In the Roman Catholic tradition, there has always been an emphasis on community. Jesus sent His disciples out in groups, and told them that wherever two or three of them gathered together, He would be there with them. Catholic fellowship is as important as the other elements of our faith. I have found that fellowship at Boston College in the Sons of St. Patrick.
The Sons of St. Patrick is a group of Catholic men on campus that strives to form Catholic gentlemen, using the three pillars of Faith, Fortitude, and Fraternity as guiding principles. The group was founded by students who, with the guidance of Fr. Paul McNellis, S.J., wished to fight back against the tendencies of the hookup culture and the party lifestyle on campus.
The chosen patron saint—St. Patrick—was chosen for that very reason. St. Patrick returned to Ireland in order to fight against heresies and to show the people there that a life based on firm Christian values is good and enviable. Just as he did, we strive to show, by example, the virtues of a Catholic life. The group, however, does not have a “holier than thou” complex. We understand and accept that we are not perfect; in order to combat this, we have fraternal correction. The concept of fraternal correction consists of gentle but stern reminders of what it means to be a Roman Catholic gentleman and to practice the values that we should be espousing. It is not about pushing others down, but about lifting them up and walking alongside them.
The group has several activities, such as dinners, parties, and a week-long on-campus spiritual retreat (the Week of Fire) in which we seek to grow closer together in our relationships with each other and with God, learning to see Him in all things and particularly in our daily routines. The Week of Fire also encompasses a weekend retreat. For the last three semesters, it has been in Cohasset, Massachusetts. I personally had the privilege of attending the retreat a few weeks ago. It was an extremely enjoyable experience in which I had time to step aside from the busyness of Boston College and enjoy some quality time with my fellow Sons—and with Jesus Christ, through contemplation and prayer.
My experience with the Sons of St. Patrick has been a characteristic feature of my college experience. At our weekly meetings, we pray Evening Prayer in St. Mary’s Chapel and then meet to discuss current events concerning our faith, or to hear from a variety of guest speakers. From these gatherings, I have learned so much about my faith and how other people around the world live it out. The group has definitely shaped me as an individual, and has given me a great group of brothers on whom I know I can count and who gladden my week through their light-hearted, kind, and humorous friendships. As I ready myself to leave Boston College, I can only think of the breastplate prayer we pray at the conclusion of every meeting:
I arise today through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity.
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.
I arise today through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.