May 17, 2014 – The Rite of Passage

Well we are smack in the middle of the “rite of passage” season as students are graduating and are either moving on to their next level of education or are moving out into the “real world.”  Along with all of the celebrations and gift-giving that go with graduation, there is also a healthy dose of advice being given to our graduates by teachers, commencement speakers, parents, grandparents, guardians, etc.  I was just reading about a commencement address given in 1971 by Bob Hope at Santa Clara University.  At the time, our country was in the middle of the Vietnam War, racial tensions were intense, and with the Cold War still very much alive, we were in danger of blowing up ourselves and the rest of the world.  So what was Bob Hope’s advice to those who were so anxious to go out into the world?  Simply, “Don’t go!”

Of course, this is not a realistic option.  As I was thinking about all of the advice and tips that our graduates will receive, particularly our Catholic graduates, I wondered how much of that advice would focus on their religion – about keeping the faith with them as they moved on to their next challenge.  I, of course, am not a parent, and I’m not speaking at a graduation.  But I still had on my mind what I would tell a graduate about keeping their faith with them as they moved on in their journey.  So here is my 2 cents worth.

You need to move on with an open mind and be willing to learn and try new things, but do it without compromising your ethics, morals, or your dignity.  If you aren’t shaping the world, then the world is shaping you.  Make friends that have the same values as you do, even if that means not settling for the first group of friends you meet.  In new situations, we often rush to the first group of people that notice us – don’t. Get to know people that are different than you, but make sure the people you build friendships with are people who share your values and will make you a better person – not who tempt you to compromise your morals or make you do things you are not comfortable with.

You can’t party ALL the time and get good grades. And you especially can’t do so and keep your spiritual life in good shape. It may seem like there are people that can stay out late every night of the week partying and still get good grades – they can’t.  It will catch up to them sooner or later.  Don’t fall for that trap.  People around you are looking for a leader – be one, and be a good one. A lot of people around you are looking for somebody to follow, and not necessarily in big ways, but mainly in little ways. When they aren’t sure if they should study or party, they will look to a leader to see what the popular choice will be. When they aren’t sure about whether or not they should pray before a meal, they will look at everybody else. When they aren’t sure about whether or not they should get up early on Sunday and go to Mass, they will look at what everyone else is doing. Don’t be one of the followers. The “right” thing to do is not determined by “what everyone else is doing.”  Be a leader, and do the right thing despite what everyone else is doing. You’ll be surprised how many people will follow you – and thank you for it later.

Don’t forget to appreciate the beauty of the world around you every single day.  And don’t forget to close the laptop, put down the iPod, and turn off the TV so you can fully appreciate the real live human beings sitting right next to you (a lesson that I definitely need to work on).  Go to confession regularly.  Even if you are living a very holy life, we are usually surrounded by many temptations, and confession is a unique way to flush out our systems and get special graces to deal with a lot of it.  Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Start your day with the sign of the cross and end it the same way.  Pray a rosary while walking to class. Pray for the people that walk by you on the sidewalk. Pray for your instructors, your classmates, for anything you are struggling with. And then – and this is important – listen. Too often when we pray we do all the talking and none of the listening. This is one reason why meditative prayer like the rosary is so powerful. It gives us a chance to listen to God and what he might be saying to us.

Finally, go to mass every Sunday, no matter what.  As Catholics, we are required to go.  Second, we should want to go! I know it’s hard sometimes when you are tired and you were out late and you just don’t feel like getting up and going. As Christians, there is nothing more vital and important than the mass. It is the highest form of prayer we can do. We actually receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ himself. Nowhere else can we experience this unique, special encounter with Jesus Christ as we do in the Eucharist. There is no better way to “be fed.” You will always be glad you went and it’s the most powerful way to experience and receive God’s grace. And as a bonus, go to daily mass if you are able. Once we get out of college, get a full-time job, begin a family, etc. it becomes harder to go to daily mass. Take advantage while you can!

Again, this is just my 2 cents worth (I’m sure no more than that).  But I know that staying true to my faith has helped me in many situations, and I hope that the up-and-coming generations will realize the same thing.

Have a great week!  Peace.

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