Milestones are great occasions. They mark significant moments in life’s journey. They suggest growth and progress; they carry with them fond memories and lively hope. Celebrations of such events enliven those who are directly involved; they also spark the spirit of those who participate in them with the main actors.
The morning of March 23 at Aquinas Institute I had the privilege of being with students from seventh through 12th grades to celebrate Mass. We asked God’s blessings on the senior class, which is now 100 days away from graduation. We also blessed the class rings for the junior class, whose members will graduate in June of 2012.
Both of those classes were excited, of course. But we visitors could not help but notice that kids in the grades behind them shared that excitement and really enjoyed the occasion. My guess is that their participation reminded them of their own growth to date and of the reality that sooner than they imagine they’ll be only 100 days from their own graduations.
Among the visitors at the celebration were many parents and grandparents of the seniors, board members and benefactors of Aquinas. For all of us the celebration meant something very special. Not only did we take delight in the occasion itself, but many of us celebrated the milestone with young people whom we have known all of their lives. I was mindful that in my early years, I was a contemporary of the young parents of the seniors. On that day, I was quite mindful that I was senior to most of the grandparents who were present. That realization was not at all unpleasant, but it did stimulate some thought and prayer.
In conversation with several of the adults who were at Aquinas that morning, I discovered that many of us quasi-automatically thought back to the time that we, too, were 100 days away from our own high-school graduations. I know that I did. My memories this morning embraced my classmates from the Catholic Central High School Class of 1955, and led me to pray for them. They also led me to recollections of other schools I attended after high school, to the relationships formed in those places and all through the years, and to friendships developed through almost 50 years of ministry.
It’s against that background that I remember an exchange I had with a delightful girl in the Class of 2011. When I asked her how she felt 100 days from her graduation she replied, "I feel sad because I’ll be leaving all of my friends." She paused for a moment — obviously collecting her thoughts — and added with a smile, "But, you know, I do look forward to making new friends in college."
I thought of her words the evening of March 23 and prayed for her that she will keep the disposition all of her life to honor her friends and still be open to the inevitable changes that are a part of every human life. Nothing remains exactly the same. We are constantly called to adjust, to refocus, to correct our course and to be open to new possibilities.
It could be an interesting way of prayer through the season of Lent to track to your own 100th day before graduation and to remember what life was like then and where you were spiritually. Then, starting from that time, to remember the significant milestones on your own journey of faith — graces received, difficulties experienced, moments of joy and lessons learned. It is a great way to be in touch with God’s faithful love for us all through the years, and an opportunity to appreciate how God over time touches our lives in a wide variety of ways.
My prayers and my gratitude go to the kids at Aquinas.
Peace to all.