I was recently watching a talk that Fr. Mike Schmitz gave at the SEEK 2019 conference, and he said something that struck me: “College is potentially one of the most selfish times in our life.” I started reflecting back to my time in college and asking myself, was that true for me? If I am being honest with myself, it probably was. Fr. Mike Schmitz goes on to say that it doesn’t have to be a selfish time. As I pray about going back to college in the fall, I am convicted to make it less about myself and more about others. How can I strive for holiness in college?
Living a holy Christian life is impossible without daily prayer.
Our goal is to pray at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Before we can get there, though, the Catechism says, “We cannot pray at all times if we don’t pray at specific times, consciously willing it,” (CCC 2697). It is easy to get bogged down by studying, socializing, and even a job on top of it all. While all of that is important, we need to put prayer first. Our life in this world flows from the life given to us by our Father in heaven. Not praying cuts us off from that fount of grace, making the things we are doing more difficult for us. St. Francis de Sales says, “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer a day, except when we are busy – then we need an hour.”
While the length of prayer isn’t as important, the important part is that you are doing it. I find it helpful to change the way I think about scheduling prayer. Instead of finding time in my schedule to fit prayer in, I started building my schedule around my prayer. Schedule prayer first and then the rest of your responsibilities around that. For me, I find the best time to pray is first thing in the morning. Getting up a half hour or an hour earlier was not easy. Matthew Kelly says that for some people their prayer time starts the night before when they decide to get to bed on time. That advice was really helpful for me.
Obedience is one of the most straight forward paths to holiness. It is also something I have always struggled with. It helps me to know the saints and the scriptures are clear. St. Maximillian Kolbe said, “True holiness is found in obedience.” St. John Bosco adds, “Obedience is the surest way to scale the heights of perfection.” Jesus tells St. Faustina, “My daughter, know that you give Me greater glory by a single act of obedience than by long prayers and mortifications.”
In Paul’s letter to the Romans it says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment,” (Romans 13:1-2).
Our teachers, professors, bosses, etc. have been “appointed” over us. Humbly submitting to their direction by preparing for and attending class, doing our homework, and studying won’t be easy for some of us. As the saints said earlier, though, it will be one of the surest ways to grow in holiness while in college.
Studying. Working to help pay for schooling. Hanging out with friends. Watching Netflix to destress after a tough exam. Clubs. Sports. Catching up with family. All of those things are good. Too many of those things take us away from what the Lord would have us do.
Take a look at your schedule from last semester. Was there room for God to work through you? If a friend approached you with questions about the faith would you have had time to meet with them and walk with them as they sought out the truth? We need to offer our schedule to God and ask Him to interrupt us. In the book of Isaiah it says that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9). Asking God to interrupt our schedule is an act of trust in that word. When we know and live that truth, nothing is more important than listening to and following His voice.
Grace is superabundant and there is enough for you to be a saint right now! Pray, be obedient, and give the Lord time to work through your schedule, and you will be well on your way to making college a launch point for a holy life!