This weekend, I had the opportunity to go on a male mentorship program retreat in beautiful New Hampshire. Aside from the breathtaking change of color in Fall foliage, and hours spent canoeing on glassy water, the brief hiatus from BC allowed for a much-needed break from the chaos of college life. The retreat consisted of logistical training sessions and exercises in vulnerability, to equip the seventy or so junior and senior men on the retreat to be excellent leaders for our freshmen mentees. The weekend centered on sharing life stories, fun activities in the outdoors, and getting to know the seventy other men, all dedicated to the shared goal of bettering the Boston College community through our commitment. The retreat was not explicitly religious, but the moments and memories we shared reflected a beautiful part of the Christian faith: fellowship through community.
The fellowship we experience when we pray, break bread, and walk together through the rewarding and difficult parts of life is integral to the Christian faith. Fellowship has been a distinguishing mark of Christian communities from the start, beginning with the apostles and some of Jesus’ first disciples, continuing all the way to modern faith communities around the world. Even from the beginning, in most of the important moments of discernment and struggle in Jesus’ life, including his baptism, traveling ministry, and passion, He was surrounded by a community which loved Him. Following His crucifixion, the twelve apostles found solace in the fellowship amongst one another following, and sought fellowship among the world as they spread the Good News of Christ.
College can be a difficult environment in which to feel stability in one’s faith practice and growth, especially with regards to the nebulous concept of fellowship. This statement probably seems counterintuitive, since we are constantly surrounded by friends our age, taking classes which preach development of the whole person, and have access to dozens of masses held each week on campus. At the same time, the average Boston College student fills their schedule with classes, homework, extra-curricular activities, parties, lunch dates, Examens, football games, and other wonderful opportunities only available at this time in our lives, to the point that settling into a community of Christian fellowship becomes low on our priority lists. In fact, it often takes getting off-campus on a “classic BC retreat,” like 48hours, Halftime, or Kairos, to remember their importance, readjust, and actively seek these communities.
I’m not sure when the last time is that I sat down with one of my close friends, and had a deep conversation about faith, or our lives, or struggles either one of us was experiencing, but I do feel like something is missing in my life. As social beings, humans fundamentally yearn for spiritual connections with creation and others around us, and an especially intimate relationship to God. Perhaps connection to a community of Christian fellowship is what I’m missing? At our Jesuit school, which preaches formation and genuine conversation much more frequently than the average university, we have the privilege to engage in Christian fellowship in ways that are unique to this community. Fellowship through community brings the power of hope, laughter, stability, and companionship into our lives in ways that isolated meditation and prayer do not. Our challenge rests in recognizing opportunities for cultivating this fellowship, and exploring it among others to share our experiences of faith more fully.