During a diss-war with a Boston University student, I encountered an apparently long-established term BU uses for BC: they giddily refer to our institution as “Sunday school.” Well, it “sucks to BU” because we’re far from it.
I’ll tell you right away, I’m not a fan of organized religion; I’m an atheist. Before I arrived three weeks ago, I thought there was no way a university could benefit from a religious presence infiltrating every pore of the academic environment. I remain aligned to my preconceived notions.
Boston College, however, is not the aforementioned type of university. We are not required to read the Bible. We are not required to attend mass. Yes, there are more than ten different masses held on Sunday and several times a day during the week, but they are only there for people who are interested. I walked into St. Joseph’s Chapel on Upper to investigate the religious scene here, having only gone to mass during Orientation, and I discovered a magically serene atmosphere and one of the nicest men I’ve ever met was standing at the altar, lighting candles. I didn’t stay for mass, but I could understand why other students would.
A plethora of spiritual retreats are available for students: almost every week a night of open discussion, with the main purpose to “reflect, relax, find some peace, and explore,” is held in several residence halls for freshmen. Last week, the discussion regarding spirituality included quotes from St. Ignatius of Loyola and Deepak Chopra alike.
The Jesuit presence is here at BC, without a doubt. Is it offensive to other religions? No. Is it offensive to atheists or agnostics? No. I am speaking for all non-Catholic members of the BC community on this one, but I can do so with confidence, especially considering that the Society of Jesus is one of the most liberal religious orders.
As for academia, only a small percentage of professors are members of the Catholic Church. Most of my professors, all superbly intelligent men and women, have cursed during the first few weeks and none have mentioned God during a lecture. On the other hand, as Bill Strickland said during his Convocation speech, which was more of a casual talk than a formal speech, he’s free to speak of his connection with God at places like BC. One might say that schools with a religious affiliation give the faculty and students more freedom of speech than would a nondenominational university.
Let’s remember, though, I’m not defending denominational schools. BC is very much a Jesuit Catholic school, and I found the talks on Saint Ignatius and spirituality at Orientation to be an enlightening experience. The Jesuit view on education is a philosophy we indulge in every day on campus. It’s an educational philosophy more so than a religious one, and it is in this way that atheists or agnostics or Buddhists or Muslims or Protestants can experience the religious aspect of going to school here.
I’m still an atheist, but in the light of the condom fiasco this past spring and the notion that 70% of BC students are supposedly Catholic, I’ve found BC to be a rather liberal and welcoming environment. Who’s to say if it’s because of the student body’s open-mindedness or the administration’s. Regardless, our school’s denomination does not define us.Featured image courtesy of Emily Akin/Gavel Media