(330) 725-4968       Our School

This year’s eighth-graders were kindergartners during Fr. Tony’s first year as pastor of St. Francis Xavier. When they graduated Wednesday, May 30, Fr. Tony shared these words with them:

You’ve worked hard, and you’ve become quite different people than you were in kindergarten. I hope, as you graduate from our parish school, that you realize some very important things.

First of all, who you are is a tremendous gift. And you have been gifted with yourself through the human agency of your parents, but ultimately because Almighty God allowed you, He wanted you to exist.

And everything you have has come by way of gift, from Him, including your ability to work hard, to be disciplined, to be creative, to be funny, to excel at certain things.

Everything you have as a capacity and desire is a gift from God; and, as such, God expects you to do something with it. Not selfishly, but God wants you to continue to discover who you are as young men and young women, and what kind of plan He has for you for this life.

And as you go through high school, your understanding of who you are will continue to deepen, and those capacities and gifts you’ve been given, that you’re not even aware of yet, will come to light, and you’ll begin to wonder what God wants you to do with your life. And I would encourage you to talk to the One who fashioned you. Talk to Almighty God and say, “Hey, you made me, how best can I serve you? How best can I be a blessing to others?” That’s probably the quickest and shortest way to figure out what to do with your life.

The St. Francis Xavier School Class of 2019

When I was your age, I thought about being a priest. Only when my grandfather was dying. My grandpa got sick, and I thought I could barter with God, and I told God that I’ll be a priest if you let Grandpa live. I said that prayer in the sixth grade. You know what happened to the lung cancer? Any guesses? It went away, and I breathed a sigh of relief. But then, in the eighth grade, the lung cancer came back, and he died.

So at any rate, I thought about it from the time I was a kid. I know many of you have thought about being married. I hope you’re beginning to pray for your spouses, like we talked about the other day, because they’re running around out there somewhere. But the foundation that you have laid for your own lives, or that your parents have laid for you, really becomes the basis on which you begin to build, and I really encourage you to build a relationship and friendship with Jesus, because He’s the One who can lead and guide you. He’s the One who shows you what true humanity looks like, by giving yourself away in love to others. If you selfishly cling to it, your reputation, you amass wealth, power, all that other stuff, at the end of the day, Jesus tells us, you will be found the most impoverished. The heart of the Gospel is a paradox: In order to find your life, you have to give it away in love.

And so that’s what I hope you walk away with the most from St. Francis. That the true key to joy and healthy living, is by being selfless, and trying to imitate Jesus the Master.

One of you asked me (once) who the Holy Spirit was, and I never got to answer your question. When you close your eyes, and I invite you to do it now, and when you pray in the secret recesses of your heart, and you close out all the other places, and all the other voices, and all the things you tell yourself, and you sit in quiet silence, it’s there in the innermost sanctuary that you meet God and (understand) who you are as his son, as his daughter. And when you don’t talk, and you listen, it is the very Holy Spirit of God who speaks to you there. Always, He speaks a word of love, how He delights in you.

And so, I invite you to continue each day to go to that secret place in your heart where you can listen to God, where you can thank Him for all the blessings He gives you, where you can express your sorrow for the ways that you’ve failed Him, or others, or yourself, where you can struggle and pray for those who suffer, where you can sit and talk with Him about those things that are important to you. And when you hear that inner voice, realize that’s the Holy Spirit.

And so, I invite all of us to close our eyes for a few moments and give thanks for all that these young people have accomplished, and to pray God’s blessing upon them as they move forward, that they might imitate Jesus’ selfless way of life.