What to do when young students return home for a few weeks holiday? It is great to have them home again, but a certain amount of readjusting might be needed for the parents and the rest of the family – and for the returning student. There are those additions to the household arrangements to get used to: more noise, more laundry, more clutter, and extra items on the weekly shopping list. There is the return to favourite topics of debate: about using the bathroom, about borrowing the car. And then there is that raised level of ‘communication’ with siblings, even if communication with parents is no more forthcoming than previously.
Of course, even with those slightly unfamiliar pressures, there is that joy of having a daughter or son home once again, close to the family, even if only for a few weeks. As well as changes to the household routines, there will be, probably less noticeably at first, changes to the young person who has been away exploring the world. It is all part of growing up, which brings added richness and new horizons.
When they were younger, mum or dad might ask them, ‘what did you learn at school today?’ The young child would answer, as often as not, ‘Oh, nothing much’. But now the youngster, grown into an adult, is back with their own questions; questions about ‘who they are’, where they are going; and may be, questions of faith. Questions such as: ‘Where does faith fit into my life as a scientist or engineer? ‘What do I say when my housemates say that God doesn’t exist? ‘Why should my lifestyle as a Catholic be any better than others?’ ‘When others who are close to me are feeling lost, what can I offer them?’
For the unsuspecting parents, these questions cannot be easily answered. It may be that for those bigger questions - ‘life, the universe, God and everything……’ that the answers need to be found elsewhere, from people who are more expert in explaining such issues. For the young person themselves, may be when they ask themselves these questions or are asked by their colleagues, they would welcome somewhere to turn to when it comes to those matters of belief and faith.
One organisation that aims provide straightforward answers to those ‘big questions’ is the Thomistic Institute, set up by the Dominican Order. The Institute exists to strengthen students and others in their knowledge of some of the more fundamental aspects of the Catholic faith, and how they relate to contemporary issues. Expanding their work across the UK, the Institute gives talks which are well attended –clearly young people are keen to explore how the deeper aspects of their faith fit with their daily lives. And usefully, the talks are all downloadable from the website, https://thomisticinstitute.org Covering a range of topics under general themes such as ‘politics’, ‘the meaning of life’ and ‘faith & science’, no question appears too big that can’t be answered.
As the message of Easter reveals the ‘Light of Christ’, the resources available through the Thomistic Institute can help young people to reach into the heart of their faith, so that returning to their student communities they can talk about their faith with greater confidence. And as they take on the challenges of the world, they are able shine out with that Easter light, and truly are bright, young lights bringing the hope of the Gospel to all who encounter them.
Deacon Adrian Cullen