In most graduation ceremonies through-out America, graduates and teachers walk down the aisle together, capped and gowned as a sign of great achievement. This home schooling graduation ceremony is different. Yes, the students come on stage, and there is no doubt that their achievements are wonderful. Yet, the teachers, the most important teachers—you homeschooling parents, remain there in the audience.
I want you to know, as I look out into this audience today, I am looking at some of the best teachers in America. You don’t need to take my word for it. You can take the word of Pope Francis. Just a few days ago, Pope Francis stood up to powerfully defend the rights of parents. After lamenting that so-called “educational experts” have taken over the proper role of parents, he concluded his remarks by saying:
“It is time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile and to fully resume their educational role.”
God bless Pope Francis!
Dear parents, what is exile? Exile means to be away from home. But every one of you parents chose a better way for your children. You brought them home. God bless you for that. You have made today possible and achieved a beautiful task.
And God bless you graduates. It is impossible to look at you without being overcome by hope. Years ago, Saint Pope John Paul II assured us that a new springtime was coming for the church. Amidst all the troubles and sadness of this world, that springtime can be difficult to see. But not today. Today, I see the springtime of the church in the faces of you graduates. Today, I understand what Saint Pope John Paul II was talking about. He was talking about you.
Today, we are entering the time of Pentecost, when the Church celebrates the Holy Spirit and His Gift of Tongues. This was given so the apostles could reach the hearts and minds of others with the teachings of Jesus Christ. On that first Pentecost, the sound of wind like a tornado drew hundreds of people through the streets of Jerusalem to the house of the Upper Room. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter began to preach, and by a miracle of that same Holy Spirit, each person understood Peter in his or her own language.
This feast of Pentecost reminds us that we Christians have an obligation to tell others about the good news of the Gospel, and let people know how much God loves them. Our words need not be like a loud wind, but our witness to the Faith will set some hearts on fire.
Pentecost reminds us that the Holy Spirit gives us seven distinct gifts to help us live the Catholic life:
- wisdom, to help us order our lives toward God;
- understanding, to help us comprehend the truths of our faith;
- counsel, to help us make choices in difficult times;
- fortitude, supernatural courage to stand for God in the face of danger;
- knowledge, to help us know divine things;
- piety, that we may love and respect God and His Church; and
- fear of the Lord, to help us avoid sin.
Graduates, ask the Holy Spirit to increase in you these seven powerful gifts, because you surely will need them in the coming years.
Up until this point, you graduates have benefited from being nurtured in a Catholic home. As you move away from the daily support of your Catholic family, you will be challenged to keep your Faith. You will be tested by many around you, and encounter many temptations. You will be attacked by the tricks of the devil, which might come through a college classmate, a textbook, a fellow employee, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even a college professor.
Make choices that combat these attacks. Live Catholic. Make good Catholic friends. Get involved in Catholic groups. Attend a Catholic college. Work for a Catholic company that supports your beliefs. Most of all, keep saying your daily rosary, keep making holy hours, keep attending Mass, and keep going to frequent confession. The spiritual solutions of yesterday are the same solutions that will work for you today and tomorrow.
Try not to get frustrated along the way. The devil often uses frustration as a weapon. Don’t give in to it. You will have your share of temporal failures, but temporal failures are temporary. The only real failure is refusing to do God’s Will.
Be patient. Never give up. Keep yourself open to the will of God, and incredible things can and will happen.
Graduates, this is a day of celebration for you, and for what you have accomplished, but it is only the beginning of what you have yet to accomplish. You are now educated enough in the Catholic Faith to do what the followers of Jesus are called to do: to spread the good news about Jesus and His teachings while living the Catholic life as He taught.
The Holy Spirit is calling each one of you to be today’s Apostles. He will give you the strength and the courage to spread the Gospel in your communities, in your workplaces, and on your college campus. Your words and actions will bring other young people to Jesus Christ.
We at Seton are so blessed that you let us be part of your lives for the past few years. What an honor for us! On behalf of all at Seton, may God bless you graduates and parents, now and forever.