Six years ago, just before the birth of my daughter, my students voted me the faculty speaker for commencement. I thought perhaps I’d revisit some of those thoughts this week as we stand on the precipice of graduation season. It’s my hope not only students, but all may find some wisdom in these thoughts.
I come from a Catholic background, more from the Joe Biden/Nancy Pelosi branch of the Catholic Church than the Paul Ryan wing. We Catholics (and others) have four things I want to co-opt and share with you: vocation, faith, hope and love. It’s my belief religion does not have a monopoly on these concepts and there is something even the most secular of us can take from them.
First, there is vocation. In a nutshell, Catholics have the idea there is a job we are called to in life, particularly married, single or religious life in that context. I propose we can all take the idea of vocation into our lives in there is a thing we are called to do or be. It may be a career for some of us, or perhaps it’s parenting. It might be something we find early in life or late. Whatever it is, I believe there is something each of us has a reason to be on Earth for (and later perhaps Mars). Each of us has a vocation in our lives that will bring us joy. It’s the thing we can’t stop doing, the thing that is essential to our identities. No more than Clark Kent can stop being Superman can we stop being or doing our vocations.
It is in our vocations I believe we most often find hope, the second of my co-opted topics. Hope is an important value to have and to share. It’s the notion things are going to be OK, that there is a way forward even if we can’t see it at the moment. As we search for our vocations, we learn how to hope, finding new things to help us piece together our identities. We find people who help us and people who hinder us in our vocations, but knowing there will be the people who help us engenders hope. Hope is what keeps us going through the obstacles. Hope must come from within, but it can be helped by those around us. No one can give us hope, but they can help foster our hope.
Love is the third value I believe we all need in our lives. I’m not referring to romantic or familial love, or even love of ourselves, but love of our vocation. It’s passion. The best humans I have known and admired are guided by a passion. Your vocation should be the thing you love and makes you love yourself. Find the thing you are passionate about. Integrate it into your life. A life without passion is barely a life.
Finally, I come to faith. I am of the opinion it’s important to believe in things. It may be religious, spiritual or whatever you want to call it. Have faith in something. Have faith in multiple things. If you believe in art, or capitalism or a religion, own it. Those are your things you believe in. Your belief shouldn’t depend on what others believe. Your faith is yours. Find something to have faith in.
This has been a very interesting year in which a lot of our societal and political norms are being challenged. It’s my hope a renewed interested in vocation, faith, hope and love will help you navigate the challenges in your life.