Being a predecessor means leaving something for those who follow. Being a predecessor to another, as well as following those who come before, is part of being human. Any good human being learns from his mentors and goes as far as that mentor will take him and then takes a step without the mentor and journeys alone – or follows a different mentor. Virgil could only take Dante through Purgatory, Beatrice through most of Paradise, and Bernard to the highest region of Paradise.

Being a predecessor means self-sacrifice – caring more about the happiness of another than oneself. Beatrice had to descend in order to bring Dante up. A mentor must want the mentee to exceed him. The mentor must desire nothing more than a footnote in the story of the mentee’s life. Both the mentor and the mentee are main characters in the story of their own life – the mentor was once a mentee and has turned around and now helps those below him rise up. Likewise the mentee, when he reaches the stage of mentor, must help those below him and push them even farther then he has gone. If he does not do this, he is a wicked mentor, or no mentor at all.

There is no clear transition from mentee to mentor – all people are both mentees and mentors simultaneously. All people are both learning and teaching; which, oddly enough, means that a good mentor also learns from his mentee. There is not a one-way flow of wisdom and understanding. Wisdom does not pour from one person into another, but rather begins with the fear of God and never ends, always increasing. Jesus is everyone’s mentor – only he can lead one to the Father. He is our example of self-sacrifice and love and because of his love, we can go farther than ever thought possible; we can become children of God.

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