Lots of famous people are making commencement addresses this time of year. So since our second son is graduating High School, I thought I'd take a stab at a commencement address too.
My dear graduate,
My dear graduate,
I love you. I am proud of you. This is a big day to celebrate your accomplishments, but moreover to celebrate and be thankful for the graces, talents and gifts that God has given to you to enable you to come to this point. May we always remember to thank God for our blessings.
As you begin the next stage of your life, I have five thoughts to share with you.
Always we must start with the end in mind. The reason we are here on earth is to know, love and serve God here, so as to be happy with Him in heaven forever. So this means that all our studies, work, volunteering, jobs, careers and vocation must be used to build up the kingdom. Does that mean you must only study the faith or take a job at a church? Certainly not. It means if you will be an accountant; use all your gifts to create order and honesty in the finances of the client. If you are to be a doctor or dentist, take care of the physical needs of your patients with love and kindness, respecting their human dignity as you heal or treat them. If you become an architect you design for function and beauty that families may have a loving home, or businesses may have a useful space with which to work. Even the menial jobs you do with love. Maybe you will stock shelves, or deliver pizza, or clean bathrooms or empty trash. Whatever that job is do it as if for the Lord; promptly, correctly and joyfully.
"The surest way to heaven is through Holy Communion and the sacraments of the Catholic Church" ~Pope St. Pius X. Without the Eucharist, received frequently and worthily, there is no other way. Jesus told Thomas “I am the way, the truth and the life.” In Matt 16 He tells Peter, “You are rock and on this rock I will build my church.” And in the great bread of life discourse of John’s gospel chapter 6 He reiterates three times “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life within you. Get to mass every Sunday, even when you are tired. Even when you were out too late the night before. Even when you think it is boring. The Eucharist is our greatest treasure, the source and summit of our faith.
Life is short, pray hard. Say your prayers everyday. Start off with the morning offering. Say the blessing every time you eat, no matter how humble or grand your meal. Examine your conscience at night and thank God for the day. At your young age, I imagine you have never thought about how or when your life will end. And, I don’t mean to be morbid, but your life will end. The bible says “No one knows the day or hour.” So, live every day with fullness and be proud of what you have done. Take risks to do great things, but be satisfied to do the ordinary things. Make plans and dream for a long lifespan, but examine yourself each night so that you are ready for God at any time. "Pray without ceasing", says St. Paul.
Seek God’s will for both your career and your vocation. You may be well on the way toward your job or career, but don’t overlook the call God has for you and your life’s vocation. From the Latin “vocare” or calling, God has a wonderful plan for your life be it single, married, or religious life. In all vocations the main thing is Love. We are called From Love, For Love. Blessed Pope John Paul II has taught us that you can only find yourself when you make a complete gift of yourself. No matter what your vocation, it is making a complete gift of yourself that will be required.
Always call on the Blessed Virgin Mary to be your guide. It was Mary to whom God the Father entrusted His only son Jesus, to be conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. She gave her yes at the annunciation, but so too, throughout her life. She told us all poignantly at the wedding feast of Cana, to “do whatever He tells you.” Jesus gave her to be the mother of each of us at the foot of the cross. Mary will always intercede for you. She will always stand at the foot of the crosses you face. She will always point you to her son. She will be with you when your earthly mother cannot. Run to Mary, Trust in Mary, Stay Close to Mary.
Is that all? No, there is always more. But these 5 things are the best start and are “doable.” I’ll conclude with one of my favorite quotes from St. Catherine of Siena, “be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”
I love you and I am proud of you.