...then we realized: they dont.
Just a few examples from our experience are in order. Now, as a disclaimer, these are just our observations and are not meant to be a fully articulated series of theological statements, nor are they meant to be a list of judgments. Just...simple observations.
That said, college life is tough for the soul. Many have described it as their own little agony in the garden. Of course any experience of ours is nothing in comparison to Christ's but...analogically similar. There's sex, drugs, drunkenness, crude language, crude behavior, crude...ness. So many aspects of college life are just...filthy. We daresay that these days - since the sixties - university life is something completely different than it ever has been. But we digress.
Going off to the university we knew that people would change. Being at Our Lady's University, we knew that surrounding ourselves with the right people would protect us from excessive temptation. Yet preparing to come home for the summer, we could only echo St. Paul's words in his second letter to the Corinthians:
"For I fear lest perhaps when I come I may not find you as I should wish, and lest I may be found by you not as you would wish - lest perhaps there be found among you contentions, envyings, animosities, dissensions, detractions, gossiping, arrogance, disorders - lest when I come again God should humiliate me before you, and I should mourn over many who sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness and immorality and licentiousness that they practiced." (2 Cor 12:20-21, Confraternity, emphasis added)
Now, we are no saint and we struggle and sin like everyone...but we have the sacraments - namely penance and Eucharist - to clean us and guard us from sin. As we found, those Christians who had fallen into the wickedness and snares of college life the most were Protestants - those who do not have the fullness of sacramental life to strengthen them. This is not to say that Catholics and Orthodox are any holier by their own merit than the Protestants and the godless; however, the Catholics and Orthodox are strengthened by the grace of God...and that's the key. The poor Protestants have no idea how hard they're making it for themselves! The more we think about it the more we realize how many of our friends are struggling with holiness yet they reject God's primary means of conferring grace - the sacraments!
Protestants have almost become the Pelagians that they condemned earlier on - they now say that being a good person is better than observing "personal" commandments about things they do "privately" and confessing Christ as Lord in prayer. For some reason people see social sin - sin which affects others - as somehow worse than "private sin," or sin which one does "in the privacy of one's home." St Paul and Christ Himself is clear on this - sin is a corruption of the good and that any corruption of any member of the body of Christ results in corruption of all.
One girl we know began college trying to maintain purity of heart and she succeeded...for a time. She was disgusted by everything going on around her. Then, just recently, we find out that she has been fornicating with a "boyfriend" for the past couple of months. Apparently shes "prayed" about this and come to the conclusion that she "doesnt really feel that its wrong." We will gloss over this because it makes us SO ANGRY...but thats immanentist right there...and we daresay that if one takes phenomenology too far, one could justify that (wrongly of course) with JP II's philosophical school.
Another example, a girl who was the picture of holiness in high school, she was your average good protestant: went to Bible studies, prayed, etc. Of course, a healthy sacramental life was, again, absent. As soon as she hit school she struggled etc...but by the end of the year she's been known to take part in all sorts of drunkenness and impurity. She's even been known to say things like "I try to love Jesus but this is who I am so...deal." We dont understand this. If you try to love Jesus, then you'll obey his commandments. You wont just say "deal" when a suggestion of having some purpose of ammendment is made.
These people are just...the most salient examples right now in our mind, but there are others...and it's sad how many Christians are running around not behaving as they should. At least Catholics and Orthodox have a way to be restored to a state of grace, Protestants are just left saying: "The hypocrisy is ripping me apart, and the absence of God is like a living hell for me. I need help. I'm dying inside. I just don't know what to do or where to go. I don't live for God, I don't witness, and I don't pray. People say that the definition of hell is "eternal separation" from God. I fell that I have that right now, so I guess I'm in hell!" (from Every Young Man's Battle) This poor kid needs confession, and fast! Because unfortunately only by a special and extra-ordinary grace will he be restored to a state of grace without it! So sad...
As much as it tears us apart seeing more and more once-holy Protestant friends fall away from holiness instead of growing in it, there is a positive point to all of this. Just as any sin damages the mystical body of Christ, every healing is bound not to heal just that member but also the body as a whole. We Catholics and Orthodox, WHO HAVE THE SACRAMENTS, MUST receive them frequently, not only for the health of our souls, but for the health of the souls who cannot receive them yet form one body with us. We all share one baptism, and with few exceptions, we are all one body...and we who have the fullness not only of truth but also of goodness, beauty, unity, and most importantly, of LIFE must take advantage of it.
Get to daily mass. Receive communion daily. Confess your sins weekly. Do penance for you, the suffering souls in purgatory, and for those on earth who have no idea what they're doing. Maybe one day they'll behold God face to face...and witness the most beautiful liturgy - the One Liturgy - in heaven for all eternity. Let's just hope and pray that not only we but also they make it there.