May 27, 2014

Senior Day of Reflection

We have a great tradition at Trinity High School where the seniors gather the morning of prom for a morning of reflection.  We hold the day of reflection at Blessed Sacrament Parish here in Manchester and consists of a prayer service, teacher reflections, an "open mic", and a final surprise which I won't divulge so seniors in the future will continue to be surprised.

Our prayer service consisted of an opening prayer, praying Psalm 139 monastic style, the gospel passage on letting our light show, a reflection by me (see below), intentions, and a final prayer.  Following this, a number of teachers offered words of wisdom:

Mr. Bielik of our math department
Mrs. Brewitt '90, our academic coach
Ms. Byron of our social studies department
Mr. Martinez of our science department
Ms. Waldrupe of our English department

Each of us focused on something different but all pertained to faith in God, living live to the fullest, failure, curveballs life throws us, etc.  Before Mr. Bielik spoke, the students presented a slideshow on his years at Trinity as he will be leaving us after this year to enter the Peace Corps with his wife.

Following the teacher's reflections, we opened up the floor to the students for over an hour.  This is an opportunity for them to say some final words to their classmates.  Some of the students really open up and there were plenty of tears!  I had to get up a few times to bring over napkins (I couldn't find any tissues).  We then wrapped up the morning in the upper Church with a final flourish that had even the biggest and toughest boys reduced to tears, it's a great way to cap the day.

Then that evening the class enjoyed their prom and I was honored to say grace before we ate.

Here is my reflection from the morning:

Abraham Lincoln was never baptized, never joined a church, and rarely mentioned Jesus.  His widow, Mary Todd Lincoln, once remarked after his death, “He was a religious man always but he was not a technical Christian.”  He did go to church services on occasion in Washington.  On one of those occasions, President Lincoln listened intently to the sermon.  After leaving church, the president was asked by his secret service guard, “What did you think of the sermon, Mr. President?”  Lincoln paused and said with obvious hesitation, “It was...good.”  The guard inquired, “You didn’t like it?” to which Abraham Lincoln responded, “He never asked us to do something great.”

I hope you used your final year of high school - the final year of your youth - to leave your mark on Trinity High School and to make the most of the precious time you had left here, to set it on fire.  Now as you’re about to leave, we gather together for one of the final times to reflect on the past four years and to consider your futures.  

The final days of your senior year will have a number of references to fire and light:

  1. Today’s scripture reading from Matthew’s gospel about letting your light shine
  2. Your senior candles which you will receive next week
  3. The candles you will light at the end of your Baccalaureate Mass on June 9

This is very intentional.  In the Catholic Church, “light” is a symbol of Jesus Christ.  We use candles and references to fire to remember that Jesus Christ is the light of the world who has brought light to a darkened world.  But as Mr. Bielik just read, Jesus also expects all of us to be light to the world.  Jesus is not here physically anymore, He will not come again until the end of time.  Until that happens, it is up to you and me to be light in the world, that is, to be Jesus.  And we are all proud of Mr. and Mrs. Bielik who are doing just that by joining the Peace Corps.  You may be aware that the Bielik’s will make very little money while they are in the Peace Corps, something like $200 a month.  They will most likely live in a rural area with little amenities, no restaurants, fancy stores, movie theaters, etc.  But despite this, I have never seen Mr. Bielik happier and more excited.  

Consider Mr. Girard - now Sr. Clare.  Last year she left behind her family, a job, money, a boyfriend, and so much more to dedicate her life to prayer, community, and teaching.  But she has never been happier.

Consider those of you who went to St. Francis Inn, Guatemala, or Montana over the past year or two.  You had no televisions, you were surrounded by poverty, you worked hard among the poor, and you had little to no creature comforts.  But remember how happy you were?

There is certainly nothing wrong with making money or being wealthy but if you are going to be light to the world, you have to make sure you spend your life doing something you love.  Don’t just become a businessman or woman because that’s where the money is.  Don’t just become a lawyer because of the prestige.  If you do something in life just because of the money or power or prestige, you will not be happy, I can promise you that and I speak from personal experience.  If you do something that you’re passionate about and something that makes you excited to get up in the morning, you know you’ve found your calling in life.  

I know that at 18, 19 years old you don’t believe me but life goes by quickly.  The past ten years have been a blur and I cannot believe Kevin starts second grade this fall, my daughter Erin is starting pre-K and soon enough my youngest son will be walking and talking.  I will celebrate my 9th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks (although my wife said it feels like 900) – it feels like yesterday.  I remember making fun of my father when he turned 50 and got his membership card from the AARP.  Whose laughing now – that’s just 12 years away for me.  Trust me folks – before you know it, you’ll be ready for retirement.  You want to make sure that you retire from something that made you happy. 

Consider this quote from George Bernard Shaw:

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no "brief candle" for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

DO SOMETHING GREAT WITH YOUR LIVES.  If that means being a successful businessman, a doctor, an engineer, a priest, a sister, a teacher, a lawyer, a stay at home mom, so be it.  But whatever you do, do it because you love it and because it drives you.  Follow your passions, not the money.  If life doesn’t turn out exactly how you planned it, don’t worry.  I went from wanting to be a French teacher, to a politician, to a financial services employee, to a priest before I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grow up! It wasn’t until I was 30 that I found my passion and my vocation…and I’ve never been happier.  It’s like that saying from Saint Augustine: “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God.”  My heart was restless until it found Trinity High School.

Father Andrew Nelson, our former Campus Minister, used to like to tell a wonderful story about the Bridge of Tears.  As you know, millions of Irish immigrated to the United States over the past 150 years.  In many instances, those who were leaving would walk to the port and be accompanied by their family and friends.  In some villages when they arrived at a certain bridge, the family and friends would stop and the traveler would walk over the bridge alone.  His family and friends had gone as far as they could and it was time to say goodbye.  The traveler would now go on his own to face the challenges and the future.  As the traveler walked over that bridge, the people would stay behind and say goodbye from the other side and watch and cry, hence the name “Bridge of Tears.”

We at Trinity High School have taken you as far as you can go.  We have done all that we can and it’s time for us to stop and let you go.  My mother always told my sister and me, “I gave you roots but I also gave you wings.”  You will always have roots at Trinity High School but from the moment you arrived in August of 2010 we have been preparing you to leave.  There will be tears at your graduation and we hate to have you leave us.  But we know that your best years are ahead of you and your futures will be bright and you will be the light of Christ in a world that so desperately needs it.

May you live Jesus in your hearts.  Forever.


No comments:

Post a Comment