In his commencement Mass homily, Fr. Dustin Vu noted that one of the emotions around commencement is grief. Much that we love is passing away.
A few minutes later, as the graduates who chose to attend the liturgy were blessed, his point was poignantly illustrated.
The graduates stood on the steps before the altar of the Chapel of Mercy and were quiet as the congregation blessed them. Then, as three campus ministers handed each a red rose and the congregation and choir sang a song of blessing, broad smiles broke out. They had made it.
Yet, as the song went on, the smiles faded, like a cut rose aging over a week’s time. As a group, the graduates were getting a bit chocked up, corners of eyes glistening.
Well, we all know that tears aren’t always tragic and can be a relief. And grief is the price we have to pay for loving a place that we know we must leave—and the near tears that I saw seemed of the healthy variety, a passing sadness over leaving a home and launching into the world, not the all-consuming heart-rending cries of agony over a life tragedy, not a thunderstorm of emotion. At best a gentle rain, and for most graduates, a mere clouding of the sky, not enough moisture to count even as a sprinkle would.
It felt right and fitting. We don’t want to hold on too long—when it’s time to go, it’s time to go—but a final farewell does include its small portion of grief.
Well, graduates, no doubt for many there will be more waterworks this afternoon, when graduation finally happens. After that is the best party of the year on the MMU hill, the post-commencement picnic which is one of my favorite traditions.