An Encouraging Word — A message to graduates

Father J. Ronald Knott

One who puts his trust in God is like a tree planted by the waterside that thrusts its roots to the stream: when heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green; it has no worries in a year of drought and never ceases to bear fruit.
Jeremiah 17:8

I have two jobs. At St. Meinrad Seminary, I am a pastoral theology teacher and the director of its Continuing Education department. At Bellarmine University, I am director of Catholic Worship within the Campus Ministry Department.

Since the schools held graduation on the same day, I would like to take this chance to offer both graduating classes an “encouraging word.”

The word “seminary” comes from the Latin word for “seed.” A seminary, then, is a place where seeds are germinated and plants are propagated for transplantation — a greenhouse, if you will.

By their very natures, a university and a seminary are, in their own ways, temporary, protected, controlled and intensely monitored environments where budding plants are nurtured until they are mature enough to survive transplantation and thrive in normal growing environments.

In the horticultural world, the transition from a protected environment to a normal growing environment requires careful attention. If plants are immature or the environment is harsh, this transition can cause the plants to go into shock. When in shock, plants often quit growing and become susceptible to disease. All plants experience some degree of shock when they undergo transplantation, but when the shock is too much, plants often die.

Like so, not all graduates from the seminary are successful in ministry nor do all graduates from universities become successful in their fields after graduation. Much depends on a successful transition from protected, controlled and intensely monitored environments to the normal growing environment of the real world.

The Prophet Jeremiah compares two possible choices of places to be transplanted. They can transplant themselves into a “lava waste,” “a salty, empty patch of earth” and end up a “barren bush that enjoys no change of season” or they can transplant themselves “beside running water” so that their roots can stretch underground and into its life giving waters. Planted in a barren lava waste, their lives will, no doubt, be harsh and unproductive; but planted near running water with a strong root system, they will thrive.

Graduates! We live in a society where “choice” is seen as a “right.” Just as “freedom” must be paired with “responsibility,” “good sense” must be paired with “choice.” In other words, you have the freedom to choose, but you also have the responsibility to choose wisely.

One of the choices you have to make is whether to maintain or abandon the faith of your upbringing. Plant yourself next to God and let your roots grow underground toward his life-giving waters.

Planted there, you will be able to stay green and bear fruit, no matter the weather around you. Rooted in him, you will be able to survive the droughts that will inevitably come your way!

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