After struggling to find substance in dozens of failed drafts, it seemed convenient that I would find renewed inspiration on the eve of the late Pope John Paul II’s beatification. I feel that we Perpetualites share a certain relationship with the late pope (albeit a vague and distant one), being students of a university consecrated to the Virgin Mary with whom he had a very special bond, so it is only fitting that his words be used as a sort of foundation for something meaningful. Whether or not we be of differing religions—I myself am not a Catholic, and my approach towards religion is more scholarly than hermetic—I think the late Pope’s words ring true beyond the borders of Catholicism.
Graduation for many of you is a time of crossing—a time of great tribulations, so to speak. It is a moment when, amidst the pomp and clamor of the ceremony and diploma, apprehensions forged long ago begin to resurface and suddenly answers must be sought for questions regarding that which inevitably follows: what happens now?
While circumstances do vary, it is usually the case that these anxious inquiries arise. But to these anxieties John Paul II replies simply: “Be not afraid!” Proclaimed in 1978 on his ascent to the papacy, it is an exhortation to all people to “have no fear of that which you yourselves have created, have no fear of all that man has produced, and that every day is becoming more dangerous for him.”It is a call to conquer the fears of our own design which stunt our growth as fully realized persons created in Imago Dei—quite an audacious claim that one is made in the image of the divine, but I am under the impression that we are all gods in our own right. For is creation not the greatest work of God, and creativity His ultimate quality?
With so marvelous a power in our hands, the call can also be construed as a form of rhetoric: that is, why be afraid? We who are endowed with youth, not just in body but in spirit, should have little cause to fear anything when it is we who ultimately pave the way for ourselves and for those who follow. I strongly believe, as he did, that in the youth there is an“immense potential for good and for creative possibility”, and there really are few things that can match the creative force of one driven by youthful vigor. “We need the enthusiasm of the young. We need their joie de vivre.” For us, it is only a matter of reaching in for that passion in order to operate on that immense potential for higher callings.
Lastly, “Be not afraid!” is a call for hope. Though ours is a great responsibility, it is one that must be confronted with the dignity, and this dignity entails with it the trust in oneself which is the foundation of hope. True that graduation generates new fears for the uncertain future. But that future is not tomorrow, but today! We do not count on the years and hours to deliver us our future; we create our futures with every word spoken and every breath we take. To face the future we must therefore cultivate the hope in today, the hope that justifies our words and action, which erases fear and bridges us to a greater promise.
Echoing a familiar statement, I say to you all: “You are my hope.”
© Copyright 2016 Jan Gabriel. All rights reserved.