The season of graduations is upon us. Across the diocese commencement exercises are being held for students in kindergarten, primary school, middle school, grammar school, high school, college, and graduate school. It is a happy occasion for the graduates and for their families who are proud of the achievement of their children.
One of the beautiful traditions in our Catholic high schools is to celebrate a baccalaureate Mass at which the graduates, faculty, administration, parents and guardians pray together prior to the academic commencement exercise. There is no more powerful prayer than the offering of the Holy Eucharist, the Mystery of Faith. It is a prayer of petition, praise and thanksgiving to God. This Mass is an opportunity to pray for the graduates, asking God’s blessings on them and their future.
In the past week I was honored to be the celebrant and offer Mass for the graduating class of each of our six diocesan Catholic high schools. This provided me an occasion to speak with the graduates through the homily, some of which I repeat here in print.
Could I ask that if a public or private high school graduate is known to you that you give them this column? It is a message that can benefit them and their future.
In late April our Holy Father, Pope Francis, conducted in Rome a Jubilee Year of Mercy event for teenagers. About 100,000 teenagers from around the world gathered with the Successor of Saint Peter the Apostle who addressed them. Here is some of what he said:
“The Lord is always with you. He calls you to follow Him, to put out into the deep.” Pope Francis encouraged the young people to know that Christ journeys with them. “You are not alone. Never. Ever. God is with you.” These words can be very assuring for a young person who is about to embark in a new direction, perhaps away from home for the first time. The Holy Father reminded them, “You are not alone.” To which he added, “The Lord is happy to be with you.” This is a comforting truth that our young people need to hear and to realize.
The Holy Father continued, “Happiness is not an app that you can download on your phones nor will the latest update help you become free and great. A person’s happiness has no price and cannot be bought.” Another wise insight into life and its challenges from a very wise man.
He also spoke to them about the longing for freedom that many young people feel. The Pope’s words, “Freedom does not mean doing whatever you want. You have to be able to say no. If you do not know how to say no, then you are not free. The person who is free is she or he who knows how to say yes and how to say no.” This is very powerful advice from the Pope. He is teaching youth that they must make their lives beautiful for God, especially by how they handle freedom and the choices it provides. Making correct choices is critical for the spiritual and human growth of our young people.
These words of counsel from Pope Francis to young people are right on target. He knows the issues that young people face and he knows that faith in God can assist and encourage young people in their journeys through life.
Congratulations, Graduates. Keep in mind that God is with you and follow Pope Francis’ advice: “make courageous decisions to choose what is pleasing to God, even if it requires effort.” God bless the Class of 2016.