Graduates, ‘Do great things for the Lord!’

June 22, 2023 at 5:21 p.m.
Graduates, ‘Do great things for the Lord!’
Graduates, ‘Do great things for the Lord!’

By Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., alternates visiting different schools each year for Baccalaureate Masses. What follows is the homily for the Masses he celebrated for Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank, and St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel.

A story is told about Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, that once, when leaving a church service, he told his security guard that he was disappointed in the sermon the minister preached. “Why?” asked the security. “The sermon was good,” responded President Lincoln. 

“But the preacher didn’t ask us to do something great.”

Permit me, now, to say a few words to our graduates.

You are graduating from high school and moving on from the place and people that have been so familiar to you into a new and exciting set of experiences. As your Bishop, I am so happy and honored that I can be with you, your parents and families, your classmates and teachers, your administrators, coaches, and staff at your Baccalaureate Mass. Congratulations!

Tonight, and tomorrow, we are celebrating a great part of your Catholic education, of your graduation, and we begin with Holy Mass, the most important prayer of our faith. Let’s give thanks to God!

When you were born, your parents brought you to Church for your Baptism, to become a member of a larger family, the Christian family of faith that is the Church. Stay close to that family and all that it offers you … and all that it asks of you.

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The world is a big place, and the future is uncertain.  But your faith is not uncertain. No, it is true. Faith will save you and it will carry you through all the uncertain moments.

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 at home and during your high school years. Do not abandon for any reason what the Lord has spoken, offered, promised, and fulfilled in your lives so far.

Whether you go to college or some other path, take your faith with you. Go to Mass. Receive the Sacraments of Confession and Communion. Remember your Confirmation promises to God and his Church. Do all these things, even though there is no one who tells you to. Do all these things, even though you will meet people who tell you not to bother. Don’t believe them. They do not know the truth or, worse, they don’t care about it. 

You do not need to be the best in the world. That’s a tough goal and very few achieve that status.

Don’t focus your attention on who’s first and who’s last. In your life, you need to work to be the best you can be. Each one of you is a different person: different gifts and talents given by God; different backgrounds and personalities; different ambitions and dreams. Competition is not a bad thing, but don’t simply compare and compete. Don’t spend your energies just seeking the approval of others. 

Use what you have been given and learned so far and who you are at this point to be the best you can be. “Do something great.” Don’t expect anything more – and don’t be satisfied with anything less. In the Lord and for the Lord, do something great!

The 19th century American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed: “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” That is where your faith lives; that is the home of hope; that is source of the love that lasts forever. That is where your truest greatness lies!


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Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., alternates visiting different schools each year for Baccalaureate Masses. What follows is the homily for the Masses he celebrated for Red Bank Catholic High School, Red Bank, and St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel.

A story is told about Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, that once, when leaving a church service, he told his security guard that he was disappointed in the sermon the minister preached. “Why?” asked the security. “The sermon was good,” responded President Lincoln. 

“But the preacher didn’t ask us to do something great.”

Permit me, now, to say a few words to our graduates.

You are graduating from high school and moving on from the place and people that have been so familiar to you into a new and exciting set of experiences. As your Bishop, I am so happy and honored that I can be with you, your parents and families, your classmates and teachers, your administrators, coaches, and staff at your Baccalaureate Mass. Congratulations!

Tonight, and tomorrow, we are celebrating a great part of your Catholic education, of your graduation, and we begin with Holy Mass, the most important prayer of our faith. Let’s give thanks to God!

When you were born, your parents brought you to Church for your Baptism, to become a member of a larger family, the Christian family of faith that is the Church. Stay close to that family and all that it offers you … and all that it asks of you.

[[In-content Ad]]

The world is a big place, and the future is uncertain.  But your faith is not uncertain. No, it is true. Faith will save you and it will carry you through all the uncertain moments.

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 at home and during your high school years. Do not abandon for any reason what the Lord has spoken, offered, promised, and fulfilled in your lives so far.

Whether you go to college or some other path, take your faith with you. Go to Mass. Receive the Sacraments of Confession and Communion. Remember your Confirmation promises to God and his Church. Do all these things, even though there is no one who tells you to. Do all these things, even though you will meet people who tell you not to bother. Don’t believe them. They do not know the truth or, worse, they don’t care about it. 

You do not need to be the best in the world. That’s a tough goal and very few achieve that status.

Don’t focus your attention on who’s first and who’s last. In your life, you need to work to be the best you can be. Each one of you is a different person: different gifts and talents given by God; different backgrounds and personalities; different ambitions and dreams. Competition is not a bad thing, but don’t simply compare and compete. Don’t spend your energies just seeking the approval of others. 

Use what you have been given and learned so far and who you are at this point to be the best you can be. “Do something great.” Don’t expect anything more – and don’t be satisfied with anything less. In the Lord and for the Lord, do something great!

The 19th century American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed: “What lies behind us, and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.” That is where your faith lives; that is the home of hope; that is source of the love that lasts forever. That is where your truest greatness lies!

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