Graduation Day

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director of Priests for Life
April 24, 2000

My high school graduation is one of my most pleasant memories. It was a bright, sunny day in 1976. We were the "Bicentennial" class. I was privileged to address my fellow graduates, and I had been advised not to speak of any "controversial" issues. I didn't. Though it was a public school, I spoke of God, faith, and service in my remarks.

But that was also the year I became more aware of the "controversial issue" that had exploded just three years earlier with the Roe vs. Wade abortion decision. If I knew then what I know now, my speech would have been about abortion, no matter what "advice" anyone may have given me.

Several years ago, I came across a story of a graduating class which dedicated its yearbook to all the students who would have been graduating that year had they not been killed -- by abortion. How fitting a tribute that is. Other graduating classes have paid tribute to their abortion victims by a moment of prayer at the Baccalaureate mass or at the graduation ceremony.

And why not? Suppose that a tragedy took the lives of some of the graduating class just days or weeks before graduation. Would there not be a mention or a tribute at the ceremony? Why, then, should the victims who died longer ago be forgotten? It is not, after all, the timing of the death that matters, but the value of the life.

If you look at the website of the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a research division of Planned Parenthood, you will see its report of 1.37million abortions in a single year in the United States. If you find another single act or disaster that claims that many lives in our country alone in a single year, please let me know about it.

It's graduation time again. I'll be happily recalling my own, and I'll be praying for all graduates at all different grade levels in the Class of 2000. It is my fervent hope that students everywhere will take the initiative to remember aborted classmates.

Some, of course, will object to inserting such a "negative" theme into a happy day.

Yes, life is tough, isn't it?…It's all mixed up with happiness and sadness, joy and tragedy. Are significant moments in our lives supposed to be insulated from all awareness of injustice? Are we to rejoice with those who rejoice, but not weep with those who weep?

To be willing to face sadness when the victims were born, but unwilling to do so when the victims died before birth, is another sign of the deep-rooted prejudice against the unborn in our society. But a new generation of young people who have survived that prejudice are now taking their places and preparing to be the future leaders. That gives us hope. Isn't that what Graduation Day is all about?

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