Catholic Life in College: Cultivating Mind, Body and Soul

College is a season of life that should be hinged on this balance.

A dorm chapel at Franciscan University offers students a quiet space to commune with God.
A dorm chapel at Franciscan University offers students a quiet space to commune with God. (photo: Courtesy of Maura Flynn)

“It is not the soul alone that should be healthy; if the mind is healthy in a healthy body, all will be healthy and much better prepared to give God greater service,” so advised St. Ignatius of Loyola.

The balance of mind, body and soul isn’t just a popular New Year’s resolution, a viral TikTok trend, or a perfectly designed workout program. It’s a reality rooted in Scripture that Jesus Christ draws the faithful — including college students — into.

Whether the excitement of freshman year knocks on your door, or the graduation cap and gown is near in sight, college is a season of life that should be hinged on this balance. Pursuing this balance is possible — all for the glory of God!

A Balanced Mind

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

For some, college includes far more academically challenging courses, an abundance of projects and countless hours in the lab or library. But for others, freshman year may feel far easier than senior year of high school.

No matter the case, it’s important to nourish one’s minds in and out of the classroom, and many may need a renewal of mind in just that.

When not in class, students shouldn’t shy away from seeking out non-academic intellectual nourishment. If they read only for class, reading will quickly feel like homework at all times, no matter what book they have in hand. But reading and studying shouldn’t always result in a grade.

If a student loves music or art or science but isn’t majoring in it, he or she should create a time and space to study and discover more about such subjects; otherwise, reading, writing and studying may only feel like an assignment and burden. Especially for spiritual reading, check out the Register’s latest “Book Picks.” When in class, be prepared for that intellectual work. Maybe in high school note-taking wasn’t a common practice, but it’s a good habit to start in college. Come with an open mind and open heart to learn.

A Balanced Body

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Students must keep the reality from 1 Corinthians in mind — our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, and they should be taken care of well.

Don’t let a regular sleep schedule fall to the wayside amid dorm life. Sleeping enough will serve everyone on campus better.

Especially as new friends are made and young scholars discover what to do on and off campus, adventures seem to pop up everywhere. But if an 8am class beckons, go to bed early and catch up with friends tomorrow.

It’s also important to remain healthy and balanced when in the cafeteria. Don’t stray too far away from the balanced meals home offers (and don’t sneak some soft serve after every dinner). Unfortunately, some cafeterias make it difficult to eat healthy, nutritious meals. If that’s the case, make sure to have granola bars, protein bars or oatmeal packets on hand.

Finally, exercise is crucial. This doesn’t mean lifting for two hours each day in the gym, but finding ways to stay active that are enjoyable and easy.

Try going on lots of walks. Stay active by going on a walk with a friend — and use the time to catch up in the process.

College campuses typically offer a variety of opportunities for staying active. Go for a swim in the college pool, play pickleball on the tennis courts, or add an exercise class to your schedule. And remember: Your fitness doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s.

A Balanced Soul

“For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the spirit with the things of the spirit” (Romans 8:5).

Nourishing mind and body is key, but that nourishment becomes meaningless if it’s not rooted in Christ. To nourish one’s soul, we must go to the source — namely, God. College is busy, hectic and unpredictable at times, but daily prayer needs to be a priority in every student’s schedule, as our purpose is to know, love and serve the Lord.

Spiritual nourishment can be cultivated in a variety of ways: Keep a journal, study Scripture, pray a Rosary, attend daily Mass, frequent confession, spend time in adoration, practice praise and worship or take up a fast — among many, many more options.

Don’t let prayer become a checklist item; set aside time in the presence of God.

He will help all of us, including college students, live a balanced, whole lifestyle.