Must-Watch YouTube Channels for College-Aged Catholics!

A little over three years ago, I published a post entitled “Must-Watch YouTube Channels for Catholic Teens”. It has been among my most-viewed blog posts since. So I thought, well, why not make another similar post? In no particular order, I present to you my must-watch YouTube channels for college-aged Catholics!

  1. Father Mike Schmitz! If Father Mike isn’t a household name at your college’s Catholic student center, he should be! Father Mike is the priest at the Catholic Center at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. He speaks at conferences (such as SEEK, a large conference for Catholic college students across the country), and he even has his own podcast. He comes out with a new video every Wednesday through the YouTube channel Ascension Presents. The topics are always super interesting– “Aren’t all churches the same?“, “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!“, and “Praying in a state of mortal sin,” to name a few.
  2. FOCUS! FOCUS stands for “Fellowship of Catholic University Students.” This organization has a bunch of wonderful videos. I particularly like the videos of the talks from SEEK, the aforementioned yearly national conference of Catholic college students. If you were unable to attend SEEK, you can watch all the talks on this channel! The conference attracts a lot of the classic Catholic speakers (Jason Evert, Father Mike again, Matt Fradd, Leah Darrow, Chris Stefanick, etc.), and in these videos they deliver messages specifically for our age group!
  3. Bishop Robert Barron! I mentioned Bishop Barron in my must-watch YouTube videos post from 2013, except back then he was Father Barron, not Bishop Barron! I was listening to Bishop Barron before he was cool. 😉 Anyway, I’ve long been a fan of how intellectual his videos are. I always learn a lot from him.
  4. Chris Stefanick! Chris Stefanick is another one of the aforementioned “classic Catholic speakers.” I think his speaking may be geared to a slightly younger audience (high school?), but I still find his videos relevant (he has spoken at SEEK before). He’s just a super dynamic speaker, and he has great messages too!

Have I missed your favorite Catholic YouTube channels? Comment below!

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A Sense of Belonging: College Students and their Parishes

“Everything changes and nothing stands still.”    ~ Heraclitus

Heraclitus was a pre-Socratic philosopher who believed that the central building block of the universe was “flux,” or change. Now, with my Christian worldview, I can’t say that I believe the central thing is this universe is change…but as a college student sometimes it seems that way!

The life of a college student is ever-changing, particularly geographically. Most of the time you’re at school, but then you come home on vacations. Still other times you take weekend trips to conferences somewhere. Or maybe you take an internship away from home during your break. The confusing thing is that I’m not really sure where “home” is anymore. I’d be compelled to say that it is at my family’s home, but now that I’m a rising junior, it seems like home is at my college.

How does living all over the place affect my membership at any one Catholic parish? It’s certainly been an odd situation for me. In high school, I was involved in one parish in my town. That was the place I always went to Mass. Honestly, the community wasn’t and isn’t as vibrant as it should have been, but that’s not the subject of this post. Long story short, I still would have considered it “my parish.”

Now that I’ve been in college for two years, I most certainly consider the Catholic Center at my school to be “my parish.” I’m far more involved in the various ministries of the Catholic Center at my college than I ever was at the parish in my hometown. There is really so little opportunity for young adult involvement at your average family parish. At my college, it is solely students who are ushers, greeters, readers, choir members, officers, etc.

It’s always so weird when I come home and go to Mass at my “old parish.” I feel out of place. I’m not sure whether it’s because I’ve been away for so long or because there are so few people my age hanging around. (i.e., Is the problem in my geographical flux, or is it in the way that family parishes don’t really have much for young adults?)

Yes, indeed, it’s very comforting that Catholicism offers so much consistency across parishes (Mass, Adoration, etc) — my spiritual side is nourished for sure. But when I come back home, I feel myself lacking in fellowship, which is an important aspect of Christianity as well.

In my opinion, there is a great need for family parishes to be aware of the geographical flux college students face. I am well aware that, as a general rule, “parish hopping” is frowned upon by many Catholics because it discourages the formation of a robust community at any one parish. Naturally, it’s not like college students are labeled as parish hoppers. But, in effect, we are parish hoppers, and this makes it hard for us to feel like we fit in at our parishes when we come home from school.

Hopefully I haven’t rambled too much so far…I haven’t planned this out. To summarize my point of the above section: the geographical flux college students face contributes to a lack of identification with their home parish, a problem which parishes should perhaps look at remedying.

The changing location of college students poses another problem for their spiritual development: it makes them less likely stick with their faith. Let’s think of a Catholic college student who isn’t too dedicated to his/her faith. Maybe she goes to Mass regularly with her family while she’s at home, but when she goes to college, it’s just plain-old easier not to go. I see this super often in my role as an officer at my college’s Catholic Center. Another theme I’ve seen: once these people foster Catholic friendships, they come to Mass regularly because their friends are there. (The challenge from here is making sure that the faith is not merely a social thing for them, that it becomes more than just that.)

Or consider the flip side. Maybe someone discovers her faith while at college; perhaps she goes to Mass every week (maybe for social reasons, or hopefully for a deeper reason). Then she gets home and feels out of place at her parish, and so she doesn’t go to Mass while on vacation.

Now for the perfect storm:

Problem (a) is that most college students do not really feel a complete sense of belonging to only one parish. Because we’re church-hoppers by default, we can’t really settle into one fellowship. Problem (b) is that many students are not fully dedicated to their faith.

The result?

Young adult Catholics fall away from the faith. Many are timid to go to a parish where they might feel socially out of place, and the draw of the faith is not yet strong enough to overcome this social anxiety.

And what message do I intend to communicate in the above rambling?

Both college campus ministries and family parishes need to work harder to reach out to the collegiate age group. College campus ministries usually do a great job of building fellowship, but there is more that can be done on the spiritual end. Family parishes offer all the necessary spiritual nourishment, but they lack in fostering fellowship among those in my age group. As a practical suggestion….I think it would be a great idea to have a summer fellowship group for college students at local parishes. I’m sure the parish office still has the email addresses of current college students, saved from their years of taking Confirmation classes. Reach out to those young adults.

Do you know of any cool ways parishes are reaching out to college students home on vacation? Comment below!

When Academics Become God

It seems like, for a lot of people, religion is a source of self-discipline. And it is for me too, but I possessed a great deal of self-discipline before I ever had my conversion experience at the age of 16. And I’m not saying that to “toot my own horn,” so to speak. Even though we usually think of self-discipline as a good thing, it’s only good in moderation. And before I started taking my faith seriously, my self-discipline as it related to academics was…well, way overboard.

Now don’t get me wrong. It’s good to study hard. Doing well in school allows you to learn about God’s creation and the magnificence of it all. It also gives you a means by which to use your God-given talents to contribute to society. But here’s what I think the thing to remember is: academics is a means, not an end. That can be a particularly hard thing for people such as myself to understand.

When you have the natural tendency to work ridiculously hard (i.e. spending 7+ hours on homework per night, studying till 1 AM, resisting the urge to join the neighbors having a good time outside your window, etc.), it’s really easy to start to, quite frankly, worship academics. Now, I don’t think that it’s necessarily a bad thing to spend a lot of time on homework or stay up late doing it or stay inside when you have business to attend to. In fact, my studying practices in these regards are still very much the same. The big difference, I think, is how you view it all– there’s a big difference between worshipping academics and serving God via academics.

Before my conversion experience towards the end of my sophomore year in high school, I studied for — now, this will sound weird — no particular purpose that I was conscious of. My parents had always placed a great emphasis on school, so I was just kind of responding to that, maybe? But it’s not like I was thinking that. I probably also liked how it felt to get good grades– perhaps I was addicted to the pride that comes with getting good grades in school? Whatever my reasons were, I was hooked for reasons I was unaware of. By the end of that sophomore year, I started to have a slight existential crisis: “Why am I doing this?”; “Why do I continue on studying even when it isn’t fun?”; “What purpose does this all serve?”

— ENTER GOD —

When I received the Sacrament of Confirmation, something changed within me. For the first time in my life I was on fire for God, and I wanted everyone else to know about the Good News, and I became a practicing Catholic. (Praise the Holy Spirit.) (Although there was one definitive moment when the trajectory of my life changed, conversion doesn’t happen all at once. In fact, it is still happening; it is a lifelong process.)

My conversion drastically changed my views regarding academics. In 10th grade, academics were for me. In fact, school was basically what gave my life meaning. Now (as a rising college sophomore) I see my pursuing of academics as my current vocation as a student, as utilizing the particular skill set God gave me, and as a means by which to eventually serve my neighbor. In 10th grade, I saw church-related activities (including Mass) as interfering with my studying. Now I go to Mass approximately 4-6 times a week during the school year.

Maybe skeptics would view these changes in me as some overstressed kid trying to escape the pressure she puts on herself. Not so. It’s not like I used God as some excuse to stop working hard. I still study for many hours a day. I still stay up late to study– even until 3 AM or 4 AM sometimes. I still sit myself down and work even when there are other things I’d rather be doing. My sense of purpose in my study habits is what changed– it’s for God, not me. And that is truly what makes all the difference.

Another breed of skeptics may think it’s crazy to ever put God before school. And I can relate to that line of thinking since that’s totally where I was 3 years ago. But I promise you: making God the purpose for your hard work and making time to worship Him will bear many fruits in your studies (and more importantly, in your life in general). Seriously. And it’s way better for your soul. Plus, let’s face it: eternity is way more important than this life.

So, is self-discipline bad? No! Not in itself! It allows you to be dedicated in serving God. But all good things can become perverted. Eve provides us with a good example of this. Satan told her that eating the forbidden fruit would allow her to become more like God. God is good, right? Eve wanted to be good like God. In trying to become “good,” Eve caused the Fall of humanity. Likewise, in pursuing self-discipline (or any other seemingly good quality) to an excess, you can pervert it and be the cause of your own personal Fall.

Doing well in school is certainly not a bad thing at all. In fact, it’s very good! But know why you strive to do well. Make your academic successes a means for you to serve God, not an end for yourself. If you have a rather academically “intense” personality like me, harness that and make it a virtue, not a vice.

 

Catholic Book Reviews, Twitter Style

I’ve read some pretty great apologetics/theology/philosophy books in the past year. Here are book reviews for these works, each in 140 characters or less! 

 

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis:

From its lucid philosophy to its compelling way of presenting theology, this book is fantastic for the Christian & non-Christian alike. 

http://www.amazon.com/Mere-Christianity-C-S-Lewis/dp/0060652926

 

Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton:

Written by a master of paradox, this book makes a compelling case for orthodox Christianity through clever analogies and lucid philosophy.

http://www.amazon.com/Orthodoxy-G-K-Chesterton/dp/1493508075/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408938843&sr=1-1&keywords=orthodoxy

 

St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox by G.K. Chesterton:

A good introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas, the man behind the Summa. A bit wordy at times though.

http://www.amazon.com/St-Thomas-Aquinas-Dumb-Ox/dp/1466285095/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408938893&sr=1-1&keywords=st.+thomas+aquinas+the+dumb+ox

 

In the Beginning by Pope Benedict XVI:

An exquisite and artful look at how Catholics view the creation story in Genesis and how the New Testament connects.

http://www.amazon.com/Beginning%C2%85-Catholic-Understanding-Ressourcement-Retrieval/dp/0802841066/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408938940&sr=1-1&keywords=in+the+beginning+pope+benedict

 

The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel:

A former atheist journalist investigates scientific, corroborative, historical, & other evidence 4 the accuracy of Biblical account of Jesus

http://www.amazon.com/Case-Christ-Journalists-Personal-Investigation/dp/0310339308/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408939027&sr=1-1&keywords=the+case+for+christ

 

The Wisdom of C.S. Lewis

I am currently reading C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and let me just say, IT IS THE BEST BOOK EVER!!! I highly recommend it. Anyway, I really want to make a post about it, except my own paraphrasing wouldn’t do it justice. So I’m going to utilize quotes–C.S. Lewis has a wonderful way of putting things.

C.S. Lewis on why God exists:

“…human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it.” (i.e. a common sense of right and wrong; conscience; natural law)

“The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other….You are, in fact, comparing them both with some Real Morality, admitting that there is such a thing as a real Right, independent of what people think, and that some people’s ideas get nearer to that real Right than others.”

“If there were a controlling power outside the universe, it could not show itself to us as one of the facts inside the universe….The only way in which we could expect it to show itself would be inside ourselves as an influence or command trying to get us to behave in a certain way.”

In other words, the fact that an absolute Right exists and that it is implanted within us shows that God exists. It also shows that He is the source of all goodness.

C.S. Lewis on the Problem of Evil

“But how had I got the this idea of just and unjust? … What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the who show was bad and senseless from A to Z…why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it?” (i.e. this idea of just and unjust could only come from God)

C.S. Lewis on the Complexity of Religion

“It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple.”

“Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. … If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up.”

C.S. Lewis on the Divinity of Christ

“Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse [Satan].” (i.e. someone who claims to be the Son of God is either A) who He says He is, B) crazy, or C) the devil)

i.e. READ THIS BOOK!

Evangelizing Through Beauty: A commentary by Fr. Barron

I am a huge fan of Fr. Robert Barron’s ministry Word on Fire. Here’s one of his most recent video commentaries. He talks about how when evangelized, people are drawn in first through the Beauty of Catholicism. Then they see the Good (morals) of Catholicism. Finally they see the Truth of the faith.
As I was watching this awesome video, I was thinking, “That’s exactly how it was for me!! What a coincidence!” At my Confirmation, I was amazed by the beauty of the sacrament. Then I started looking into Catholic moral teachings and was further impressed. But part of me still couldn’t deal with teachings on abortion, the Real Presence, etc. But then I saw the TRUTH in Catholicism!!!