Last summer, the University of Iowa earned the Princeton Review’s annually awarded title of "No. 1 Party School" in the United States.
But I am emerging from my four years of undergraduate studies at Iowa with more than a bachelor’s degree: I’ll be leaving with a changed perspective on the lifestyle of the American college student.
As a Catholic woman, the real highlight has come in these final months of my time in Iowa City, when three years of floundering led me beyond the stereotype of a partying college student and toward a deeper calling. Being "in the world but not of the world" is a difficult task to master in college. In the midst of my struggles to meet this balance, I’ve been pointed in the right direction by Scripture, stories of the saints and the counsel of fellow Christians. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Choose friends wisely. "Do not be led astray. ‘Bad company corrupts good morals,’" 1 Corinthians 15:33 says. The wisdom of this passage cannot be underestimated. Inevitably, you will be affected by your friends.
I was a transfer student when I arrived on campus. I was desperately anxious to make connections with my peers. I quickly found, however, that these girls did not share my values or my belief system. As Proverbs 13:20 warns us, "The companion of fools will suffer harm."
God taught me that I shouldn’t settle for shallow friendships.
Instead, I seek rich, wholesome relationships with like-minded people, and I encourage my peers to do the same. Join clubs that reflect your interests and get involved with Catholic ministry on your campus. For, as C.S. Lewis said, "Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?"
Enjoy being single. "An unmarried woman or a virgin is anxious about the things of the Lord, so that she may be holy in body and spirit" (1 Corinthians 7:34).
God wills this time of singleness in college to be a time when we draw nearer to him and seek his guidance. Uncommitted, the single young adult should be learning, growing and discerning his or her earthly calling, while simultaneously fulfilling a greater one that is glorifying God in daily life.
As young singles, we often set our sights on finding the perfect husband or wife and forget that it is our duty as future spouses to prepare ourselves for marriage. Actively consider, through prayer and visits to the Eucharist, who you’d like to be. Then, ask God for the grace and humility to become this person. Ultimately, the best way to attract a holy person is to be a holy person.
Date with a purpose. To say that we should answer our call to be single is not to say that we shouldn’t date at all, if opportunities present themselves. Rather, we should be dating with purpose.
If you are currently in a relationship, get to know the person you’re dating — with chastity in mind. Catholic author and speaker Jason Evert (ChastityProject.com) reminds us that, although our current boyfriend or girlfriend might be our future husband or wife, he or she may be someone else’s future husband or wife. That’s why chastity is so important.
Recently, secular media has taken to glamorizing the "hook-up culture" of college campuses. This lifestyle is a lie. St. John Paul II told us that "the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is use." We are made for and worthy of self-giving, wholesome, committed love. Hold out for the real thing.
Frequent the sacraments. In the moment that we receive holy Communion at Mass, our intimacy with Christ is at its earthly peak. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that "holy Communion separates us from sin. ... The Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins" (1393).
Daily Mass and confession have literally been my saving grace. The integration of important pieces of our Catholic faith into my day-to-day routine — prayer, Mass, regular confession and the Rosary — has changed my life in the very best way.
Use Catholic media. Social media like Twitter and Instagram can integrate your faith into your daily life. Follow Catholic blogs and listen to Catholic podcasts. These connections will serve as a reminder to you that you are not alone in your journey. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus says, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them."
Above all else, we must accept God’s love and pursue his grace. C.S. Lewis reminded us of this: "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself because it is not there. There is no such thing."
Mary Kate Knorr is a
2014 graduate of the
University of Iowa.