Four Tips to Grow in Your Catholic Faith in College

Four Tips to Grow in Your Catholic Faith in College


I graduated from Washington State University with a degree in Business-Marketing just over a year ago. My freshman year I joined a fraternity, got involved with the Catholic Newman Center on campus, and attended almost all of the football games! I had a great college experience, but also learned many lessons each year.

Parents are rightfully concerned with the effect college life will have on their children, especially as it pertains to maintaining their Catholic faith. Students will be heavily challenged to keep their faith whether it’s at a secular or Catholic college (one stat in Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples had 80% of cradle Catholics leaving the Church by age 23). With all the ups and downs, I would like to offer four tips for those going to college:

1. Sacraments

“Prayer, intimate dialogue with the One who is calling you to be His disciples, must come first. Be generous in your active life, young people, and be deeply immersed in the contemplation of God’s mystery. Make the Eucharist the heart of your day.” (Pope John Paul II)

My first year of college, I made the mistake of not having my faith as the center of my life. I would fulfill my Sunday obligation and pray at times, but my fraternity parties on the weekend were what I really looked forward to. After attending a life-changing retreat my sophomore year I thought, “OK, if I believe the Catholic faith is the truth, then I can’t have only one foot in. I need to immerse my whole life in it and bring it to others.” I made a choice that day to place God at the heart of my day, and He has taken me on a wild adventure ever since! And how I wish I made this decision many years back.

I urge you to join a Bible study, attend retreats, and allow God’s mercy to cleanse and affirm you in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Please make the choice now to have prayer and the Eucharist be at the heart of your day. It’s the place where we soak in the waters of love and become a fountain where perfect love overflows in us. Live a Eucharistic life, grounded in love and thanksgiving.

2. Call Dad and Mom at least once a week.

“As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” (Pope John Paul II)

Whenever I went home for the breaks during the school year, my mother would run to give me a big hug, but because of my false conception on what growing up and being a man is, I would give her a one-armed hug and not a full-on bear hug as I should. Here is a message my mom sent me, and God has been trying to speak to me through her: “I love you and I think you’re awesome. I miss you like crazy and I cannot wait to give you a hug. Just brace yourself. You are going to have to get in a bracing position because I am going to run after you.”

I have learned and am still learning to embrace my parents as I should, to accept the love they want to give me and also to return it. I recognized that God has been wanting to love me through my mom, but I wasn’t openly receiving it. Take my advice: When your parents want to love on you, receive it with thanksgiving. The family is the root of society that needs to be cultivated in love. Stay close to them in college, because growing up and becoming an adult is actually having the strength to love and fight for the unity of your family.

3. Authentic Friendships

“Friendship, as has been said, consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person’s good.” (Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility)

I had many friends in college who were popular, athletic or successful but have told me that they don’t have any friends that they can share their heart with. Sadly, this is a lot of people. We are made to share our lives with others, not superficially but intimately. Some of my friendships early on in college consisted of meeting at parties and just nodding our heads at each other. The music was so loud you couldn’t even talk. It wasn’t until I made authentic friends that showed real interest in my life and wanted my good that I realized how superficial the party scene is.

Real friendships push the other person to greatness and holiness, even if it is painful. College is the perfect time to form yourself in virtue to set up for your future vocation. What has blessed me greatly in my past two years in college is praying with friends and interceding for them. Do not doubt the power of prayer!

4. Get off your phones and enjoy your college experience!

“Life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.” (Pope John Paul II)

I share a common interest with Pope John Paul II. I love snow skiing! During college, some of my friends and I bought season passes and went almost every weekend. Academics are very important, but you must enjoy the adventure along the way. Many people become isolated in their own bubble in college, which causes stress, anxiety and even loneliness. College is one of the best times to meet people and go on adventures. What do you love to do? Hike? Camp? Sports? Grabbing a drink at a bar (if you’re 21…)? Get off your phones and enjoy the goodness of creation so that the joy of God “may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11).

What other tips would you recommend? Share them on this article’s Facebook and Twitter posts.

Brendan McCauley hails from Washington and studied business/marketing at Washington State University. He is currently in his second year at John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C., and studying towards a master’s degree in Theology: Marriage and Family. He has attended several Institute courses and hopes to develop a Theology of the Body speaking ministry.