Catholicism and College: An Unlikely Intersection

I went to Catholic school my entire life. Consequently, I have a strong aversion to plaid and an irrational fear of polyester. My college is the first non-parochial institution I have attended.

Recently I went to a party (cause that is what college kids are supposed to do) where I overheard a particularly ornery student discussing the election of Pope Francis. My previous conversation centered on the reasoning behind why Sperry top-siders were never to be worn with socks, and although it was very informative, I thought I would take my chances with the kid in the skinny jeans that pretended to read Descartes in his free time.

This modern-day Socrates, holding his plastic red cup, was lecturing as if from an imaginary pulpit, calling for the immediate termination of the “archaic” papal conclave to a congregation of inebriated and disinterested peers. Being the masochistic idiot that I am, I decided to tell him that I am a practicing Catholic, to which he responded, “Why?’

I was surprised and intrigued. I had never been asked this before. At my previous schools, my religious leanings were never questioned, simply assumed.

I told him the truth. I was continuing to practice Catholicism because that was the way I was raised and it was all I had ever known. He then proceeded to list all of the philosophical, moral and institutional failings of the Church, starting with the Third Crusade and working his way through the Vatican’s stance on gay marriage. After this, he chastised me for not seeking out other religious practicums before I made an informed decision about which to follow. His analysis took a long while, but I had no one but myself to blame. I mean, I could have been happily conferring about footwear.

This encounter, albeit uncomfortable, got me thinking about religion in college, and especially Catholicism in college. College is a time of experimentation and finding oneself (at least that is what all the brochures told me), and the Church has never been known for its radical experimentation. Somewhere along the path to the present, Catholicism and its followers became synonymous with close-mindedness. This definition may hold true for some people who prescribe to Catholic doctrine, but I resent this generalization. Those who scream the loudest do not account for the comprehensive voice of the Church; they just tend to have the highest-standing soapbox.

Religion will always be imperfect, because HUMANS created it. True, faiths often take root in some sort of teachings and principles laid down by divine beings, but humans are the ones who have transcribed and interpreted these infallible truths. And if anything is absolutely certain it is that we, as a species, are imperfect. If we were perfect there would no longer be a need for biological evolution or war or voluntary cosmetic surgery.

So, yes, the Catholic Church needs reformation but it WILL ALWAYS need reformation. This is because the clergy caters to the needs of human parishioners and, being that our race is in a continual state of progression, so too must the Catholic Church. Furthermore, this holds true for any institution, including government.

Catholicism is larger than sex scandal. It is larger than internal corruption. It is larger than a Pope. It is larger than the Vatican. It is larger than one opinionated girl writing an online article about her faith.

Whether you are carrying a cross up to Calvary towards salvation or trying to traverse the Noble Eightfold Path to reach personal self-awakening, it doesn’t really matter. You are trying to better yourself; you are trying to prescribe meaning to the seemingly incidental nature of life. This can be achieved through Judaism, Islam, Atheism, Hinduism etc.

I, personally, believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

I support gay marriage.

I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

I accept that every faith can lead towards personal salvation, as long as you strive to be a good person.

I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.

The great comedian George Carlin, who was an outspoken atheist and notorious critic of organized religion, said, “Religion is sort of like a lift in your shoes. If it makes you feel better, fine. Just don’t ask me to wear your shoes.”

I think, for me, Carlin summed it up perfectly. I consider myself a Catholic that focuses more so on internal analysis rather than outside conversion. I do not want to be lectured about my faith by a random kid at a nondescript college party because I would never tell someone what they believe in wrong or immoral. I would not ask someone to wear my shoes, because I would never want to wear anyone else’s, especially Sperry top-siders because people don’t wear socks with those.

Featured image via wanderlustandlipstick

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