A great book for university students to keep the faith
Author: Aurora Griffin
Publisher: Ignatius Press, 2016
Want your son or daughter going to university or college to keep their Catholic faith? Do you wish to arm them against the secularism that continues to sweep post-secondary education? Yes, parents can and should let their children know that they need not lose their faith and Christian values in order to get a good higher education. Young students can still have fun, learn how to think and discover who they are while not compromising their beliefs.
How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard is the perfect book for parents to give their children as they start university or college life. Aurora Griffin has written a very practical guide offering young men and women forty suggestions for keeping the faith. It’s a book penned by a young writer for young people. To keep the faith one has to have plan since it’s not “cool” to be Catholic these days. An effort has to be made to keep and nourish the faith. Along with the useful advice in the book, parents need to support their children. They can offer by encouragement and be proud of them, especially in avoiding the use of drugs, promiscuity, consumption of alcohol and resisting the university secular culture.
Boston philosophy Professor Peter Kreeft highly recommends the book. In the Forward, he states: “Few things are more important than the faith of the next generation. The future of our civilization, that is, the goodness and truth and beauty of our culture, depends on the Source of all goodness, truth, and beauty, God; and the umbilical cord to God is faith–not just faith in anything, but the Faith, the one God invented, not us. And faith is not automatic (it doesn’t t just “happen”), nor is it genetic (God has no grandchildren); it must be rediscovered, reaffirmed, chosen, and kept anew by each generation.”
When faith dies, Kreeft warns: “If it falls into the abyss of the current “generation gap”, our culture will fall into an abyss of even greater nonsense, immorality, and ugliness than it already has. Nothing is more practical that drawing a line in the sand here and now.” Griffin has given young people a useful plan while going to university to keep their faith. She arms the willing reader with strategies to fight the good battle for faith on what has become hostile territory: college and university campuses. This is an important place to evangelize since the university today has to a large extent replaced the influence of the church, state and even family.
The Introduction alone gives the reader much to consider. What is essential in staying Catholic in university? Griffin list these central things: attending Mass on Sundays and days of obligation, fasting prayer and confession.
Griffin divides the book into four main sections: “Community,” “Prayer,” “Academics” and “Living It Out.” Under the topic of “Community” she covers the following subjects: “Find Your Parish and Catholic Club,” “Become a Focus Disciple,” “Sanctify Your Work: Opus Dei,” “Join a Catholic Fraternity or Sorority,” “Explore Christian Fellowships,” “Just Be a Catholic,” “Find Mentors,” “Find Someone You Can Lead,” “Stay in Touch and Make Friends Who Aren’t Like You.”
Each heading offers the student action based ideas they can use to keep the faith. In “Just Be Catholic,” Griffin is not afraid to say that sometimes we can question the faith and have doubts. But by exploring doctrine one can deepen and learn more about being Catholic. She gives the example of listening to a Jane Smith Lecture on contraception and family planning and then reading Humanae Vitae. She writes: “I realized that the Church’s teaching is not backward or restrictive at all. By forbidding contraception, she encourages true freedom, responsibility, and greater love in marriages.” It’s the kind advice that young people need so badly today.
In the section titled, “Prayer, ” the following subjects are dealt with: “Pray Every day,” “Read the Bible,” “Pray the Divine Office,” “Go to Adoration,” “Pray the Rosary.” “Fight the Enemy,” “Discern Your Vocation,” “Do Spiritual Reading and Writing,” “Have a Litany of the Saints,” “Pray for People,” “Attend a Traditional Mass” and “Go to a Retreat.” Unless students study at Ave Maria University, St. Thomas Aquinas, Franciscan University of Steubenville or Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, they will never be given such straightforward but solid advice about living the Catholic faith. For the topic “Reading the Bible” Griffin states: “The Bible is a source of refreshment and an inexhaustible wellspring of life. No matter who you are or what kind of day you’re having, the Bible has something to say to you because God speaks through it. Reading it is a refreshment, a consolation, and if you open your heart to it, a great adventure.” Let the faith journey begin.
The section called “Academics” covers these topics: “Find a Catholic Professor,” “Take Classes That Allow You to Engage with the Faith,” “Know Where to Look for Answers,” “Attend Conferences,” “See Catholic Guest Lecturers” and “Read Catholic Literature.” Griffin suggests “In Read Catholic Literature” that students get to know great literature to engage with their faith. Some of the writers she chooses are Dante’s Divine Comedy, Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. The selected authors are not meant to be exhaustive list but only to offer some stories that can inspire young (and old people alike) to better understand their faith and put it into action.
The last section called, “Living It Out” includes these topics: “Live the Liturgical Year,” “Go on a Mission Trip,” “Tithe,” “Volunteer,” “Rest on Sundays,” “Keep Up Good Habits over Vacation,” “Drink Legally and Moderately,” “Don’t Experiment with Drugs,” “Consume the Right Media,” “Date Only Christians and Be Chaste,” “Use Social Media and Technology” and “Make Pilgrimages.” Under the heading of “Consume the Right Media” Griffin tells the reader to avoid the dangers of pornography. She offers students this useful advice: “If you have friends who watch nihilistic, and anti-Christian, or sexually explicit shows, observe whether it affects their behaviour. Do they use foul language? Do they try to rationalize what they watch? If you think a friend is watching a show that is harmful, do not be afraid to say something. It is something in which Catholics need to do a better job of holding each other accountable.” This is the counsel every parent wants their children to be told. Read the book because in a review we can’t possibly cover all the other tips Griffin outlines.
How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard is a very readable and useful text. Griffin’s book would make the proper gift for parents to give their sons and daughters as they go off to university or college. It makes for the perfect gift to give graduating classes from high school. For in the end, faith matters most! It’s a true and eternal legacy that parents can transmit to their children. Lastly, readers may also watch the posted video as the author speaks on the topic of keeping the faith to students at Princeton: