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Open Letter to Graduating Class of 2015: To those Catholic Young Men Entering Secular Society

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Open Letter to Graduating Class of 2015
To those Catholic Young Men Entering Secular Society
From Paul Lavin, Ph.D.

Dear Graduate,

This letter is addressed to you – the young Catholic student who will soon be leaving home and entering the world. Perhaps you will be attending a college or university, learning a trade, or working at a job in the public or private sector. While this can be a new and exciting venture, it is a journey for which you will need to be prepared. The purpose of this letter is to stimulate your thinking about those challenges you will be facing and how you, a practicing Catholic, can maintain your Faith in the years to come.

Let me begin on a sad note, of which many of you are aware. Many young Catholic men and women, like yourselves, become far less fervent in practicing their Faith once they leave home. They may stop attending Mass, fail to receive the sacraments, discontinue praying, and give up the Faith altogether. This is not an uncommon occurrence in today’s society. The temptations to leave the Church are great, and the unprepared person can easily fall prey to them.

Even though some young people succumb to earthly temptations and leave the Church, this does not mean that the world is a gloomy place, from which you must hide or be constantly fearful. On the contrary! God created the world and everything in it. Therefore, it is filled with much good, provided that we use God’s creation as He intended.

As I stated earlier, the purpose of this letter is to help you to face and overcome the many challenges that you can expect to encounter upon entering the world, which is often referred to as secular society. The secular society, which you will be entering, is concerned with our present life here on earth and the pursuit of worldly happiness. Secular society is not concerned with religion, the salvation of your soul, or that which is sacred to God. Enjoying worldly pleasures, acquiring wealth, attaining professional and social status, and achieving happiness here on earth are the goals for which secular thinking people strive. Secular thinking persons may be kind and considerate. They may perform many acts of charity and help the less fortunate. However, while these deeds are praise worthy, they are done out of the love of mankind, not for the love of God.

Right now you are probably surrounded by parents, relatives, and friends who, like you, are practicing Catholics. Catholic teaching encompasses almost all facets of your life. Saying Grace before and after meals, morning and evening prayers, going to Mass and receiving Holy Communion, the recitation of the rosary, frequent Confession, and devotion to our Blessed Mother and the Saints are a normal part of your everyday life.

Your Catholic upbringing has taught you to not only to be aware of God’s Commandments, but also the importance of being diligent in keeping them. You have been taught that God is merciful and that He loves each and everyone of us. However, beside being merciful, God is just as well. Like our loving father here on earth, God expects us to obey His laws throughout our lifetime. Those who persist in this difficult task will be rewarded by going to Heaven. Those who fail to obey God will be punished and sent to Hell. This is what Our Lord has said time and time again. The good thing is that God promised not to abandon us. He promised to give each of us the sufficient Grace needed to save our souls. Notice that God doesn’t force us to accept His grace or follow His laws. He has given us a free will to accept Him and His Church. He will not make us do that, which we do not want to do. We can cooperate with God’s plan or reject it – the choice is ours.

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Keep in mind that much of the preceding will change once you enter the world. You will be entering a society, in which people have been taught that worldly happiness comes first. You will be told that God and His laws should not interfere with this goal. Because God is loving and merciful, you will be told that He would never condemn anyone to a place like Hell. You will be encouraged to relax your moral standards and not take life so seriously. You will be bombarded with phrases such as, “Lighten up” and “Go with the flow.” You will be told to “Chill out and don’t be so uptight,” and to “Loosen up and have some fun.” And when you see others behaving immorally, you will be told that “It’s no big deal” and that “Everybody does it.” These are just a few of the excuses or rationalizations that people will use to justify their sinful actions.

It is difficult to resist this kind of thinking because the people who encourage you to think this way will appear to be friendly and sincere. They will seem to be happy, popular, self-confident, and content with the direction that their lives have taken. They will hardly look like the Devil, with horns and expanded nostrils breathing fire. Like you, these young people will be energetic and intelligent. This is what will make saying
NO! so difficult. It is normal to want to be “cool” and to fit in. So you may be tempted to “Go along to get along.” This can easily become the motivation for lowering your moral standards, behaving sinfully, and corrupting your soul.

The worst part of becoming corrupted is that you won’t even recognize that this is happening to you. Like a thief in the night, corruption sneaks up on you. It takes away your innocence before you realize what is happening. One sinful transgression easily leads to another and then another. Repeatedly sinful behavior clouds your mind and warps your judgment. It dulls your conscience and you lose your sense of right and wrong. But worst of all, it impairs your relationship with God and leads you away from Him.

Let me return to my mentioning of the devil. Unlike the past, the existence of the Devil is currently not taken seriously and his influence on human events is either minimized or ignored. This is a major mistake! Today, more than ever, satan is left undeterred in his efforts to spread evil throughout the world.

Keep in mind that the devil’s goal is to capture your soul. In order to succeed in this endeavor, he will make worldly goods appear to be much more attractive than the true practice of your Catholic Faith. The more importance that you attach to achieving worldly goals, the less likely you will invest the time and energy in praying and receiving the sacraments. Remember that satan is called the Father of Lies for good reason. He is extremely clever in making evil appear as good and vice versa. Don’t let him trick you into submission.

In summation, as a practicing Catholic you know that the purpose of life is the salvation of your soul. Your view will not be the same as those persons who do not share your Catholic Faith. They will not agree that the salvation of one’s soul is the most important priority in life. Moreover, many will argue that there is no God or life after death. If there is a God, they will contend that He is so merciful that He would never send anyone to Hell. These unfortunate persons suffer from the sin of presumption. Because they perform good deeds, they insist that God will not condemn them, even if they have violated His laws and those of His Church.

As a result of this thinking, many people no longer fear God or His justice. If they have no fear of God, they will have no fear of the Devil either. Denying or minimizing the influence of the devil and the reality of Hell are most dangerous to the salvation of one’s soul. The devil, who is the Master of Deceit, is extremely effective in capturing the souls of those who fail to recognize his great powers of intellect and his ability to deceive human beings and lure them into damnation.

In conclusion, let me again emphasize that once you graduate, you will be entering a world, which is quite different from that you have previously experienced. For the most part, you are now surrounded by an all-encompassing Catholic environment, which is designed to ward off the Devil and his minions. Take a few minutes and reflect on all that God has given you to nourish and protect your Faith: parents who care about your spiritual welfare; frequent Mass and Holy Communion; frequent confession; daily prayers including the rosary; devotion to our Blessed Mother and the Saints. I’m sure that many of you could add to this list. It is your daily practicing of your Catholic Faith that has kept the devil at bay throughout your most formidable years. Right now, he is patiently waiting until the circumstances are better suited to luring you away with his false promises. Your entrance into the secular world and the pomp, dazzling glitz, and enticing pleasures that it offers might turn the odds in his favor – at least that’s what the Father of Lies hopes.

Lastly, the time to think about the future is now. If you are not mentally and spiritually prepared to sustain and defend your Faith, you can easily be caught off guard by those who are hostile toward the Catholic Church or any religion for that matter. Being caught off guard can make you appear to be foolish. This, in turn, can lead to feelings of inferiority, especially if your adversaries poke fun at you and openly ridicule your beliefs. Confused thinking, shameful feelings associated with being a Catholic, and an eventual disregarding or losing the Faith can soon follow. The Father of Lies will, of course, rejoice at achieving this goal.

As you can see, a well thought out plan needs to be devised before, not after you have entered the secular world. Remember when you received the Sacrament of Confirmation. On this day you became a “Soldier for Christ.” This not only intensified your bonding with God and His Church, but it further assured that your relationship with the Holy Ghost would be strengthened and that He would confer special gifts upon you. Those gifts, as you recall, are wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of our Lord.

Now is the time to call upon the Holy Ghost to help you to use these gifts so that you will have the strength to defend your Catholic Faith and to remain true to those vows that you have taken. May God bless you in this endeavor.

Congratulations to you, the graduating class of 2015.

As Our Lord said on the Sermon on the Mount: “
You are the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world,” upon which the Catholic Faith, by your example, will flourish.

published in the April 2014 edition of Catholic Family News

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