4 Ways to Save Your Soul on a College Campus

The Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life” and there is no greater way to grow in faith and grace than feeding on the Bread of Life.

Healy Hall, Georgetown. - Wikipedia

Listers, with an increasingly hostile and secular society, Catholics find themselves each day becoming more countercultural. Young people with a sincere heart who wish to follow Christ and keep the commands of Holy Mother Church, will find that living a true Catholic lifestyle can be difficult and lonely in a culture that no longer upholds Christendom.

College campuses are no doubt breeding grounds for the secular culture. Literally. Even students who find themselves at a Catholic university will face challenges to their faith. So how does one save his soul while at college surrounded by a culture that abuses drugs, sex, contraception, abortion, alcohol and has little faith?


1. A Liberal Arts Education

If you find yourself enrolled in college, you probably want to get an education. Resist the temptation to pursue degrees aimed at finding a job. Yes, a job is important and good, but college is a time to “build walls, not to keep people in, but to keep the world out.” [1] It is a time to contemplate the higher things of life, your place in the world and your eternal end. Do not become obsessed with grades, internships and job searches. “Keep the world out” and take advantage of the only opportunity to contemplate the essential questions of life without the pressures of the working world. Furthermore, resist all temptations to enroll in easy courses with laid-back professors.

A liberal arts education is meant to be challenging and intellectually stimulating. Find professors who do not merely “teach” their students or talk at them, but rather ones who engage in a dialogue with students. Socrates, the greatest teacher in Western history, never gave lengthy lectures. He instead pondered questions with those around him and helped to guide his students along the way. Once you discover professors who engage the best that has been written and taught in the West, stick with them, regardless of what classes they teach. One cannot live the faith sincerely without first learning it. There is no better way of unlocking the rich intellectual tradition of the Church than by studying the liberal arts. A great way to find out how to learn while in college is to read Another Sort of Learning by Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.


2. Community

Friendships matter. Indeed the Philosopher devotes two books to the importance of friendship. [2] It is imperative to find a community of friends who live out the Catholic faith. These communities will help support and foster both faith and virtue. A good place to start at a non-Catholic school would be the Newman Center. Organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Daughters of America, Daughters of Isabella, FOCUS and other faith-based groups are a great place to find friendship. Additionally, get involved with service projects even if they are sponsored by a secular organization. Finding friends and providing a witness to Christ through works of mercy is a rewarding experience for all involved. Finally, do not limit yourself to groups within the university. Many religious orders and dioceses run young adult ministries across the country. And if you can’t find any groups, start one yourself!


3. Attend Daily Mass & Frequent Confession

The Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life”[3] and there is no greater way to grow in faith and grace than feeding on the Bread of Life. Daily Mass will become a center point for your college life and will order your day toward God. For many people, college was the only opportunity to attend to attend daily Mass and holy hour without the interference and stress of work life. Finally, go often to confession and keep your soul clean and fervent.


4. Prayer, Devotionals and Confraternities

Prayer is our weapon and shield against the Evil One. It is our link to God. Look to the Gospel and find Jesus going out often to pray. We must follow our Savior and do the same. I encourage you to enroll in spiritual confraternities such as the Angelic Warfare Confraternity, Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary and practice devotionals such as True Devotion to Mary. Most of all grow in love of our Blessed Mother who will always lead us to her Son. Mary is the surest path to Jesus. Pray the Rosary daily.


Listers, college is a time to either find God and belong more deeply to Him, or, to turn away from the faith and adopt the currents of the world. Hold firm to these four points. Pope Francis urges the young to “swim against the tide.”[4] Keep in mind that the temptations and trails will never leave. As G.K. Chesterton said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”

May Mary our Mother, intercede on our behalf and lead us to her Son all the days of our life.

St. Thomas Aquinas, patron of students, pray for us!


Louis Cona Profile

Louis Cona is an undergraduate at Georgetown University studying Government and Philosophy. He serves and coordinates the Traditional Latin Mass on campus and is an active member of the Georgetown Knights of Columbus.





[1] James V. Schall, S.J. – Georgetown Voice

[2] Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics.

[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1324

[4] Pope Francis, April 28th, 2013 Confirmation Mass for Young People: CNA.


    How much more insulting can you be of a “secular” life? This article makes it sound like any person of morals will be surrounded by sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll at college. Just because one is secular does NOT mean that he/she is destined for a life bereft of any moral compass. As for your recommendation to major in Liberal Arts and NOT care about getting a job, I think that many parents who are footing bills up to about $60K a year might find this a TAD self-indulgent. Better to encourage students to contribute by working while a student. I am insulted by this entire article.

    • bc


    • enness

      Well, surrounded might be a slight exaggeration, but we still got the condom demonstrations (look, I can blow it up like a balloon! I can stretch it over my head!), and the posters on the health clinic walls kind of gave away what their major purpose on campus was.

    • Sayde Schultz

      I am sorry SECULARGRL but I am missing the how the author insulted you. I have read his post 3 times now and I can’t find where he degraded anyone living a “secular life” as you contend. He used the adjective “secular” 3 specific times: “secular society”; “secular culture”; and “secular organization.” According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of “secular” is “of or relating to the worldly – not specifically relating to religion” so would you be less offended if he had replaced the word “secular” with “non-religious”? That still would not change the fact that I cannot find where he states that a non-religious person is bereft of any moral compass. Could you be more specific in helping see where he stated this? One thought too about being a tad self-indulgent, although I am relying on scholarships, student-aid, and employment to fund my undergraduate liberal-arts degree that I am in the process of completing, my parents offered my sister and me a perspective that many people go off to college having no clue what they want to do or be and it is self-indulgent to choose a path because you might be able to land a job. Better to make the effort on challenging yourself by asking the hard questions, exposing yourself to various schools of thought, and reading the classics to become truly an educated, well-rounded person. I took their perspective to heart and only time will tell how well it will serve me (but I have to say that my older sister who also took their perspective to heart seems to have done OK given she was immediately employed upon graduating by some west coast company that uses this perspective to hirer people – Google).

  • Charles

    SECULARGRL, a bit harsh, but makes a good point on the purpose of a college education, which, in large measure, is to be able to be productively employed and intellectually engaged so as to have a satisfying life and to be able to provide for your family. As for saving your soul, how about a university like Franciscan University , Steubenville, that puts a premium on helping develop your soul, intellectually and spiritually ?

  • Miss Sorry

    After I first began college, I quickly abandoned my Catholic faith. Had I read this article then, I doubt it would have changed my fated course. This article presupposes that a young Catholic wishes to preserve and protect the tradition when in fact all of society is designed to destroy and inhibit open expressions of faith.

    In hindsight, I am truly perplexed by how far astray I walked. I attended Mass regularly with my family and felt deeply rooted in the Catholic culture. I wish now that I had been able to appreciate the glorious beauty and unfailing quest for meaning the Catholic church affords. Perhaps because I am a woman, I took offense where none was meant. I profoundly regret this signal error.

    Young women today even more ever need the armour of Christianity, but few will seek it. The siren songs of debased contemporary society are much too powerful.

    • Ellen

      Miss Sorry,
      Your response was so vulnerable and so honest. You have a beautiful soul and I will continue to pray for you.
      Remember you are God’s beloved daughter and His mercies are new every morning, how great is His faithfulness to us!

  • James

    Good thing the doctors and engineers of this world didn’t take your advice on #1!

    • Levi

      James, I went to a liberal arts school for my undergraduate degree and am now a vet student. A good friend of mine who majored in math and philosophy at a liberal arts school went on to eventually get a graduate degree in engineering. Three other liberal arts friends are enrolled in medical school. I’m sure more examples abound. My point is that it is possible to learn a trade/ profession as well as benefit from a liberal arts education in the same lifetime.

  • Shari Millangue

    God bless all souls and the Universe! May God wash away our iniquities with the Holy Water and Holy Blood from His Side, pierced with a lance! May we all be truly contrite! O Lord, make us pure, good and holy! Consecrate us all to Thy Good and Holy Will, to Thy Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary! We praise, glorify, thank, adore and love You, O Almighty God! In Jesus’ Name we humbly pray. Amen.

  • enness

    This puts quite a bit of pressure on. Choices of which course to take and why are rarely up to students, actually. It’s a matter of what is required for your program of study, and then what electives are offered at compatible times. Daily Mass? Ha, I wish.

    YMMV. I hope nobody feels like a failure if they can’t manage to do all these things.

  • Fuquay Steve

    College is a time to grow in mind body and spirit. Colleges like Georgetown has neglected the spirit to the detriment of the spirit. They chose the easy path of trying to mold secularism into a viable theology. It has failed over and over again. The students have been abandoned by the administration which has become soulless and without discernable virtues. Independent at GU vices are virtues and virtues are vices. The young adults must be strong and search for the Truth.

  • Gerard Fritz

    If you read the disturbing and somewhat pathetic article in the NY Times about a month ago about the sex culture on college campuses, this article is the counter to that. I am glad to see this article was written by a fellow Hoya. I was a classics major at Georgetown and am now a physician. Everyone likes to bash G’town as no longer “Catholic”, but your faith is there if you pursue it and you will not be ridiculed or put down if you voice or choose to live your beliefs. I am sending my daughter there this fall (her choice).
    The Aquinas Houses are also good organizations on secular campuses.

  • Matt

    I went to BC, a place very much like Georgetown in terms of its nominal Catholicism and pervasive Cafeteria Catholicism. The author provides generally good advice. Good Catholic friends (and non-Catholic friends who share our moral values) are essential. As is prayer. Taking advantage of daily mass and regular confession are key because they are so much harder to do when you graduate. But I take real issue with #1. These are great disciplines but unless you seriously think you will teach them after graduation, don’t waste your time and money. You can study these in your free time, even after you graduate. Far too many orthodox Catholics gravitate towards Philosophy, the Classics, and Theology. That means there is a real dearth of people in the lab, the operating room, and other key secular areas where their faith and morals desperately need to be given witness to. A secular discipline and the Catholic faith are not incompatible. In fact, it can be holy and the idea of holiness in the midst of a secular job is critical to transforming our culture.

    • Ink

      Thank you for this, Matt! May I mention, also, that Catholic colleges aren’t best known for their hard sciences or technical training, thus forcing anyone who wants to do well (or be taken seriously) in those fields to go elsewhere. Same deal for art. The Church is full of diverse talents, but Catholic universities in the US aren’t very good at nurturing non-academics. There’s no Catholic equivalent to something like RISD or SCAD–or MIT or CalTech.

      I realize I’m picking schools which are the top of their fields. If you’re not shooting for the best, why does it matter where you go? It still matters, though, because as we live in a secular world (while fighting to avoid giving into it), we have to play by the secular world’s rules. And in the secular world, your school matters. Plus, we’re the Church Universal–who’s to say a Catholic university can’t be awesome at science or technology while happening to teach good humanities courses?

    • Johns

      If I may ask, what about the lab, the OR etc are in need of a specific moral/ethical code? Are present professional codes of conduct insufficient? By what metric can one occupation be considered “secular”, and another not so? Further, in reply to INK, below, by what measure is the world secular? A very great number of the world’s population is openly religious, and profess collectively a great many faiths.