Saturday, June 12, 2010
One week ago today, I graduated with my Master's degree.
I arrived at the Church thinking that it would be as anti-climactic as that day, 15 years ago, when I mounted the stage to accept my Bachelor of Arts degree. This was, of course different as our class was significantly smaller, "we'd" [meaning a few people on the graduation committee who worked their tails off, God bless them!] had to plan the event "ourselves" (with guidance from the University), and, as I was to find out...the Mass and Ceremony were a LOT more intense than I'd expected. And a lot more solemn.
We processed into the Church to the awesome tones of Gregorian Chant. The Schola Choir was beautiful, and, as the organist we'd hired did not show up for some unexplained reason, the purity of the voices rising in praise to God were unsullied, reminding us not just of the dignity of the occasion, but of the eternal holiness of the Mass.
"The Church Needs You!"
I couldn't stop looking at the Crucifix during the Bishop's homily, as he spoke of God's call to us all to serve His Church, his exhortation to serve with a deep love for sinners, and to go out to evangelize. "As one Apostle to another...." I looked at the Bishop, startled. His homily sounded more like a COMMISSION than anything else, and of course that was no mistake. God had called us to study. We had responded, and now it was time to go out into the world, bringing to souls all that we had learned....and in so doing, bring them back Home. "The Church needs you!" the Bishop reiterated again and again throughout his homily.
I knew it was no mistake, but all in God's timing, that we had attended our last class on the (transferred) Feast of the Ascension. That alone pointed to the great commission of Our Lord to the Apostles, to go forth and baptize all nations. It was no mistake, but all in God's Providence that we graduated on a First Saturday, a day traditionally set aside to especially honor the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and it was no mistake that we were there just before the close of the Year for Priests, in the Month of the Sacred Heart.
There, well within the Heart of the Church, the Bishop emphasized our responsibility. Oddly enough, I was taken back to the day I was sworn in as a Police Officer. The weight of my Oath, the badge, the gun, and later, the vest, symbolized the weight of my responsibility for lives. As a Police Officer, if I screwed up, lives would be lost. I realized that what the Bishop was saying pointed to something far greater, something that called me to the foot of the Cross, to lay the burden there too heavy for me to carry: as a theologian, if I screw up....souls will be lost. Not just lives, but....souls!
Interiorly, I shuddered, then clung to the bloodied wood upon which my Savior hung. I still don't know exactly what He is calling me to do, but there is no doubt; if I have come this far, it is God's intent that I spend myself in union with Christ for the salvation of souls.
We processed out at the end of the Mass, and I couldn't help but notice all the flashbulbs going off as we passed. It was from that point on that I began to commence with the squirming. I don't like having my picture taken; I never have, but on that day, there was no way to escape it. I had to quite literally grin and bear it.
We processed in, yet again, this time for the actual Commencement ceremony. The Commencement Address was given by one of our beloved professors, and he gave what we recognize as his final lecture ("No extra charge!" cracked the Program Director later on.), and while we knew it would go over the heads of many of the attendees, we understood it perfectly and appreciated all he had to say. Our Class Speaker had something to say about (and therefore, to) each and every one of us about "...what we learned in our 75 half hour and 10 minute breaks over the last 3 years...", and I gotta say, he nailed each and every one of us, bringing many of us to tears. (I actually managed to rein myself in...if I got going, I knew I wouldn't be able to stop!). I admit that as I write this now, I'm tearing up a bit, thinking about all my fellow students and friends, all we have gone through since we have begun, both the greatest of tragedies and some incredible triumphs.
We received the blessing of the Bishop and processed out, this time with the flash-bulb popping ever closer to us, even as we exited the hall. We gathered in a group for a large group photo with the present Professors and the Bishop. I'm pretty sure all of us were squirming from all the attention. After all, we're bookworms, not celebrities!
As the photo session seemed to go on endlessly, still holding what was probably by that point a clay grin, through our smiling teeth some of us asked, "Are we done yet? Can we go now?" And still the cameras continued to point in click.
One of my classmates commented, "This must be what celebrities feel like!"
Someone else queried, "Are we celebrities?"
And yet another cracked, "Hey! They're paparazzi! We have our own paparazzi!" Which, of course, caused many of us to burst into laughter, turning our "Danceline smiles" into real ones once again.
It was a little while before I finally made it into the Hall again to find my
fans friends and family. We'd all been limited in the numbers of people we could invite, and suddenly I was grateful for that, for I quickly realized that I didn't have time to be "hostess" to them all. I'm not a socialite by nature, but realized I did have to find a way to greet all of my guests, even while saying goodbye to my classmates, some of whom I am quite certain I will never see again this side of the veil.
Finally, finally I had the opportunity to open the the leather-bound, gold-embossed degree the Bishop had handed me. I stared at it a moment, noting it was all in Latin. "Oh my gosh, I have a Master's Degree and I can't even READ it!"
It's good to have a reminder to remain humble, that although we have learned a great deal, we've only scratched the surface. It is an invitation to be grateful, and yet, to go deeper, to continue seeking the Truth.
Our Graduation was a bittersweet event, almost painful in its intensity. I do have a sense of accomplishment, though, of having completed something I set out to do, finally. I know it is a gateway to something, a simple stone on the path I am following to Calvary, and now my foot hovers in mid-air as I try to see the next step.
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