On behalf of Archbishop Gomez, I extend congratulations to you, the 2016 graduating class.
Catholic education helps to form the whole person by preparing our students to be well-rounded, whole, holy witnesses of Jesus.
What are the components of a Catholic school that form a well-rounded, whole, holy people, that form mind, body, soul? Well developed spiritual, academic, interpersonal and athletic programs, of course!
The spiritual formation of the soul is evidenced by daily prayer before each class, monthly school worship, the availability of confession at least twice a year, annual retreats and thousands of hours of Christian service in the community.
The academic formation of the mind is evidenced by the high percentage of college acceptances and millions of dollars earned in scholarships.
The interpersonal formation of character is evidenced by your life on campus, friendships, camaraderie, clubs, activities and consistent discipline.
The athletic formation of the body is evidenced by something more important than championships — sportsmanship, character and again camaraderie.
My reflection for you today focuses on four people: Father Serra, Mother Teresa, José Luis Sanchez and Jesus.
At the beginning of your senior year, Pope Francis canonized St. Junípero Serra, who exemplified an extraordinary love for Jesus and Mary, a burning missionary zeal, fatherly love and witness of holiness.
Pope Francis said, “He was a tireless missionary. What made Friar Junípero leave his home and country ... to go to the ends of the earth? Certainly, it was the desire to proclaim the Gospel, that heartfelt impulse which seeks to share with those farthest away the gift of encountering Christ: a gift that he had first received and experienced. ...
“But I wonder if today we are able to respond with the same generosity and courage to the call of God, who invites us to leave everything in order to worship him, to follow him, to rediscover him in the face of the poor, to proclaim him to those who have not known Christ and, therefore, have not experienced the embrace of his mercy. Friar Junípero’s witness calls upon us to get involved, personally, in the mission to the whole continent.”
During the fall of your freshmen year of college, the pope will canonize Mother Teresa who dedicated her life to “serving the poorest of the poor.” Her spirituality was very simple: “Not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love.”
She began each day in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, attended Mass and received holy Communion. This daily practice gave her the strength to go into the slums and bring those who were dying into her homes where they were cleaned, fed and cared for before their death.
The pope will also canonize José Luis Sanchez del Rio. He was a 14-year-old martyr who died during the Cristeros War in Mexico.
Catholics were undergoing a fierce and bloody persecution by the Mexican government during the 1920s. Ordinary people took up arms to rebel against the government in order to fight for the kingship of Christ and their religious freedom. Our rights are God-given. They do not come from the government. Our Declaration of Independence says that “we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.”
José Luis was too young to join an army but he did so because he loved Jesus so much that he was ready to shed his blood for the faith. He was captured, imprisoned, beaten and tortured horribly.
His captors taunted him, “Just say ‘Death to Christ the King’ and we will let you go home to your family.” But he always responded “Viva Cristo Rey.”
He was killed in the presence of his parents rather than renounce his love for Jesus.
Each First Friday is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart reminds us of the unconditional love that God has for us. Even when we abandon him, he will not abandon us. He is always ready to forgive us.
But remember the words of former NFL player Miles McPherson: “Having God’s unconditional love does not mean you have God’s unconditional approval.”
Your Catholic formation has taught you right from wrong. God loves you and calls you to respond to that love. Jesus should be the reason for everything that you do. Your love for him should propel you into service of neighbor.
It was supernatural love for Jesus that made Father Serra, Mother Teresa and Jose Luis loving, courageous disciples. May their example of faithful love inspire you to follow Jesus through daily prayer, reading of Scripture, Sunday Mass and love of neighbor!
Msgr. Sal Pilato has served in Los Angeles Catholic high school work for the last 20 years — 12 years as a principal and the last eight years as superintendent of high schools. The following is an excerpt of his 2016 commencement address delivered at various high schools.