by Ken Rolheiser
Rise Up Graduating Class of 2020

Rise up! Do not aim to survive; aim to triumph! Some have described this year’s graduating class as unfortunate. To be given a challenge is a call to mature more quickly. Embrace it!

“Rarely have graduates faced challenges like those that fall upon the class of 2020. They entered the school year in one America, and now come out in another. The new graduates will be forced to navigate in uncharted waters.” (“Three Counsels for the ‘Unfortunate’ Graduation Class of 2020” (John Horvatt II, May 18, 2020).

The challenge Horvatt puts forth applies equally to our Canadian Graduates. To date any commencement celebrations have involved social distancing, masks and frequent hand sanitizing. “They face a terrifying specter given to them not by choice but by circumstances,” Horvatt says.

His challenging advice: Mature quickly. Leave the self-gratification of youth behind. The luxury of putting off adult decisions is gone. Rather than abiding in the “party culture”, Horvatt suggests the grads advance to making higher decisions. How fortunate this year’s graduates will be if they accept the responsibilities of adulthood and mature quickly. 

Horvatt’s next advice is more challenging: Embrace suffering. Every life includes suffering, but this class will be forced to embrace it sooner and more intensely. Face these hardships with calm and courage. Come to see this suffering as something formative that will prove helpful for the future.

He adds some spiritual advice: “While there are moments of joy and satisfaction, life is a way of the cross on the path to sanctification.” A person reaches the greatest degree of happiness on earth by embracing their cross, like Our Lord, with serene resolve. Indeed, “they that sow in tears shall reap in joy.” (Psalm 125:5).

Everyone needs recourse to God. Seek God’s counsel and help. “By God’s grace, a person becomes capable of doing heroic things,” Horvatt says. The class of 2020 may well become fortunate by accomplishing much more than the classes that came before.

The Graduating Class of 2020 could well benefit from Senator Ben Sasse’s advice:
“Adolescents need to know about suffering, death and dying. It helps them see that their lives are not perpetual. Teaching children how to suffer early in life provokes questions about life’s meaning and purpose.” (The Vanishing Adult: Our Coming of Age Crisis – and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance, Ben Sasse).

Sasse suggests another practical means to foster maturity is by consuming less. The distinction between want and need must be made. Making do with less builds character and provides a sense of accomplishment.

Sasse’s suggestion here presupposes a societal framework in which the family is intact. Families work in communities that still function and where a strong notion of God is affirmed. “For those outside this increasingly privileged position, a turnaround will be very difficult,” Sasse suggests.

The Graduating Class 2020 has been given a big challenge. It is your responsibility to rise to the challenge. Reach back to your family, your church, your teachers, your community and the values they have imparted to you. Continue nourishing your spiritual roots, your values.

If you can seek your passionate interests and make a career of them, you may never have to work a day in your life.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

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