Back to School and Keeping the Faith
Preparing a Game Plan for College Success
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DENVER, Colorado, AUG. 27, 2007 (Zenit.org).- College-bound students need a three-pronged game plan to help them face the academic, financial and spiritual challenges of university life, says Curtis Martin.
Martin, president and founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), explained to ZENIT that "college is a make it or break it time for many young Catholics."
"They will confront challenges concerning their faith," he said. "If they are prepared, the challenges may strengthen their convictions, if not, they may be in for more than they are ready."
FOCUS, now active on 30 campuses, offers small-group Scripture studies, discipleship and mission opportunities to college students, to help fight the anti-Christian culture found at many colleges.
"In the classroom," he continued, "they will be confronted with radical secularism and a skeptical form of agnosticism that not only finds faith in God unattainable, it also openly mocks those who try.
"Deconstruction will undermine both Tradition and a historical reliability of the Scriptures," said Martin.
"Outside of class," he added, "these young students will find themselves surrounded by a hedonistic frenzy of activities; binge drinking, drugs and a rejection of almost all sexual taboos."
"Finally, in the midst of this spiritual gauntlet, when the faith must be proclaimed with great clarity, these students may find that their local student centers are less than prophetic in their message and the delivery of the Gospel," Martin underlined.
"Universities," he said, "have become a place of great darkness in our modern world. Fortunately, Christianity is a light made to shine in the darkness."
Martin continued: "Our children are our greatest gift from God, we have spent 18 years trying to keep them safe and helping them grow strong. It is vitally important that we launch them successfully.
"Families should have a three-pronged game plan before sending a child off to college. If we fail to plan, we will plan to fail."
The FOCUS president said there are three areas that need planning before sending a child to college: academic, financial and spiritual.
He explained: "College can be a fantastic experience, but what are you hoping to accomplish? Does the college you are looking at offer an academic plan that fits your son or daughter?
"College has become extremely expensive, how are you going to pay for it? Many young people graduate from college enslaved to debt. This is a terrible way to begin a young life.
"Our spiritual life is the most important part of our life; no matter how much academic and financial success we might hope to attain, if we lose our soul in the process, our life will be an absolute failure."
"It is important to meet with the local priest and be sure that his commitment to the Church's teachings is vibrant and unambiguous," and to see if there are "faithful Catholic groups on campus," Martin added.
Breathe in, breathe out
The FOCUS founder continued: "The key to living a dynamic faith life is similar to breathing: we need to inhale and exhale.
"To 'inhale' spiritually, we need to be continually growing in our faith through daily prayer, frequent reception of the sacraments, and a commitment to ongoing learning.
"To 'exhale' spiritually we should practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: This includes teaching the faith to others; it is when we teach that we learn in the deepest of ways."
FOCUS works "to foster an environment where people can breathe spiritually. There are two fundamental principles in the spiritual life: 1) You cannot give what you do not possess; 2) You cannot keep what you will not share," he said.
Martin concluded: "It is important for all Catholics," especially young students "to find ways to become fully engaged in their faith."