It is summer and another school year has passed. For my oldest daughter and her peers, this year marked the end of high school. For Grade 7 students in the school where I teach, it marked the end of elementary school days. Transitions are exciting and refreshing; endings are bittersweet; and, through all of life’s changes, we need to lean on the foundations of our faith.

At our final school Mass of the year, our priest reminded the community that we don’t take a vacation from our faith. I agree. Whether we’re going on holidays or leaving Catholic school life for good, faith is who we are, and it should be reflected in the things we do.

Our principal built upon this message before the singing of John Angotti’s praise and worship hymn I Send You Out. The words proclaim, “Well, it’s time for us to become people of spirit. It’s time for us to become people of love … I send you out on a mission of love and know that I am with you always until the end of the world.”

The principal told the students, staff, and parents alike that as we walk through our church doors, we are all sent forth on a mission to serve our God, no matter where our paths take us. Whether we head to sporting events or family vacations or simply spend time at home with loved ones, we must build upon the teachings of our faith.

Graduates have an important message to remember, writes Julie VanSpall. We are always being “sent forth.” (Julie VanSpall photo)

For graduates of elementary, high school, and university, this message is very relevant. Young lives, with roots in the faith, are taking wing and beginning new, more independent ventures into the world. Our faith and moral standards are threatened and questioned at every turn in “real life” outside the walls of schools and churches, and we are called to live with integrity and trust in God. We don’t attend Mass and participate in Catholic communities to remain faithful only within the confines of those safe and familiar boundaries. We are always “sent forth.”

In faith, we are on a “mission of love” to which we must adhere in high school cafeterias and hallways, in university dorms and lecture halls, in workplace environments, in new relationships and in old ones, on social media, and even in grocery store line-ups. No matter where life takes us, God is with us always (see Mt 28:20). We need to be aware of His presence and spread this awareness everywhere we go.

Just as we cannot take a “vacation” from our faith during the summer break, we cannot leave our Christian identities at the door when we enter a new environment. As Canadian blogger Christy Isinger states, “Jesus doesn’t simply want us to say we’re Catholic when it’s convenient or believe what is easy to accept. He wants us to take everything He teaches, and live it out in every part of our lives. Jesus asks this knowing full well it won’t be easy for us. We will wrestle, struggle, and question, there will be hardship, suffering, rain, floods, and wind. But He promises that if our faith is built on Him and His words we will always be on solid rock.”

To the graduates of 2019, be true to your mission of love. If you move away from a faith-based school or move away from home, find a new church community. Pray each day for the wisdom, discernment, and words that only the Holy Spirit can provide. Be true to the morals and beliefs on which you were raised. Defend the voiceless. Promote peace and justice. Trust in God’s plan for you, especially when tragedies occur and disappointments arise.

Finally, remember that you are not alone. A good friend recently shared her disagreement with the well-known phrase “God only gives you what you can handle” (author unknown), stating her belief that when things feel too much for us to handle, God wants us to lean on Him. We are weak; we are human; God is our strength.

For everyone – not only graduates – summer brings endings and new beginnings. Remaining cognizant of our mission and the true Source of our strength, we can do great things in this life, as we aim to “go out and spread good news” (Angotti).