Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., gave the following homily during Baccalaureate Masses for the Class of 2016:
My dear friends, especially the graduating class of 2016: You are about to graduate from a Catholic high school. In all the excitement that surrounds this great event in your lives, the Lord has put so much before your minds and hearts to celebrate.
That’s why we begin Commencement at Mass, the most important prayer of the Church. We call Mass the “Holy Eucharist,” a word that means “thanksgiving.” Gratitude fills our minds and hearts tonight. And it should.
Graduation is a rite of passage, a moment in your young lives when you mark the end of four years of high school and the beginning of a new chapter in your lives. You leave behind you your childhood only to strike out on your own as young adults. Throughout your lives, the Lord has spoken to you often: through your parents, your teachers, your friends and your Church. You have been told what to do and have been given many words of instruction and advice how to do it. Now it is up to you.
Yes, we will all continue to be a part of your lives and we will continue to give you advice. But no more bells. No one to wake you up for college. No one to tell you get your homework done, to get going. Now you must take those important responsibilities and make them your own. But before you do, let me take you back to the beginning.
When you were born, your parents brought you to Church for your Baptism. The Lord spoke to you through them, inviting you to become a member of a larger family, the Christian family that is the Church. At your Baptism, your parents and godparents made promises for you to bring you up in the Catholic faith, to teach you the Catholic faith, to help you live your Catholic faith. They, like the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, believed that the Lord’s words spoken to you through them would be fulfilled. And they brought you to Church, to Catholic school, to Confession, to Mass, to help you make those same promises for yourself in Confirmation.
In each of those things and all of the moments in between, the Lord has spoken to you and fulfilled his word. This is your faith, the faith you bring to this Church tonight as you prepare for graduation.
As you celebrate graduation, don’t lose sight of all those things: all that has been in your life and the great sacrifices your parents made to bring you to this moment. And as you celebrate, pray tonight that the Lord will stay with you and help you take your faith into a happy, healthy and wonderful future. And continue to believe that what the Lord has spoken to you will be fulfilled.
The world is a big place and the future is uncertain. But your faith is NOT uncertain. It is true and it will carry you through all the uncertain moments that the future lays out before you. God goes with you and your faith will make you strong, able to handle whatever comes your way. Do not forget God. Do not forget your faith and all that you have learned about it. Do not abandon for any reason what the Lord has spoken, offered, promised and fulfilled in your lives so far.
Whether you go to college or some other path, take your faith with you. Go to Mass. Receive the Sacraments of Confession and Communion. Remember your Confirmation promises to God and his Church. Do all these things, even though there is no one who tells you to. Do all these things, even though you will meet people who tell you not to bother. Don’t believe them. They do not know the truth or, worse, they don’t care about it. Believe that the Lord’s words spoken to you will be fulfilled.
Your graduation will mean many things. But, most importantly, it means that it is now up to you. Go forth with God as your guide and your faith as your path through life.