St. Patrick’s Church Baccalaureate Mass
Senior Address – Dalton Rogers
Saturday, May 16, 2015
Good evening, my fellow graduates, families, friends, and parish family. My name is Dalton Rogers and I am the outgoing President of the Catholic Newman Club at UC Merced. Tonight I wish to speak to you, not as any kind of expert or theologian, but as your brother, who has been on this journey of life and faith right alongside you. Some may wonder why we are here at all tonight. After all, we have our ceremonies on campus for graduation, so why have we gathered here in cap and gown? You and I are here because, while we value and appreciate our public education and the state that afforded us the opportunity to pursue it, we recognize more than a few realities which will not be addressed at our university’s commencement.
Among these is the reality that you and I have been created by a loving God with a specific purpose unique to each one of us. The miracle of the universe’s existence and ours is not mere coincidence or luck. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI emphasized this reality when he stated that, “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed. Each of us is loved. Each of us is necessary.” John Henry Cardinal Newman, the patron of our Newman Club, put it this way:
God knows me and calls me by my name.…
God has created me to do Him some definite service;
He has committed some work to me
which He has not committed to another.
I have my mission—I never may know it in this life,
but I shall be told it in the next.
Somehow I am necessary for His purposes…
I have a part in this great work;
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good,
I shall do His work;
I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth
in my own place, while not intending it,
if I do but keep His commandments
and serve Him in my calling.
How incredible it is to realize that each of us has been created in this way, with a unique fingerprint of God stamped into our very being. We have each been given distinct characteristics of our God which we are called to share with the world in some specific way. Many of us will do this as spouses and parents, some as priests and religious, some as doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, businessmen and women, researchers, and a whole host of other professions. As graduating college seniors, we may not see right now what the ultimate big pictures of our lives are going to be, but we do know that no matter where God leads us, or how long it takes to get there, our mission, our calling, is to be fulfilled all along the way.
Jesus told his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” At the heart of your earthly mission and mine is to shine brightly the light of Christ within each of us, as it manifests uniquely in each of our lives through our passions, gifts, talents, and virtues. Our world needs so desperately for you and me to shine in and through Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Pope St. John Paul II told millions of young people at World Youth Day that, “the world will offer you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!” On this journey of our earthly lives, there are many temptations for us to seek comfort over greatness. The road of Christlike greatness is a difficult one of self-denial, but in the end it is the only one that matters, the only one that will bring us true peace, joy, and fulfillment. It is by traveling this road that we will be able to change the world in some small or even magnificent way.
In order to keep our lights shining bright, in order to sustain lives of greatness over complacency, we must stay connected to our Source. In Jeremiah 17, it says, “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD; the LORD will be their trust. They are like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream. It does not fear heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still produces fruit.” Notice the verse doesn’t say “if” the heat comes, but rather “when” the heat comes. The temptations, the hardships, and tragedies of this life are sure to come, especially to those chasing after Christ, so we must be rooted in the stream of our faith.
Friends, for so much of our lives, we carry with us our childhood image of God as a stern enforcer of rules, often as a disappointed father with a list of expectations we have failed to meet. This is not an image of God that will sustain us when the heat comes. Why should it? I challenge you today to put away this false perception of God as mighty smiter, and take up the reality of God as a passionate lover who literally went to hell and back to have a relationship with you. That is what all of this is about: relationship with God, made possible through Jesus’s death and resurrection, sustained through the intimacy of receiving His body, blood, soul, and divinity from this altar at every Mass. Jesus told his disciples, “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…”
Brothers and sisters, dare to be great in your lives. Realize that you have something beautiful to offer this world, and a faith that can light up any moment of darkness. Fall in love with God—your Father, Savior, Lord, and Friend. Let us live in this world, but be not of this world. At the heart of this lifestyle of self-giving love is the fruit of true intimacy with God—a divine romance that brings your soul to its feet to dance.
Thank you, congratulations, and may God be with us always. +