Apparently, it's no secret that I'm not having an easy time with my interior consent to being at Boston College. On the one hand, it's been going very well; my professors have been helpful and very encouraging, I have found my fellow students to be interesting and friendly, and the libraries and their staffs have been great. But there's still a certain resistance inside; I notice it in little ways. For example, I find myself arranging my commute in ways that minimize my time on the campus and its buses. I take the long way so as to arrive at the edge of the campus where my class is held, and then leave the same way.
So what's going on with me? I've been trying to puzzle it out. Of course some it is the standard worry about Catholic colleges having given up on their Catholic identity. The mother of a prospective undergraduate recently told me about how she was totally turned off by the admissions office, which was, according to her, constantly apologizing for the Catholic nature of the school, and assuring her son that he was in no way expected to live a Catholic life while a student. Mom was horrified.
This sort of thing is old news. It concerns me, but I don't think it's quite the thing that gets to me. So I've been praying for some insight. Yesterday, while I was walking to the Chestnut Hill T station, I think my prayer was answered.
I'm a college convert. The immediate roots of my own conversion to Christianity and sacramental initiation in the Catholic Church were in the college campus, undergraduate life. And here's the trouble: I got to be a Christian, on the natural level, largely as a reaction against the experience of college. The atmosphere of material affluence was a real culture shock at the time. Yes, I had grown up with educational and cultural privilege, but without a sense or experience of the material wealth that seemed to surround me when I got to college. In the midst of it I used to think about the poor of the world or those suffering in the first war in Iraq (which was going on at the time), and I felt the sting of conscience and I began to desire a life of responsibility.
The consequence-free playground of alcohol, drugs, sex, and rock and roll soon seemed to be a false and empty liberation, especially as I became aware of its darker sides: poisonings, rapes, abortions.
Having become a metaphysical optimist through the course in Plato I took when I was still in high school, I was scandalized by a search for truth and devotion to learning that ignored or even denied the Truth Itself. Even philosophy fell short. In Philosophy 101 the professor consented, with triumphal glee, to the students' conclusion that there was no 'meaning of life,' but only 'meanings in life.' It wasn't good enough for me. I turned to religion.
From all this, then, it's easy to see how it was that I found in Catholic Christianity (and it's Franciscan expression) a suitable means for rejecting and reacting against my surroundings. I think this is the real reason I feel uncomfortable at BC; at the root of everything I've done with my adult life is an attempt to reject and find an alternative to the world of 'college.' So to be on the campus with all of the kids feels very wrong to me.
So, I beg the question. What in all this is important for me to own and protect, and what am I called to let go of? Surely I don't need to be determined by who I was when I was nineteen or twenty. On the other hand, though, I need to be true to myself. What should be kept, and what should be left? These questions must be the next, careful discernment.