You may have already sent your children through college and have grandchildren approaching this juncture. Or perhaps you have children who are currently in college and you wish to establish better ground rules; or maybe none of your children are attending yet, and you’re going through the decision process right now!
For your sake, I pray it’s going smoothly. I pray you have a child who requires little assistance and insistence when it comes to completing their college applications. If your child knows where he/she wants to attend college and even what he/she wants to study, count your blessings!
We can’t forget, though, that also up for consideration is the continued education of the soul. This is the REAL form of “higher” education that should concern us.
I remember hearing Father Groeschel say one time that it is better for a young adult to attend a secular college where there can be no expectation or confusion regarding faith formation, than to attend a heretical Catholic college. I believe that is true. It is indeed damaging for a student to be presented with a spiritual and moral education that is contrary to what the Catholic faith espouses, leading to confusion, distrust, and eventually disobedience.
How then, can we make our best attempt at setting them up for spiritual success?
Thank goodness we are not out there on our own without resources! You may happily discover that you will not have to re-invent the wheel entirely when preparing your child for the higher education of the soul and the spiritual and moral pitfalls of the college environment.
If the goal is to lead our young adult children into a deeper and more committed relationship with Christ and His Church through positive reinforcement instead of “don’t you dare do this” or “behave, and do the right thing” there are some outstanding Catholic books guiding them to a “higher” calling that are readily available. Books that come to mind immediately are: How to Stay Catholic in College by Christopher Kaczor; Faith Bound – Prayers By & 4 College Students; and Your College Faith-Own It by Matt and Colleen Swaim. You can find these and other helpful Catholic books here.
Here are some other helpful tips:
- Begin the discussion of attending a solid (and by that I mean obedient) Catholic college or University when they are young. I have many friends that present their youngsters with only Catholic options, therefore avoiding the expectation of anything else.
- At any time, you can begin and continue to discuss the importance of staying connected with their Catholic faith through the reception of the Sacraments. Make it a point to visit the Catholic center that is on or near the campus. Meet and get to know- ahead of time- the priest assigned to the college. If the college does not have a Newman Center or St. Thomas More Center, then you and your child will need to locate the nearest Catholic Church and determine transportation to and from Mass and other functions. Making Mass attendance and confession a priority during a campus visit and even on the day of Orientation will remind your child that no matter where he/she is, Christ is always available. Most but not all Newman Centers, and the like, have active Campus Ministry groups involved in worthwhile spiritual and social activities. Your child will need to assess the value of these activities for himself/herself.
- Establish the expectation of trust. You are entrusting your child with the privilege of attending college based on the understanding that they will also attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Let your child know you trust that the “higher” education of their soul will be pursued equally along with their academics and new social life.
- Let your child know what the “deal breakers” are; meaning, behaving in ways that damage their relationship with Christ and are obstacles to spiritual growth. Your criteria for “deal breakers” may be differ from other families because you know your child best, but establishing this prior to your child leaving for college will free both of you from the unpleasant task of trying to establish standards and expectations in the moment of crisis.
- Because as Catholics we have so many beautiful Catholic images, symbols, and treasures such as figurines for the dorm room, rosaries, wall crucifixes, patron saint items, Catholic Bibles, and the list goes on, we can equip our children with an outstanding “college starter kit”. Sacramentals say ‘I love you” and are tender reminders of God’s love as well.
If you raise your child in the beauty, fullness, and truth of the Catholic faith, you are entitled to the expectation they will continue to nurture what you have planted even in your absence. Remember, there are certain things we cannot do for our children. We cannot make or force them to love God to the point of never offending Him. That is up to them. We should not travel to their college every Sunday to make sure they are getting to Mass. We should not ever believe about ourselves that we are in the business of converting or re-verting our children because that is God’s job.
We can however, pray for them steadfastly, maintain open communication about our expectations regarding their faith development, and be prepared to dole out the Mercy as God so generously does with us.
Copyright 2013 Cris Seidel