I congratulate you and your families, the graduates of 2018. I thank the faculty for educating you, forming you and helping you to begin the next step in your lives. This is a big step with many challenges but I am sure you are ready.
“All changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.” These are the opening lines of a poem by William Butler Yeats. After four years of Catholic education, you too have changed. The world has changed, life has changed, a terrible beauty is born. Terrible is not a word that we like to use too often. Terrible does not have a good connotation in context. But Mr. Yates use of the phrase, a terrible beauty is born, brings to mind more hope and determination that life and our world can change for the better.
On Valentine’s Day this year in South Florida, 17 students lost their lives in a tragic event at a high school. The surviving students rallied together to bring awareness that all life matters, especially the lives of high school students. These students petitioned Tallahassee and Washington that laws had to change and the lives of students do matter. High school students across the nation rallied in support that students’ lives do matter.
Change comes slowly; but, change does come eventually. World War I and World War II were two of the most horrific events of the last century. These two events were a wake-up call to the Church because the Church had no response to these two horrific events of war and destruction. The Church could not stand by idly and witness this death and destruction. Vatican II told Catholics they could no longer be complacent in their faith. Christianity was not just rules and laws to be obeyed – nor truths just to be believed; no, Christianity must be grounded on a solid foundation. Christianity is a relationship with a person and that person is Jesus Christ.
Thomas Merton, a survivor of these wars, wrote in his autobiography, A Seven Storey Mountain, “Ultimately faith is the only key to the universe. The final meaning of human existence and the answer to the questions which all our happiness depends cannot be found in any other way.” Thomas Merton transformed his life from an unbeliever to a believer in a relationship with Jesus Christ. J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, acclaimed there is one great thing to love in your life, it is Jesus Christ and His presence – especially in the Eucharist. There he said, “You will find romance, glory, honor, fidelity, and the true way of all your loves on earth.”
Today many have lost a sense of the Mystery. Science and technology have become our goals or even our gods. Life is not just made up of scientific problems to be solved or proven. Our thoughts, our dreams, our emotions – philosophy, poetry, music, literature and religion – all have something to offer and to say about life that is not scientific. History has taught us that these arts have contributed to the world and they should not be dismissed as useless, archaic or even just superstitious.
Pope Saint John Paul II wrote, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know and love God.” You need faith and reason to survive. Faith is not opposed to science. In fact, some of the greatest scientists were people of faith. The father of genetics was a priest by the name of Gregor Mendel. The Big Bang was first proposed by Fr. Georges Lemaître.
You are the products of Catholic education: of scholarship, artistic achievement, reason and science. Most especially you are a product of an ethos of Peace, Hope and Love, you are a gift of God. You can make a difference, All changed, change utterly, a terrible beauty will be born.