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I was asked this past week to offer feedback to a company concerning a 2019 Benedictine grad who was in the final steps in the hiring process. Having worked with this student in a number of classes over four years, I was happy to assist. I recognize this student is prepared for her new life and new adventures, while recognizing and tapping the skills we, hopefully, have imparted to her and her colleagues.
If you’ve been to our commencement ceremonies, you know what a wonderful spiritual, and uplifting time it is for the graduates and their families. The graduates make their way up the drive to the sidewalk in front of St. Benedict’s Abbey, and take their place by major, in no particular order once they find their spot. The faulty follow them down the hill, into the John Paul II Student Center, and into Nolan Gymnasium.
While I love commencement and am thrilled to share the excitement of the graduates and their families, the Friday evening Baccalaureate is as meaningful, as important, and as amazingly spiritual. As they did as freshmen, the graduates march up the Raven Walk, candles in hand, to place at Mary’s Grotto, and then march as a group into the Abbey Church for their “goodbye”, but not “farewell.”
They sit in the front, as they did as newly minted first year students. We welcome them into our learning and faith community and open a door. That Friday before commencement, we repeat the tradition to close that same door. The Saturday walk to commencement repeats the walk up the hill the newly moved-in freshmen participate in with their families. At the end of mass, there is a blessing, the students process out, and families, having blessed each other, stay.
As Benedictine prepares to begin the 2019-2020 academic year, and welcome our new Ravens, I reach back to a blog post I wrote for the graduating class of 2011. I repeated it for the class of 2018. It’s a story of closing doors, saying goodbyes, and being enveloped in all that is near and dear to you, with God’s mercy and protection
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If you have not traveled along I-44 in New Mexico, I highly recommend the trip. The section from Santa Fe to Albuquerque is amazing, especially at sunset in the spring and summer.
A few years ago, I was with my wife as she worked with some clients at a site visit. We stayed over for the weekend, and went to Santa Fe, and back to Albuquerque late in the afternoon. I remember the lights from the city appearing in the distance as dusk settled.
Some weeks later, I had an unusual dream, and I remember it distinctly.
I am about your age, maybe a bit older.
I am by myself, traveling by car to a new job in a new city. I am looking forward to this new adventure, with the chance to “spread my wings”, meet new people, and learn new skills… just, learn something new.
I see my destination ahead, the city with bright lights, amazingly clear, even from a distance.
There is an amazing amount of traffic on the highway with me, and they seem to be passing me without any effort. I am trying to keep up, but I keep falling behind everyone else. I push the pedal down, and while I pick up speed, everyone else around me does the same.
I am getting frustrated, and then concerned, that I am falling back.
The sun is setting. Dusk has appeared.
I see the bright lights of the city, but they seem further away. I don’t understand. How can this be? I’m doing what I am supposed to be doing! What’s happening to me?
Then, it becomes quiet… eerily so. I look around. The city lights are but a pin prick ahead, and the area around my car is pitch black. No other cars, no noise, nothing.
I am moving, but how? What is happening?
I am alone. I am afraid.
Then, I look out the rear-view mirror, and what appears to be a bluish-green glow is moving toward me. I should be scared, but I am not.
The glow envelopes the inside of my vehicle. Then, it shapes and morphs into faces … faces of people I know, or have known, family members who have died. All these faces are smiling, but saying nothing.
I can “feel” their message: We are with you. We will always be with you. Go on …
Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid.
All will be well.
The glow dissipates, and I realize my surroundings are back to normal. The traffic is moving, and I am at my destination, the bright lights of promise and paths to take, before darkness sets it.
I am safe. I am home.
You are about to embark on a great adventure. There will be new opportunities. New people to meet — perhaps someone with whom you will find the answers to your questions, someone you will marry and build your lives, and make your statement to the world.
Through all the wonderful and fun times, and all the terrible and lonely times, know.
We’re with you.
Don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
All will be well.