By Dick Kunnert
I have a friend who prepares a survival kit for college students she knows. It contains laundry supplies and household cleaners -- things people need to stay clean and healthy.
It got me thinking about another kind of survival kit. How about a Spiritual Survival Kit for Catholic Christian students?
Uprooted, maybe hostile
The issue is that the students are being uprooted from their moorings and going into environments that are often unfriendly for those who want to keep their faith.
Look at the statistics: Pew Research reports 5% of college students go to church. Another study of specifically Catholic youth found that 80% of them leave the church within seven years of receiving sacrament of confirmation. That’s certainly paradoxical since confirmation is the sacrament that marks an adult’s commitment to having the Holy Spirit in one’s life.
From what I understand, this survival kit may be as useful on Catholic college campuses as it is at secular colleges.
Things to include
So what does the kit need to have help people spiritually survive in their new, possibly hostile environments?
Let’s start with things.
The most important material part of the kit is a Bible. My favorite translation is the Christian Community Bible. It is a great translation, plus an excellent commentary. (Some people have told me the commentary has really helped them come to love and understand scripture.)
An additional scripture aid is downloading the Daily Readings from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. At the bottom of the day’s Mass readings you are given the option to register to receive the readings in your daily email. On smart phones and tablets you'll also find several apps providing the daily scripture readings to Catholics, which you can download for Apple and Android devices.
One of our favorites, which includes a short and topical reflection on the day’s Gospel and a brief prayer relevant to the reading, is called Jesuit Prayer.
Help them connect
Since our spiritual journey can’t be accomplished alone, where will we find people to enjoy mutual support? Seek out a Newman Center, campus ministry center or a parish adjacent to the school. List the facility’s name, address, phone number and Mass times on a checklist to include in the survival kit.
Other things that need to be on our checklist are a list of recommended habits. I recommend meditation, daily prayers, reading scripture, attending Mass, receiving the sacrament of reconciliation and prayers for crisis management, maybe a rosary.
Our checklist also needs to name some people who might be helpful to our spiritual survival. Be sure to include name of the pastor at the Newman Center or parish. If there is a student chaplain, list his or her name and number. Add the names of staff members who conduct small support groups and/or lead volunteers in some community activity.
Finally, encourage methods of accountability that commit your student to staying connected to their friend, Jesus.
A definition of a Christian is a person who has a personal relationship with Jesus. To keep that relationship alive and well we need to work at it, as we do with all relationships we have in life. Jesus loves us unconditionally every minute of every day. That deserves our response.
Whatever you can do to keep the door to that relationship open and to encourage your student to reach out and grow closer to Jesus, you will be serving both your Lord and your student’s best long-term interests.