Seeking Nourishment: Things to Be Sought Part II
Earlier this month at SEEK2015, a conference put on by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, I chatted with a variety of interested folks about what college students seek or should seek to build up their faith lives. I asked for something tangible and in my first post, I looked at: good friendships, guidance from a priest, relief from moral corruption and hope.
The following responses to what college student should seek point to spiritual nourishment and sustaining the regimen.
Prayer. “Before any and everything else, prayer is the most important,” Jordan Roberts, a student originally from Montana told me.
Roberts, 21, has experienced a particularly unique college journey so far. He started at the University of South Dakota, where he was recruited to play running back for their football team. Not Catholic at the time, Roberts joined a FOCUS bible study, had a powerful experience at SEEK2013 (a previous FOCUS conference), attended an RCIA program and was received into the Church. Sensing a call to discern the priesthood, he applied to and was recently accepted into St. Paul Seminary at the University of St. Thomas to finish up his undergraduate work and also play football.
“I found with my faith that when my prayer is very, very strong and I’m praying a lot that everything else seems to go a lot smoother and when I’m not praying as much as I need to be, that’s kind of when things fall apart. I’ve learned that more times than I need to, to say the least,” said Roberts.
Again, he spoke of prayer as the most important thing to grow “in faith, in holiness and a relationship with Christ.” He brought up “just talking” to Christ and getting to know him.
Good point. We should not hesitate to converse with God with what’s on our heart, whatever it is, whatever our emotional state. But of course we also need to listen. An “Our Father” and a slow reading of a Psalm can get us started with the conversation. When I was a FOCUS missionary, I was fortunate to be given an article called “Giving God 20- How to Start a Real Prayer Life,” by Bud McFarlane and it transformed my prayer life.
Now, I teach confirmation students and push for prayer three times a day: morning for preparation, a midday prayer “timeout” and before bed for recollection and peaceful sleep.
But what if we were to meet our Lord face to face?
Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. Sister Maria Gemma from the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration admitted her bias with this answer. But she said many students had asked for the whereabouts of the Adoration Chapel.
“I think that when it’s available (Eucharistic Adoration) and the people can go there and pray, they need that and it feeds their spiritual life. I think campuses that have Adoration a little more often—you can definitely see the fruits of that,” said Sister Maria Gemma. I asked her about students who might not know exactly about Adoration, would they be enticed with someone inviting them to check it out?
“Oh definitely, yeah. I think it’s mysterious to them too, that they wonder…He’s there waiting for us to come and be with Him. It’s such a mystery; it draws them in, definitely,” she replied.
The conference did indeed have an ample sized Eucharistic Adoration chapel. And perhaps the most powerful part of the whole five day conference was an extended time before the Blessed Sacrament in the main conference room on Saturday night and the opportunity for the sacrament of confession.
Leading up to this time, Father Mike Schmitz gave a very well received keynote address that included a comparison of seeing Jesus 2000 years ago, with seeing him in the Eucharist today. He said that Jesus was on earth he would have looked like “some dude” even though he was fully human and fully God — his Godliness, that beauty and glory hidden.
“I gotta tell you, if Jesus didn’t hide himself in the Eucharist, I’d be the one hiding,” Father Mike said.
“If you walked into a Catholic church and you saw the radioactive love of God coming out of that Tabernacle, I wouldn’t go anywhere near it, cause I would say ‘I can’t, I can’t get close to you,’ I’d be the one hiding,” he continued.
He said Jesus made us for more than just a relationship with him, “but to let him give you his whole body, his whole self, because to him, you’re his ‘the one’. So he hides himself, so that you don’t have to hide.”
Perseverance. A conference like SEEK2015 can affect a college student in powerful ways, but Shane VanDiest asks an important question about follow-up.
“You have an experience of the risen Lord, but then what comes next?” said VanDiest.
VanDiest, 28, is the guy who invited Jordan Roberts into a Bible study. At that time, VanDiest was a football coach for the University of South Dakota and now he is a FOCUS missionary.
He said many of us need to be better formed and taught in this area, along with “good brothers and sisters to walk that path with us.”
“Persevering in the faith, I think, is hard for college students, but it’s something that they desire. As their brothers and sisters we need to hold each other accountable to persevering,” he continued.
VanDiest mentioned the Lord’s desire for fidelity, faithfulness to a prayer life, “even when you’re off of your retreat high, even when, you know, maybe your prayer life isn’t all fireworks and explosions and sensual satisfaction like it may have been at first.”
It seems to me that with daily prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, regular confession— and with perseverance, we are allowing God to till the soil in our hearts, making it richer.
“And as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience,” Luke 8:15.