This week, which sees the start of the Leaving Cert exam, is one of those key rites of passage for our young people. Emerging from a period of their lives unlike any generation that has gone before them these days will be a time of great challenge for them and so they are foremost in our thoughts and prayers. It is a critical time as these days will have a profound influence on the choices they will ultimately make for their futures.
Most of us want to be more than we are, don’t we? It’s true throughout life. We have our ambitions, our goals, our desires. I’m glad we’re that way. It adds so much spice to life. That person who is dead to desire, dull in perception, insensitive to mystery, that person is not very much alive. American poet Harriet d’Autremont expresses this idea well when she says;
No vision and you perish;
No ideal, and you’re lost;
Your heart must ever cherish
Some faith at any cost.
Some hope, some dream to cling to,
Some rainbow in the sky,
Some melody to sing to,
Some service that is high.
God has set eternity in our hearts. St. Augustine puts it another way – “You have created us for yourself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” – We want to be more than we are! The question is, how can we? In the healthy sense of the word, how can we be more than we are?
Imagination will help. It’s amazing what a sanctified imagination can do for us. All of us have the basic gift of imagination. This is the reason we see it operative in its most delightful and effective way in children. Children are fresh and alive in their imagination. It is always my hope that our young people will not allow this capacity to die within them as they grow older. It will serve them well in dark hours of loneliness, boredom or even tragedy.
At this time of their lives, our young people are preparing to live more independently of their families. While this is all a part of growing up the young people still need to remember that family can make you more than you are. More and more I’m convinced that the family is the most crucial asset in the life of any person. And the family is being threatened as no other institution today. Parents and children must commit themselves to make the family what it should be — a place for persons and a centre of Christian caring. That’s what the family ought to be.
To such a place of Christian caring we can go when all other doors are shut and become more than we are. Because we care, we notice. Because we care, we listen. Because we care, we share. These are the things that enable us to grow. There is no real family, no place for persons without care. When we really care, and work at our caring parents are saved from two dangerous pitfalls: from indifference which is one extreme and indulgence which is the other. And children are likewise saved from two pitfalls – taking parents for granted and thinking that the world revolves around them. The sooner youth learn this, the better off they will be. Don’t take parents for granted, and realize that the world is far bigger than you. Your family will make you more than you are.
One other word. Not only our family, but our commitments make us more than we are
There are two kinds of people in this world: those who say “whatever” and those who say, “whatever it takes.” “Whatever” is the response of the shrug. It’s a “who cares?” attitude, one of indifference and apathy. “Whatever it takes” is the response of the committed. Love means to commit yourself without guarantee. Genuine happiness can only be achieved when we transform our way of life from the unthinking pursuit of pleasure to one committed to enriching our inner lives, when we focus on ‘being more’ rather than simply having more.
I wish our young people those gifts as they take their next steps into the world – the gift of a lively and effective imagination, the gift of a caring family and the gift of a sense of commitment to an ideal greater than themselves.
Fr. Brendan Quinlivan, based in Tulla is the Vicar Forane for the Ceantar na Lochanna Pastoral Area of East Clare
Clare Champion article 11th of June 2021