Catholic school was easily one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Explaining this is not an easy task. Especially when the audience is my boy-crazy group of friends and the most ingenious thing about it was the absence of boys. Being surrounded by women of vision from 7-12th grade was an absolute privilege!
You could speak your mind without ANY boundaries (God bless our male teachers). You actually got judged if you wore makeup because appearance was the last thing anyone worried about. Retreats strengthened your sisterhood (Live the Fourth!). No Shave November was a year-round thing. No shame. No shame at all.
You were regularly invited to the convent to hangout with your fellow Irish sister (
luck of blessed by the Irish). Every single girl knew when there was a boy in the school in the matter of 7 minutes. You baked for each other’s birthdays, every holiday and for the random days in between. High-pitched pep rallies were the absolute greatest (N-N-N to the D!!!).
And the uniforms. We may have to talk about them in person because I could type pages on my love for the plaid! Leaving it in my closet once I left for college was nothing less than tragic. Comfort was at an all time high, personal style was never compromised and that skirt was completely indestructible. Literally fire-proof and yes, we tested it firsthand to confirm that rumor. Oh and did I mention that I never had to pick out an outfit Monday-Friday for 13 years?
Now that those years are memories, I miss not starting every class in 20 minute prayer because that’s approximately how long it took to reach every girl’s list of intentions. A picture of Mary can’t be found in any classroom, let alone anywhere on my current campus (we don’t worship her but I went to Notre Dame aka “Our Lady” so putting reminders of her everywhere was only right!). I now need to pencil in, highlight and underline every holy day of obligation because mandatory Mass is not worked into my day’s schedule for me.
I absolutely love my liberal arts university but wishing that I had continued on the Catholic school track has crossed my mind quite a few times. Because it’s tough. I’m not referring to academics or all of these quirky previous examples.
When I tell people I’m Catholic, I never know what is going through their mind. This has never been a thought of mine before I was a freshman in college. I’m not self-conscious in the slightest because I’m a child of God just like everyone I encounter. I aim to make love the principle of my life just as Jesus instructed.
What I am afraid of is that they separate me from themselves. I wonder what label they associate me with on the basis of my faith. It is my understanding that it aligns with the second half of Fulton Sheen’s quote.
If you want your children to fight for their faith, send them to public school. If you want them to lose their faith, send them to Catholic school. ~Archbishop Fulton Sheen
I wish I could say that I disagree. I’m beyond thankful for the sacrifices my family made to put me and my siblings through Catholic school for our entire childhood. Similarly, I am thrilled as I see my younger brother and sister growing in their faith at their Catholic colleges. However, I don’t think I would be passionately pursuing a relationship with Christ (or rather, allowing Him to pursue me) if I didn’t choose a non-Catholic school to attend in my young adult years.
Stepping out into a foreign environment tested my identity immensely. In my friend group at school, I stand alone in my Catholic faith. This is not a bad thing in the slightest because they are Godly women who challenge me to live more virtuously. But they and many others have questions. Questions that I don’t always have the answers to. Questions that prompt me to question myself.
I have had to prove to myself over and over why I firmly hold onto my baptismal vows. The problem: I have never had to do this before and I was alone in this challenge because this girl didn’t meet any other Catholics for over 6 months. I was ultimately forced to learn my faith on my own or watch it fade because no on was going to do it for me.
All I wanted was to walk through those blue and gold halls in my Sperry’s, sit down in Theology class and pray as a school before lunch. But I wasn’t going to encounter God by clinging onto familiarity. I’m sincerely appreciative that this firsthand realization didn’t come any later in my life.
Through perseverance and a lot of prayer, I fell in love with the depth and breadth of the Catholic Church. The discomfort is where I fell in love with Jesus Christ all over again. In losing the convenience, I found abundance.
If I’ve learned one thing about being Catholic at a non-Catholic university, it’s that being lukewarm in your faith is not sufficient. Sadly, the statistics are enough to show this as 79% of those who have dropped the name “Catholic” and claim no religious affiliation of any kind, have done so by age 23. It’s difficult and the world isn’t on your side but as cheesy as it may sound, nothing worth having comes easy. And you are worth a life overflowing with hope in God.
Do I still feel inadequate in my faith? All the time. But I don’t stand alone in my journey. God has placed wonderful friends and mentors in my life that continue to keep me accountable as we challenge each other to delve deeper into sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition.
I’ll never know what it’s like for my university to offer Mass, Adoration or Confession. Nor will I ever walk around campus knowing that a nice portion of the men share in my devotion for the Eucharist (future husband perk (:). However, I think God placed me where I’m at today because He had a considerable amount to teach me. About myself and more importantly, about Him.
I have never been more thankful for the gift of faith. I have fought to uphold my beliefs and this will surely be a lifelong process. But no matter how much effort I put in, the battle belongs to Him. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:14