Is College Worth It? | Fr. Bonaventure Chapman & Fr. Joseph-Anthony Kress

March 21, 2024

Fr. Bonaventure: This is Father Bonaventure Chapman. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: This is Father Joseph-Anthony Kress. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Welcome to Godsplaining. Thanks to all those who support us. If you enjoy the show, please consider making a monthly donation on Patreon. Be sure to like, subscribe to Godsplaining wherever you listen to your podcasts. Father Joseph Anthony…

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, what’s crackalackin’ bud?

Fr. Bonaventure: Well, it’s spring time. It’s a busy time for the college semester, I suppose. The students are moving on their way to, well, we’re not that far from Easter and the semester ends, but are you on a trimester there? Do you have the regular semester?  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: No, a standard semester breakdown. The University of Virginia, they really emphasize internships over the summer. So there’s not a lot of students around for the summer, like courses, there are some of those and sometimes you see students stick around, but they really do emphasize internships across all fields of study. So you find a lot of students will do summer internships, but majority of the time, it’s your standard fall, spring semester breakdown.

Fr. Bonaventure: Okay. Are there any particular University of Virginia, like special days or events or things during the calendar year? Like anything in the spring that the students do that’s coming up? Like, I mean, spring break is a classic thing. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, yeah, there’s always spring breaks and things like that. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Are there any special University of Virginia old traditions or something in the spring times? 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: A lot of the stuff actually surrounds graduation. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Oh, okay. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Being Mr. Jefferson’s university and how he organized it, there are some wonderful traditions that take place in the spring semester, but they do really kind of center around graduation. And the major thing is walking the lawn at your final exercises. So each school within the university has its own kind of graduation, like the giving of the diplomas and the degrees and things like that. But there’s one for the entire student body and they kind of break it down depending on graduate students and things like that. But the students begin their time as a student at the University of Virginia with the convocation. And that convocation is on the lawn in the rotunda, right? So all the students sit on the lawn and they face the rotunda, which is the library. Once again, Jefferson kind of designed the academic village in that sense. So they begin facing the rotunda and then at the end, their final exercises as a student is they actually walk the lawn. So they start at the rotunda and walk all the way down to the lawn to the end of it and their final exercises, they’re facing out into the world. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Right, and is that grass generally not walked on? Is it like this one?

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: No, it’s an active lawn and people are there playing frisbee and football throughout the semester, especially on nice days. You see everybody having like picnics and stringing up hammocks and stuff like that. So it’s very active, but it’s like this-  

Fr. Bonaventure: This special event, yeah.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, they’ll have all of the chairs lined up for the people who are attending the ceremony, but then there’s a center aisle down for the students in their cap and gowns. And then to help kind of identify the students to their family and friends, all the students, the tradition is that they get balloons. So they get different shaped like Mylar balloons and stuff. And everybody knows like, oh, look for the shark balloon or the ear of corn balloon.  

Fr. Bonaventure: Delightful, yeah, delightful.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: And then they gather those at the end and they take them over to UVA Children’s Hospital and give them to all the children in the hospital.  

Fr. Bonaventure: Oh, that’s much better.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: It’s really beautiful to see.  

Fr. Bonaventure: I thought it was gonna be like to release them to whales.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: No, no.  

Fr. Bonaventure: But that’s great. No, that’s nice. Oh, that’s delightful. Yeah, that’s a great tradition.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: It’s really fun. It’s a great tradition, I love it.  

Fr. Bonaventure: We had, in Grove City, we had some of these traditions, but one of them was that you didn’t walk on the grass at any point, except your senior year, you’d walk across it, but you wouldn’t walk on the quad. It’s very, it’s kept premier shape, very nice. Pristine, so that it looks beautiful pictures. You were at Steubenville. Did Steubenville have any quads that you weren’t allowed to walk on?  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: No.  

Okay, so everyone could play Frisbee, whatever. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, we were free range out there. Free range college students. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Fantastic. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: You could do whatever you wanted. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, well, this is the transition nicely to the episodes about college and its worth. And you might think today, why are we, of course, college, it’s just a thing you do. It’s like breathing or bathing or brushing teeth and this sort of thing. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Right, high school, immediately go to college. That’s what everybody does.  

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, that’s right, but I think there’s a sense of people asking the question, is college today worth it? And what kind of college be worth it? So we thought we’d just talk through some of these issues since I teach at a university and you’re a chaplain at a university, so we’re around colleges, and we’ll try not to, hopefully we won’t have undercut our futures in this episode. We’ll see, but first, because people assume that college is a necessary type thing, so let’s just go, both of us went to college.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: I mean, it’s a major question right now before we get into the kind of like how this all started, but it’s a major question right now because in higher education, there’s a projections of what’s called the enrollment cliff that is coming up in about two years, I think, it’s like ’25, ’26, is they’re projecting this enrollment cliff of roughly 500,000 students, 500,000 less students will be enrolled in college in the year 2025 or 2026, something like that. And so it’s a major conversation that a lot of policymakers, a lot of administrators and those that are working in the universities are actually trying to figure out, well, what is the future of the university? Because there’s less interest in it and there’s other options now, and there’s a high cost financial and other emotional, psychological, and professional and all these other things that are happening, and the projections actually are pretty bleak for the universities in the United States. So this is a, I think this is a really important conversation to have to actually talk through the role of that.  

Fr. Bonaventure: Whether you’re looking at college, whether you’re in college, whether you’re planning for a career post-college, a career that might involve a college, whether it be ministry, whether it be a professor, whether it be something else, the college landscape is changing a little bit, so maybe giving some guidelines and thoughts about it are helpful. But let’s start with, let’s go back a little bit and think about, I mean, when you were going to college, was it just assumed? Did you know people that didn’t go to college, or was college something that everyone in the Kress family and everyone in the Kresses knew? Like it just, once you, everyone went to middle school, everyone went to high school, everyone went to college. That sort of thing. Was that your, did you have to decide to go to college, or was it more deciding which college to go to, would you say?  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, I think it was more of a decision of which college to go to. The expectation was you go to college. Now, did I know people that didn’t go to college? Yes, a lot, actually. I mean, growing up in the small town of Ohio and things like that, it was not uncommon for somebody to not go to college. I mean, my father doesn’t have a college degree, and he really emphasized academics in our family. It’s like you learn, you do well in your school so that you can go to college and go to good paying jobs so you don’t have to work hard like I do. Now, the irony of it is, I think all of us kids in my family, we learned our work ethic from our parents, and they worked their tails off. And so it didn’t really matter what quote unquote work looked like. We all work hard, you know? So that’s a little bit of the irony of it. But in our family, it was very much emphasized. The academics in school is where you go, and that’s where you invest, is you invest yourself in academics. And so it wasn’t really a question of should I or shouldn’t I? It was, okay, what’s the best college to go to? What’s the best option? And where do you go from there? And that being said, I mean, I still, the majority of our class went to college. Like, I had to graduate in high school. Once again, small town high, super small school. I think I had 60 kids in my graduating class.  

Fr. Bonaventure: That’s a good sample set, though. And the majority went, yeah. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: And I think we all went to college, but not all of us finished college. You know, some guys either left a few years into it or things like that. So it wasn’t unheard of to see somebody that doesn’t have a college degree in my area growing up. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, yeah, my experience was, I mean, everyone went to, basically. Well, and this is the weird part, is that everyone went to college. Everyone was supposed to go to college. And the problem was that when you emphasized that, it meant the people that didn’t finish, for instance, there was a stigma associated with that. When I think perhaps they shouldn’t have gone to college in the first place. And there’s no need to feel and hide that or struggle with things. So this is part of, one of the reasons to talk about it is to break down, what is college and who should be there and why should you be there, should you want to be there? So let’s talk about some of the costs then in, when we talk about is college worth it, if something’s free, you say, is it worth it to have? And you say, well, it’s free, I’ll just take it. But college–

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: I’ll decide later if it’s worth it, yeah. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, ’cause we could think immediately, oh my gosh, this is just college in terms of economic model, cost benefits analysis. But we won’t end with that. But we’ll start with the fact that it is true that college does cost things. Costs, one, an exorbitant amount of money. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony:  Insane amount.  

Fr. Bonaventure: So I think you might have, I mean, most places, average private school, if you’re going to private school, would be around 50 or $60,000 a year all said and done. So that’s 200 some, 200 plus thousand, depending on the school, after four years. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: I mean, you’re typically In debt around six figures. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, you’re coming out of college… 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: At least that’s your four-year cost of six figures, whether you’re paying that off or in debt with that. But what we’re looking at generally now, and obviously in-state’s a little cheaper, but even if you go out of state, like University of Virginia, I know the out-of-state cost is exorbitantly higher. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Massive, yeah. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: And we have a lot of out-of-state students. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Sure, it’s a good school, yeah. Yeah, it’s expensive. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Very!  

Fr. Bonaventure: State schools are much cheaper, but they still have costs associated with them. But I mean, we’re thinking the private level. I think also, what do we call this, the moral indoctrination issue, or the nonsense issue? So many, I mean, this is one of those crusty conservative things that if you’re on the right wing, you’re always, since the ’90s, basically, you’ve been saying all the academy is run by leftists and Marxists, and we’re just doctrine students, and it’s only in the business classes you get capitalists and conservatives and libertarians and all this. So the college used to be kind of a neutral space, and now it’s a liberal Marxist hothouse with some pockets of resistance sort of thing. I don’t know if that’s entirely a fair characterization, but it is true that the academy tends to lean left. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yep.

Fr. Bonaventure: And that in some universities you will be, have to take courses from people who will teach you a bunch of nonsense, which doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from that via negativa, but that’s, I don’t know, maybe, Catholic University of America where I teach is toed line pretty well, but I wonder if maybe University of Virginia, you see a little more of the kind of, especially with campus protests and this kind of, the culture of resistance that’s involved there.

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, I think that it’s, at its core and at its ideal, it’s supposed to be engagement in pursuit of truth and finding that in many ways, and typically you have to engage with differing viewpoints and things like that, and so what you find is that it tends to be this kind of hotbed for, or maybe like an incubator for these new ideas that often can take, you know, very kind of volatile expressions of that and with not a lot of experience and grounding, but it kind of can spiral out of control in that way because it seems to be this is where ideas are proposed and engaged in, but that means that it gets pushed too far and gets radicalized, and where does it get radicalized? Well, first of all places, ’cause you’re dealing with impressionable minds and people who are open to new ideas, like young students and they’re looking at their professors who have credentials and experience and they just assume the best, which is trustworthy and that’s good, but the college atmosphere can lend itself to that kind of byproduct, which is a hotbed for these types of issues. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, and if you’re a parent, you might think, I’m not paying $50,000 a year to have my kid indoctrinated to come home and fight me at Thanksgiving about whether there’s a good or bad in the world or whether everything’s subjective, and it might be, if you’re thinking about college or enter your career in college, you might think, I don’t know if I want to exist every day in this kind of thing, like maybe I’ll do something else that doesn’t involve this kind of, this political nonsense. There’s also, I talk, those might be wasted years too, I mean, it’s four years, maybe five, depending on how you do. That’s a lot of time and it’s not your prime, but it’s the start of things and so all of these are costs here and I don’t want to do the benefits, but instead shift to a more friendly, from a Thomistic perspective, a nutritional perspective, is well, what is the point, like to what end? What is the end of colleges? What’s the point or the goal of colleges? What do they provide, not as a service, but as an institution that would make it, for instance, worth it? And here it seems to me, we could see it under two aspects. One is the intrinsic end, like what does it provide? What good does the university provide that is provided no other way and it’s good in itself? And then the second thing would be, does the university provide a means to other goods that are either achieved better, easier there, or cheaper there, or in a more efficient way, you could say, or in any sense. So what’s the good end of the college and is that good for you and what is the good means of the college and are those good means for you, I think? So let’s talk about the first one with the good end of it. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, the intrinsic kind of nature of the university in that sense, I always go back to a quote from actually the current president at the University of Virginia, President Jim Ryan. One of his first convocation addresses to the incoming students, it was like his second class that he was addressing, he actually was reflecting on what is the purpose of the university. And he said, “The core identity of a university is to pursue truth.” And he’s like, “That has to govern all of your studies. And this is why you are here, is to pursue truth.” And it was a beautiful statement and really kind of from my perspective, unexpected. Like I didn’t expect to hear that, but I think it’s a really important thing to remember that in all these different fields of study, these are not just hobbies or interests that you wanna know more information about, right? It’s not about gathering information as an amassing of like kind of– 

Fr. Bonaventure: Facts to be deployed.

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: But he was like, “No, this university experience “is to engage in a pursuit of truth and reality. “And you can do that in all these different fields, “but like that has to govern your pursuit.” And it was, like I said, I love that quote. It was beautiful to hear that from a university president to be able to identify that and set that tone for the student body and that, but I don’t think he’s wrong either. I really don’t think he’s wrong.  

Fr. Bonaventure: Well, that is in truth and knowledge, the knowledge of the truth is an intrinsic good. It’s a good and of itself. If you ask yourself, “I wanna know the truth,” and you could say, “Well, why do you wanna know the truth?” And the answer is because knowing the truth is good. And you say, “Why is it good?” Because it’s just a fundamental stopping point that knowing the truth, that we are knowers and lovers, and so loving and knowing the right object is a good in itself and it’s a perfection of the human person and the university, it seems, is in its, at its best, is set up as an institution and organ of knowledge of the truth in the universal capacity, whether it be into economics, sociology, psychiatry, physics, biology, theology, law, philosophy, whatever, humanities, that it’s good to remember that the reason we have these buildings and people at these buildings is because it’s the organ for providing truth and knowledge of the truth. And that’s, even if it didn’t do anything else, that would be, even if it didn’t provide support for research grants, for defense funding, that we could use this truth for something else, in itself, knowing the truth is why it’s there, not that it can serve some other purpose with the truth, but the truth itself.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: And I think that’s where you can see, like, well, and the way this might get to the second end that we were saying, like a means to an end. Unfortunately, I think a lot of the university experience and a lot of the universities have moved into basically professional training schools, right? That this university experience, this four years here, is to get a certification, which we call a degree, so that I can then get a job. It’s a means to an end, right? And so it’s not the pursuit of truth as is and learning how to be a critical thinker and to evaluate all these other things to kind of hone those skills, but I’m actually trying to amass a skill set and perfect a skill set in such a way that I can present a piece of paper and say I have this skill set as a training ground for a profession. And that, I remember I was at another college in the state of Virginia visiting for a thing or an event that I was doing, and walking around that campus, like you just see the student body, it was a very different student body than where I am at the University of Virginia, and I just got the sense that that college was ordered in such a way that their number one target was to get their students jobs. And it was amazing, just like even just how the students carried themselves, you could tell that they didn’t give a rip about the college, all they cared about was getting their credentials so that they could get the best job. And it’s a totally different engagement than saying I wanna pursue truth and learn how to be a critical thinker and learn how to kind of hone my skill set, which is my intellect. And that’s a different thing than saying I just need to get the best job possible. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, and one of the aspects between the college as a professional training ground for this, as a means to an end, to a job, to a good career, to a profession, to what have you, versus intrinsic of its own end is knowledge. One of the reasons I think that we shift to this more practical dimension, the means end version, is because we can access, or we think we can access that first intrinsic good of knowledge outside the university. It just is true that if you wanted to know the best, learn from the best thinkers, read the best things, and be directed by the best people 100 years ago, you would have to go to a university that had people trained for this. But with one proliferation of education in general, but also the access to books, I mean cheap books on Amazon where we want, the internet, this sort of thing. Now you can get access to almost all those things that you could have access to at the university. The difference, of course, is that university, when done well, is curating, in a way that a museum curates what you ought to look at, what is beautiful, as opposed to just you making up your own museum of beautiful art, which you may or may not have the ability to do. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: That’s a great, yeah.

Fr. Bonaventure: And the same way that the university’s job is to curate what you should know. And that’s where they kind of, the political, ideological stuff we worry about, you might say. But in its best, you might think, well, I can just access the knowledge and all of this database and all of the great traditions and the great books and all this by myself. And I think sometimes you can, but if you really want to dig down in it, you actually do need someone to help you. You need a teacher to be taught. And there’s something there that just, yeah.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: This is Good Will Hunting, right? 

Uh, yeah, probably. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Right? Where–  

Fr. Bonaventure: I’ve never seen that movie, but yes.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Matt Damon, oh my gosh, you’ve never seen, okay.

Fr. Bonaventure: I like Matt Damon. Dead Poets Society, I have seen, I love.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yes, yes.  

Fr. Bonaventure: That’s fantastic.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: But Matt Damon, the character is, he’s a janitor at the school and all that stuff. But there’s a famous quote where he’s at the bar and he’s like, how much do you pay for your college and education and all that stuff? And he said, I learned all of that with $2.50 in late fees at the public library. He went to the library. He had access to it. But it’s just so much more radically available because now we’ve shifted away from these types of intellectual engagements and pursuits to now just amassing the information. But it’s that same kind of concept, is it readily available? And if so, you have to be kind of self-motivated and driven to do that and kind of curate your own education, which many people can do.That’s, and many people have always done that. So that’s not–  

Fr. Bonaventure: And it’s cheaper.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: And it’s cheaper. So it’s not necessarily a new issue, but the newness of it is how radically accessible it is now. It’s in everybody’s pocket on their smartphone versus making sure you were in an urban center that had a strong library that you could have access to in that sense.  

Fr. Bonaventure: Now, one of the other aspects that’s intrinsic good before we switch to this would be that even though, yes, you can get access to those things, do you have a community around you? I don’t know if you experienced this, but part of the deal with college was you could stay up till two or three at night, not in drinking fest, but rather like debating free will and predestination. Now that’s not–  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, I never did that. I never did that. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Okay, that’s fantastic. But some of us, so I couldn’t do that at home. Like you can’t, you know, you don’t have people who are studying and intensely willing to discuss things all the time, and there’s this like precious time for that. But of course you don’t have to do that in college as well. But let’s shift to then, so these intrinsic, there’s intrinsic ends which you may be able to achieve other places, and so you might say $50,000 is not worth it. There are other means to ends now, and the question is whether college is actually good for that. It’s because clearly in these non-intrinsic ends, so aiming for something else, whether it be professionalism or something else, this is using a tool for something not quite what it’s supposed to be used for. Now it is true that you can use a flathead screwdriver to unscrew a Phillips…

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Do a lot of things, yeah.  

Fr. Bonaventure: A Phillips head, it works.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: It works.  

Fr. Bonaventure: But it’s not designed for that, although it is useful. So this college, when you ask is college worth it, it might be worth it for these sort of things, but it’s not what it’s designed for, and you might think, could I get these things in other ways? So one of the things that you mentioned is professional certification. At this point, some business schools and other things, it seems like going to a business school is about credentialing, and that college might be what you’re doing with that. Nursing school has its own kind of thing, but there’s a lot of technical skills in schools here that you might be able to get somewhere else, as opposed to going to university and then having to take calculus, Latin, philosophy, the liberal arts core, which are good themselves and you ought to desire, but time and money is not always available. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, and I recognize there was an article about, I think Google has a program, a certification program on learning how to code into different languages, so Python and all these, and you can do that at your own speed, at your own time, and you get a certification from Google that you completed and passed it, and then you can take that certification and get jobs, and it’s totally free, and it’s like, well, do you go for computer science or do you just get the certification for free and then jump into a decent paying job? So I think that brings up a whole ‘nother question, maybe a little bit of our experiences when we were going to college and some of our classmates who maybe didn’t finish college is because their skill sets, their passions are not necessarily in kind of information work.  

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, life of mind, yeah.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: Yeah, and so we have to kind of start to look at is like, okay, what is the individual and what is the skill sets of the individual when their passion’s in pursuits instead of just assuming they’re gonna thrive in an academic environment? I know many of the people that I grew up with and things like that, they’re doing fantastic, they’re great, they’re happy, but their skill set wasn’t in an academic environment, and once they got out of that environment, they were able to be creative and have really beautiful gifts and established families and lives and businesses, really, in that sense, and so we’re looking at is like, that was more of a real like option in previous generations when there was a lot of work in craftsmanship and all these other things. There was a phrase that I picked up from a book from Cal Newport, which I think somebody else coined it, but that’s where I found it first was just, we’re in an age of information work, and because that information work is not very tangible in the sense that it’s on a computer screen or in a cloud, the assumption is you have to go to an academic environment to get that skill set, and what we’re finding now is that the pendulum has swung away from that and saying, actually, you can do this by YouTube videos, you can do this by online things, and we’ve lost certain craftsmanship, but there is real craftsmanship in digital marketing or real craftsmanship in coding and all these things, but you can get that apprenticeship and that craftsmanship once again outside of an academic environment. So for some individuals, the university’s academic environment may not be the best environment for them, and those have to be real, and that’s what’s being challenged now and projected with the enrollment cliff is, okay, we’ve actually swung to a different style of work, now what is supporting that work, what is facilitating that, and where does university play within that new matrix? 

Fr. Bonaventure: Sure, yeah, that’s right. I mean, it is the shifting aspect, and playing around with these free self-motivated programs, you could say, that people, now, you might think, yeah, the really go-getters will use that, but maybe someone who needs coding and training certification needs a bit of the whip, not just the carrot, and that a university or a college does provide some of that that forces you to get these assignments in and the structured, again, curated experience, such that you know that you’re gonna finish in four years and get this degree, or two years and get this degree. Another thing is a means to, I think, when I try to justify the university as a means, if you can do that as an ends, is maybe the other thing is the social aspect of it. I think there is, there’s something about America, colleges in America, there’s the bad side of it, that this is a place where the moral law is suspended for four years, and you get to where you’ve been stranded, because of how our 21, how the alcohol policies and all this, in any case, that’s the bad side of socialization, I could say. But I think there’s also a great good of socialization in colleges that can’t be gotten in other places, it seems. You’re usually with people who are more or less your same age, from similar backgrounds, that could be a problem too, and also people that are like-minded, in terms of abilities and desires and such. So it is a problem that in colleges you start to silo off and you don’t get to meet all these other people, and you might think, I only talk to people of a certain intellectual level. Charles Murray points this out in “Coming Apart,” the book on America, and the continual stratification of this, so that’s a problem. But there is a sense in which college provides you to live in a small village, basically, with its own common goods, its own political kind of goods, and provide you with one, knowing people for friendships, but also, dare I say, the MRS degree, you do find, it’s likely that you’ll find a spouse if you’re especially going to a Catholic school or something, whether a guy or a gal who you want to marry, who has enough like you, similar interests, similar cognitive backgrounds, similar whatever, that might be a good foundation for a marriage. Now that brings up questions like what is, and this is a larger episode, like, well, you know, to marry someone always in your socioeconomic background and such. But I think many people marry in college, and when they get out of college, they actually have a hard time finding people for marriage. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: I mean, when we’re looking at the social element of college or university experience, I think I have two things that jump into the spotlight for me, and the first is kind of what you’re alluding to. Currently, our society and our culture has delayed maturation to the university years. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, that seems right.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: The coming of age is not in high school anymore. The coming of age is in the university. And I think that brings up the first point is our pastor down at Charlottesville, Father Walter, he used this line and has always stuck with me. It’s like the unique thing of engaging and dealing with college students nowadays is that they are searching for two things simultaneously. They’re searching for autonomy and community. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, that’s a good point. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: And you have to navigate and help them accomplish both of those is to learn who they are as individuals, but also how do they engage in a community? How do they engage in civic discourse? How do they engage in a faith community? How do they engage in social dynamics? Because both of those have to be accomplished at the same time. And up until this time of the university years, they haven’t been able to do that. They’ve been dependent and everything’s been forced to them. And now they have to do it and kind of navigate that. And we as chaplains, at least from my perspective, I’m given a privileged space to help shepherd that and shepherd them through those moments. The other thing that I always talk about, especially with our graduating students, is when you look at it, once they complete college or the university, that is the last time in their life that they will be surrounded by proximate peers. – 

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, that’s fair. 

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: And thus, because of that, because of the, like you said, it’s kind of a fabricated or forced village set up, but they’re around their peers in very close proximity. And because of that, relationships become very accidental. I just see this person down the hallway or I have this class with this person and we pass-crossed and now we have this friendship or pass-crossed and now we are dating and all these, like all types of relationships, romantic, friendships, or whatever it may be, everything’s very accidental. But after that, you lose that proximity to your peers. It’s not assumed.  

Fr. Bonaventure: No, it’s intentional, yeah.

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: So now all of your relationships have to become intentional. And that’s a really, really hard shift for a lot of our students who go from college into a professional life and don’t understand that almost tectonic shift that happens now. ‘Cause you’re moving from 20 some odd years of always being next shoulder to shoulder with your peers, whether that’s in age or in socioeconomic or in intellectual capacities, you’re with your peers. And then, so every relationship is accidental, including romantic relationships. But once you get out of that, now everything has to become intentional because nothing is given, nothing is forced in and you have to be able to navigate that really well. And those are the social dynamics of it. 

Fr. Bonaventure: Yes, and it’s to provide an opportunity, but also there’s a danger there that you could feel like you’re actually very good at knowing and making friends and all of this when it’s not the case.  

Fr. Joseph-Anthony: And then you get out into a professional life and you’re like, “Ooh, now I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to have a relationship. I don’t know what real friendship looks like. I was always the life of the party and I had everybody around me. I walked out, I was a big man on campus, but then I get out there and nobody gives a rip about me. Who am I now?”  

Fr. Bonaventure: Yeah, and that points up again that this is an instrumental means that the university, which it’s not designed to provide, and so it might provide opportunities for something, but also could go down the other route and make it harder to do this and make you feel actually, like you have the illusion of confidence, social confidence, when actually it just happens that people are just around you. I think maybe the good point about this question is it asks us to really think about what we think college ought to be, as opposed to just taking something for granted. I think it asks us when we say, “Is college worth it?” Not just personally, but as a society, what do we think college or university is aimed at? What is it for? And if it’s not one of those intrinsic goods, are there other goods that can, other means that can get to that good even better? And are we making the college into something that it ought not to be? Those are tough societal questions, but I think they’re on everybody’s mind. And it’s good to think personally, too, about my relationship to college, what I see about whether it’s something to send my children to or to encourage people to or to support. It asks us to really look at whether the college university has been taken seriously, or whether we’ve gotten a bit flabby on what we expected to do. Well, folks, that’s enough for now. So whether you go to college, been in college, going to college, in any case, we thank you for listening to this episode of Godsplaining. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, that’s probably X now, right? Instagram, like, subscribe, leave a five-star review. If you’d like to donate, please do so through Patreon. Follow the link in the description. You can also follow the link to find God’s Plenty merchandise and our website, which gives upcoming retreats and information about events. So if any of our retreats there are posted, you can look in there. This highlight for you on April 16th, there is a one-day reflection, a day reflection in St. Patrick’s Church in Columbus, Ohio. So it’s St. Patrick’s Church, our Dominican church in Columbus, Ohio. Love to see you there. So if you look on the website, you’ll find the other retreats, and especially St. Patrick’s, on April 16th. That’s it for here. Know of our prayers for you. Please pray for us, and we’ll catch you next time on Godsplaining.