Has anyone not heard that the best years of one’s life are their college years? (one might wonder if college professors and faculty have the best of lives?). Perhaps some of us have also been told these special years, our college years, are for us; and accordingly, we should make the most of them, take advantage of every opportunity we get to do something great for ourselves, “Carpe Diem!”, and even allow ourselves to be selfish for just this once in our lives---for just those four college years that we will spend trying to make something of ourselves.
But this popular advice is unsound. It is true that college is a time meant for developing our technical skills, a time in which we experience a unique freedom that enables us to do new and exciting things, let alone college is a time for having fun, but college is not solely about our own progression, nor is it possible to become stronger people if we take perfect care of our own well-being but fail to look out for other people. By other people, I mean your roommate, the people you pass each day, your parents, and (though not a person) your plant or fish if you get one (seriously don’t let it die).
The reason it is necessary to care for others during college is not just because they might care for us in return (e.g., they might share their notes), but rather, it is necessary to care for others during this developmental time because the people we want to become, truly, are good, unselfish people.
What do you want to be what when you grow up? Chances are the class of 2022 is not content with being a checking account. We want to be compassionate nurses, lawyers of integrity, inspirational teachers, courageous soldiers, and trustworthy parents. Wherever we are destined, we want to achieve excellence, not vainglory but fulfilment and purpose. In order to become excellent, we must genuinely care for others. We will become excellent people who make an impact on this would but only if we act now. We will not become excellent people if we fail to practice excellence until we land a job for we will not know how to be excellent. Excellent men are virtuous, and all virtues need to be learned. College is a time for learning practical skills and just as importantly, it is a time for learning virtues.
I would like to take this peculiar but appropriate moment to thank the people in our own lives who have been for us what we hope to become for others. I would like to thank our teachers, our personal and academic advisors and mentors, our parents, (and even our siblings who have thus far provided the occasions necessary to test the virtues we must hone). It is because of the love these people have for us and the sacrifices they have made for us that we are about to embark on our next journey.
Just as these people have helped us, we are called to help others. Man was not made to be alone. God gave man individuality, but our individuality is brightest when it is united to the whole of humanity as contradictory as that may sound. To become our true selves, we must sacrifice ourselves and we must die.
Of course, we cannot sacrifice what we do not have, nor can we help others when we ourselves are drowning. We must remove the log from our own eye before we can help others, so take care of yourself: physically, mentally, and spiritually. Please do not neglect your spiritual and physical health. God is calling many of us to be a student: the vocation of exploring the universe He created. But let us not become consumed by our studies lest we pray halfheartedly. Let prayer be our life line: let it be in prayer that we beseech God for patience and grace to understand what we will be studying, for the humility to both acknowledge and pardon the mistakes we will make during our collegiate careers and for the humility to forgive those who offend us, let us thank God for the gift of education and life, let prayer be a place of rest and solitude from life and for life.
This year in Modern literature, we read Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. I was in Mrs. Crawford’s groovy class. Sebastian, the friend to the protagonist, is a troublesome character. He grew up in an aristocratic family where no one expected anything of him. He did not know what it was like to think about the needs of anyone but himself and that gnawed at him to the point of self-hatred. Men are good, but we are also fallen, so surely if we serve ourselves and look in the mirror at the depraved creature we have become, we will hate ourselves. But there is hope for man is inherently good and we can choose to serve something greater than ourselves. There is tremendous dignity in work and helping people. Sebastian, after taking up the care of a friend, says: “It’s rather a pleasant change when all your life you’ve had people looking after you, to have someone to look after yourself”. Sebastian goes on: “Only of course it has to be someone pretty hopeless to need looking after by me”. We were not created to be needed by anyone, but God gave us the gift of being able to help and we are called to accept this gift and the responsibility that comes with it. We are co-creators and by the grace of God, we can help restore Creation, especially the pinnacle creation that is man, to its former beauty.
We cannot make it through college without God or without help from others. You and I must go to college together. Be kind to your roommate, help instruct your classmates, call your parents, offer up your daily coffee for the intention of someone who is without, spend time in the chapel. Take up your cross for the next four years so that you will be able to carry it for the following 70. Don’t fool yourself into imagining that if you splinter-proof the cross over the next four years, you will be able to carry it with ease: you will just be unuse to its weight. No, let us live an unselfish collegiate life and there on after so that our teacher alone will see our works and say: "I was naked and you clothed me; I was ill and you took care of me; I was in prison and you came to visit me."
Kolbe Graduate, Class of 2022