I’d like to suggest something that can be of great help however and wherever God leads you next: Learn to cook.
Congratulations, graduates, you're on your way! Whether leaving high school, college, graduate or trade school -- you have worked hard and achieved much! Parents, friends, family, God and even strangers are smiling (and, perhaps, sighing with relief). And on many onlookers' minds is, undoubtedly, a question:
Perhaps you have a well-planned answer to the question, now. Or, perhaps, you're still a bit unsure.
Either way, I'd like to suggest something that can be of great help however and wherever God leads you next: Learn to cook.
Practically speaking, the ability to prepare good food is important for our health, finances and families now and to come. Self-prepared, fresh foods carry a powerful nutritional punch, and being able to share what we make is one of the blessings of the earth's abundance and our care.
There's also a wonderful feeling of satisfaction when we are able to enjoy the fruits of our labors. And making our own food eliminates costs such as delivery fees -- important considerations today!
But beyond the tangible benefits, there's another way to consider the art and science of learning to cook (and cook well). Cooking is a splendid metaphor for how we live.
The "ingredients" we invite into our lives, the way we balance all of them and bring them to our work, relationships and faith life, is a kind of culinary practice. Food for the journey, nourishment for our souls, what's cooking throughout our days helps us understand and nurture the fullness of our journey, ultimately, to God.
"Ingredients" might be the people we befriend, the relationships we nurture, the things that occupy our time, including prayer and other faith practices, exercise and time spent listening to others. They are also the experiences we allow into our days through travel, exploration and play, and those challenges that occur, whether personal or professional, that certainly have an impact.
Assembling all the ingredients and understanding their importance to living well, a good and faithful life, is part of the "cooking" process. The care in preparation includes how we spend our time, the attention we give to good and uplifting or self-giving acts, for example, of charity.
All along the way, our fine-tuning with the assistance of prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, helps us balance the ingredients, mindful of the need to not be overwhelmed by one and neglect another. A life "to taste" is one that supports our physical, emotional and spiritual selves so that we are ever able to continue well, with joy and purpose.
Of course, as happens with making a favorite dish (or even a routine snack), sometimes ingredients might not be readily available. We might find that our best-laid plans are derailed by the absence of opportunity or circumstances beyond our life's grocery list. Thinking of cooking helps here, too.
Versatility, the kind that finds alternatives so as to keep on track, is part of the skills we develop as we put together a meal. We learn from experience what works, and we take good advice from loved ones, mentors and faith leaders so that we continue to be inspired, encouraged and faith filled.
Sometimes, challenges might arise that completely upend the carefully assembled ingredients and plans you graduates, indeed all of us, have gathered. Yet, we of faith, looking to Scripture, know one ingredient of them all is constant, never going stale, never vanishing from our hearts.
Jesus, the bread of life (Jn 6:35), is always present, and in the sacraments, especially Eucharist and reconciliation, we are sustained. We move ahead with joy to that ultimate meal, a heavenly banquet!
- Maureen Pratt is a columnist with the Catholic News Service.