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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

May 19, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 31




Sister Rita Larivee Celebrating spring rites of passage

Sister Rita Larivee, SSA, NCR associate publisher

Within the United States, May is a month full of ritual and tradition. Each weekend is packed with graduation ceremonies, First Holy Communion celebrations, confirmation commitments, and even the commemoration of motherhood. We love to celebrate. It's part of what makes us human.

But these aren't just any celebrations. They are rites of passage and new beginnings. More than other occasions, these gatherings are shaped by years, generations, and millennia of unspoken meaning and authority that only the gathered community can give.

A single person, standing alone, cannot have a graduation. Only the community can confirm upon another the status of graduate. It cannot be done alone.

A single person cannot receive First Holy Communion. As the gospel says, at least two must be gathered; it's about community. The emphasis is on receiving, not taking. It cannot be done alone.

And there is no such thing as self-imposed confirmation. The commitment to the call of the gospel is an act of public witness to the community. It cannot be done alone.

Even motherhood is never about a single person. It is true that there are many broken homes and unwanted pregnancies, but nonetheless, motherhood is the seminal relationship that forms the foundation for community life itself.

Relatives and friends we haven't seen for years show up for graduations and confirmations (and certainly for weddings). These special rituals and traditions are opportunities for us to gather as family as if time stood still. For a moment, past grievances are forgotten, estrangements do not exist, and conversations flow.

Tell me if I'm wrong, but there's a power in these celebrations that goes far beyond what words alone are able to express.

Life is hard. Each of us has known disappointment, and many have known despair. Yet, within the mystery of what it means to be members of the global community, the church, and the Body of Christ, we are given the gift of life through the celebration and honoring of individuals around us.

Few moments are as refreshing as gazing upon the faces of graduates as they cross the stage and get their diploma, or the smile on children's faces as they receive Holy Communion for the first time, or the delight of an awkward teenager who dresses up to say, "Yes, I'm ready to be an adult and do my part."

There's a power in these occasions that simpler occasions simply cannot command.

We need rituals and we need traditions. Not to be held hostage to the past, but as bridges to new life and new hope. We certainly need it.

So the next time you get an invitation to one of these events, if possible, say "yes."

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