According to an article published last week in the Los Angeles Times, a long-term study conducted by three UCLA researchers and recently published in a new book reveals that college can be the best time for students to discover themselves spiritually. The study, which surveyed 112,000 American college freshman (14,000 of whom were surveyed again in their junior year) highlights several factors that lead students to discover their spiritual side on a deeper level (such engaging in the liberal arts or performing volunteer work), while other factors seem to reduce that possibility (such as engaging in the math and science fields, partying, or being overexposed to television and video games).

What do you think? Do you agree with the study? Could college be the best time for young people to explore their spirituality on a much deeper level, as opposed to, say, when they were in high school? Do you believe this period in a young adult's life is particularly crucial to his/her spiritual development? Or is spiritual development a continuing process? Is there one point in life where spiritual development is greater than another?


The young-adult period — often coinciding with the college years — is a most significant phase of our development into full adulthood. It is often depicted as a crazy time, with no rules to follow and an abundance of time with little responsibility. However, for many young adults, this is far from reality. For them, it is a very serious time, a time for reflection, a time of endless possibilities for the future.

Many of the young adults who I know and see regularly, especially at holiday time, are full of questions. And many of the questions are about God's impact on their lives and their relationship with him. They are looking for answers, but they are also patient enough to appreciate the fact that the answers do not pop up like a Christmas jack-in-the-box.

For many of them, it is really the first time that they have the luxury to ask questions and not be rebuked for asking them, or being told, "You know better than that," or just not taken seriously.

Their questions are often very profound and they are looking for discussion rather than answers. They realize that what they are questioning is of profound importance for their future lives, and they appreciate the time others take with them in a deep and often penetrating experience for both parties involved.

In our church, we tend to create scenarios for this type of discussion. For several years the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has provided evenings called Theology on Tap. These are opportunities for all young adults to come together, not just to hear a speaker on some aspect of faith and life, but to engage in discussions with their peers.

The young-adult years are very special, and young adults deserve our respect as they grapple with the many new aspects of life and responsibility.

We know the Lord is with them in their quest and all will be well.

The Rev. Richard Albarano

St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church,



Eighty percent of people come to Christ before the age of 18 years old. After that, only 20% come to Christ later in life. This is why it is crucial, as far as salvation goes, for parents to raise their kids up in their religion — modeling it, living it, teaching it. And this is also why Christian friends and youth pastors are crucial for those who do not come from believing families.

I agree that the study is addressing the fact that young adults come to a deeper knowledge of themselves, and/or a "spiritual" side of themselves. But is this directly related to God? A true relationship involving obedience to him? Holiness? I don't believe so, based on research in the subjects of psychology, theology and the integration of the two.

I believe college is the beginning of discovering oneself but greatly mingled with, and influenced by, a time of brief discovery of freedom, partying, experimentation and the like. Some may actually begin to give their lives over to a real spirituality — meaning devotion to their religion, and God, in particular. The rest may be experimenting with diverse types of "spirituality" that are not developed from a solid sense of self and maturation, but dabbling in many things to discover and, eventually develop, that sense of self.

As far as life being a continuous spiritual journey? Absolutely. For those devout in serving their God and truly seeking holiness, we should never stop growing, leading people to God, and maturing in the sense where we discover aspects of ourselves that need to be laid aside, confessed and/or matured/healed.

The Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian

La Vie Counseling Center,