Graduates in five diocesan Catholic high schools attended Baccalaureate Masses as the school year drew to a close. School faculty recognized valedictorians and other students who emulate characteristics of the likes of Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Francis of Assisi. Bishop John Noonan spoke of the need for courageous faith to make a difference in the world.
Noting changes the graduates endured over the past four years, Bishop Noonan recalled the opening words of a poem by William Butler Yates, “All changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born.” He explained, “Terrible is not a word that we like to use too often. Terrible does not have a good connotation in context. 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.”
Melbourne Catholic High School student Alisha H. shared her testimony and revealed the great transformation that can come from pain. Alisha grew up in an abusive home and explained she only knew the 10 commandments and the story of Adam and Eve. She felt convicted a sinner. That is, until she and her siblings went to live with their aunt and uncle. Alisha began Catholic school and discovered the love that heals all wounds, Jesus Christ. “Only God can transform a God-fearing fifth grader with split ends and hair parted down the middle into the person who stands before you today,” she said in an essay she read during Mass. She emphasized Catholic education introduced her “to a God whose law is of love and forgiveness.”
Trinity Catholic High School student John S. echoed that sentiment, “I discovered the words of St. Paul and decided to model my life based on his words, ‘Pray without ceasing.’ My life goal is to glorify God.” His school’s faith-filled environment awakened within him the multi-faceted beauty of a life lived with and through God.
As the students prepare to embark on a new phase of their lives, the bishop asked that they not get lost solely in the pursuit of scientific answers. “Today many have lost a sense of the mystery. Science and technology have become our goals or even our gods,” he noted. “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.” He added, “Change comes slowly; but, change does come eventually… You need faith and reason to survive.”
That notion rings true for Florence S., another Trinity Catholic student. She spoke of “falling in love with the profound poems of St. John of the Cross” and how her various studies, from the Patristic Fathers to Gospel narratives and the contemplative writings of Thomas Merton have “continually fueled my passion for Theology.”
Just as Bishop Noonan stated, “You can make a difference,” Melbourne Central Catholic High School student A.J. L, bore testimony to the power of change through Christ. A.J. spoke of growing up in the Philippines, making bad choices, but discovering the love of God when he came to the U.S. and worked hard for a fresh start. The love shown to him in school filled him with humility. “We live in a very polarized and divided world. At times, it may feel dark, however, do not let anything stand in the way of the light that shines from you. We can play the game, fight the battles that come our way… but to find real peace, we have to let our armor fall. Risk being vulnerable, and do not be afraid to serve others. All I know is that, as St. Francis said, ‘it is in giving that we receive’, so I hope you all receive more than you ever bargained for.”
Bishop Noonan left the graduates with these final prayerful thoughts, “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.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic – May 24, 2018