By Chelsea Parza
In my freshman year of college, I made the decision to go to daily Mass every day no matter what I had to do that day or the next. The interior struggle I faced was a constant battle, as I had to let go of the perfectionist desire to get the best grades or to develop some sort of social life. Each day I’d mull over the same questions and doubts: “I really need to study for my exam, do I really need to go to Mass on a Wednesday?” “I already go once a week as it is… I don’t have the time.” “We were supposed to hang out tonight…It’s SOO far (really only a 5-10 min from my dorm room), etc. etc. etc.”
Nonetheless, one sweaty bike ride in the Florida sun after another, I would attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, gaining not only physical stamina, but a peace that only God can give. What was first only an option became an absolute necessity. I even scheduled classes around Mass and Adoration times and didn’t take the classes that forced me to miss them. I’m not saying everyone should do this, because it may not actually be practical for everyone, but in my case, I felt the Lord beckoning me to make the commitment that if I truly wanted to know Him, I needed to show it. Through incredible virtuous friendships, retreats, and various other opportunities offered by Catholic Gators, I slowly began to realize the incandescent beauty of the Catholic Church.
When I look back on my freshman year and how it shaped me as a person, I don’t think about the impossible chemistry problems or the terribly long study edge sessions, I dwell on the fact that I could’ve told Jesus “no.” I could’ve chosen to take more naps, eat more food at the dining hall, or go on more runs. Whatever it was, there was always a nagging feeling inside of me, saying that if I didn’t put God first now, I would regret it for the rest of my life. I remember on the shear truth that Jesus wrecked my idea of a good life in the best possible way.
“As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.”
Don’t let your desires to know Jesus become extinguished. Honestly, there were times that “Deep [called] out to deep” (Psalm 42), but I wanted to stay shallow. Only by God’s grace was I able to pursue the Lord who fought so hard to pursue me. It was the year that I truly fell in love with our Eucharistic God, slowly, and then, all at once.
In college, when many other things seem so much more important, faith can very easily take last place, like the bottom book in your stack of terribly overpriced textbooks. You know it’s there and that you should probably open it, but you’re just too dang lazy. Been there, done that, and, frankly, sometimes still doing it (no one’s perfect).
But here’s a little encouragement:
We can have this mindset of “cookie-cutter” holiness. We believe that holiness is simply like putting premade cookie dough in the oven, wait a few minutes, and “ding!” you got a saint who prays all the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, 10 novenas, and goes to daily Mass. We’re not store-bought, pre-made cookies. We are dough being kneaded, rolled out, flattened, and left to rise from the yeast that is God’s grace. Do not be discouraged about where you are not, but be hopeful in the truth that you are still being kneaded, broken, and reformed to be the person that God is calling you to be. Patience is one the greatest fruits of the Holy Spirit, and, boy, is it one of the most difficult to grow in! Hear this —God does not desire your success. He desires your faithfulness. Pretty soon, one or two years from now, with perseverance and patience, you’ll look back and say, “Wow, who the heck was I and how did I get here?” You will have gone so deep in the life of Christ without consciously knowing it, that only a retrospective glance at who you once were will confirm the sanctity of who you are becoming. As in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, never fail to ask,
“Who are you, Lord my God, and who am I?”
The answer may surprise you.
Some things I learned as a struggling Catholic college student:
- Loneliness is necessary. Yeah, it can suck, but it can also be a place of grace.
- Netflix is a blessing and a curse. Instead of binge watching, try making a quick visit to Jesus in the Tabernacle, go for a run or walk, or just get up and out!
- Don’t wait for the invitation, be the invitation. Be bold.
- Most of my friends were made in the St. Augustine’s courtyard after 5:30 p.m. daily Mass. Best people you’ll meet.
- The Eucharist will change your life. Go to daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration weekly.
- Chacos sandals are ideal. They’ll get you from daily Mass to chem class in no time.