Life First

My words of advice to the graduating Class of 2018 … ONWARD!

By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip, Bemidji & St. Charles, Pennington

Last weekend we celebrated First Eucharist with 38 of our second graders. It was on that same day 50 years ago I made my First Eucharist. Fr. Steve told us, “This is the most important day of your life!” At the time I was so excited, and so young, I did not fully comprehend what those words meant. As time marches on I have come to learn exactly what he was saying.

To become a “walking tabernacle” is the greatest honor a human being could possibly manage on this side of heaven. That is what I/we had become, as did those 38 second graders days ago. What a tremendous gift to stand in the midst of the world, wherever we go, and bring Christ to every person, situation and event we step into. Just by our being present, Christ is present.

Well, that part of my journey began 50 years ago. Another “make me feel old” moment happened 40 years ago with my graduation from high school! I look back at pictures and wonder where the hair went and how the roll around my midsection got there!

I remember, as a child, thinking the year 2000 would never ever come. No way! I would be 40 years old and that could not possibly happen. Not sure what I thought the options were to avoid 2000 and “40” but I was certain they would not arrive.

OK, enough rambling about the past!

There are three things I want to share with the graduating class of 2018 whether it be high school or college youth. In no particular order…

First, remember your roots.

I had the privilege of spending the first 18 years of my life living in the same house and attending the same school. So many of you in this year’s class have been much more mobile, but I hope you have been able to make “home” wherever you have been.

Home is where your heart is … and I hope your heart has felt at home no matter where you are.

When I hear of children trapped in abusive homes my stomach curls with anxiety. I had a safe home, a safe place where I was accepted for who I was. And, I must admit, being the baby of the family, I was spoiled rotten! Remember your roots and the people (parents, grandparents, teachers, staff and friends) who made you who you are. Rejoice in the good stuff, try to forgive the bad and move on!

Second, don’t abandon your faith.

A tsunami awaits you as you head off to college, tech school or out into the workforce. It is a cultural tsunami which insists the Catholic Church is out of touch and has very little to say about very little.

This year we are remembering one of the most profound documents of the Catholic Church which was written 50 years ago by Pope Paul VI: “Humane Vitae” (“On Human Life”). In it, the “old man who has no clue” predicted exactly where we are today when it comes to our treatment of women, the dignity of the human person and how the contraceptive mentality gnaws at the very core of our humanity. Pope Paul (soon to be Saint Pope Paul!) was and is a prophet.

Of course the scandals which have betrayed the innocent souls in the pews over the past years offers no reason for you to trust anything the Church may say. I offer no excuse which would restore your trust … but Christ does.

From the moment Christ took the weak and sinful apostle Simon aside and called him Peter, “Rock”, the sinful frailty of humanity has tried to live within the mighty strain of also being a divine institution. Christ promised: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Without Christ rescuing the Church over and over again, we would never have survived 2,000 years. Our divine purpose for and in the world still stands.

Third, do not let joy slip out of your hands.

Earth is not our home, we are in exile. The sooner we realize that simple fact, the sooner we can live life on this side of heaven in joy! Don’t confuse joy with “happiness.” Although happiness can give us a glimpse of what heaven will be like (the birth of a child, the rising sun, the laughter of friends), happiness is fleeting and offers a sliver of light peeking through the doors of heaven.

The high paying job, the new car, a younger spouse or a new baby cannot give you the full joy your heart craves. Seek Christ first through his Church, his Bride, and the perspective you gain on life will prepare you for the next, eternal, life. Joy is knowing the rest of the story and that, in the end, we win!

God bless you, class of 2018.