BRIMMING WITH HOPE | Mortarboards and tongues of fire

Last weekend the Church celebrated Pentecost. This feast commemorates the occasion of the Holy Spirit descending on the apostles in the form of tongues of fire — therefore red is the liturgical color for the day. So you can imagine that the seniors participating in Bishop DuBourg High School's Baccalaureate Mass on this year's Feast of Pentecost were an impressive sight at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in their red and white graduation robes.

To be honest, the excitement I had at this year's Bishop DuBourg ceremonies wasn't limited to the color of the graduates' robes. It also had to do with the fact that one of them was my son. Through him and school activities, our family has had the pleasure of getting to personally know the quality of these young men and women. But they are only the tip of the iceberg. Throughout the Archdiocese of St. Louis, nearly 3,000 Catholic high school seniors are donning caps and gowns during these days of celebration.

While we sometimes refer to diploma ceremonies as "graduations," I have always preferred "commencements." We do not just commemorate the end of one phase of life, we celebrate the readiness to embark on another. On the Feast of Pentecost, Jesus had already ascended into heaven, so it may have looked like the story was over and the disciples weren't exactly sure what they were supposed to do.

But the descent of the Holy Spirit revealed to them that a new chapter was beginning. In his homily at DuBourg's Baccalaureat Mass, Father Mike Lydon referred to Pentecost as the day the disciples received a "super dose" of God's grace, mercy and love. This enabled them to go out and spread all that Jesus had revealed about the Kingdom of God. God had big things in store for them.

God has big things in store for our graduates as well. Our Catholic school graduates received daily doses of God's presence throughout their years in Catholic high schools and elementary schools. They know about the importance of prayer, striving to do one's best in all things, watching out for other people, sharing compassion and mercy, stepping up to leadership roles, and using gifts and talents to build up the Kingdom of God.

Some of the Bishop DuBourg student-athletes had team shirts this year that proclaimed "we before me" — a noble reminder promoting teamwork and self-sacrifice for a greater good. Catholic school graduates know that the greatest good is the path that God has set out for each of us. My prayer for all our graduates is that their slogan for life after high school will be "Thee before me."

I am confident that as our graduates spread throughout the country for college and careers, they will live up to the words of St. Peter, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own, so that you may announce the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9).

Visible tongues of fire may not descend on this year's graduates, but when they don their mortarboards and step across the stage into the next phase of their lives, we know the Holy Spirit will be with them nonetheless.

Nelson is superintendent of Catholic education for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. 

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