Every high school graduate can be so excited about where they are going next, that they can’t wait to race off and begin this next chapter of life. As parents, on the other hand, we can feel uneasy about what challenges and changes their new environment might bring to their life….especially when it comes to living their Christian identity and faith. Before our children take off, we can take some steps to help them stay spiritually grounded. They will meet a whole world of new faces, gain new information, and see a lot of good and bad offerings, some of which may challenge them at their core. So, before they go, be sure you help your kids pack a “spiritual suitcase,” and think about including the following:
1) A Reminder of Love
You love your kids, and now is a great time to reinforce how much you love them. Before heading out to wherever they are called, our students also need to be confident that they are deeply loved by God. He entrusted them to us, and as parents, we may strive to love unconditionally. Too often, our kids can think that love for them is performance-based, or worse…perfection-based. God’s love is perfect and total, and has only to do with the fact that they belong to Him. His mercy is real. He wants to accompany them in all those, struggles, conflicts and burdens they may face in the years ahead. This summer, a reminder of this truth from you can be expressed in a heart-to-heart talk, over a walk on the beach, or in a letter or card you give your departing student. Something concrete to hold onto that comes from your heart may be ideal, because they can reread it.
Remind your grads that their faith in God is packed in their “bag,” no matter what the future may bring. And, it is truly a gift. (They’ll realize this more as they meet many people who have no faith at all.) From the moment they were baptized, your children have been walking around with this amazing gift of faith, indelibly marked on their soul. God intends for them to use it….not lose it. We know He greatly desires that they live their faith in a real way, through a real relationship with Him. Living it at college is a challenge these students haven’t yet faced, but they can count on God’s faithfulness. They are not alone, and He wants them to hold on tight. We’ll need to be praying for and encouraging them from behind as much as possible.
3) Prayer Tool Box
From the time they are small, kids benefit from knowing that Jesus is truly their best friend. Well, they can’t ignore their best friend. As in any relationship, they need to communicate with Him, and that is prayer. As you know, unless they are headed to the seminary, college life does NOT promote a life of prayer. So we might want to stock them up with a little toolbox of things that can serve as reminders and aids in keeping God front and center, each day. An image of Jesus, a crucifix, or small picture of Our Lady can be good visual aids to take along. A prayer book, a new journal, a good spiritual reading book, and very definitely – a Bible – are sure-fire means of staying on track. God likes technology, too! The app Laudate is free and offers daily readings, prayers and saint stories. If a student prays the rosary, send a few finger rosaries for their pockets. These little details can go a long way in reminding your young adults who they are and where they came from.
4) Spiritual Home-away-from-Home
We know that up until now, our children have been blessed with a spiritual home-base, or maybe a few. First your home, where you have taught them to know and love God. Next, a parish where you attend Mass or services regularly, for worship and Sacramental grace. If they’ve attended a Catholic school, they’ve also had a spiritual home, where they have been educated further in the faith, offered the sacraments and been surrounded by friends who pray with them. Now what? You can help them plug into the options near them for that “spiritual home base.” Help them find their local parish or campus Christian Center and get acquainted with the leaders there. Another holy-technology tip: Have your student download the free app Mass Times. You can personally create a little post-it for them of local daily and Sunday Masses to stick on their dorm room wall, or inside their closet door for quick reference. Transportation should not be a problem. Now, with inexpensive Uber rides just a click away, even students without cars can remain faithful!
Recently, a young seminarian who was only months away from being ordained a priest passed away suddenly in his sleep. Just one month prior to his death, he had published a book. On one of the first pages of his book was the following quote: “If you are holy, you will change the world. If not, the world will change you.” ** What a message he left for all young people!
As a mom, I unite in prayer with all parents of college students, especially our recent high school graduates, who can no doubt change the world with their faith, hope, and love. With our support and prayers, God can supply the courage.
**Quote from Br. Anthony Freeman’s book, “One Step Closer: 40 Doses of Motivation, Hacks, and Experiences to Share with Millennial Catholics.” Available on Amazon.
Author of article Margaret Frain resides in Cumming. GA with her husband Chris. They have been married since 1989 and have nine children ranging in age from 9 to 27 years old. She currently works at Pinecrest Academy, an independent Catholic school in Cumming, GA where she assists the school president and helps to coordinate Campus Ministry. She enjoys writing and sharing ideas with other moms about raising Catholic children.