College Faith – A Spiritual Reflection
This time of year is a time of bitter-sweet celebrations as students graduate from one educational institution and move on either to high school, college, higher education or (heavens!) an actual job. The transition from high school to college is especially challenging when it comes to the faith life of high school students. On a positive note, colleges and universities are places where many students have found their personal Catholic faith enhanced especially when they come in contact with the hundreds of “Newman Centers” (at public and private universities) or Campus Ministries (at Catholic universities). Nevertheless, more and more, these Catholic centers seem like small oases in massive oceans of doubt, skepticism and even hostility towards religious expression in general, and the Catholic faith specifically.
Ravi Zacharias is an author, speaker and apologist whose specializes in speaking particularly at large and elite universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Princeton, UNC and Michigan. For years, RZIM International Ministries has scheduled Ravi to packed auditoriums where he has gently but compellingly countered the skepticism and hostility and has explained our faith to students who, ultimately, are searching for answers to ultimate questions and can’t find them in a hyper-secularized campus setting.
Recently Ravi posted a podcast for high school students entitled, “Postures of the Mind; Affections of the Heart.” He mentions three “challenges” that high school students (and adults as well) need to do to “train their minds” and bring their thoughts under the control of God, in order to not only thrive at the university, but in life as well.
The first challenge is “learning how to forget.” Even young high school students have already faced some difficult issues from their past that they have solved and settled and from which they can comfortably move on. However every young person has also had to deal with other situations where hurt feelings, unresolved issues and damaged relationships still remain. These can involve issues at home, friendships, personal failures or poor decisions. In such cases, one must simply “shut the gate,” or “burn the bridge.” These are events and issues of the past that you will never be able to solve and “get closure.” They must be dropped and left behind or they will haunt you and plague your thoughts in the years ahead. On a natural level this might seem impossible, so you need to bring them to the Lord, have Him bury them under His grace and allow His comfort to let you put them aside.”
The second challenge is to “be determined what you are going to remember.” This has much to do with establishing, and protecting your good name and reputation. In this regard, Ravi quotes Ecclesiastes 12:1 – “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” One challenge that faces college students is the question of whether you and this world occurred by natural accident (matter + chance + time) or whether you and this world were created on purpose and thus for a purpose by a loving Father. Science has never dis-proved the existence of God. In his books Darwin on Trial and Reason in the Balance U Cal Berkley professor Philip Johnson explains that he has presented college students compelling and cogent scientific evidence for an “intelligent creator” based on examination of the wonder of nature. Nevertheless, while countering the arguments of college atheists, they still refuse to let go of their beliefs. The reason is that their beliefs are not based on a scientific evidence but on an emotional and philosophical pre-condition that they have already chosen.
The third challenge is “will you be committed to His Love” or the “Affections of the Heart.” College campuses can be dangerously lonely places. Students are desperately looking for affection and meaning. In her diaries, world-famous atheist Madeline Murray O’Hare wrote three times, “Will somebody – somewhere – please love me.” How do you feel that love as you graduate and move on to other venues? Where do you find that love when you encounter the inevitable homesickness and loneliness that naturally occur as one stage of live is left behind and you transition into a new phase? In lonely and challenging times, you will find “coincidences” in life that suddenly occur and touch you in a loving way. To quote one IHM Religious Sister, “Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.” Commit to your faith. Commit to your God. Commit to those who have loved you in the past. You will find that God follows you and follows you and follows you, most especially at the darkest moments of you life.