An open letter to those with a new diploma

By Father David Mercer

Guest Columnist

North Texas Catholic


Dear Graduate,

Congratulations on being “officially intelligent.” You have a diploma to prove that you are, signed by people in the know. If someone doubts your intelligence, you need only to point to the diploma.

You likely hear about pursuing your dreams, leaving your mark, following your bliss. In a culture that emphasizes the individual and finding your own truth, rare is the message that speaks of God already having given your life a purpose.

People often do not want to be thought of as religious, and some scoff at religious language. However, religion – good religion – leads people to do something wonderful with their lives.

God calls you to do something wonderful with your life. Perhaps you need more time to hear what God calls you to do, but, when you hear God’s voice, you will have discovered your vocation.

St. Paul, from prison, wrote to the early Christians in Ephesus to be aware of their vocation: I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received [4:1]. So, I offer you the following words from some religious people about being called by God, about having a vocation.

Bono is the lead singer with the longtime popular group, U2. Beyond concerts and recording studios, he commits his energy to world poverty and AIDS, and he uses both his celebrity and his faith to support such causes.

In 2006, Bono spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, of what a wise person told him about being called by God:

“A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I was saying, … I have a new song, look after it? I have a family, please look after them …. I have this crazy idea

“And this wise man said: ‘Stop!’ He said, ‘Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing – because it’s already blessed.’ Well, God … is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing. And that is what he’s calling us to do.”

Peggy Noonan, columnist and former Presidential speechwriter, in her book, John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father, admires the former pope’s respect for the work people do. She knows that all work has a religious meaning:

“Our work is a vocation to which we have been called from the beginning of time. When we work we are partaking in and joining with God’s ongoing creation of the world.”

Cardinal John Newman (1801-1890) wrote of how everyone has a personal mission, a call from God on how to spend one’s life with a sense of purpose. His words are worth making your own:

“God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments.”

Before Archbishop Oscar Romero (1917-1980) of El Salvador was assassinated, he spoke on the radio of God calling everyone to a common priesthood of all who are baptized:

“How beautiful will be the day when all the baptized understand that their work, their job, is a priestly work, that just as I celebrate Mass at this altar, so each carpenter celebrates Mass at his workbench, and each metalworker, each professional, each doctor with the scalpel, the market woman at her stand, is performing a priestly office! How many cabdrivers, I know, listen to this message there in their cabs; you are a priest at the wheel, my friend, if you work with honesty, consecrating that taxi of yours to God, bearing a message of peace and love to the passengers who ride in your cab.”

In a recent homily, Pope Francis said: “Commit yourselves to great ideals, to the most important things. We Christians were not chosen by the Lord for little things; push onwards toward the highest principles. Stake your lives on noble ideals.”

To sum up, you have a purpose. You have a mission. You have a vocation.

Sincerely, in Christ,

Fr. Dave Mercer
Five Wounds Church
San José, California


Congratulations on being “officially intelligent.” You have a diploma to prove that you are, signed by people in the know. If someone doubts your intelligence, you need only to point to the diploma.