Monday, April 28, 2014

Junior Ring Address, 2014

Welcome, parents and friends, to our junior ring ceremony.

Today is not about jewelry, or about receiving an honor. It is a commissioning. In just sixteen class days, a beautiful tradition will once again unfold here at JPII. Our seniors will walk down the hallways of JPII as students for the last time, and their families will gather, and the teachers and the rest of the school will stand outside their classrooms, and surprisingly, the seniors will be very affected by the finality of it all, and many will cry, and there will be hugs, laughter, and much gratitude shared. It’s a wonderful, powerful thing to witness.

But something else is also happening as a result of senior walk, less noticed: At that moment, the Junior class will be elevated as the new leaders of our student body, the class that sets a new tone for JPII and the kind of school it will be next year.

Today’s junior ring ceremony, then, is to ask God’s blessings on our junior class as they move into their senior year, and pray for them both as individuals and as a class that God will give them courage, and grace, and wisdom to seek him out more deeply in their lives.

Something quite remarkable happens this Sunday, something very rare for a school. The person for whom our school is named is going to be canonized a saint. Most Catholic schools are named for existing saints; very few get to celebrate as a school WHILE their namesake is made into saint. And no, to answer a question you may have—we’re NOT going to change our name here—the bishop and I spoke about that, and he believes we should retain our title as POPE John Paul II because unlike the thousands of institutions around the world that will certainly be named after Saint JPII in the future, our name marks us proudly as an institution founded DURING his pontificate. We will always be “POPE.”  

On behalf of our school, we hope you will join with us this Sunday to celebrate this great occasion. We’ll have our traditional art show beginning at 2, then our choral concert will be dedicated to the life of JPII at 4 p.m. and we’ll have a nice reception afterwards. Please come to that. We’re also sending a delegation to Rome to represent our school for the canonization (I think they leave later this PM), and we’ll have a school wide Mass on Monday to mark the occasion.

It seems appropriate, then, that I allow John Paul II himself to speak to you juniors, on the occasion of your moving into senior year, and more broadly, as you begin thinking about college and God’s plan for your life. Here’s what he had to say to youth very similar to you, at World Youth Day in 2000:

“Young people, it is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal”

Juniors, may you have the courage to seek out this greatness of which our namesake speaks, a greatness borne out of God’s vision for your life and his hopes and dreams for your future, so that you, too, can make this world more human and more fraternal. Seek him, and he will find you.

To encourage you in this pursuit this morning, in addition to many of you who will be receiving rings, all of you will be given bibles as a gift from your teachers. Inscribed in each bible is a prayer or words of inspiration from one of your teachers, who pray with you here this morning as you stand on the cusp of your last year of high school.

God bless you, and God bless JPII.

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