A Sacred Subject
by Rev. Raymond K. Petrucci
One of the distinctive aspects of the month of September is the appearance en masse of the yellow school bus. I wonder if the students riding them realize that they are venturing on a journey that will challenge them to comprehend the most wondrous and the most sacred subject of all - LIFE.
At the dawn of the twenty-first century, questions arise concerning the understanding people will attain regarding the nature and meaning of human life. Many fear that unchecked and unethical use of new technologies will be the harbinger of what has been called the "post human" age. If Alexander Pope is correct that "the proper study of mankind is man," then we need to study the subject well and reach some absolute conclusions respecting the essence of our being. Obviously, I believe that we are more than the "stardust" opined by Carl Sagan. We are the children of a great and loving God and, thus, a holy people. This truth constitutes the first chapter in the primer of life with the sacredness of life as the incontrovertible starting point, we may move through the joys and sorrows of our living with dignity and with resolve. In a speech on April 10, 1899, the future President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, shared his musings about the upcoming century:
"I preach to you, then, my countrymen, that our country calls not for the life of ease but for the life of strenuous endeavor. The twentieth century looms before us big with the fate of many nations. If we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and strong peoples will pass us by. and will win for themselves the domination of the world."
Beyond the echoes of Manifest Destiny and of the Industrial Revolution, Roosevelt's words revealed notable prescience concerning the issues the nation would have to confront. Yet, even he could not conceive of the momentous struggle facing humanity in the "strenuous endavor" to defend life and its sacred origin.
Learning and living call one to more lucrative pursuits than simple preparedness for the mutating realities of life. It is my hope that all students become involved in understanding education as a lifelong process of developing the human character as well as the mind. My premise is that a complete education is more than the mere accumulation of facts but the practice of discerning the divine core of the human spirit and applying our godliness to the phenomenon of existence.
While many judge my words quixotic and may doubt the presence of a "divine spark" in us, the impulse to strive for higher goals must not die. I find it evident that the attainment of goals must not die. I find it evident that the attainment of virtue and the affirmation of the sacredness of life are essential to the establishment of a truly civilized society. God directs our freedom toward these greater purposes. I cannot accept that our legacy upon this earth is to be little more than a tawdry display of greed and consumption. I also reject the notion that the attitude and policy of nations always must be to exploit and plunder under the banner of self-interest.
Let us observe that life is more than we know and that all of our seeking ultimately brings us to the threshold of a great and holy mystery. Therefore,let us allow our science and technology to address their proper spheres and recognize that the fullness of living is a deeply spiritual reality. It is a subjectto be mastered only through a sedulous search for the grace and beauty underlying things and a humble appreciation of the power of the Holy Spirit within our experience of being human. As someone once said, "knowledge and achievements matter little if we do not yet know how to touch the heart of another and be touched." How exciting it is to be a student when we consider that the course of study is life's dignity and sacredness and that the professor is God. May we learn well and share in the ineffable joy of that "Great Commencement."
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