Make those moments count

Over the last several weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in two “momentous” events with our young people. One event was the commencement of our students at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where I have the privilege of serving as a campus minister.  The other event was the Pope St. Pius X Youth Award held at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River. 

What connects these two events for me is the fact that both events came about because a series of “moments” led up to that particular point in time. At the commencement, young people, who have worked so hard to achieve that moment of graduation, were challenged by the speakers to take some time to live for the moments and to live lives for others in service. In the Pope St. Pius X Youth Award event, younger listeners had already accepted such a challenge. 

At the commencement ceremony, which I attended, I was thinking that during their time at UMass Dartmouth, a series of moments led them to that particular point in time. In fact, I’m sure each of those students spent much of their lifetime looking to the future. In grammar school, they looked forward to high school. In high school, they worked to get into the right college. Finally in college, they are working to get that right job. 

I think, perhaps, sometimes we spend so much time planning for the future that we miss the here and now. And my hope is that they will now take the time to enjoy the here and now. 

To those of you graduating, I encourage you to not get too caught up in the trivial things that won’t matter in the long run, just ensure that you embrace the things of larger importance no matter what your passion is, and what you choose to do when you walk away with your degree in hand. Know that you can be affecting others in every moment you experience. So use your skills, your passions, your education and your character to continue to be men and women for others. According to the Jesuits, “Men and Women for Others” means that we must be at each other’s service in an act of integrating faith and justice, and this service ought to be done in joy and love.”

On May 5, 61 young people from parishes throughout the diocese were recognized with the Pope St. Pius X Youth Award for service to their parish community. It struck me during the ceremony that, while these young people certainly are planning and working toward a future, that they had also seized the moments, the here and nows, to be of service to others. In the lives of these young people, they too, had a series of moments that led them to this point in their lives. In the case of these outstanding young adults, they had already taken the time and accepted the challenge to be young men and women for others.

In today’s society, where we are all driven to succeed and in many cases try to plan out the perfect life, we often learn that sometimes we lose track of what is important. If we don’t take the time to live in the moment, the here and now, I believe we risk the chance that we will miss what God is calling us to do. It is in these quiet moments that He so often speaks to us. If we don’t take the time to live in the moment, we may just miss that call.

My hope is that in our high schools and colleges and through our Catholic campus ministries, students are being challenged to seek answers to the “bigger questions that arise” for them. Not so much what to do in life — a career, job, profession — but about who they are: the deeper meaning of how they uniquely fit into the world, society, community, indeed, questions about the purpose for their lives.  The phrase, which I believe is worth contemplating by all of us, is “Who am I; whose am I; what am I called to be?”

Several years ago I read a book by Rabbi Sherre Hirsch. I must admit I was first drawn by the title, “We Plan, God Laughs.”  I understand the title comes from an old Yiddish proverb. She writes that at every stage of life we make plans, setting out where we want to go and imagining what we will be like when we have “arrived.” But things have a way of turning out not quite as we hoped or expected. She argues that too often our plans are limited to ones we think up at bedtime, or are devised by our parents, or by what looks good on a résumé.  She challenges the reader to reflect on who we are now and who we want to be — a plan that is alive, organic, and in sync with God.

Hirsch teaches the importance of letting go and recognizing that even the most ordinary life “is extraordinary in the eyes of God.” She doesn’t promise that life will turn out as we plan, but shows that “with hope, faith, and belief, we can change our lives for the better and make a positive difference in the lives of others.” 

As I have so often written or spoken about, in my younger days, I was so caught up in the future and what was the next best thing, that I know I missed what God was calling me to be many, many times. It wasn’t until my wife Kris “made” me start living for the moments that I finally slowed down enough to hear what God was asking of me. 

It is for that reason that I so admire the young Pope St. Pius X Youth Award recipients and those UMass Dartmouth graduates, especially our Catholic students, who have accepted the call to be there for others at such a young age. At the commencement ceremony, I was blown away to learn that UMass Dartmouth has been recognized as one of the top 20 campuses nationwide in community service. UMass system president Robert Caret congratulated our students at UMass Dartmouth, who have given of themselves with more than 200,000 hours of community service to the community! Go Corsairs!

Congratulations to all of our graduates and Pope St Pius X Award recipients. Continue to make every day a momentous event — living in the here and now — listening for God’s voice and living active faithful lives.  Remember these words of Mother Teresa, “Unless a life is lived for others, it is not worthwhile.” Now get out there and make those moments count!

Anchor columnist Deacon Lucca is a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fall River, a youth minister at St. Dominic’s Parish in Swansea, and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. He is married to his Kristine, and the father of two daughters and their husbands, and a grandson.

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