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A message to 2018 graduates
by John Horvatt II

 

It is that time of the year again when students graduate from their high schools and colleges. The graduation ceremony is a rite of passage that is so much a part of our tradition. Commencement speakers call upon graduates to dream, hope and plan for the future. While such words may seem proper for these exuberant youth, they often go unheeded.

If I were to give a commencement speech, I should want to do something different. Generally, speakers either deliver a change-the-world pep talk or a face-the-world sermon.

My angle would address the act of graduation itself, for if handled well, the consequences will follow naturally. It is imperative to encourage graduates to do what they are called upon to do at this time: Graduates graduate. This means they pass from one stage of experience, proficiency, or development to another higher degree. It is a time of passage.

 

The Need to Graduate

This is one of the greater challenges of today’s graduates. Many are not graduating. They receive their diplomas with great pomp and ceremony but do not make that passage to the next stage of life. They stay frozen in immaturity, unwilling to make the decisions that require effort and grit.

After the graduation ceremony, they need to realize that they are no longer the high school or college students they once were. They should no longer play the same games, video or otherwise. They must assume new responsibilities. They must seriously think about their future. They should consider the state of the nation and the Church, which are in crisis.

 

Message to Graduates

My message to graduates would be: graduate!

Graduates! It does not matter if it is difficult. Just graduate.

Dare to be counter-cultural since our decadent culture encourages people not to graduate to anything higher in life. To graduate means avoiding frenetically intemperate lifestyles that destroys one’s future.

To graduate means not looking upon life as an uninterrupted sequence of fun and pleasure. Life is not a beach or a never-ending party; we must progress beyond the confines of our self-interest and gratification.

To graduate means progressing towards something higher. It requires making decisions that will affect the future of self and others. That is what I find so distressing about graduations. So many graduates have little idea of what they are graduating toward. They go to college without clearly defined goals or majors. They seem to desire to extend their high school days for four more years rather than prepare for the years ahead. They often leave college with little more than what they entered—save a great debt.

And so the second part of my message would be to propose three things toward which to graduate.

 

Graduating into Adulthood

The first thing toward which to graduate is true adulthood. Whether graduating from high school or college, all have reached the age of adult.
However, many mistake adulthood as merely reaching eighteen. Adulthood marks a special phase in life in which young people become legally responsible for their actions.

Adulthood means assuming responsibilities beyond self. Adults can create life…and destroy it. They might enter into marriage and constitute a family. Adults can own property and engage in business. They might serve the nation and even die for it.

But they can only do this properly if they leave behind childhood. There are many who refuse to become adults and continue as if children well into the twenties or thirties. These are not to be imitated but rejected.

Graduates must graduate to adulthood.

 

Looking for Meaning and Purpose

Secondly, graduates should graduate to meaning and purpose.

Responsibilities only make sense when life has meaning and purpose. And thus, graduates should assume values and embrace those high ideals that are worth more than life itself. They should desire to fight the evils of the day. They should look for those things that inspire dedication, loyalty, honor and dignity. This quest for meaning might be centered on family, school, community or church. They should embrace true freedom which leads to service, sacrifice and forgetfulness of self.

Graduates should embrace great causes in this time of great crisis. They should exercise Christian charity to all. This might include helping those who are less fortunate, combatting sin and immorality or setting standards of excellence that serve as models for all in society.

They must reject superficiality and hollow pretension; they must graduate to meaning and purpose beyond the confines of their own lives.

 

Understanding the Cause of Things

The final thing toward which to graduate must, in some way, involve knowing, loving and serving God. There is nothing higher in life since it is the reason for our existence. This is perhaps the most challenging graduation of all. It is undoubtedly the most counter-cultural since our world has lost its way and assumes the absence of God in society.

However, the search for meaning and purpose only make sense in the face of eternity and the existence of immortal souls. Graduates need to assume the presence of God in society. They should naturally seek what was once called a vocation or calling that fits them into the plan of God’s Providence.

Thus, while graduation should be a time of celebration, it should also be a time when young people are encouraged to ponder, discern and “graduate” to that higher calling that corresponds to the desires of their restless hearts. Thus, I would encourage graduates to abandon the modern noise and frenzy that leaves so many young people disoriented.

They should listen instead in silence to the voice of God’s grace calling them upward. It might lead to service, family, excellence, art or religious life. It should always aim to combat evil and seek out good and thus find true purpose in life. Now is the time to listen, for many are those who only find their way much later, if at all.

This would be my message to graduates. In the exuberance of their youth, I wish for them every success and dream that is within their reach. However, I would above all desire that they graduate—that they make that passage to adulthood. Let them seek out meaning and purpose. Let them find their way to God and listen for that vocation that He has called them to fill in society. I can think of no better way to start their next step toward the future.


 

Read:  Five Pieces of Advice for Graduates

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for November 18, 2019

Better a few staunch and sincere Catholics, than many compli...

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November 18

 

Better a few staunch and sincere Catholics,
than many compliant with the enemies of the Church
and conformed to the foes of our Faith.

St. Peter Canisius


DEFEND Our Lady's HONOR !

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

During the French Revolution, the Sisters of the Visitation...

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St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Born on August 29, 1769 in the French city of Grenoble, Rose Philippine was baptized in the Church of St. Louis. She was educated at the Convent of the Visitation of Ste. Marie d'en Haut and, against her father’s wishes, became a novice there when she was eighteen years old. However, the French Revolution caused much disruption for the nuns, and when the Sisters of the Visitation were expelled from their convents, Rose returned home.

She cared for the sick and the poor, helped fugitive priests, visited prisons, and taught children. Some time after the Revolution ended, she unsuccessfully tried to reestablish the Visitation community, and ultimately gave the convent to St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and joined the Order. When the Bishop of New Orleans, William Du Bourg, requested nuns for his thriving diocese in Louisiana, Rose and four other nuns made the trip to America in 1818.

Rose and the nuns were sent to Missouri, pioneers of the New World. There, as well in neighboring states, they established multiple schools, built a convent, an orphanage, a mission school for Indian girls, a boarding academy and a novitiate for her Order. However, the strenuous and difficult regime of work for her apostolate took its toll on her body. She died in St. Charles, Missouri in 1852 after spending more than 30 years as a pioneer in the evangelization of the New World. She was canonized in 1988. Rose was truly devoted to God, and prayed in her every spare moment. Because of this, the Indians began to call her “Quah-kah-ka-num-ad,” or "Woman-Who-Prays-Always."

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared stan...

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The Conversion of Alphonse Ratisbonne

Born in 1814, Alphonse Ratisbonne was from a family of wealthy, well-known Jewish bankers in Strasbourg, France. In 1827, Alphonse’s older brother, Thèodore, converted to Catholicism and entered the priesthood, thus breaking with his anti-Catholic family whose hopes now lay in the young Alphonse. At 27, Alphonse was intelligent and well mannered. He had already finished his law degree, and decided to travel to Italy before marrying and assuming his responsibilities in the family business. However, God had other plans for him.

While in Rome, Alphonse visited works of art, and strictly out of cultural curiosity, a few Catholic churches. These visits hardened his anti-Catholic stance, and nourished his profound hatred for the Church. He also called on an old schoolmate and close friend, Gustave de Bussières.

Gustave was a Protestant and several times had tried, in vain, to win Alphonse over to his religious convictions. Alphonse was introduced to Gustave’s brother, Baron de Bussières, who had recently converted to Catholicism and become a close friend of Father Thèodore Ratisbonne. Because of the Baron’s Catholicism and closeness with his turncoat brother, Alphonse greatly disliked him.

On the eve of his departure, Alphonse reluctantly fulfilled his social obligation to leave his calling card at the Baron’s house as a farewell gesture.

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Hoping to avoid a meeting, Alphonse intended to leave his card discreetly and depart straight away, but was instead shown into the house. The Baron greeted the young Jew warmly, and before long, had persuaded him to remain a few more days in Rome. Inspired by grace, the Baron insisted Alphonse accept a Miraculous Medal and copy down a beautiful prayer: the Memorare. Alphonse could hardly contain his anger at his host’s boldness of proposing these things to him, but decided to take everything good-heartedly, planning to later describe the Baron as an eccentric.

During Alphonse’s stay, the Baron’s close friend, Count de La Ferronays, former French ambassador to the Holy See and a man of great virtue and piety, died quite suddenly. On the eve of his death, the Baron had asked the Count to pray the Memorare one hundred times for Alphonse’s conversion. It is possible that he offered his life to God for the conversion of the young Jewish banker.

A few days later, the Baron went to the church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte to arrange for his friend’s funeral. Alphonse reluctantly went with him, all the while making violent criticisms of the Church and mocking Catholic practices. When they arrived, the Baron entered the sacristy to arrange the funeral while Alphonse remained in the church.

When the Baron returned just a few minutes later, the young man was gone. He searched the church, and soon discovered his young friend kneeling close to an altar, weeping.  Alphonse himself tells us what happened in those few minutes he waited for the Baron: “I had only been in the church a short while when, all of a sudden, I felt totally uneasy for no apparent reason. I raised my eyes and saw that the whole building had disappeared. Only one side chapel had, so to say, gathered all the light. In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar. She was grandiose, brilliant, full of majesty and sweetness, just as she is in the Miraculous Medal. An irresistible force attracted me to her. The Virgin made a gesture with her hand indicating I was to kneel.”

When de Bussières talked to Alphonse, he no longer found a Jew, but a convert who ardently desired baptism. The news of such an unexpected conversion immediately spread and caused a great commotion throughout Europe, and Pope Gregory XVI received the young convert, paternally. He ordered a detailed investigation with the rigor required by canon law, and concluded that the occurrence was a truly authentic miracle. 

Alphonse took the name Maria Alphonse at baptism, and, wishing to become a priest, was ordained a Jesuit in 1847. After some time, and at the suggestion of Pope Pius IX, he left the Jesuits and joined his brother Thèodore in founding the Congregation of Our Lady of Sion, dedicated to the conversion of the Jews. Father Theodore spread his congregation throughout France and England, while Father Maria Alphonse went to the Holy Land. In Jerusalem, he established a house of the congregation on the plot of land where the praetorium of Pilate had formerly stood.

The two brothers died in 1884, both famed and well-loved for their exceptional virtues.  

By Armando Santos  

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In the midst of this splendor, the Virgin Mary appeared standing on the altar"

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