Last weekend, my sister graduated from her master’s program at Marquette University, and I insisted on coming down to Milwaukee for the celebration. As I guess is common at large universities, the ceremony took place in two parts: part one, held at the Bradley Center in the morning, was a ceremony for everyone, while part two, held after a break for lunch, was where the University split into its various colleges and did the actual reading of the names. “Most of my classmates are only going to the afternoon part,” my sister told me, “but I want to go to the morning part because they’ve got a graduation speaker that sounds really interesting.” She didn’t have to do much convincing to get me to come along. Since both my sister and I studied abroad in separate South American countries, and both of us were aware of the works of the School of the Americas, just knowing that Sister Margaret “Peggy” O’Neill, S.C. had worked for years in El Salvador was enough to get me interested, too.
I was not disappointed. Sister Peggy delivered a brisk and energetic 25 minute speech that was packed with meaning. (You can watch the whole speech here. Sister Peggy takes the podium at 44:33. The student speaker also did a commendable job, so stay for her as well.) It might have been a whole week before Pentecost, but sister was on fire with the Holy Spirit. You could say she gives new meaning to the phrase “fiery orator!” This fire was actually one of the first things that she addressed, reminding us that our own personal fire was the only thing that was unique to us and that we were uniquely responsible for cultivating. A stand out resume is a cold comfort, she says, when we run into trials. At that point, we need a cared-for soul and people that we love and that love us.
I’ve used her most striking quote as the title of this post: “I don’t want to die before the last day of my life.” This simple sentence hit me like an emotional anvil. In thinking about it, I recall the times when, a little tired from a jam-packed week, I’ve said to myself, “just get through the day” as I went off to work. Even if I still put in an honest day’s work, wasn’t there something not fully alive in my approach? I also thought of the times that I’ve joked about letting myself go once I hit my mid-60s. At 76, Sr. Peggy was insistent that there was still more to learn, that she was still trying to become “a more human Peggy.” I recall the words that Bishop Sklba said at my confirmation: “if you do not live up to your full potential, then you are creating a hole in the universe that even God cannot fill.” Apparently, there is no point when a committed Catholic can really let hirself go!
I am thankful for this “spiritual dynamite” that puts me in constant discernment of the best course for my life. As you wrap up Easter, how do you let the Holy Spirit move you?