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“Ask a Priest: What If I Can’t Find Any Decent Male Pals at College?”
Q: I’m a 19-year-old male in my second year of university. I’ve come to realize that there are not many men in college who care about God. This is disappointing, because I try my very best to do God’s will, and I want good-quality Catholic friends — or at least some who don’t talk about sex the whole time in the cafeteria or look at women like they’re fresh meat. I also know that underage drinking is sinful, and it seems that nobody knows/cares about this. Everybody cares about only partying, hooking up, and other risky college behaviors. As a practicing Catholic, I know it would not be in my best interests to have friends like these. This leads to me to becoming lonely and worsening my problem with social anxiety. I would love someone to be friends with who share my moral values. I’ve wondered if the fact that I’m so lonely and isolated is a calling to the priesthood because I’m different than most. I’ve become even depressed that I can’t seem to find quality friends. I’ve tried my Newman chapel on campus and it is primarily girls, which is not a bad thing. But it just seems that there are no men who can be “brothers” and talk about guy things who also want to please God. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. – W.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It is admirable that you are trying to live the Gospel faithfully amid less-than-ideal circumstances in college. What you are facing now is a taste of what’s out there in the world.
If it’s any consolation, the early Christians faced even tougher conditions. Their numbers were tiny, and many of them lived in cultures that were probably worse than what we see today.
The loneliness you are experiencing isn’t in itself a sign of having a priestly vocation. Priesthood isn’t about escaping loneliness. Nevertheless, your steadfastness in resisting the bad behavior around you is a sign that Our Lord is giving you a special grace — the same kind that men pursuing the priesthood need.
So what to do about your current situation?
First, try to see it with a spirit of faith. God might be allowing this trial to help toughen you. You can always find a male companion in your relationship with Christ. So keep up a solid prayer and sacramental life. This is the moment when you can develop a kind of Teflon coating: a spiritual tenacity that helps you weather the toughest storms.
A good resource to give yourself a kind of daily “spiritual vitamin boost” is our Saint of the Day blog, Emails from Uncle Eddy. They contain practical advice for college students like you. You can read them and sign up for the daily email here.
Second, if it’s hard to find a few good men on campus, think about reaching out to the wider community. Perhaps there is a nearby parish where you could get involved in a volunteer project that involves young men.
You might also try contacting FOCUS, an apostolate geared toward Catholic students in college. Even if there isn’t a FOCUS chapter nearby, you might get ideas from the website or find someone through it who could give you practical suggestions. You should also look into the Catholic Worldview Fellowship.
Third, make the best of your friendships with the young women at the Newman Center. My guess is that they would appreciate a young man who doesn’t view them as “fresh meat.” Perhaps part of your mission right now is to give them a witness of what a Christian man is. If you have problems finding decent male pals, imagine the women’s difficulty finding decent dates. Take the initiative in that community, maybe organizing mini-retreats using our Retreat Guide videos.
Or think about organizing a “Catholic Manhood” event on campus. Internet is full of postings that might give you ideas, such as this one at Life Teen, https://lifeteen.com/blog/be-a-man/.
Who knows? Such an event might bring out a few like-minded men on campus who also want to live the Gospel. That in turn could lead to a good friendship or two. Which could help you survive college, and maybe even thrive.
And if you are interested in the priesthood, you might contact the vocation director in the diocese where you are. There might be discernment retreats offered that could at least give you the chance to spend time with men who are serious about their faith. You can also find excellent resources at vocation.com. Count on my prayers.
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