ORLANDO | It is a far cry from the dismal outcome just one year ago when schools held pre-recorded Baccalaureate Masses and all senior activities were cancelled because of COVID-19. Although most graduations remained outdoors, socially distanced with attendees in masks, this year’s celebrations of Mass are back in churches and in person. Bishop John Noonan addressed the importance of rituals, quoting Socrates, the prophet Jeremiah, St. Iranaeus and the evangelist Matthew, among others.
Using New York Times columnist David Brooks’ commentary on ritual as a source point, Bishop John Noonan quoted, “Ceremonies honor what has taken place, but ritual is a sequence of actions that symbolically walk you through the inner change the new life will require … Rituals also force a pause.” For the past year, ceremonies and rituals looked different and were certainly paused. Standing before various senior classes throughout the diocese, he said, “Today’s Baccalaureate Mass is not just a ceremony; but a ritual asking us to pause and to reflect, to be more intentional about your life and your questions about the future.” He urged the seniors to examine their origins and look to their future adding Catholic education “is about educating the total person; the mind, the body and the spirit.” He noted the Mass as “is one of the oldest and most sacred of rituals” of Catholics thanking God for all that is given them.
Calling to mind the Word made flesh in the Eucharist, he told them everything done during the Mass was in remembrance of Jesus and Jesus calls them to be saints and heroes. Acknowledging these did not have superpowers, he noted their unanimous power to help others, to be a light unto the world because their belief in Christ wrought strength.
Trinity Catholic High School valedictorian, Hannah R., had this to say during her baccalaureate speech: “One thing I believe us (seniors) to be very good at is adapting… Because we have the one thing with us that remains when everything else passes away: our faith. Whether you know it or not, there is someone with you in every spontaneous moment, in every unsure step you take. The Lord is with us, faithful through our mistakes, giving us the strength to keep moving forward when everyone else tells us no.”
Bishop Noonan reminded the graduates, “With God all things are possible in life. Let go and let God lead and guide you.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, May 25, 2021