This morning, we did at our school what we do every 1st Friday. WE move the Blessed Sacrament from the Adoration Chapel were it sits waiting for those to come in for Perpetual Adoration, into the main church and onto the main altar. During that time we make the opportunity for Confession for our grade school students as they come to spend some time in Eucharistic Adoration. Since I take the visiting priest’s confessional, as a courtesy to the other priest that comes to help, I have only the option of anonymous (behind the screen). Occasionally, a student will come in and step around the screen. That happened more than a few times today. One of the young men came around and stared right into my eyes the whole time. I was a bit taken aback. It was nothing he did. Last night I read an obituary of a young man from a former parish who had died in a freak tractor accident. They had a picture of the young man, and I swear, the boy standing in front of me could have been him 10 years ago. My head has been in the wake service of the young man to which I went a few days back. I had this sudden urge to take the boy, wrap him in bubble wrap, and tell his parents to never let him out of their sight. This preoccupied my mind as each student came in. The young man who had died had been in my instruction at one time. He was a fine young man who was mature and wise beyond his years more often than not. When I looked into the eyes of his parents at the wake and saw two people who had just lost their only son and just looked weary, it broke my heart. When I saw his grandmother, a very dear sweet woman, who also looked so very tired, and saw his aunt, who couldn’t stop crying, it just was heart wrenching. Although the pastoral care of this family belonged to another, these were people I cared about and to see them in such pain was troubling.
Of course, we can’t bubble wrap our children and keep them forever at our sides. They grow. We always pray that they grow strong and wise and live up to their full potentials as human beings and as people of faith. We have to count on their learning those lessons well and being ready to answer for how they lived their lives when their day comes to pass from this world. We will fidget and groan as we watch them make mistakes and even mess their lives up entirely. But there is always a hope that tomorrow they will come to their sense. As this death this week reminded me, as does every funeral I have, all of us will come to a point where today is the last day of our life. So what do we do with it? We’ll not be able to pass though our days here without experiencing some pain, disappointment, and grief. It is part of life. It occurred to me this evening as I was pray Evening Prayer that while do not have any real control over when or how we die, we do have tremendous control over how we live. I got to thinking about what I would say to every student I have had over the years. It would go something like this.
I really believe that every single person that has ever been born has the deep inset desire to be remembered; a consequence of having made one’s mark in the world. What will be your mark? Will it be positive, negative, or barely visible? Will it change other people’s lives for the better or will other people be sorry they ever met you? I do not think anyone wants to be the person that makes other people’s lives hellish, but so often will do so because it is easier that make another person’s life better. You were born into this world, created by God, to make other people’s lives better and be a positive force for good. I know that is hard because it requires you to be selfless and exhibit self-control. I know the temptations to be selfish and out of control are overwhelming. I cannot speak to being a young lady, but I can to being a young man. I know the temptation to strip the dignity away from a woman is ever present. I know society expects you to be promiscuous even if it later condemns you for doing so. I know you are told over and over again that you have to rely on your physical prowess in sports to get anywhere in life. I know you are told that religion is for the stupid, for children, or for the women…but that men do not need a God other than themselves. I know you are tempted to party hard, drink hard, ingest whatever mind altering substance happens to be around. I know you are told to ignore whatever emptiness might come from this. I know as you get older that the definition of success comes from the accrual of power and wealth. I know you struggle with wanting to be a real man in a world that is quite content for you to remain a boy. Boys are easy to control. I know it because I have been there or still get tempted towards these things. I know it sucks and that it easier to give into rather than rise above it.
Remember, though, each of us is only given one chance at this life. We don’t get to redo it. What we have at the end of our lives is the finished product of our lives; an accumulation of our choices. Choose wisely, knowing that you are held responsible for what you do. Be selfless, courageous, and strong. Do not waste your life on numbing it. Make your mark in such a positive way as to make a permanent positive change. God gives you so many graces, charisms, talents, and abilities for this purpose; He expects a return on His investment. Be thankful for the blessings in your life; never allow envy or greed be what motivates you. Protect the dignity of those around you, don’t rip it away through lust. Treat your life and your faith as the precious gifts they are. While you gave neither of these to yourself, you are responsible for how you develop them. Please stay away from risky and dangerous behavior! In 14 years I have buried far too many young men and women and had to witness the crushing and haunting look of an inconsolable parent, mourning the loss of their child. I can assure you, that look will stay with you for awhile. So many times the deaths were completely avoidable. There are many people out there that actively care about you and are concerned for your well being; people who want to see each one of you grow up into a great and strong adult. I know, because I am one of them.
You have to want this for yourself. I know this. I have tried to fill the void we are born with so many things that the world says will work, but don’t. I have tried money, power, drinking, and other things to fill the void and they failed. I know faith has provided for me not only a firm foundation from which I can weather any storm and find comfort in the bleakest of moments, but helps me to become all that I am created to be. The man who has faith has nothing to fear, not even death. Faith is all that we get to take with us past this life, where our faith is and how we actively allowed it to be developed will be shown in how we acted. Choose well. May each person who reads live a long happy life. Be all that you are created to be and do not allow any fear of any person rule you. In the end you are answerable to God and God alone. May each of you hear when that time comes :“Well done my good and faithful servant.”