TOROK: Graduates can set the world ablaze

April 24, 2018

Next month will be a wonderful time for my family as we will be celebrating my niece’s high school graduation.

For many parents and their high school graduate, the year has been filled with much conversation, excitement, and perhaps, even some anxious times as their teen begins to make decisions for the future. What looks to be the end of an era for parents is actually the beginning of the next part of the graduate’s wonderful journey that God calls life.

The graduation ceremony, called the Commencement, is a very appropriate term. By definition, commencement means to begin or start. Most commencement speeches offer words of encouragement and sending young people to go into the world to live and serve their community.

The graduates will need to decide what they want to do with the next step in their life: Will they attend college? What college will they attend? Will they work and go to school?

These decisions can be challenging, and parental support is of utmost importance. This is a time when youth ministers pray they have supported parents with teaching their teens how to discern a decision.

For Catholics, discernment goes beyond making decisions; discernment includes asking ‘what is God’s will for my life?’ and continuing to pray and listen for God’s response.

Some questions a discerning person might ask are: Am I open to what God wants for my life? What are my options?

Following God’s will for us gives us joy. We become witnesses of God’s love when we follow His will for us. St. Catherine of Sienna said “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze.”

Discernment also calls for the consideration of others. How does my decision serve others? God created us for community. What a young person does with their life can be a great gift and joy to their family. Love and service to others is a desire God has put in our hearts.

When we listen to God, we feel His loving presence, and we can make a decision that will serve God and others. This gives the decision maker peace and contagious joy. A young person full of contagious joy permeates the family and flows into the community.

As community, we sometimes are blinded by a world where media is often focused on individualism and despair. However, let us not be fooled because God is alive in our young people. 

We have young people beginning their studies to be doctors, social workers, psychologists, theologians and so many vocations that will witness God’s love in their lives.

Let us become a community who supports, affirms, and applauds these graduates for their discernment to serve. Let us attend their graduations. Let us be ‘home’ for them when they come in for a break from college.

Today let us keep our graduates in prayer of thanksgiving for their witness as we watch them go set the world ablaze.

Norma Torok is an associate director of the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.