I am dedicating my weekly blog post to the young people and children of our parish. At the beginning of this new school year, I want to speak directly to all the students, whether you are in college, high school, or elementary school. While you concentrate your efforts on several life tasks at this stage in your life, I wish to propose one important task as your main priority.
The first priority all of us have is to know and love God. As such, at all phases of your life you should make great effort to engage with your faith and nurture your relationship with God. You need to get to know Jesus personally and grow in your friendship with Him. You have to take care of your body and learn healthy habits. You must cultivate a strong relationship with your parents and with your siblings. You need to develop social skills and civic responsibility so that you can be a productive member of society and a proud citizen.
Over and above all these, you need to pay particular attention to the one task that is unique to this stage in your life. I am talking about academics. All of you are students and your parents spend enormous amount of time and money to get you educated either in a public or in a private school. Even as you pursue interests such as sports and music, you should make academics your priority. You want to do your best as a student. The development of your intellectual abilities should absorb the majority of your time and efforts. There are several reasons why I am suggesting that academics should be the first concern at this stage in your life.
First of all, it is during these years of learning – especially in elementary and high school – that you learn the basic skills that you will use the rest of your life. For instance, it is in the early years of our lives that we master language skills. I am appalled when I receive emails or letters from well-educated adults and they contain spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. As you know, English was not my first language. I started learning English when I was about ten. I am grateful to my teachers who helped me through my struggles with the use of prepositions or idioms. The math skills that we master in these years will be useful all through our lives.
Second, as a student you discover your interests and aptitudes that will chart the course of your lives. Little boys and girls realize that they have a passion for science or engineering, for language or art as they discover their world. The more you study the beautiful universe that God created, the better you will be able to find your life path. It is imperative that during your school years you expose yourself to many avenues of knowledge. Being Americans, you have the luxury of choosing any career later in life, but that choice will be made more meaningfully if you know more about more things.
Third, thanks to globalization the work world has become fiercely competitive. Earlier generations did not face a threat from workers in other parts of the world and their jobs were quite secure. It is not so any more. Children and young people in other parts of the world are spending majority of their young lives studying. When I speak to the students in our Catholic school, I often warn them about Indian kids waiting to take their jobs. It is not a joke. For instance, India has lifted herself out of poverty and created a viable middle class because of outsourcing which was made possible by that country’s emphasis on education.
Fourth, it is education that made America strong. In particular our capacity for innovation and research gave us an edge over the rest of the world and made us number one. If you look at the list of Nobel Prize winners over several decades, particularly in physics, chemistry and medicine, you will notice that the majority are Americans. Over the last century, America has been number one because we paid great attention to science and engineering. However, since the 1980s not many American young people have opted to study the sciences. I would like to encourage all of you, especially the young women, to dedicate yourself to science. If God has given you the desire and the capacity, consider becoming a scientist or an engineer.
Finally, here is the spiritual reason to make academics your priority. It is also the most compelling. When we are born, God gives us certain talents and gifts. Every gift comes with responsibility. He also grants us opportunities which children in other parts of the world do not have. When He gives us these gifts, He expects us to develop them and to use them for the benefit of all His children. It is during our student years that we cultivate our intellect. We cannot afford to be distracted from this prime concern.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that you should not play sports, learn a musical instrument or engage in other extra-curricular activities. I am convinced that all of us should become well-rounded personalities. I am only suggesting that during these formative years you should strive to be the best student you can be. When you will stand before God at the end of your life, you should be able to say that did your best.
Have a great school year! When I look back, some of my best years were my student years.
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...