In this season for graduations, I extend words of congratulations and prayerful support to all graduates as they enter a new phase in their lives.
Graduation ceremonies typically have a guest speaker. I recall hearing a national news report that offered clips from messages delivered at graduations. Speakers urged the graduates “to find your calling,” “go on dreaming,” “grasp the dynamic opportunity to leave a legacy,” and “be happy to have another day to be you.”
As I listened to the news report, I noticed the repeated emphasis on the graduates… their accomplishments, their dreams, their potential, and their opportunities. Certainly, this is appropriate. After all, the graduates are the center of the graduation ceremony. However, without taking anything away from the graduates or diminishing their accomplishments and limitless possibilities, I believe graduation is not only or exclusively about an individual. It is also a celebration about the graduate in relationship to others. A host of other people have accompanied, supported, and encouraged the graduates during their school years.
As I thought about the class of 2019, my thoughts turned to our Catholic school graduates. One of the distinguishing marks of a Catholic education is an understanding of the person not as an isolated individual but as one who is in relationship with others. The human person does not develop in isolation from others. He or she is a social being whose fulfillment is realized in relationship with God and others.
Do you recall the verse from John Dunne’s poem, “no man is an island, entire of itself; every person is a piece of the continent, a part of the main”? Pope Benedict XVI expands on the poem. “Our lives are involved with one another; through innumerable interactions, they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better or for worse” (Spe Salvi, 48).
Catholic school graduates were offered a quality academic program; a supportive community; and a safe, secure, and orderly environment in which to learn. Generally, however, many schools offer the same. The something extra that Catholic school students receive is “a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth” (Benedict XVI, Address to Catholic Educators at CUA, 2008).
Our Catholic school students are members of a faith community — linked to one another by the grace of our Christian identity, a shared belief in the Gospel, and the rich heritage and traditions of the Catholic faith. They grow and develop through numerous connections and interactions with others. They experience what it means for lives “to spill over” into theirs and conversely what it means for their lives to touch others. These relationships spring from life in Christ — the fundamental relationship for all of us.
Jesus gives us a beautiful image of His relationship with us. “I am I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit” (Jn 15:5). United to Jesus we reach out to others. “This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12).
When “Catholic” precedes school we expect that our graduates will have a unique knowledge and skill set that is rooted in a Catholic worldview. I pray that our graduates have met Christ during their school years and will continue to follow Him and journey with Him as a companion after their graduation. He is the one who will guide them to live as children of God called to be disciples who can transform the world. He is the one who desires their eternal happiness. He is the one they will meet face to face in eternal life.
Pope Francis said it well. “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, 2013). May our graduates experience how good it is to know and love Jesus. May they know the joy of following Jesus and bringing Him to others.
Congratulations and prayers to the class of 2019!
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.