By Theresa Uhlenkott, Franciscan University
Summer. Home. Family. It is the little, ordinary things which make our faith incredible. Coming home as a college student, the importance of these three, seemingly simple things became exceedingly more apparent. When surrounded by the noise and commotion of college, it is easy to lose sight of the “because” of our lives. But, away from the commotion, it becomes clear as the mountains in the distance that the core of our faith must be found in the daily, ordinary adventures of family life: the silence of a summer evening, with a breeze whispering its truth along the porch and through the hanging vines of the potted plants, watching siblings load the hay out of the fields, and listening to the murmur of the conversation of a nephew with his great uncle.
The most consequential influence, which folks tend to take for granted, is family. Summer always comes. Home doesn’t leave. But, what about family? Everyone has some type of family. Maybe it is one of those big-Catholic-homeschool types like mine, maybe it is just grandparents, or maybe it is close friends who have always been there no matter what happens. In the family, love is learned. As many know, love in a family is about action. It’s washing the dishes after a meal, even when your feet feel like they are going to fall off. It’s reading a picture book (for the third time) to a little sibling. It’s staying with them through the tough times and listening as their world feels like it’s crumbling around their feet. Family is love. Love is laughing and crying, working and playing, and serving and praying. In each moment of family life, Christ is present.
The presence of Christ transforms the most mundane moment, from family life to the college sphere, into something spectacular, if only we have the eyes to see it. St. John Paul II taught that, “life with Christ is a wonderful adventure.” The beautiful thing about this statement is that it lays no claims to interpreting the word ‘wonderful.’ Family life can feel ordinary and quiet. But, who is to say that this type of life cannot be just as wonderful, fulfilled, or adventurous for being simple? Young people today have a tendency to set their sights beyond the realm of the family. Every bird must learn to use its own wings, but not forsake the traditions of the nest. College is a wonderful place to grow: intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. But, each person must take care to not grow away from the family.
Coming from a Neuman Guide school such as Franciscan, I have observed a surprising imbalance in the focus of the students on their faith in comparison with their focus on their families. Now, there are always exceptions to the rule, but most at Franciscan come from good families and were given at least the basics of their faith through family life or CCD classes at their home parish. However, our culture has forgotten the importance of family and that shows even at good, Catholic schools. In disregarding the significance of the family, our world has thrown the tradition of faith out of our daily lives. Family-the young, the old, the in between-this is where the heart of our faith lies.
Catholic schools are incredible for inspiring their students with a love for Catholicism. Yet, if they fail to emphasize the importance of family, they are short-circuiting their graduates’ ability to live the faith after college. If Catholic college students are willing to be bold and keep the faith alive, they must be willing to fight for their relationships within their own families, especially with their parents and siblings. Set up a schedule to call home, be old-fashioned and write letters, remember the “small-t” faith traditions from home, take the intellectual wealth from college, and “be not afraid” to apply it to the ordinary adventures of family life.