You’ve finally done it! After much work and long hours of studying, you have reached that all-impressive day of graduation. It is an exciting time, celebrating all that you have accomplished with family and friends. Yet, as the confetti and glamour of graduation fades, the end of school also presents the reality of transitioning to the next chapter of your life. Whether you are moving into a full-time occupation, preparing for grad school, or moving to college, retaining your relationship with Christ is vital. Here are a few tips to stay active in your faith.
1. Find Your Spiritual Home
While you may be hanging around your hometown/college town for a few months, when you transition, find the place at which you will attend Mass, go to confession, and pray. For someone attending college/graduate school, this may be the Catholic center on or near your campus. For those moving into the workforce, this will be a parish in your city often nearest your home. When moving to a new place, it can be daunting to wake up on your first Sunday and try to find a place to attend Mass. Knowing in advance what parish you will attend provides an opportunity to keep approaching the Sacraments with frequency.
Pro Tip: Registering at the parish/Catholic center you are attending is an awesome way to find out about opportunities to get involved. They often send newsletters, hold events for the community, and provide ways to give back. The parish is meant to be your spiritual home. Finding that home, and committing to it, allows you to get the most out of what your local parish has to offer.
2. Find Community
“For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
For someone entering the ‘real world’ of post-college life, finding faithful friends can seem like a daunting task. No longer are clubs and social events held within a five minute walk of your dorm room. Now the parish community is an amazing opportunity to get involved and meet people also making their faith the priority. This community is also made up of the people you are going to be attending Mass and volunteering with over the course of your Christian life.
For those making the transition to campus this fall, the campus Catholic center provides an opportunity to encounter a community of college students desiring to live out their faith in a place that is often challenging to share the message of the Gospel. Throughout college, endeavor to build friendships with people who are putting their relationship with Christ first. Campuses with FOCUS missionaries also have excellent opportunities to get involved and invite others into a greater love of Christ and the Church.
3. What are Your Gifts?
When people think about giving to the Church, images of ushers with collection baskets dance in their heads. It is true that the Church cannot operate without financial support, and giving financially is important. But it is also important to remember that we are given other gifts from God for His glory on earth. To utilize our time, talent, and treasure is an important reminder wherever we are in life. For some, that may be using their incredible voice to praise God in the sacrifice of the Mass. For others, it may be decorating the sanctuary for Christmas so the pastor can hear additional confessions. No matter what you can give, it is needed and greatly appreciated.
These activities are also an opportunity to invite others to participate with you. As a missionary, I have heard countless stories of students going back to confession and Mass after years away from the Church because a friend invited them to decorate the Church in preparation for Christmas, invited them to join the choir, or asked them to help cook for an event at the Catholic center. Giving back to the Church isn’t just about “feeling good” for our service: it is an opportunity to aid our brothers and sisters and invite others to do the same.
4. What Would You Like to Know?
“Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…” (1 Peter 3:15)
In contemporary society, the Church is surrounded on all sides by people questioning the faith handed on by the apostles over the millennia. Understanding our faith, and being ready to give an explanation for what the Church holds, is extremely necessary if we are to witness to the salvation offered in Christ.
By no means do all of us need to have a PhD-level knowledge of the faith. Thomas Aquinas, the greatest theologian of the Church said, “To love God is something greater than to know Him.” Even if we can explain the theological significance of every prophecy in the Old Testament, but do not have love, we are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2). However, desiring to understand what we believe and why we believe should flow naturally out of our love of God and the saving work of His Son.
Choosing to learn about the faith can seem daunting with such a wealth of knowledge present. Instead of getting overwhelmed, remember that learning about the faith doesn’t end when you get confirmed: it is an ongoing, lifetime process that will continue to be shaped by your experiences, your questions, and your prayer. You do not have to know the answers tomorrow. You need to be willing to seek the answers.
5. Make a Plan!
While all of these recommendations can start you on the right path, sticking to that path is important. Having a laid out plan is important to make our desire to live our faith more than a vague intention. When starting a new weight loss plan, we make spreadsheets, make extra trips to the grocery store. We set our alarm clock earlier to exercise in the morning. Why do we not plan with an objectively greater task: our eternal salvation? I am not advocating keeping a spreadsheet of every Hail Mary you pray. But having an actual plan keeps us focused on what matters most: Jesus Christ and His passion and resurrection.
As you continue to make friends built upon Christ, invite them to join you in this pursuit. Set aside an ongoing time to pray the Rosary with them, build a Bible study, or attend Mass together during the week and grab coffee afterwards. Routine is often criticized in our current culture; however, routine is only bad when it is pointless. The point of our walk with Christ is a greater union with the God of the universe.
Now that you have graduated, you are faced with an amazing opportunity: make the faith you have practiced your own.
Resolve to take seriously the call of Christ in your life by finding your home, pursuing Christ-centered friendships, offering your gifts, seeking understanding, and remaining committed to your goal: deeper intimacy with Christ.