Villa Duchesne Class of 2020 Graduation Homily

7 years ago, I was assigned to the inner north city parish, St. Elizabeth Mother of John the Baptist, to do internship work as a part of my preparation for the priesthood. One day, as I was in the school visiting the various classrooms, the students shared that they were excited to be going on a field-trip to see a castle. As we talked, they explained to me that they were coming out to this castle here at Villa as part of your former service-learning program. While each of you probably spent more time here over the past 4, 8, or even 12 years then you did at home, and so some of the magic of this castle has faded, for those students living less than 20 miles away from here and at the same time, practically a world away, there was something magical about this place. As they spoke of this magical place that we know as Villa Duchesne/Oak Hill, I realized how much of life is about perspective and how easy it is for us to become so comfortable with our situation that we take it for granted.

As you prepare to walk out the doors of this castle one last time, I hope you take a moment to look back and put things into perspective. This perspective demands that we honestly assess where we have come from and where we are going. So, let’s be honest, while you have no doubt worked hard to arrive here at graduation, you have had many things served to you on a platter. Your parents have served your personal needs including food, a roof over your head, etc. Your school has served you with an education, the obligations that motivated you to study, and the opportunities for making friends. If we are honest, we have to admit that you have received more than most people in this city, let alone the rest of the world. What is normal daily life for you is a fairy tale for those students living only 20 minutes away. When you first walked onto this campus everyone knew you would have to work hard, but no one doubted that you would have the support of your family and faculty, as well as all the resources you would need to arrive here at your graduation. Sadly, the same cannot be said for those students so close to us geographically, yet actually living a world away.

I think, we also need to acknowledge that there are some in our world today who say you should be sorry for your privilege and apologize for the many advantages you have. But why should you apologize for the blessing you have received? Don’t be sorry, rather recalling the teaching of Jesus that “much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more”[1] thank God and your parents for the blessings you have received and then get to work using the blessings you have received to change the world.

Friends, “the world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.”[2] Opinions are cheap. All you have to do is turn on the cable news shows or scroll through social media and you will be overwhelmed with opinions. These opinions have only served to polarized us to a point where someone who holds a different opinion from us is seen as an enemy to be protested or attacked rather than a brother or sister to be cared for. Rather than engaging others with charity in pursuit of truth, our society seems to prefer to hide behind social media or mass gatherings of people and lob insults at each other. And look at what happens. We lose our freedom and the truth begins to be drowned out by those with louder voices.

Villa has taught you to pursue truth and in the words of Jesus Christ “the truth will set you free.”[3] “Truth frees charity from the constraints of emotionalism that deprives it of relational and social contexts and of a fideism that deprives it of human and universal breathing – space.”[4] When shared, truth, like love, is multiplied not exhausted. So armed with the Truth, with Jesus Christ who is “the way, the truth and the life,”[5] rise above the prevailing standard of protests and attacks and share the truth with those who see you as princesses studying in a castle.

Today you walk out of this castle privileged and prepared. What you do with what you have been given is up to you. It is up to you to intentionally choose to give. It is up to you to intentionally choose to love. Ultimately it us up to you to intentionally choose to follow Jesus’s teaching in today’s Gospel; “whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever lose his life for my sake will find it.”[6] When we look at the Gospels we see that Jesus lived His life to give it away. In fact, while all of us come into this world to live. Jesus was the one person in human history who came into this world to die. To be a Christians, a true follower of Jesus, we must hand our lives over through service to others. So then “the purpose of our time in college is to love the Lord more deeply and to develop the skills to serve Him more effectively.”[7]

Graduates, the measure of the success of your Sacred Heart education is the measure to which you share it with those who never had the opportunity for a Sacred Heart education. Your education enables you to give something to someone else and in so doing you truly own your education. In the coming years, God will provide you with the opportunity to grow into the person He has created you to be. But in doing so you can never lose sight of where you came from what you learned here at Villa and those who have sacrificed so much to lead you to this point in your life. From this point on, in everything you do, it will be up to you to decide how you are going to live.

So how are you going to live? The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, reminds us “a goal without a plan is just a wish”[8] So what’s the plan? Today then as we come before Jesus truly present on the altar, I invite each of us to pray that our graduates will have the courage and the wisdom to use the many blessings in their life to take up their cross and follow Jesus by laying down their life in loving sacrifice for those who are not as fortunate as we are. I pray that all of their hard work combined with the dedication and sacrifice of their parents and teachers has moved them beyond opinions to examples that truly change the world one person at a time.

[1] Luke 12:48

[2] Paulo Coelho, Tweet on June 2, 2012. Accessed June 22nd 2020. https://twitter.com/paulocoelho/status/209008454948495360

[3] John 8:32

[4] Pope Benedict XVI. Caritas in Veritate. Washington DC: US Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2009) par. 3 pg 3.

[5] John 14:16

[6] Matthew 10:39

[7] Aurora Griffin. How I Stayed Catholic At Harvard. San Francisco: Ignatius Press (2016).

[8] “Antoine de Saint-Exupery Quotes.” Quotes.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 22 Jun 2020. <https://www.quotes.net/quote/40255&gt;.

 

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