It’s that time of year: more than 20 million students are about to arrive on America’s college and university campuses. Of these 20 million, several million are Catholic. Seeking academic advancement, new friendships, extracurricular enrichment, and career opportunities, college students find that their days are very busy, and the semesters and years go by in a flash.
What can today’s Catholic college students do to make the most of this special and exciting time in their lives? By acting with integrity, they can make a difference in the lives of those around them. A helpful motto for today’s Catholic college students is from St. Francis of Assisi’s rule for Rule for the Friars: “All the Friars…should preach by their deeds.” Not all Catholic college students are Franciscan Friars—only a few are!—but this advice is certainly valid for all who want to share the Gospel authentically and generously.
In addition to community service, diligent work, and general courtesy, here are four ways in which college students can enrich their own faith, while quietly and gently reminding others of the omnipresent opportunities to remain in touch with God throughout the day.
  1. Visit the chapel. If your campus has a Catholic chapel, take a few moments each day to pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament! Just going in to pray for even a short time is a valuable act of worship, and it will help you to center your thoughts and heart on what is truly important. If others see you doing this every day, they might just be curious enough to try it themselves!
  2. Pray at mealtime. College dining halls are very busy places, and it is easy to rush through meals when there are many demands on our time. However, taking just a few seconds to thank God and ask for his blessing sets the right tone for any meal. And don’t be bashful—make the sign of the cross! We pray in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and making this sign is a powerful gesture that solidifies our resolve in prayer. It is an unobtrusive way to demonstrate that we are proud to profess our faith.
  3. Set aside time for daily prayer and reflection. Even on the busiest days, there’s time for reflection. Opportunities for daily prayer with the Church are innumerable—from the Liturgy of the Hours, to Novenas, to the Rosary, and beyond. These treasured prayers are universally efficacious and accessible. A wonderful place to start with a commitment to daily prayer beyond what you have done before is to use a daily devotional book. Daily Companion for Young Catholics by Allan F. Wright provides daily opportunities for reflection, presenting a Scripture quote, a meditation, and a short prayer for each day. With this book, just one minute each morning, afternoon, or night can help to center your day on following Christ.
  4. Don’t leave home without the Gospel! If you want to live out the Gospel message, the best way is to keep the Gospel close at hand. While it’s not necessary to whip out the Bible and read it to everyone you encounter, you’ll undoubtedly preach by your deeds if you steep yourself in the words of Christ and have them with you for inspiration and guidance. Our newly released MP3 Audio of the New Catholic Version of the New Testament makes it easy to listen to the Good News any time. At the gym, in the car, or when using any device that has a USB port, the MP3 Audio allows you to listen to an inspiring narration of the New Testament.
    Our vest pocket edition of the New Catholic Version of the New Testament comes in a variety of options. Its size makes it exceptionally easy to carry in your backpack or even your pocket, and its features facilitate reading and understanding the New Testament. You can never get enough of the Good News; carrying it with you—both physically and in your heart—will help you to bring it to all those you encounter!
Through these four simple, yet life-changing practices, college students can add preaching by their deeds to their daily schedule. Complementing academic, social, skill-building, and career goals, living a fully Christian life—marked by mindful and intentional prayer—leads to sharing the Gospel in word and in deed.