Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year (continuing) mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man (no one) has gone before.
On September 8, 1966, the original Star Trek premiered on NBC. Over the past fifty years, it has spawned seven hundred and twenty-eight episodes and movies (with a new movie being released this summer and a new TV series in production for next winter).
My family introduced me to the repeats of the exploits of Captain Kirk, Spock, and the original Enterprise warping through the galaxy on various adventures, and at the age of seven I was captivated by similar exploits of Jean-Luc Picard’s crew (Star Trek:The Next Generation). I was particularly struck by the way the crew embraced Wesley Crusher, a boy a few years older than me… and they even let him fly the ship!
With both series’, I’ve loved the adventures, the technology, and the challenges the crews of have overcome. I also appreciate the friendships among members of the crew and the way they made an effort to consider the consequences of their actions.
Perhaps because I’m in the middle of graduation & grade 8 farewell season, these themes – adventure, challenges, friendships, and future consequences – are all on my mind lately.
Over the past fourteen years, I’ve had the privilege of being involved with 34 different high school graduating classes (other than my own). Each of these classes has selected a theme for themselves… things like “The future is still unwritten” or “the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step” or “it is our destiny to attempt the impossible, to achieve great things regardless of fear” (that last one is from the book Eragon.) My own graduation theme – 18 years ago – was taken from a Madonna song “I’ll remember the strength that you gave me, now that I’m standing on my own.“
At each graduation I attend, I listen to grade 12 students try to express their excitement at stepping into the next part of their story while the rest of us – particularly parents and teachers – attempt to point the graduates towards that amazing next. We know that, as has been the case for each of us, there are going to be tremendous successes and epic failures alike – which is why the true measure of success in adulthood is less about how much you earn or achieve than about who you become.
The secret of Star Trek was that the USS Enterprise was a vehicle on two levels. Obviously, it was the fictional vehicle that took Captains Kirk, Picard, et al on their weekly adventures. But it was also the metaphorical vehicle which helped these iconic characters grow beyond their uniforms – grow in friendship, rise above challenges, and – in what may have been most important to series creator Gene Rodenberry – give us a vision of humanity that went well beyond our own lived experience. Star Trek always carried with it a hope that we would be able to move beyond some of the hatred and selfishness which seem to so often mar the world around us – and bring that sense of hope and peace to the galaxy. These crews seemed to understand – each in their own way – that their own measure of success had less to do with what they accomplished and more with who they became.
When we look at our graduates, this is precisely what we hope for them. We want to see them grow in friendship, rise above challenges, and leaving a lasting mark on our world. Just as it was for the crew of the Enterprise, each graduate has a chance to bring a sense of hope and peace to those around them.
But being a graduate of a Catholic school brings with it something more. Students from Catholic schools shouldn’t enter life only carrying hopes to travel, study, work, get married & have kids, etc. We pray that they would recognize that there’s an opportunity to allow God to stamp even more into that future. If students graduating from Catholic schools boldly went into life knowing in their heart of hearts that they are loved by God, they’d accomplish far more than any fictional Star Trek crew could. Pope Francis wrote that “We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being… if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?”
To all graduates – particularly those from Gerard Redmond, Saint Mary, and St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Schools – I pray that you know this love, that you let God bring you beyond yourselves into the fullest truth of your being, and that you boldly wherever He leads you.