Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Reflection Before Departure

The first week of warm, spring weather can be a rude awakening. Just take a glance at the academic calendar. Especially you, our beloved seniors. This week is like the moment when the starship Enterprise makes the jump to warp speed, and the stars blur. We’re now heading for graduation at warp nine. Blur and all.

Before you find yourselves rudely dumped into the third week of ay, however, I have a suggestion for you – an invitation, really. In the midst of the blur, freeze the frame. Stop the action. Take some time and think deeply about not just the next month, but the last four years of your lives.

Take the time – no, make the time – to think about the ways you have changed since you graduated from high school. Do it now in the closing weeks of your college career while the experience is still fresh. The remaining weeks before graduation are a graced time, a season when you have the chance to reflect on your life at Georgetown, even as you’re still living it.

If you do this well, you’ll leave here having received not just a Georgetown degree, but a Georgetown education.

You’ll need to start by asking yourself some important questions and answering them honestly. The problem lies in asking the right questions, or at least the right kinds of questions.

Let me offer you a few from the heart of Georgetown’s Jesuit and Catholic tradition. If these questions help you reflect meaningfully on your Georgetown experience, use them. If they don’t, come up with your own to help you evaluate your Georgetown experience in terms of what it has meant for you as a human being.

Ask yourself questions like these:

Have I grown in my ability to think and learn over the past four years? Am I more intellectually competent than I was four years ago? This is not just a matter of “knowing more stuff.” Rather, it’s a matter of “habits of mind.” Am I a fitter owner of a human mind than I was four years ago? Have I grown in appreciation of my intellect and its purpose, or is my academic life still largely a matter of hoop-jumping, a set of goals set by others that I seek to meet so I can harvest the benefits of job, salary and prestige that come with a degree?

Obviously, Hoyas at graduation fall on a broad continuum here. Where do I stand?

Have I grown in my understanding of my religious faith, or my lack thereof? Have I had genuine religious experience during my time at Georgetown, not just intellectual debates of theological issues, but what I would call actual religious experience? If so, how have I – or have I – integrated that experience into my life? Have I wrapped my mind around the deepest questions to which religious experience gives rise? Have I engaged the writing and thoughts of people through the centuries who have taken religious experience and religious questions seriously? If I have had nothing that I would call religious experience during my Georgetown experience, how do I account for that?

Have I thought and acted seriously about justice while I’ve been at Georgetown? Have I met anyone poor in the past four years, someone whose name I know and who knows mine? Have I learned to ask questions about how people become and remain poor, marginalized and invisible in society? Have I asked myself what I can and ought to try and do about that? Have I thought about what makes a right a human right? Have I thought about what it means to be an American in today’s world?

Have I grown in my ability to love? This one may surprise you, but it lies at the very core of our tradition. If you haven’t deepened your ability to love wisely and well during your time at Georgetown, then we have failed you or you have failed yourself or, more likely, some combination of the two is true.

So ask yourself, have I grown in my understanding of the relationship and difference between sex and love? Have I learned that I love my friends? Have I thought about what my parents taught me about love and about what I hope to teach my children about love?

There’s my shot at the sorts of questions I hope our beloved Seniors will ask themselves before the shock of the week after graduation is upon us. For the record, these questions were derived not just from my experience as a Hoya, Jesuit and dean, but also from the Jesuit Secondary Education Association’s landmark 1986 document, “Profile of the Graduate of a Jesuit High School at Graduation.”

Father Ryan Maher, S.J. (CAS ’82) is an associate dean for the College. AS THIS JESUIT SEES IT . . . appears every other Friday.

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