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

  • Ashley Smith

    I really admire what you said! I go to a Baptist university where I am constantly surrounded by some of the most radical Christians who seem to have only become so upon leaving home and going off to “find themselves”. Whatever. I personally have grown so much in my faith since coming here because the environment is so nourishing. However, let it be known that I’m not one of those crazy radicals that tells everyone that one faith is better than another. What I get from what you said is that the whole point is to find a relationship with Christ, regardless of what anyone else has to say about it. I admire that. Faith is something that everyone understands differently, and I think that if someone has a problem with the way I understand the God I serve, they just need to leave me be.

  • Marie Fontelo

    Amen, sister! However I am definitely guilty of wearing socks with Sperry top-siders…

  • Jen Georgeff

    This is so spot on. I consider myself a reformed Catholic, I went and did my own thing for quite a few years and found myself going back to (and to my surprise, enjoying) mass. People can take what they want from it, but I’m there for myself. It makes me angry that people lump me in with those that scream the loudest. Just because I go to church, it doesn’t mean that I agree with all the hard line stances that the church and Vatican take. That’s the beauty of life, we are all individuals with our own thoughts and belief systems.

    This was a wonderful read, thank you.

  • Katie Hayes

    Such a fantastic post. I could have written this myself, except you put it into words much better.

  • Maddie Morris

    Great post enjoyed by a fellow Trojan. Fight on!

  • Jessica Jeffers

    More people ought to take George Carlin’s words to heart. I get so angry when people say things like, “You’re not a good Christian if…”

    People tend to forget that, more often than not, they practice a certain religion because that’s what their parents practiced…and that people who practice a different religion do so because that’s what their parents practiced. Catholicism and all the many Protestant denominations have beliefs that differ slightly from one another, to say nothing of the non-Christian religions of the world. To say that your way is the only correct way has always seemed so arrogant to me.

  • Rosario Ferrari Nicolay

    I agree with you. I attend a Catholic Univesity. I study Literature and there are, as I’m sure there are in any other groups or organizations, radicals (in my case, who claim that this or that writer should not be taught because of his/her background). Unfotunately, although they are not the majority, they are the ones who give such a negative idea of what a religous person is.
    Nevertheless, I don’t think that the point is letting everybody be. With this, I mean that if you believe and agree with something that you think is the best path, you want to share it with everybody and you’ll want others to be on the same path.
    The problem arises when the way you make this happen is by discriminating, judging, and basically attacking the other person who doesn’t believe in what you believe. This guy you were talikng about, did kind of the same thing. It’s never the way to do things. Talking kindly, debating, and through actions should be the best way to show others what you believe in, being religious or atheist, pro Church or against it, etc.
    As to what the Vatican stands for, as you said it, is a human institution. And the great challenge they have is to constantly adapt and reform so as to meet the needs and worries of people. There are many modern situations that people didn´t have to face 200 years ago, that didn’t even existed, and the Church, who ultimately is conformed by everybody (the Pope, priest and even just people who attend mass), has to adapt without disregarding what they stand for and their precepts.

  • Tom McBride

    Without Roman Catholicism you would not have western civilization. Speculate as to what you life would be but it would bare no resemblance to what you experience today. I don’t think anyone commenting here including the author of the article realizes how fundamental the Church is to our lives whether we are Catholic, Protestant, or atheist or whatever. I liked Carlin as a comedian but other wise he was ignorant and full of himself.

  • Brieana Krueger

    It’s like you’ve summed up everything I’ve wanted to say about my Catholic faith, you’ve just become a saint in my book.

  • Angela Vesagas

    This is great. Thank you so much for this!

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