January 28, 2022

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

The story of a fork and what it holds for high school seniors regarding their future

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson greets a student after the annual Archdiocesan High School Senior Mass on Dec. 1, 2021, at St. Malachy Church in Brownsburg. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson greets a student after the annual Archdiocesan High School Senior Mass on Dec. 1, 2021, at St. Malachy Church in Brownsburg. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

As strange as it may seem, a story about a fork captivated high school seniors from across the archdiocese, giving them a sense of the promising future that awaits them.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson shared the story during his homily at the annual Archdiocesan High School Senior Mass on Dec. 1 at St. Malachy Church in Brownsburg.

The story involves a woman who was meeting with a priest to plan her funeral. The woman told the priest about all the details she had made, including the readings and the music she wanted for her funeral Mass. Then she hesitated before she asked the priest about the last detail she wanted.

“She finally said, ‘It’s going to sound odd, but I have one more request,’ ” the archbishop told the nearly 1,000 seniors from 11 Catholic high schools across central and southern Indiana. “He said, ‘What’s that?’ She said, ‘I want a small fork placed in my coffin.’ He said, ‘May I ask why?’

“She said, ‘When I was a little girl, when we would go to nice restaurants, you would have the salad fork and the regular dinner fork, and there would be the knife and the spoon. Then above the plate, there would be this small fork. I learned over time that when I saw the small fork, there was going to be dessert. Every time I got to a restaurant, I looked for that small fork. I always knew when I saw that small fork, the best was yet to come.’

“She said, ‘I want the small fork in my coffin to represent my belief, my faith that the best is yet to come.’ ”

After pausing for a moment to let the story sink in, Archbishop Thompson told the seniors, “The best in your lives is yet to come. We as Catholics, as Christians, as people of God, as much as we hope, God is going to provide us with an abundance beyond what we can wholly imagine. The best is yet to come.

“Whether you’re at a high or a low in your life, whatever it is, always remember that the best is yet to come. This Eucharist points to that reality for us. Jesus giving us his body and his blood so that we might have life everlasting.”

During his homily, Archbishop Thompson also turned the seniors’ focus to the theme of a mountain, as that was the setting for both readings that day—Is 25:6-10a and Mt 15:29-37.

“In Scripture, the mountain is an important symbol. When the Scriptures tell us about mountains, it’s a way of telling us that something very important is going to happen,” the archbishop said. “It’s on the mountain where people bring Jesus the lame, the blind, the mute, the deformed, and he heals them. It’s on the mountain that he feeds this multitude because he’s moved with compassion.

“Mountains are important, and your senior year is a mountain moment. Think back to when you first came to your school as a freshman. You must have been anxious, a little nervous. Now, you’re at the top of the mountain in your high school. Enjoy it. In a few months, you’ll come back down. And there will be other mountains.”

The archbishop encouraged the seniors to keep reaching for the mountain experiences throughout their lives. He also encouraged them to take advantage throughout their lives of the mountain experience that Christ has made possible.

“For us as Catholics, the Eucharist is our mountain here on Earth. It’s the peak for us. The Church calls the eucharistic celebration the source and summit of our identity and our mission as Catholics. Every ministry, every service, everything we do and say should draw from and flow back to this mountain, this experience.

“Throughout your lives, the rest of your high school year, whatever you do, never stop climbing the mountain. Never stop bringing your needs, your hopes, your fears, your anxieties, your joys to the mountain of the Eucharist. To be nourished, to be fed, to keep climbing to the next mountain, remembering all that Jesus promises, that the best is yet to come.”

During Communion, receiving the Eucharist was embraced by many of the seniors from the 11 high schools: Bishop Chatard, Brebeuf Jesuit, Cardinal Ritter, Cathedral, Father Michael Shawe Memorial, Father Thomas Scecina, Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Providence, Providence Cristo Rey, Roncalli and Seton Catholic.

After the Mass, several students shared that the archbishop’s homily touched them.

“I really liked the story about the woman and the fork,” said Tyler Wuestefeld, a senior at Oldenburg Academy in Oldenburg and a member of St. Michael Parish in Brookville. “It really spoke to me that the best is really to come.”

“I really liked the way he talked about the mountaintop,” said Mercedes Benjamin, a senior at Our Lady of Providence and a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, both in Clarksville. “Senior year is one of our mountains, but there are better things to come in life and through God. Our goal in life is to reach heaven, and we should always keep that in mind.”

“I really liked that while it may seem we are at the top now, we have other things waiting for us,” said Alyssa Wanstrath, a senior at Oldenburg Academy and a member of St. Louis Parish in Batesville. “There’s nothing here on Earth that will be our high point more than eternal life.” †


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