2012 Baccalaureate Mass Homily by Father Salvatore Ragusa

Last week at the commencement ceremony for a Christian university, the speaker addressed the graduates in these words:

When you leave here “you will know who you are,  what you believe,  and who you serve!”

As I stand before the class of 2012 at this Catholic, Lasallian, liberal arts college, I wonder if I could say these same words … and in answering that question, I reflected up our core identity … that we are a Catholic, Lasallian, liberal arts college.

The Catholic church is coming to the end of the Easter season, and we have heard the farewell discourses at our Sunday and weekday masses. Jesus is marking an end to his Earthly presence and tells the disciples that they have much yet to learn, but he will not leave them orphans but will send the Advocate, Helper, the Holy Spirit to continue to help them to discover who they are, what they believe and who they will serve! In John’s Gospel, when Jesus performed his first miracle at Cana, the scripture passage tells us that “they began to believe in Him.”  The Gospel story would reveal the doubts and challenges the apostles and early followers of Jesus would face.

Our patroness, Mary, as a teenager would be approached by a messenger of God, and she begins in fear, and moves to faith.  And this was not a one-time event, but in what little Scripture tells us about her life, we see that she would struggle to understand the true identity of her son and that she, too, would need to be in the upper room when the Holy Spirit would fire up the early followers of Jesus. Saint John Baptist de LaSalle’s own life was one of continuous learning and discovery. It was in the reflection upon the events of his life, including the messiness, difficulties and injustices of his day, that he comes to a new understanding about his mission and vocation. 

As members of a Lasallian institution, hopefully you have been called to a new sense of faith and zeal. Faith in God, yes, but also faith in yourself and in one another. And zeal that is translated into a passion for justice. Having the rare opportunity to come to college (1%), you have entered to learn but now you are leaving to serve.

Your classmate, Porsia Tunzi, reminded us all of the importance of asking questions and reflecting on life and staying with the journey in all its ups and downs. Recently, at one of our College Masses,  Mitchell Allan shared with us about his journey to baptism. He stated the following: “I went into the RCIA program believing that by the end of it, I would have all the answers to my questions regarding faith and God. Well, I really couldn’t have been more wrong, as I actually have more questions now than when I started.  But I now realize that having questions isn’t a bad thing. I remember a quote we read by C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” that went, “One of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself.”

Finally in our College mission statement we read: That … faculty and students, led by wonder about the nature of reality, look twice, ask why, seek not merely facts but fundamental principles, strive for an integration of all knowledge, and express themselves precisely and eloquently.

Perhaps, parents, you were hoping after great expense and great sacrifices, that your daughters and sons would leave Saint Mary’s as finished products with all the answers … I believe the Class of 2012 leaves even richer …. For when you leave here you will have discovered a little more about who you are, and a little more about what you believe, and you have been stretched in understanding who you serve.

Live Jesus in our hearts FOREVER!