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Keeping your faith in college

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The best way to avoid losing your faith in college is to avoid those well-intentioned columns and books about how to avoid losing your faith in college.

All of this advice is based on misguided presuppositions which, if granted, already spell the doom of the enterprise of "not losing the faith."

One obviously wrong presupposition is that keeping the faith is a matter of reading some good advice and putting it into practice. If that were true, then every reader of a diet book would be thin, and every subscriber to a golf magazine would shoot par. The basic problem is that when the advice would come in most handy, the person who needs it is not likely to consult it, or care enough about it if he did.

Long ago Aristotle quoted Theognis as saying, "if arguments were in themselves enough to make men good, they would justly have won very great rewards."

The second misguided presupposition is that a Catholic student should be going to a college which is a danger to his faith. Those would be nearly all colleges and universities today. The burden of proof should be on a parent or advisor to establish otherwise.

I am aware that statement will be greeted with howls of disbelief. "You mean Catholic kids should retreat again to a ghetto? Are you saying that only a handful of institutions should be open to them, most of which are second-rate?"

In reply I would say consider how odd the very problem sounds: "how to avoid losing your faith in college." No one writes books on how to avoid losing your faith on the golf course, or working in the insurance agency, or spending time with your family. College after all is education. Education is supposed to build up, not attack. The Catholic faith is a fundamental human good. So what is wrong with this "education" which has the tendency to tear down the most important human goods?

Furthermore, faith and reason are in harmony, so that if an institution has the tendency to attack or undermine faith, it simply cannot be doing right by reason. Its graduates might turn out clever, trained, or skilled in a narrow technical sense, but not reasonable in a broad human sense. There is more than enough evidence for this conclusion.

As for those colleges being "second rate," I deny that they are inferior in education to the vast majority of institutions which are regarded as more prestigious. Also, obviously, what makes an institution "first rate" is competitiveness, and those truly Catholic institutions would become the most competitive in the country if Catholic parents generally made them their first choice. We Catholics foolishly fulfill our own prophecy.

So a student finds himself placed by his parents in an institution thought to be "prestigious" but which everyone knows (but is afraid to say) will work to undermine his faith, and he is not supposed to draw the conclusion that success means gaining prestige there, regardless of what happens to his faith?

Yet another misguided presupposition of these columns and books of advice is that it makes sense to send a student off alone into an environment that is hostile to his faith. Our Lord set an example for us in this regard, by sending his disciples off two-by-two, in the company of at least one close friend in the faith.

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