Thursday, May 22, 2014

Graduation Day

Today was Graduation Day at our regional Catholic School. I celebrated Mass this morning for the graduates and their families, as well as for the other grades who will be returning next year. At the actual Commencement Exercises this evening, I was privileged to present the annual Servant of God Isaac Hecker Prize, which is awarded to the graduating 8th grader who writes the best essay on how being a faithful Catholic can contribute to making a person a better citizen and the United States a better country.

My own 8th-grade graduation occurred almost 53 years ago - on June 25, 1961. That was another world in so many ways, but in essence the experience of graduation remains much the same. One set of experiences and relationships comes to an end, and newer and more varied future experiences and relationships are promised. Hopefully, one can build on the knowledge one has acquired, the friendships one has formed, and the experiences one has had to prepare oneself for the next set of challenges. But, however much looking backward may seem to be the essence of any graduation, it is what lies ahead that matters. After all, however formative my grade-school years may have been (and they were in significant respects), almost all of my life has passed since that long-ago graduation. 

I used the Votive Mass of Thanksgiving this morning. That's an obviously appropriate choice for graduation day, although if there were a specific Votive Mass for getting ready to face new and a yet undefined challenges, I think that might be at least as appropriate, maybe more so!

Today's 1st reading at Mass (Acts 15:7-21) recalls the Council of Jerusalem. In the context of graduation day, one of the things I find most striking - and inspiring - about the Council of Jerusalem story is how, despite the unprecedented challenge they were facing, the leaders of the apostolic Church had confidence in the Risen Lord's continued presence in the Church and hence had confidence in their ability as a community to resolve the complex issue they faced. My hope for this year's graduates is that the experiences and relationships they have had thus far (and will hopefully be able to build upon in the coming years) will help them likewise continually throughout their lives to recognize the presence and action of the Risen Lord in our life together as his Church and thus also feel confidence like that of  the apostles in Acts.

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