Fostering prayer on campus

  • September 8, 2009
I once prayed the rosary while sitting in a tree. That might sound a little bizarre, but as a student on a secular campus I often found myself getting creative in the search for a place to simply be with God.

After having lived in rural Ontario for my whole life, where I often felt inspired to pray because of the splendour of nature just outside my house, I was finding city life stifling and noisy. It wasn’t until my third year, after I moved into a house across the street from a Catholic church, that I really began to realize the important role that quiet spaces such as churches and their adoration chapels play in urban areas — not only as a house of prayer, but as a silent refuge.

But back to trees and rosaries. As I shared a packed Greyhound bus very recently with oodles of returning university students, I was reminded of the noise that students face, and of the difficulty residence living can pose to prayer time. Those memories of trying to juggle school, a social life and God came tumbling back.

It is possible to keep up a prayer life, even on the noisiest and busiest campuses. It is definitely a challenge, but it becomes a lot easier if you make an effort to befriend fellow students who share the faith and will go to Mass and prayerful events with you. Most students who study away from home leave behind the prayerful community they had with family and/or a parish youth group. So seek out another, whether it be through your chaplaincy, a youth group at the closest parish or events led by Catholic clubs on campus. If all else fails, go to nature. Find a spot that brings some peace — it might be under a tree or overlooking a river. The thing is to experiment with different locations and to make that valiant attempt. You may even have access to a chapel right on or close to campus. Explore beyond your comfort zone.

After my first year of studies, I volunteered for the summer with Catholic Christian Outreach, the popular Canada-wide student university movement. At the end of those four months I was paired with a new friend of mine from the summer mission to be prayer accountability partners. Who would think that a monthly chat about how you’re doing spiritually could do so much to help keep a life of prayer going strong? If you were part of a youth group before going away to university or college, why not call up one of your Catholic friends and invite them to be your prayer accountability buddy this year? Once a month. Try to set goals together. Just knowing that somebody else knows your prayer goals is a bit of a motivation to keep up the attempts.

If you’re feeling really ambitious a prayer journal might also come to your rescue. I always felt I could express myself better in the written form. Sometimes writing out my prayer helped me make better sense of what I was asking and what I really needed. Later on, when I re-read these prayers, I could clearly see in my life how God had answered them.

Prayer is never easy, but there are definitely ways to include it in even the busiest of schedules, even if that means pencilling it into your agenda.

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