A message from Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., to the Class of 2013
I recently saw a movie, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, entitled “For Greater Glory.” It was one of the most powerful, moving films I have ever seen. I not only recommend it to you … I urge you to see it.
It tells the story of revolution – a revolution that occurred in Mexico in the late 1920s when the President of Mexico, Plutarco Callas, and his government began persecuting the Catholic Church. It was not simply a political uprising and rebellion against unjust laws, although it was that… the Cristero War or Cristiada as it was called in Mexico, was a desperate search for the survival of the Catholic faith of the people. Certainly, this film is timely given the denial of religious freedom being made into law in our own country in recent months. The film did motivate me to continue our own struggle but what struck me so forcefully was how far people were willing to go and what they were willing to sacrifice for something they believed in, for their faith, for their religious freedom. The movie showed priests and lay people alike being killed by government forces, hanged, shot and stabbed simply because they were Catholics and practiced what they believed. This is a true story, nothing fictional or exaggerated.
One of the characters was a young boy, Jose Luiz Sanchez del Rio, not quite 15 years of age, who had joined the resistance to carry the banner of the movement, and who was captured, arrested, tortured and eventually stabbed and shot to death in front of his parents. Some of his friends, even his uncle begged him to renounce his Catholic faith and live. This boy said no. Soldiers thrust a knife into his stomach and smashed his head with their rifles. As he lay bleeding to death, he drew a cross in blood on the dirt beneath him, kissed it and exclaimed “Viva Cristo Rey,” the motto of the revolution, “I forgive you.” Pope Benedict XVI declared him a martyr and made him blessed in 2005, putting him on the road to canonization as a saint.
In all the excitement that surrounds your graduation from high school, the Lord has put so much before your minds and hearts to celebrate. Graduation is a rite of passage, a moment in your young lives when you mark the end of four years of school and the beginning of a new chapter in your lives. You leave behind you your childhood only to strike out on your own as young adults. Throughout your lives, the Lord has spoken to you often: through your parents, your teachers, your friends and your Church. You have been told what to do and have been given many words of instruction and advice how to do it. Now it is up to you. Yes, we will all continue to be a part of your lives and we will continue to give you advice. But no more bells. No one to wake you up. No one to tell you to get going. Now you must take those important responsibilities and make them your own. But before you do, let me take you back to the beginning.
When you were born, your parents brought you to Church for your Baptism. The Lord spoke to you through them, inviting you to become a member of a larger family, the Christian family that is the Church. At your Baptism, your parents and godparents made promises for you to bring you up in the Catholic faith, to teach you the Catholic faith, to help you live your Catholic faith. And they brought you to Church, to Catholic school, to confession, to Mass, to help you make those same promises for yourself in Confirmation. In each of those things and all of the moments in between, the Lord has spoken to you and fulfilled his Word. This is your faith, the faith you bring to this Church tonight as you prepare for graduation.
As you celebrate graduation, don’t lose sight of all those things: all that has been in your life and the great sacrifices your parents made to bring you to this moment. And as you celebrate, please pray that the Lord will stay with you and help you take your faith into a happy, healthy and wonderful future. And continue to believe that what the Lord has spoken to you will be fulfilled.
The world is a big place and the future is uncertain. But your faith is NOT uncertain. It is true and it will carry you through all the uncertain moments that the future lays out before you. God goes with you and your faith will make you strong, able to handle whatever comes your way. Do not forget God. Do not forget your faith and all that you have learned about it. Do not abandon for any reason what the Lord has spoken, offered, promised and fulfilled in your lives so far.[[In-content Ad]]