Another Sunday. You get ready, put on your church clothes, get in the car, and you and your family go to Syro-Malabar Church. You go every Sunday. You don’t really feel excited, but you also don’t dislike it enough to stay home and have your parents lecture you. For you, Qurbana is kind of long but at least you get to talk with your friends afterwards! And so it’s become a tradition. You sit through Qurbana , then afterwards talk with your friends, grab a croissant, and your parents are happy. Do you consider yourself a Syro-Malabar Catholic? Sure.
This all works until you get to college. Now you are living away from home and your parents are not there, which means they won’t know if you went to church or not. You still go, because you know that it is the right thing to do, but eventually, you might skip a Sunday or two. When midterms and finals come around, you realize that instead of going to church, you would rather spend that time studying. You think, it’s okay, God will forgive me. And besides, you’ll make it up by going to church later.
How many of us have felt this before?
As time continues, we may find it harder to go to church when we are not at home. We are less inclined because we get busy, may not feel as engaged, and sometimes we start questioning why we even go to church in the first place. When we are less involved, our faith life slowly dwindles and sometimes we stop going altogether. For these reasons, I believe that living at college truly tests one’s faith.
However, it also gives us an opportunity to explore our faith, and even strengthen it. There might not be a Syro-Malabar Catholic church nearby, but most likely there will be many Catholic groups in college. And these groups can be a catalyst for spiritual growth.
When we have a community, we have so much support. Practicing our faith no longer becomes a solo exercise, but something more interactive. And you may try something new while in these groups. This can be reflecting on the bible, singing worship songs, spending time in nature, small groups, etc. College is also a great place to apply our faith. Many of us have felt alone in college. Handling academic pressures, transitioning away from family and friends, struggling to fit in, etc, add a lot of weight on our shoulders. Because college is not always easy, these are the times when we need God the most. This is when we can call upon God to provide us with strength. When we go to mass and practice our faith, we are constantly reminded that we can do all things through Christ. We learn to trust God and worry less, knowing that God has a higher plan for us. And by going to a worship session, we continue to express gratitude, practice forgiveness, and start to focus less on our problems and more on our blessings.
This brings me to one of my experiences away from home. I moved to Texas for a couple of months, knowing only two other people. For the first 2 months, I felt like a complete stranger. Even though I knew that God was always by my side, I often found myself sinking into the trenches of worry and doubt. I didn’t make much time for prayer, and my spiritual life took a backseat. Then after 2 months, I reached out to an old friend who was involved in Jesus Youth. He told me about the JY community in Austin. I have never been involved in Jesus Youth, so I didn’t know anybody there besides him. But I had nothing to lose, so I decided to try it out. Every Tuesday we would congregate and have worship at someone’s house. First we sang, then did intercessory prayer, and concluded with small group discussions.
In our small groups, we would ask each other faith-inspired questions. This was when I would voice my frustrations and experiences, and many times, someone else in the group could relate and would offer some advice. These were people whom I had never met before, yet I felt like a part of their community.
As I started going more, I started looking forward to it. I became a regular, and found an identity in that group. That experience gave me another perspective on how beautiful a religious community can be.
In conclusion, college is an opportunity to take ownership of our faith and try something new.