Recently a pastor shared a story with me about the closing Mass for the students in the parish elementary school. He began the homily by asking the students if they prayed often at school. Their answer was a resounding “yes.” When asked for specifics they answered, “We pray at the beginning and end of the school day, before and after lunch, and sometimes when the teacher thinks we need special help.” The pastor continued, “Put your hands up if you will pray during the summer.” To the pastor’s delight, the hands went up. They seemed to get the point. Summer vacation should not be a vacation from prayer.
As I was thinking about the summer and the occasions it provides to enjoy family and friends, travel to vacation sites, and appreciate the natural beauty around us, I also thought about how important it is that we live and nurture our faith during the summer. I encourage you to continue to be involved in your faith and especially to take part in Sunday Mass. The more relaxed atmosphere of the summer days should not be an excuse for missing Sunday Mass. Here we find the nourishment we need to live our faith and receive the grace to recognize the many ways in which God’s presence surrounds us.
In our diocese, we speak often about knowing, living, and sharing our faith. During the summer, may we be open to the opportunities to encounter Christ in those we meet and to bring Him to others. Sharing our faith is accomplished most effectively one person at a time. That is how Jesus preached the good news. He addressed the crowds but he also talked to individuals — the woman at the well, the good thief, Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, and a host of others named in the Gospel. We can do the same.
Pope Francis reminds us “to bring the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbors or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching that takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, or on a journey” (The Joy of the Gospel, 127).
I recall a general intercession at Mass that I heard recently: “For those vacationing, that their respite may enable them to be more fully aware of the presence of God around them.” What a beautiful thought: a vacation enables us to be more fully aware of God’s presence — in the sacraments, in the beauty of nature and our surroundings, and in the people we meet along the way.
Before I conclude this article, I want to extend my congratulations to the many students who have graduated during the past days and weeks, remembering especially those leaving elementary school to begin their high school years, high school graduates who will be entering the next phase of their lives, and college graduates who will begin their careers.
I hope our Catholic school graduates have met Christ during their school years. He is the foundation of the education our schools offer. The distinctive quality of a Catholic school is the integration of the Catholic worldview throughout the total school program and environment. Pope Benedict XVI, speaking to Catholic school educators, captured the fundamental reason for a Catholic school: “a sacred place to encounter the living God in Jesus Christ” (Catholic University of America, 2008).
I say to our graduates, quoting Pope Francis, “Young people need to tell the world: ‘It is good to follow Jesus; it is good to go with Jesus; the message of Jesus is good; it is good to come out of ourselves, from the edges of existence of the world and to bring Jesus to others!’” (Palm Sunday Homily, 2013).
God bless our graduates and a joyful and pleasant summer to all!
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.