an abortion debate in a Philosophy course despite the pro-choice student having the opportunity to present her side).

As an undergrad, I saw it when I was at a "Catholic" (in name only; CINO) college in which they openly defied documents they signed (and admitted to signing) stating that they could not teach liberation theology, spoke ill of priests, called Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI a "super rat in red shoes", was made to read questionable books and sit through terrible lectures, and suffered through so much crumbs that I've often been told I should write in detail about what I endured (which I will, when it's least expected).

As a post-BA/pre-MS SLP (speech-language pathology) student, I'm still seeing it in a class. Admittedly, it's only been one professor in a non-SLP course because my school (Utah State University; public university) is in "Mormon country" and all my other professors and classmates have seemed more openly pro-life and/or conservative; even more so than at my "Catholic" alma mater.

The point is that, unless you're at one of the wonderfully orthodox Catholic colleges, you'll more than likely encounter the same or similar stories. You will be tempted to stay silent because your professor will allow those with more "liberal" beliefs to speak out while suppressing those who are more "conservative" (the stories I could tell). You may have professors who will give you dirty looks or refuse to let you speak out in class... or even make you cry in class because of their hostility (been there). You will face so many challenges that will make you want to either "tone down" your beliefs and/or simply stay silent. To that I say: don't you dare!

If you're still a theology "newbie" or don't understand the Church teachings regarding some topics (abortion, gay marriage, and celibacy are the big ones that almost always come up), do the research from legitimate theologians and/or Catholic apologists. I was blessed to have a friend, who is also a Catholic apologist, in my corner (as well as other incredibly savvy friends) who encouraged me and supplied me with the knowledge (many times, books) I needed to be able to form the counterargument needed in class. Educate yourself instead of going along with what some professors "teach" you. If it sounds sketchy, look it up yourself. You would (or maybe wouldn't) be surprised at how many of my previously orthodox classmates were taken over to the "dark side" (no, they don't have cookies, either) because they believed that the professors wouldn't lead them astray. It was painful to watch. (side note: although, I'll admit, I did get at least one person out of my alma mater when I did some "underground" work letting friends and classmates know that what was being taught wasn't orthodox).

If you live on-campus or away from home, don't alter your prayer life too much. If you need to do some time management and schedule in some prayer time in the middle of the craziness, do it! Don't say "oh, I'll do it later" because no, you most likely won't do it later. Don't stop attending Mass. Not only is it a mortal sin to not attend Sunday Mass (or Saturday Vigil Mass) without a legitimate reason, it's also going to make it harder for you to keep your faith in one piece. You can say that you're a "strong and faithful Catholic" all you want but college and independence always come with temptations that will attempt to pull you away from God.

I'm going to share something I don't think I've ever shared on this blog (or outside my close circle of friends) before: though I commuted to school, there were still a variety of temptations that popped up. On a number of occasions, I was invited to "hang out" (or, sometimes, straight out getting invited to "spend the night"/"sleep with... for fun; no strings attached") at the apartments of male classmates. A big NOPE. Invites to go out drinking when I was underage? I always passed. (side note: I still don't drink alcohol but that's more because a) I've never been drawn to drinking and b) doctors have suggested I abstain from alcohol for health (anxiety) reasons.) If you're old enough to drink, I have nothing against it; just don't get so drunk that your judgment is impaired. I was one of the fortunate few who was never invited to try drugs but I wouldn't have regardless. Ditching class? Invited to do. Cheat on exams? Definitely had those temptations (but I couldn't/can't). Doing things that would harm me (mentally, psychologically, physically, spiritually) in some way? Had at least one per day.

My tips for staying Catholic in college: If you're able to, attend daily Mass. You don't know what a blessing it was for me to be able to do it whenever I didn't have morning classes. Go to confession as frequently as you need to. Pray the Rosary and/or Chaplet of the Divine Mercy daily if possible. Keep praying throughout the day (when you wake up, at meal times, before bed). Offer up anything that may upset you (I personally used St. Therese sacrifice beads during my time at the CINO college). Do novenas. Surround yourself with other faithful Catholics. Get a spiritual director if you don't already have one. Etc etc. There are so many things you can do to keep your faith intact and so many wonderful people willing to help you along the way. If you stumble along the way, remember that you can always try again. We're human and we will all fail at doing something from time to time but we can always pick ourselves up, confess it (if it must be), and start again.

Also, my personal, "no fail" list of patron saints for students:
- Holy Spirit (especially during exam weeks or hard courses)
- St. Thomas Aquinas (patron of students)
- St. Joseph of Cupertino (patron of exam takers)
- Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (personal academic patron; died one exam short of completing degree, highly recommended for college students)
- look up the patron of the career you've chosen (i.e. St. Drogo for us SLPs-in-training)

This blog post is getting too long so I'll conclude with this: don't be afraid to speak up about your faith and/or your beliefs. If you don't believe yourself capable of defending your faith, read up on it for the next time. We are called to speak the Truth, even if others don't want to hear it. It may not make you popular in this world, but isn't it our goal to reach Heaven and not please those here on earth?

And with that, I must return to my own studies. I have a couple of things due within the next week and I want to finish them as early as possible (read: I want to have some free time without stressing about meeting deadlines).

Good luck, everyone! Remember to not give up or, as Bl. Pier Giorgio used to say, "Verso l'alto!"


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