Holy Spirit Interactive
Monday, August 20, 2018
Inside Holy Spirit Interactive


Catholicism on Campus

by Fr John McCloskey

I've spent all the years of my priesthood working closely with university students. What follows are some do's and don'ts drawn from my experience in the college apostolate.

Pastoral work with college students, particularly intelligent ones with good will, is endlessly rewarding. They come to the university looking for answers to serious questions about the meaning of life, and they'll be disappointed if they do not find an elevated vision of truth or the possibility of a life of dedication. Here are some tips:

  1. Talk Christ and his Church. Today's college student is surrounded by every ideology conceivable, but he may be completely ignorant about Catholicism. His ears will perk up if he hears something different (and true besides!). "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." If you call them, they will come.

  2. Help them to pray, to frequent Penance and the Eucharist, and to read Scripture. God's friendship, his sacramental grace and the story of his life are so powerful that they leave the search for ephemeral pleasure in the dust with students who have "eyes to see and ears to hear," as most do.

  3. Invite them to be generous with their time, money and lives. The spiritual and corporal works of mercy are the Beatitudes brought home to daily life. If the university student even begins to practice them, he'll fall in love with God and his Church.

  4. Help them to read the Christian classics such as the Church Fathers: Augustine, Basil, Chrysostom, Gregory; and the Doctors: Thomas, Catherine, Teresa, etc.; the great apologists: Newman, Sheed, Chesterton; the great philosophers: Gilson, Pieper, Maritain; the great theologians: Adam, Scheeben, Guardini, etc. All they need is some exposure, even if it be in a pamphlet � the print equivalent of a sound bite. They'll echo the cry of camp cinema's carnivorous plant "Feed me more!" if they only get a taste of the riches of our faith. They might even finish as saints.

  5. The heart of Catholicism is the liturgy. Offer them the Mass celebrated reverently according to the rubrics, along with crisp, resolution-filled homilies. Offer them Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, all-night vigils, beauty and taste in vestments, ornaments, music and surroundings, and you won't be able to keep them away from God's house and his service. Clowns, balloons and dancing are for circuses, kindergarten and the disco, not for Catholic worship.

  6. Be present for them at all times and in all places with dignity; open and sympathetic but at the same time strong and demanding. Treat them like the Catholic adults you want them to be, even if you're sometimes disappointed.

Most importantly, pray and deny yourself constantly for them. They won't know, perhaps, but since "the violent will bear it away," students will convert, the ignorant will learn, the lukewarm repent, sinners confess, and many will say with generosity "Here I am Lord, because you have called me." Just be prepared to take it on the chin for Christ, as has always been the case (cf Mt 5:11-12). College campuses are not always user-friendly for Catholics.

And remember, if you have a son or daughter, brother or sister, friend or pupil or parishioner who is a college student, you are the "college chaplain." What has been said above, mutatis mutandis, applies to you.

E-mail this article to a friend