I was at the boys’ lacrosse play off game on Saturday against Fr. Ryan. After trailing 7-1 in the first half, we came roaring back to tie it late in the third period, traded goals back and forth in the fourth period, until Ryan scored with about a minute and a half to go and we lost 10-9. I was thinking of our seniors when the final buzzer sounded. It’s been four great years: a combined record of 50-17, two state championships, and a lot of memories. And then, in the cruel finality of sport, it’s suddenly over.
It’s that time of year for you seniors. This is your last week of school. Today is the last school assembly you will attend as high school students. You’ve already attended your last school prom. You’ll be attending your last classes this week and taking your final, final exams. More and more things are “suddenly over.”
And perhaps, just perhaps, some of you may be feeling what a friend of mine in college felt on the day just before graduation at Notre Dame. He had complained the loudest of any of us about the repressive, oppressive rules and regulations of the school. He had said a million times in four years, “I can’t wait to get out of here.” But on the day before we both graduated, I was astonished by what he confided in me, very emotionally: “I know I’ve complained, but I’m not ready to leave. This place is my home. This is where my friends are. When we graduate, we’ll all scatter, and yeah, we’ll come back for reunions every now and then, but it won’t be the same. I don’t know what’s out there, but I know what’s here. “
Seniors, you know what is here. I continue to believe, as I did when I arrived with you in 2008—me as the new headmaster, you as incoming freshmen--that JPII is a pretty special place. And through the sacrifices of your teachers and parents, through your own sacrifices, you have achieved much that you can be proud of. But just as things are “suddenly over,” so too are things “suddenly beginning,” a chance to re-create yourselves anew, to make new friends, to join new clubs and teams, to serve other people in new ways.
Our school’s most profound hope for you is that you will continue to carve out a place in your life to keep the Lord close to you in college next year. You won’t be at a school that shuffles you into Wednesday morning mass. There’s no 40 hour Christian Service requirement. There won’t be prayer before your classes or before the games. Most of you won’t be in theology classes where you can discuss your faith. Your parents won’t be there to wake you up so you can go to Church on Sunday morning. You can now literally choose whether your faith is your own, or whether it will be a mere artifact from your childhood.
There will be many you will meet in college who will tell you that faith is a foolish, childish thing, something that serious intellectuals don’t have time for. But keep this image in your head: from the outside of the Church looking in, the stained glass windows appear to be dull, ugly things, depicting nothing. It’s only from the inside looking out that the brilliant colors and images of those windows, illuminated by light, can be seen and understood. Our faith can only by appreciated from the inside looking out. Find a Church to belong to in college. Make friends that care about their faith like you do, so that you can support each other to live good lives.
I hope and pray that JPII has given you the opportunity to see the beauty and power of what we hold to be true from the inside out. These four years have gone by blazingly fast. I hope and pray you can say about your experience at JPII, what the early Christian disciples once proclaimed:
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our own eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our own hands—The Word who is Life. “ (I John 1:1)
Stay close to him.