As a Catholic, I know that my faith will die if I don’t both nourish and live it. This means going to Mass, being involved in ministry, learning about my faith and, hardest of all, being a beacon pointing others to Christ. It would be so easy to just give up and escape being ridiculed, scorned, or attacked. I already taste this in high school, and I doubt that college will be much better. I could just go to that party, hook up with that guy, or hang out with that crowd, and no one would give me any trouble. No one, that is, except my own heart. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.”
We are all called to be disciples, not hide our faith like it’s an ugly or embarrassing secret. Saint Irenaeus said “the glory of God is man fully alive,” which we believe means that the glory of God is radiantly expressed through us when we have life in full, life in Christ and the Holy Spirit. It means that we are so deeply in love with God that others will see God’s grace manifest in us, and it will be impossible to mistake nor ignore. If I am alive in Christ, which I desire to be, others will see it. Others will know about it. Others will probably think less of me for it. Living my faith on campus means doing what I know is right, even if it isn’t easy. Even if I’m pressured or teased or excluded, my personal relationship with God is more important. Love is sacrifice.
If you go to a Catholic college, then you’re more likely to find a supportive environment. Depending on who you are and your unique situation, this might be good for you; but also take caution, especially if you have been in private Catholic schools for most of your life. Personally, having gone to public schools my whole life, I know that I would love the supportive environment a Catholic school could give me. However, I know that socially, it won’t prepare me for the real world as well as a secular school. I’m hesitant to hide myself away from the “real” world; by doing this, I lose the opportunity to learn how to function in an environment that I’m not comfortable in. In your future, you won’t always be surrounded by like-minded people, so it’s important to have experience knowing how to interact with them peacefully, compassionately, and unimposingly. Like I’ve already stated, I’ve gone to public schools all my life. This skill is no longer an issue for me, and it may not be for you either; just be mindful.
I am most likely not going to a Catholic college. This will be a challenge. The 2012 Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey says that approximately 79% of Catholics who will leave the Catholic Church will do so before they turn 23. These college years are the ones that will make the difference. Knowing that I will be challenged, knowing that others have fallen in my position, I know how critical it is to keep my faith alive and at the center of my life. I will be involved. I will go to Mass. I will learn more about my faith. But this is what I will not do: lose my relationship with God.