My faith turned out to be a trail guide for my college years.
Crowded out of the parking lot by all the families of freshmen moving in, I gave my parents and brother quick hugs on the curb outside my new dorm before rushing in to beat the rain. Watching the taillights of my mom’s SUV blink goodbye, I felt both thrilled and terrified at the open road of college before me.
Though I had yet to discover how the next four years would shape me, I soon realized three things: (1) I had no friends in my new home. (2) I longed to learn about things that mattered. (3) I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The pursuit of friendship, knowledge and purpose required me to seek a power beyond myself.
Looking back, I see how my faith encompassed every twist and turn of my college journey, which was only the start of the adventure that, as Pope St. John Paul II says, is life with Christ.
Now as a FOCUS missionary, my walk with Christ remains at the forefront of my mind. If I could go back to that moment on the curb and give myself any advice for the journey ahead, this is what I would say.
Find quality companions for the way.
Take note of the loneliness you feel, and ask the Lord to fill that emptiness with virtuous friendship, for “faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure” (Sirach 6:14). Jesus will lead you to people who will walk with you for the rest of your life, but you’ll never meet them if you hide inside your dorm.
Be vulnerable. Connect with your Catholic center and join a Bible study — you might even surprise yourself and lead one! See if your school has a Newman Center, FOCUS, St. Paul’s Outreach, NET Ministries or other campus ministries.
Carry your faith outside your Catholic center. Talk to the people you sit beside in class. Those relationships solidified by late night study sessions, cross-country roadtrips and frequent treks across campus to Mass will draw you outside of yourself and deeper into who you are.
You might feel alone and awkward at first, but you were made for relationship. You must venture out into the unknown if you are to find your “sturdy shelters.” Down the road, these friendships will become some of the greatest gifts you receive in college.
Learn from each other as you travel together.
Like Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8, let your friends teach you along the journey. Beneath your longing to learn is a hunger to discover the beauty, truth, and goodness of your Catholic faith.
Soak in the stories of Salvation History in your Bible study. Make late night trips to chapel to pray before your big exams. When your faith begins to permeate your studies, you’ll see the eternal weight of all you do, leading you to a deeper experience of knowing both Jesus and yourself through prayer.
Reflect on your route often.
The road before you stretches farther than you can see, but every leg of your journey can teach you something about who you are if you let it. As Jesus goes out of His way to meet the woman at the well in John 4, He takes a particular path to encounter you. You’ll miss Him, however, if you focus solely on shaving minutes off your arrival time as you power through classes, work, and extracurriculars. If you miss Jesus, you’ll miss yourself.
Prioritize time to pray. Note the nearest chapel and make every effort to visit daily. Prayer will allow the Lord to reveal your purpose to you. Through knowing Christ more intimately, He will teach you to know yourself as well.
Trust in the Lord as He directs your path. Embrace the uncertainty of this new journey and be surprised by the breathtaking views along the way. Accompanied by steadfast friends, enriched by the knowledge of your faith and grounded in prayer, you’ll find college is just the trailhead for the adventure that lies ahead.
Morgan Knobloch is a FOCUS missionary serving at Angelo State University. Morgan and her FOCUS teammates work closely with the Angelo State University Newman Center to host Bible studies and other activities to bring students closer to Christ.