Moving out to university is one of the most exciting times of your life; suddenly you’re going to be greeted with a whole new world of freedom, where it’s up to you and you alone, to make the daily decisions, that up until now, have mainly been made by your parents or guardians. You know, it’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to actually get up out of bed that day and go to lectures (my advice to this one is DO go to your lectures, as tempting as it is to stay in bed watching Netflix all day… You WILL regret this at the end of term). It’s up to you to decide what you’re going to have for tea (more advice: nobody will judge you for having beans on toast every day, and it’s considerably cheaper than ordering in Dominos every day). And it’s up to you to decide whether you’re going to keep on going to church at the weekend. Without anyone there to get you out of bed on a Sunday morning, actively choosing to get up and get to Mass might be one of the hardest things you encounter.
First things first, you’re going to have to tell your new flatmates. For me, I hadn’t even been in the flat an hour and someone had spotted my pink sparkly statue of Our Lady. The best thing you can do is be honest from the start. It doesn’t have to be exaggerated into a big announcement, but don’t hide it. It is not your mission to convert everyone you’re living with; your presence in your halls will be enough to show people that hey, actually, maybe the Catholic Church isn’t all bad news!
It might seem that choosing to go to Mass at the weekend will mean turning up to Saturday night festivities late, or dragging yourself out of bed on Sunday morning. However, it is so worth checking out your university’s Catholic Chaplaincy. The chances are that the Mass times are chosen to suit the students – and yes, they do take into consideration the fact that even Catholic students enjoy a night out at the weekend! Getting the balance between the amount of time you spend socialising and the amount of time you spend with Jesus isn’t something you have to work out for yourself. Stick around the chaplaincy for a bit and you will find like-minded people who are in the same position as you. Many chaplains will offer spiritual direction where you can go and talk with the priest about any struggles you’re facing.
Being Catholic and being a student isn’t incompatible, or unrealistic. At university you become your own person, and your faith will not hold you back but will in fact make you stronger! Check out Phillipians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Also, I like this from Pope Francis, “Dear young people, please, don’t be observers of life, but get involved. Jesus did not remain an observer, but he immersed himself. Don’t be observers, but immerse yourself in the reality of life, as Jesus did.” Don’t be afraid to let your faith become an active part of your life, as Pope Francis says, immerse yourself! You’re Catholic, you’re not an alien, it’s as much a part of you as the way you laugh and the way you talk. Be open and be true to yourself, and you’ll sail through university life. (Just make sure you take my first piece advice too and attend your lectures!)