The answer to life decisions: be a gift

Colleges offer vocational, career guidance to young adults

The Millennial generation is forging an unprecedented path into adulthood.

Unlike other Americans born before 1980, the generation of 18 to 33 year olds is found to be relatively unattached to organized religion and politics, burdened by debt and in no rush to marry—but optimistic about the future, according to a March report by the Pew Research Center.

Yet like all generations, youth and young adults face the same decisions about what to do with their lives as they pass into adulthood.

Catholic campus ministers and career counselors in Colorado have made it their mission to aid adults in their discernment of job prospects, spiritual life and vocations.

Father Peter Mussett of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center that serves the University of Colorado at Boulder campus, said they have a four-part approach to helping young adults discover God’s plan for their lives.

“We’re always being attentive first-off to evangelization,” he said.

Part of evangelization is helping others know God and trust in his Church.

“After that we focus on the four areas of formation—similarly as they would at the seminary—which are the human, intellectual, spiritual and apostolic.”

Students may participate in retreats like the Buffalo Awakening, Bible studies or learn about theology of the body. Those who have an interest in religious life or the priesthood are sent to spiritual directors who will guide them or with people who are in states of life they would like to pursue, Father Mussett said.

“We also really try to get people hooked on daily Mass and adoration,” he said.

The underlying goal of all their direction is to help them learn what it means to give.

“We present a lot of opportunities for young people to make a gift of themselves,” he said. “The reality is you cannot find who you are unless you make a sincere gift of yourself.”

Learning how to make a commitment to a path in life and be a total self-gift can be hindered by five common pitfalls, said Father Anthony of the Transfiguration, chaplain for the Colorado School of Mines in Golden.

Living in a dream world, hiding behind short-terms goals, letting failures keep one down and waiting for a sign from God or listening to bad advice are the top derailments for youth, he said.

“What a shame that so many young people Youtube their lives away, caught up in worldly dreams, without confronting and surpassing their real fears to find the real joy of a life-long commitment,” Father Anthony said.

He advises that while graduate degrees, ministries, internships and conferences are worthy and positive goals, they can district youth from discerning.

“How can you even walk a moral life or have time to fall in love without a balanced life and time for the heart?” he continued. “Seek first the life-long commitment, the total self-gift.”

Father Anthony and his community, the Community of the Beatitudes, are penning a book titled “Discerning your Vocation: A Catholic guide for Young Adults,” which will be published this summer.

Major decisions

At Regis University, career counselors provide some 2,800 counseling sessions a year to guide students on choosing their college major and a career path.

Brent Vogel, assistant director of career services, said the career counseling team works to give students all the tools possible to assess and explore their interests and skills.

Counseling usually begins with a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Keirsey Temperament Sorter. From there, counselors will give recommendations on possible careers.

“We’re helping them learn more about themselves and showing them useful resources,” Vogel said.

Students may also need hands-on experience in deciding a career path. Counselors direct students to their experiential learning center to help students find internships or service opportunities in the community.

Their career services are also offered to graduates of any age.

“Our career services department serves students through their entire life,” he said.

Their underlying advice is for students to find what they’re passionate about.

For all young adults, Father Anthony also advises that no matter where life may lead them, to not be afraid.

“Be saints,” he said. “Live your Christian life to the fullest, at 100 percent without waiting for heaven to discover what eternal life means. Trust that the Lord desires your happiness.”

 

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.


Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.