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Father Muench Says...

It’s June: time to celebrate our graduates

June 19, 2013

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

June means graduations. This month I will be attending three high school graduations and the fifth-grade graduation here at our parish school – and, oh, yes, a Kindergarten graduation.  I enjoy the ceremonies – even the speeches.  The student speeches are always a treat.  I have heard some great ones.

My great-nephew, Weston, is graduating from high school in Vermont – as well as a great-niece, Mary, in Manlius – and another great-nephew, Joseph in Rochester.  I decided I should write them each a letter so that I could share a few of my ideas with them.  I must admit that most of those ideas are not very original; I have heard them often at other graduations over the years but they are good ideas.

I want to congratulate them.  High School graduation is an important achievement in any young person’s life.  It does make a difference.  I have known many students who I have had in class who are better people because they persevered unto graduation.  Some of them struggled a great deal – but the struggle was worth the good result.  They discovered that they could achieve their goals.

I want Weston, Mary and Joseph to know that this graduation is the beginning of a great new adventure.

As most of us remember, there is a great deal of change in life after high school.  I suspect some of you will say – thank God.  Yet, high school memories are important and good – high school friendships are valuable.  They were a school in themselves: learning to make and keep friends.

Most of all, I want them to recognize the many gifts that God has blessed them with.  Graduation is a time to realize  just how much they have been gifted – gifts that have been formed and developed during the years of high school.

I also want them to recognize that these gifts have been blessings from God.  God has always loved them and has watched over them, giving them gifts and abilities that will make them successful in the future.  My prayer is that they will use their gifts well.

Recently, I discovered an interesting comparison for graduation in the writings of Father Richard Rohr.  He sees in the plots of many children’s books – those fairy tales – an interesting way to refer to graduation.  I know you remember the stories.  They begin with a poor orphan, or a poor step sister, or maybe just some underprivileged kid.  They are beaten down by life – they have to struggle – but they do keep struggling and trying and doing good things. 

When they discover that they are a princess or prince – or that they have a rich godfather or a fairy godmother – or whatever – life suddenly becomes complete for them.

So, the path of education is something like this.  It may start out with little confidence, with no recognition of one’s gifts or abilities. The adventure of those school years – the task of all of those teachers – it to help students discover their many gifts and help them to develop those gifts. 

So – graduation is the ceremony of celebrating those gifts. Graduates realize that they are someone – a blessed person – someone important – someone with a bright and great future – as they celebrate their gifts.

So – I pray today – for Weston, for Mary, for Joseph – for all those graduates wherever they are.  The world needs them. My world needs their enthusiasm, their readiness to meet life’s challenges.  I look forward to hearing all their accomplishments. 

I pray they accept all the challenges of life.  I pray that God continues to be part of their lives, that God continues to bless them and show them their gifts.

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