is predicated on a choice

I was honored to be asked to deliver the address at the 2014 Baccalaureate service and dinner recognizing some of the graduating high school seniors who are parishioners of St. Albert the Great Catholic Church. The young men and women who attended the event were all great examples of our Catholic youth and it was indeed a privilege and an honor to meet and speak with each one of them.

As I stand here before you tonight I cannot help but wonder what kind of world, you who are graduating, will find a half-century from now, in the year 2064, and what role each of you will and will have played in its transformation. Why fifty years? Because, as it turns out, nearly fifty years ago, I was sitting where you are now, listening to some boring OLD … I mean REALLY OLD person – if I had to guess someone around my age now, older than dirt, with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel – spouting something about journeys and dreams and all that kind of stuff. And I surmise that you will remember no more of this old man’s blather than I do of mine, oh so many years ago. But nevertheless, I have been asked to say a few words, so I will. I only ask that you at least prop your eyes open and unplug your ears for a few minutes … and please, don’t distract me too much because at my advanced age, I can easily be distracted.

Despite what I said a moment ago about journeys and dreams, I would like to speak of them for a brief moment.

LIfe’s choices

Whether you were aware of it then, or whether you are aware of it now, at the moment of your conception, before you were born, each of you began a journey, the journey through life, and every … single … moment of your life has been, is, and will be predicated on a choice. Some, you have made and some you will make in the future; others have been and were made for you.

Before you were ever born and while you were a newborn baby, your parents made all the choices. Through their consummate act of love, along with the loving hand of God, they chose to create you, to give you life, to nurture and care for you, to clothe you, to give you a name that you now call your own. And you never knew it nor did you care one whit at the time; but thankfully, they did. And whether you agree or disagree with the choices they made, unfortunately, you are pretty much stuck with them, so just get a grip and deal with it.

As you grew your parents began giving you more freedom and you began to make more choices on your own. But remember that I said every moment of your life is predicated on a choice. So it isn’t just deciding the big stuff, like what you are going to wear tonight or what you are going to eat. It is also choosing to think, to breathe, to move, to act, to love, to rebel, to hate, to speak, or to simply … be you.

But I want you to understand and know this: as an adult, young or old, every choice you make is for you alone to make and it is you alone who are responsible for those choices. You choose. You decide. And you live with it. Never wallow in self-pity or play the blame game for the only one you will have to blame is you.

God created you with free will, free will, and that means that you are free to choose anything or nothing at all, good or bad, love or hate, success or failure, God or no God. God will NEVER, EVER stop you from believing in Him because He wants you to love Him freely. And know this: He will never stop believing in you, nor will He ever stop loving you.

When you leave here tonight the size and scope of the choices you make will take on a new and more significant part of who you are. The choices you make will not come with warning signs or instructions, you will seldom if ever have a map to show you the way, and most of the time the road ahead will lie smothered in fog, so that you will often be completely in the dark, and you will have no idea where you are going.

And please remember this: In life, what you see is often not what you will get and the choices you make will ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS come with unintended consequences, ALWAYS. What I am trying to tell you is that no matter who you are or where you believe you are going in life, what you want to be, what you wish to do, know that you will encounter obstacles and detours … along with new and wonderful opportunities. Just know that they will surprise you and assuredly alter your course in unexpected ways.

Let me give you one example: When I graduated from high school back in the dark ages, I had received a scholarship to attend the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism. My mother was a journalist and I wanted to follow in her footsteps. I thought I wanted to become a journalist. But during my first year of college, I chose to major in extracurricular activities and minor in studies. I chose to have fun, and have fun I did, but I failed in my academic endeavors. That year I received a single F, the only one that I ever received through over fifteen years of undergraduate and post-graduate studies. Why? Because I chose to sleep late, I chose not to attend class, and I chose not to drop the course because to do so required walking across campus and I was simply too lazy to make the trip. I alone was responsible for that failure, no one else. I made bad choices and I had to live with them.

I will close with this thought. Each of you is a child of God. Some of you may have a clear and solid understanding of whom you are, others may still be trying to discover who they are and where they are going. My wife knew when she was in elementary school that she wanted to be a nurse, I didn’t figure out what I wanted to do until I was thirty. Whether early or late in the discovery process, it doesn’t matter as long as you keep on searching and making the attempt to be what God created you to be.

I recently read a quote from a young woman, Micah Pulyn, who wrote “Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about discovering who God created you to be” and that is so very true. Ask God who you are. Ask God what He created you to be. He will tell you … if you will only listen.

Life’s dreams

We all have dreams, even when you are really ancient, like me. You will never outgrow or forget your dreams. Dreams are important; they are an essential part of living. But dreams cannot be attained without goals, without effort, without perspiration and aspiration.

I recently watched a video by the academy award-winning actor Denzel Washington who was talking to a group of young aspiring actors. Here is a small portion of what he told them.

“Dreams without goals are just dreams and will remain just dreams.

You will never see a U-Haul trailer behind a hearse. No matter how much you accumulate you cannot take it with you. I’ve been blessed to have made hundreds of millions of dollars and I cannot take one cent of it with me when I die. It is what you do with what you have that makes the difference.”

And finally, remember this advice from Mr. Washington:

I pray … that you all put your shoes way under the bed at night, so that you’ve got to get on your knees in the morning, and while you are down there, thank God for grace and mercy and understanding.

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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