It’s hard to believe that I’m graduating. The years have flown by. I find myself consumed by so many different emotions: joy, fear, confusion, excitement, relief. I am at one point a bundle of self-confidence and bright hope for the future; at another moment I find myself enveloped in self-doubt and worry.
The all-night study sessions and the grueling exams are behind me. Yet ahead of me lies a whole new set of tests and challenges, surprises and gifts. I pray that, as you promised your disciples, you will go before me always.
My heart overflows with gratitude for all you have done for me and all you have given me: my family, my friends, the teachers, counselors, professors and coaches who have inspired me and stood with me.
I thank you for my successes, but also for the failures that have taught me so much and that have kept me humble and near to your cross. Let me never forget, each day in the years ahead, to thank you for your presence in all things, in all victories and in all trials.
The future is never clear, but as I prepare to leave my familiar routine, to leave those closest to me and the safety net of the way things have “always” been, the future seems to hold more questions than answers.
At one moment, I see the sun-filled skies of a brilliant tomorrow; at another moment, I feel myself approaching a cliff with the dismaying hope that my bungee cord is working well.
Lord, I need you in this time of change and challenge. I so want my life to conform to your will. I want to dream your dreams and answer your call. I want my life to mean something in the service of others. I want the world to be better for my journey here. I don’t know where this desire will lead me; I only know you will be walking there with me.
I know that temptations face me, the temptation to seek wealth above other things, to aspire to prestige and honor, to fall into the rat race that uses people as things, as steppingstones to material success.
I need you by my side as I walk through the world’s enticements. I need you to help me find and commit to the community of faith that will guide me.
Open my ears to hear the voices of those who will teach me your way. Open my eyes to see the need around me. Open my heart to seek you above all things.
At this great turning point in my life, I rejoice in tomorrow, confident that you are by my side, my consoler, my rock, my fortress, my friend.
For all that has been, I give you thanks. For the future that will unfold before me, I pray for your blessing and guidance and the grace to recognize your presence each day.
(Caldarola is a freelance writer and a columnist for Catholic News Service.)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
At The Catholic University of America’s May 2017 commencement ceremony, Peggy Noonan, columnist for the Wall Street journal and former speechwriter for President Ronald Regan, gave graduates a simple piece of advice: Read books.
“I humbly urge you to embark on a lifelong relationship with a faithful companion who will always help you and sometimes delight you — who will never desert you, who will make you smarter, and wiser, who will always be by your side and enlighten you all the days of your life,” Noonan said, “I am talking about: books.”
“If you seek a happy and interesting life, one of depth, meaning and accomplishment, you must read books,” she continued.
Noonan commented on what she saw during the 2016 presidential campaign trail. Among the young politicians and journalists she met, “it became clear in long conversations that they’ve received most of what they know about history and the meaning of things through screens,” she said.
“I know this: If you cannot read deeply you will not be able to think deeply. If you cannot think deeply you will not be able to lead well. And all of you deep down, in whatever areas and whatever ways, hope to lead,” Noonan said.
“So, unplug and read every day,” she said.
“Read and be taken away in a way that enriches, that strengthens, that makes you smarter, more serious, more worthy,” she said. “Civilization depends on it.”