In the Commencement Speech at Mount Saint Mary’s University and at Baccalaureate Masses at Holy Cross College, Saint Mary’s College, the University of Saint Francis, and the University of Notre Dame, Bishop Rhoades exhorted the graduates to “embrace the Pope Francis challenge.” The bishop incorporated and adapted the following thoughts in the talks and homilies to the new graduates:
My message to you today is inspired by our Holy Father, Pope Francis. He is challenging the whole Church, and especially young people like you, to be missionary disciples. Pope Francis doesn’t want us to be a self-referential Church, one that is comfortable and turned in on itself. He is calling us to go out, to go forth, like the first disciples of Jesus, to bring the joy of the Gospel to others, especially to those on the edges or peripheries of society: the poor, the needy, the suffering, the weak, and the vulnerable. I like to call this the “Pope Francis challenge.”
You have been equipped here at this Catholic university to accept the Pope Francis challenge: to go forth as Christ’s disciples with the joy and courage of faith. This means being men and women of hope, not pessimistic or indifferent, not mere observers of life, but involved, protagonists of the Gospel. True disciples are witnesses of hope: hope in the triumph of love over hate, of grace over sin, and of life over death. This hope is not self-focused. It is not founded in an idea or a philosophy, not founded in a political or an economic system. It is a hope founded in a person, a Divine Person, who assumed our human nature. It is hope in the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified and risen Christ.
Graduates: the Church, the Body of Christ, needs you. We need your talents, your enthusiasm, and your energy. The Pope is asking you to swim against the tide and to rebel against a culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes that you are incapable of responsibility and that you are incapable of true love. They’re wrong. Reject this false belief. You are capable of responsibility, commitment, and true love. The Lord is calling you to be His disciples, disciples with a mission: to bring His mercy and love into the world, to bring the Gospel that breaks down evil and violence and overcomes selfishness and hatred. I encourage you to embrace the Pope Francis challenge, to be generous with Christ and His Church, to bear witness to the truth of the Gospel, the truth that sets us free.
You go forth from a place that honors (by its name) the holy Mother of God. Mary was the perfect disciple of the Lord. “She let herself be guided by the Holy Spirit on a journey of faith toward a destiny of service and fruitfulness” (Evangelii Gaudium 287). She teaches us so much about how to live life with faith and courage. Mary teaches us the revolutionary nature of love and that “humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but of the strong” (EG 288).
Graduates: I invite you to say a little prayer to our Lady before you leave this university. All of us who call Mary our Mother can be confident that, like the beloved disciple to whom Jesus entrusted His mother from the cross, we are all disciples equally beloved. May you go forth with that confidence and act on it with generosity and courage as missionary disciples! I pray that you leave here with Mary, your loving Mother, always at your side, surrounding you with God’s love!
Congratulations, graduates! We’re proud of you! May God bless you always!
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.