Among young adult Catholics, nearly three-quarters do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. It’s a staggering statistic, but it’s not all that surprising given the state of our culture and many college campuses today.
Most colleges, even many wayward Catholic colleges, give little regard to the commands of Jesus Christ. Students face toxic campus environments with high rates of binge drinking, drug use, and a rampant hook-up culture. They’re taught from a secular worldview and may be fed false theology.
Now imagine four years—some of the most formative in life—immersed in a truly Catholic culture and education. It’s life-changing! Students are taught proper theology that explains the Real Presence in the Eucharist. And they learn how to live a “Eucharistic life” with Jesus Christ at the center.
At a faithful Catholic college, you’ll find students encouraged to pray, receive the sacraments, form good friendships, grow in modesty and virtue, have good clean fun, and discern their careers and vocations in prayer. These are fruits of Eucharistic living.
The pillars of Eucharistic living
One faithful Catholic college that encourages Eucharistic living—that is, helping students live according to the reality of Christ within them—is Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio.
“Saint Francis of Assisi wrote more about the Eucharist in his writings than anything else—and he lived the Eucharist! He called his followers, and he calls us today, to be devoted to the Eucharistic Lord,” explains Father Jonathan St. André, TOR, vice president of Franciscan life at the University.
We “encourage ‘Eucharistic living’ on campus by making the Eucharist the center of our lives,” Fr. St. André explained, pointing to daily Mass, Sunday Mass, perpetual Adoration on campus, the Festival of Praise that includes Adoration and praise and worship music, and a message delivered one Saturday evening each month.
Flowing out of the sacraments, “Eucharistic living” is encouraged through the “experience of living in small faith communities called ‘households’ where students live like Jesus Christ, with other students seeking to be sanctified by the Holy Spirit and going out to sanctify the world.” Nearly half of the student body lives in a household, in which students share life’s ups and downs, pray together, and hold each other accountable.
Additionally, “our professors strive in the classroom to communicate the integration of faith and reason in every discipline.” Fr. St. André added, “We also encourage our students to see that they possess great dignity as creatures of body and soul, and this is manifest in their humanity; a humanity ennobled by the gift of the Eucharist.”
Beauty encourages Eucharistic living
The Eucharist is at the heart of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, N.H., where beautiful liturgy, art, sacred music, and Catholic culture help students live a Eucharistic lifestyle.
“Scenic mountain vistas are the backdrop to Magdalen’s 100-acre campus atop Mount Kearsarge, and a brick and granite chapel stands at the center. It is the intentional hub of the community,” explains Tristan Smith, director of collegiate choirs at Magdalen. At midday, all classes and activities are paused for daily Mass. Liturgy of the Hours, all-night Eucharistic adoration, and Eucharistic processions are frequent on campus.
Magdalen is intentional about exposing students to beauty, which leads them to Christ. Students learn chant, polyphony, and classic hymns, they write Byzantine icons, and they participate in reverent liturgy in both Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms.
Holy Week liturgies on campus are especially impressive, with Gregorian Chant included in Palm Sunday Mass and Spy Wednesday Tenebrae Service, and bells and Alleluias marking the Great Easter Vigil. “All our efforts combine to render our best gifts of beauty to God,” the College declares.
“When visitors stop by Magdalen College, they often express wonder at the hospitality of students, the reverence of the liturgies, or the rich harmonies of the 70-voice choir. Upon departing, visitors feel like they are leaving home,” remarks Smith.
“They are not wrong,” he says. “When young Catholics invite Christ into their heart, He makes it His home, seamlessly and effortlessly. The Eucharist is our resting place; a resting place that we at Magdalen College call home.”
Living with Christ
With the Eucharist at the center of campus, students at faithful Catholic colleges are encouraged to make a right ordering of priorities and a right way of living.
That’s exciting to a growing number of college-bound students, such as Sarah Davis, who is The Cardinal Newman Society’s 2022 Essay Scholarship Contest winner. Davis is a freshman at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va., this fall because she wants to “maintain and augment” the foundation she’s received in the faith, “rather than having to struggle to keep it.”
“I am convinced that a faithful Catholic college which is strongly devoted to the Eucharist will uniquely and positively impact my religious, moral, intellectual, and social formation,” explains Davis. While many students lose their faith in college, Newman Guide colleges are helping students grow in faith rooted in the Eucharist.
And it’s no wonder, therefore, that Newman Guide colleges are disproportionately preparing students for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Christendom College has fostered more than 90 vocations to the priesthood. Approximately 10 percent of alumni of Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, Calif., have pursued a religious vocation.
Ultimately, the goal for all students at faithful Catholic colleges is Jesus Christ Himself. Rather than sadness and a college experience that spirals them into sin, faithful Catholic education leads students to lasting happiness and holiness.