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Graduating from high school has become a real rite of passage in our culture. It marks the beginning of being an adult in our society and affords new opportunities to the graduates, but also new challenges.

When I graduated from high school, I felt two things. First, I felt a real sense of accomplishment. I had worked hard in high school, both academically and in extra-curriculars such as basketball, baseball, track and computers. I saw my graduation as a celebration of these accomplishments and for all the hard work I had done.

But I also felt some real fear. I knew that everything would change. I would no longer have direct, daily access to some of my friends. My whole routine would change. I would have to take on more responsibility. I would have to go forth into the world and figure out what to do next.

For me, I knew that I wanted to be an electrical engineer, so it wasn’t hard to figure out what I would do next. However, in my mind crept the questions of whether I would be able to accomplish that goal, where would I end up and whether or not I would become a successful person in society.

Some of my friends didn’t have the slightest idea of what they wanted to do with their lives. They struggled with this all-important question quite a bit. It took them a while to find their course in life. Some of us came to choose a course very deliberately and with planning. Others seemed to fall into it by being at the right place and at the right time.

I find it ironic that I knew in my mind what I wanted to be. I did all the right things, worked hard to achieve my goal and then later went in a completely different direction with priesthood. I had felt God’s call since eighth grade, but I pushed it away many times. Finally, the Hound of Heaven won out.

Given all this, I really want to say to our graduates that life can be a wonderful experience if we are open to what God has in store for us. God has a plan for each of us. If we discover that plan and follow it, we will be happy people for the most part. If we leave no room at all for God’s voice in leading us, I can guarantee an unhappy outcome because God knows what is best for each of us, what will make us most happy in life.

This is the most important part: In order for us to discover and follow the path that God wants us to take, we must be in constant communication with Him. That means we have to have an active prayer life. That means we must keep coming to church and participating in it.

Too many people these days have no time for God. In their minds, it is a waste of time. They are so busy with other things. But then a part of them begins to die: Their spiritual side. They pay a high price for it, and most don’t even realize what is happening to them.

In our time, there is so much noise in our lives that it is a wonder when someone actually thinks something through. Our car stereos and TVs and MP3 players have become huge parts of our lives.

I encourage young people (and older people, too) to limit all that sensory input deliberately at times for the purpose of prayer, self-examination and thinking about things.

This is one of the reasons I love fishing, hunting and hiking so much. It gives me a chance to slow down, experience some silence, and return to the world refreshed.

I remember one time sitting on a hillside under tree cover with my friend Chris, rifles ready and eyes peeled for elk. There weren’t any elk that day, but we watched the sun come up and talked softly about important things in life, like family and God. That wouldn’t have happened in front of a TV.

Congratulations to our graduates. Be proud of your accomplishment. And be open for God’s voice.

Fr. Steve Parlet, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church can be reached at 395-8424 or sjparlet@gmail.com.

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