Being Catholic…in Public School

I spent grades K-12 in a (*shudder*) public school. Jk, it wasn’t that awful. I now go to a private, secular college. So basically, I’ve always been on chilling out on this little island of Catholicism in a sea of rampant secularism. But the beach is sunny and the sand is warm. (Okay, I think I just took that metaphor too far. Anyway…)

Catholic students at secular schools face a unique set of obstacles. At the same time, they face a unique set of opportunities. In some ways, I think that being at a secular college is easier than being at a secular high school. In high school, your home life is very separate from your school life. In college, however, everything clashes together, and everything is simply life. In college, I do all my studying and socializing at the Catholic Center on campus, which is basically my home. All my close friends also do their studying and socializing at this home.

But high school. If you make it through that as a Catholic, you can make it through anything! (Although, it might depend on which college you go to.)

So, I present to you:

Ways to Stay Catholic, Public School Edition!

  • Find Catholic Friends. Community is so important for keeping you on the straight and narrow path. Especially in an environment where there may be many people who don’t believe what you believe. You might be able to find these people in your church’s youth group or in your Confirmation class. But I will admit, sometimes these people are hard to come by, depending on how secular your area is. It could also help to go on retreats for, say, your diocese. Even if you make friends who don’t go to your high school, they still may be helpful to you (and vice versa) in your spiritual journey.
  • Learn about Catholicism. When you’re faced with people who don’t believe what you believe, it’s good to know your stuff. Even if you don’t have any direct conversations about religion with atheists, agnostics, or Protestants, you may hear them talking, and you need to be able to justify your faith to yourself.
  • Evangelize. One of the unique opportunities of public school! Depending on your comfort level, try to have meaningful conversations with others about religion. They might be interested and start asking you questions. If you don’t know the answers, tell them you’ll get back to them after you research. It’s a win-win situation. You learn more about your faith…and they might end up Catholic some day!
  • Pray to St. Joseph of Cupertino before exams! He’s the best!
  • Make time for God. This is especially difficult in high school. You have homework, homework, and more homework. You have AP Exams. You have extracurricular activities. Much craziness. It’s helpful for you to commit to ways that you will make time for God each day. Once you get into a routine, it gets easier. One thing that’s relatively easy to do is pray to God every night before you go to bed, without fail. And of course, make sure to get to Mass every weekend. Another thing that could be cool would be going to daily Mass–I never did this in high school, but I do this in college. Sometimes daily Mass times don’t work for the high school schedule (it’s a pity, really). If you’re lucky, maybe a church nearby has an evening Mass. Even if you found time to get to Mass once a week besides Sunday, that would be super awesome. (PS–Daily Mass is significantly shorter than weekend Mass–somewhere between 25 and 35 minutes, approximately.) I don’t know why, but whenever I go to daily Mass, my day feels longer…which is wonderful because I need all the time I can get! God certainly rewards you for the time you give to Him!
  • Turn worthless-activity-time into prayer time. Recently, I was like, “I should start praying the Rosary every day.” (Not sure I’ll do that during the school year, but summer for sure.) So I’ve started praying it while I wash up at night. The Rosary takes about 15 minutes, and that’s about how long it takes me to wash up. So it’s perfect! And the great thing is, I wash up every night, so it becomes very natural to pray the Rosary every night. It could also be convenient to pray the Rosary on the bus ride to school. Additionally, last year at college, I realized that once I was done with my homework, I would waste a lot time messing around doing absolutely nothing, really, on my iPad. So I decided that time would be better spent praying or reading the Bible. (There was still some messing around on the iPad, but I devoted a reasonable amount of that time to prayer and religious reading.)
  • Go on retreats. Retreats can be really helpful for re-focusing your life on what’s important. And sometimes public school makes it hard to see what’s important because you get caught up in the day-to-day toil.
  • Try to see God in your school work. Know that your current place in life is as a student, and that it’s your duty to God to live out this calling he has bestowed you with at this time.
  • Go to Confession and/or Eucharistic Adoration. Confession just helps with everything, whether you’re a public school student, or anyone really. It just pours out all this grace you you. Ditto Eucharistic Adoration. Although, I must say that Eucharistic Adoration is the hardest thing to do when you’re busy because it feels (at face value) like you are doing nothing. (In reality, a whole lot is happening.) I will admit that I wasn’t good at getting to Eucharistic Adoration last year in college; that is something I will work on in the coming year.

There are a ton of suggestions here. As far as the prayer-type stuff goes, don’t feel like you have to do all of it. Take on something reasonable. Otherwise you might crash and burn after a couple of days. You’re better off doing a little bit every day rather than having the prayer life of the Pope for two days. (I know I’m exaggerating there, but you get the idea.) I guess it all depends on where you are in your prayer life right now. For me at that stage of life (I didn’t take ownership of my faith till I was 16), it was enough to pray every night, go to Mass every weekend, and casually Google things about Catholicism and watch videos about the faith online when I needed a study break.

Challenge yourself where you are. If your prayer life feels like a burden, you won’t want to pray…so pick something reasonable for you and your school workload.

Doing the types of things outlined above is hard when you’re a public school student because it seems like no one else is doing them. That’s probably the overarching issue for Catholics in public school. You start to wonder if you’re weird or something because you’re…well, different. Indeed, you are different, but it’s a good kind of different.

In conclusion, be a hipster like Pope Francis:

Hipster Pope Francis

(Image credit: http://www.elmiracatholicym.org/home/media/meme-of-the-day/hipsterpopefrancis)

[Shout out to Katie who gave me the idea for this post!]

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“Catholic” Means “Universal” … even at a secular college!

Without disclosing where I go to college, let’s just say it’s highly secular…  

…which is why I was a little worried in the months leading to my college debut. 

Were my beliefs going to be questioned the minute I moved in? Were professors going to subtly bash religion? Would I be surrounded by ardent atheists? Would I be able to stand up to all of this?

All that worry for nothing! I’ve found my faith life mixing with my academic life and social life more than ever before at the wonderful secular college I now call home!

  1. People, especially agnostics, like to talk about religion. College (at least my college) isn’t like the regular world where people gasp when you mention the word “God” among them. People have a genuine intellectual curiosity, and they want to know the truth about the world. Talk about evangelization opportunities! 😀 So I go to Mass on Sundays with all my agnostic and almost-leaving-the-Church Catholic friends. 😀
  2. I do most of my studying at the Catholic Center. A lot of other people do too. So I’ve made a lot of good friends of all class years that way. Studying at the Catholic Center also puts me in the right place to go to activities at the Catholic Center that day, like Bible studies and discussion groups and daily Mass and guest speaker presentations. So my academic life is interspersed with study breaks that are spiritually fulfilling and often quite intellectual. 😀
  3. The Catholic Center also has a lot of social events. So while my peers are getting blacked-out-drunk on Friday and Saturday, I’m happily and soberly playing games, watching movies, and baking cookies at the Catholic Center. 😀

Now I know why “catholic” means “universal”! Catholicism works everywhere!   

Being Openly Catholic in a Secular Society

The Holy Spirit came into the disciples at Pentecost, inspiring them to spread the Good News. Why aren’t we doing more of that? Out of fear of not being “politically correct”?
Picture from: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/3580235485/

Living in America, we are blessed with freedom of religion. This is fantastic, but it means something very different now than it did in the time of the Founding Fathers.

In the 18th century, it meant that religion was protected from the state. Now it means that the state is protected from religion!

There is an intense secularization going on in the U.S. (and probably elsewhere). It’s almost a forceful secularization. All of these pressures force us to be “politically correct” and to drop our religion the second we walk out of church. No one wants to talk religion. It’s ironic…we refuse to talk about the most important thing there is, the thing that everything else hinges on.

I’m guilty of it too, that is, of feeling weird talking about religion in secular places (school, neighborhood, etc.). I’ve grown up my whole life thinking it was taboo. My parents said not to discuss religion or politics with anyone. I’ve been conditioned by society. But lately I’ve been thinking, “Why not?”

So, if it’s appropriate in the context of a particular conversation, I mention that I am Catholic. I’m usually bluntly honest about who I am in all regards, so why not mention my religion, which defines me more than anything else? Also, I figure that I can’t properly witness the faith unless people know I’m Catholic. Letting people know you’re Catholic is a potentially powerful evangelization tool.

Usually people just smile and nod. They, too, are conditioned by society to avoid religious discussion. It’s a pity. Sometimes, though, people ask me about it. (I like that.) So I answer as best I can and try to spread the Good News.

Don’t feel bad about talking religion. Don’t let secular society get you down.

 

“Those who with God’s help have welcomed Christ’s call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world” (CCC,#3).

“Mission is a duty about which one must say ‘Woe to me if I do not evangelize’ (1 Corinthians 9:16)…redemption and mission are acts of love [because] those who proclaim the Gospel participate in the charity of Christ” (Pope Benedict, 2008).

“The Church is missionary by nature and her principal task is evangelization, which aims to proclaim and to witness to Christ and to promote his Gospel of peace and love in every environment and culture” (Pope Benedict, 2006).

“Before His ascension, Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always, yes even to the end of time'”(Matthew 28:17-20).