The Catholic University of America

Baccalaureate Mass Homily
May 14, 2010
The Catholic University of America
Washington, D.C.
Rev. Robert Schlageter, O.F.M., Conv.
University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry

 

A Few Words to the Class of 2010

 
  CUA Chaplain Rev. Robert Schlageter preaches the homily at the Baccalaureate Mass.
 

As I’ve been packing for my next assignment I found the sheets of paper that I used to preach to you from this pulpit four years ago. Don’t worry I’m not going to read them again.

Can you remember that day? Can you remember what you were thinking and how you felt? You were ready and not ready, excited and afraid. Some of you, probably most of you, couldn’t wait for your families to leave, some of you wanted to jump back in the car. Some parents cried a river as they drove away. I often felt like handing out boxes of Kleenex on Monroe Street and Seventh as families drove away. Some parents didn’t cry at all, go figure. That Friday afternoon four years ago was the last time we were all here together in this Church with your families. Now we are back. It seems so long ago and yet it seems like yesterday.

At first glance your circumstances might appear very similar. You were taking the next step in your life, as you are now, and some were wondering if they were up to the challenge, just like some of you are wondering now. In reality you are at a much different place. You have grown up. (Well, most of you have grown up.) You have established good friendships. Many of you are stronger in your faith. The challenges of college life have made you more confident and helped you stand on your own two feet. You know how to get the job done; if you didn’t you wouldn’t be here. Some of you still slip in under the wire, but you got the job done; you are here nonetheless.

   Related Links
 

> Baccalaureate Mass coverage

> Videos of the Commencement, Honors Convocation and Baccalaureate Mass

> Commencement news story

> Full text of Father O'Connell's Commencement address

> Commencement photos

 

You have increased the incredibly beautiful pallet of your skill set. There are so many more things you can do. You have so many more gifts to share. As we sit in this Basilica today you are no longer surrounded by your family (who will always be your greatest supporters).

Now you are seated with your friends and your future colleagues. And while you must never fool yourself into thinking that you have stopped learning, now the majority of your time will be spent sharing the gifts you have developed here at CUA. Please share them generously. Use what you have learned for the good of others. That’s what God would have you do.

Just like four years ago some of you are nervous.What happens if I don’t get the right job? What happens if I don’t know what to do? What happens … what happens … what happens if … enough already!

You have avoided the icebergs of disaster. You know how to avoid disaster. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have gotten to this place. If you see an iceberg in your future, steer around it or land on it and make something good of it.

You are ready to create. You are ready to start giving your gift. You are ready to paint your life on your canvas. Don’t freeze; don’t be afraid; start painting and if the picture is not coming out right, paint over it. That is one of the most incredible gifts of our faith. You can always start over right up until your very last breath. Go out and color the world with your skills and your dreams, paint it with your vibrant personalities, paint the world with your generous hearts. This noble task is now yours to do. You are ready.

In the first reading, the Church was faced with a dilemma. They are faced with the tragedy of Judas’ betrayal and despair. Jesus would have forgiven Judas. He forgave Peter, but Judas gave up on love. Judas was their friend and his despair and suicide must have been so difficult for them to carry.

Jesus didn’t leave them specific instructions for every possible situation yet they knew they had to fill Judas’ spot and so their very first inclination was to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. They prayed. They prayed together. They placed their need before God and waited for him to answer.

Faced with a challenge the first thing they did was to try to open themselves to the Spirit of God and God’s will. They asked themselves: What does God want. Who does God want to take Judas’ place?

As you face the challenges of life the first counsel I would offer you is to follow their example. If your job is a challenge, and your marriage is difficult, if your kid is driving you crazy (for some of you what goes around comes around), or if the world seems so unfair, don’t knee-jerk a response.

Sometimes it’s best to say nothing. We say and do such sad things when we are upset or hurt. Before you speak, pray. Open your heart to discern God’s will in your lives. That’s what the Apostles did as they chose Matthias. And that’s what all of us need to do. Every single day of our lives we have to continually discern: What does God want? What does God want? God loves us and I guarantee you that if you seek his will and follow it, your life will be so much the better for you and for everyone around you.

The second piece of advice I would share is found in the Gospel. In this passage from St. John, Jesus is saying good bye to his disciples. It is a very touching scene. Whenever it is time to say good bye there is a rush of emotion. Sometimes it’s really overwhelming.

Jesus and the Apostles have been through so much together and he loves them. He doesn’t give them a lot of rules. He simply gives them something to do… love one another as I have loved you. Love one another as I have loved you. If throughout our lives our actions are rooted in our love for God and our love for our neighbor. If everything we do is rooted in love, if we continually try to put others first, no matter how crazy things get, love will always show us the way. Love will teach us how to act. The path of love is rarely the easiest: Ask your parents. I promise you, however, it is the best possible way to live your life. If you act out of love, if you live lovingly, how can you go wrong? Love one another as I have loved you. Those were Jesus’ words to his Apostles and they are Jesus’ words to you.

Permit me a couple of words to some special people here. A word to your parents: Do you remember our conversation four years ago? There were lots of tears that night in the Great Room. I am always so inspired by your vocation as a parent. You must have gotten it right. They are here and so are you.
What a beautiful day this is for you. God gave these beautiful people to you and together you have walked to this incredible point in their lives. Thank you for all the love and support you’ve shared with your sons and daughters.

I want to thank Father O’Connell for this last chance to speak to you. It is a privilege for which I am most grateful. Father O. and I have been though a lot together. When things got difficult or when we didn’t know what to do. We’ve tried to carry each other … I’m a little heavier than he is. Thank you Father.

Class of 2010: The other day I took out my cell phone to call a woman who graduated last year. When the voice at the other end answered, without listening, the first words out of my mouth were “Caitlin, how are you?” The person responded “This isn’t Caitlin, this is Mary.” I apologized and was about to hang up when the woman on the phone yelled “You have the right number.” Confused, I continued to listen.The young woman explained Caitlin graduated last year, so Dad took her off the family plan and I got her phone on the day after graduation

I know that I am coming off the university plan soon, but I hope to keep the same number. I wouldn’t inflict my number on the new chaplain. He’d go crazy. The line is always open for you. I’d love to hear about your new adventures and successes. If things aren’t going well, it will be a privilege for me to listen. Whether it’s good news or bad, we can always pray together.

So holy ones, and wannabe holy ones, and those who don’t want to be holy at all, at least for now, on this incredible day of achievement and blessing: Write these two questions on your heart. I promise you they will serve you well.

What is God’s will for me?
How does God want me to act?

If you let these two questions guide you on your journey home to God, I promise you that you will be able to face any challenge that life throws your way and you will be able to face life’s challenges with an abundance of hope and an abundance of joy

God bless and keep you all.

Amen.
 

 

 

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