May 26/27: Baccalaureate Mass & The Problem with that Poinsettia Plant?(Trinity B)

May 26: Baccalaureate Mass, Santa Catalina Upper School, Monterey, CA.

“Like the lamp, you must shed light among your fellows, so that when they see the good you do, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16.

Welcome to family and friends to this Baccalaureate Mass for our graduating class of 2018.

Most of all, we greet these young women who have prepared for this day and are ready to bring their gifts of knowledge, creativity, and service to a world that genuinely awaits them.

Here are three simple reminders of why this day is so unique in your lives. Each speaks to the thankfulness, purpose, and the bonds of friendship that you as a Santa Catalina graduate now represent.

Once a friend and mentor of mine, Father Jim Turro observed:

“If you happen to come across a turtle on a table, one thing is certain. Someone had to place the turtle on the table. Since left to itself, a turtle is incapable of such a feat.”

So it is with most of us, we are placed in a particular geography. Here on a lush campus such as Santa Catalina, or on the streets of a big city or in an arid desert. Whatever the location, if the conditions are right, individuals can survive, and together we can thrive. Such is your case and mine.

Someone had to place you on this table, much like a turtle – you took your place at this particular school, and these are the people who set here who support and love you.

They are your parents and grandparents, maybe a favorite Aunt or a friend who recommended Santa Catalina. Each has encouraged you along the way. Yours must be an “attitude of gratitude” for this love and support, now and in your promising future.

Here’s a second reminder of why this day is so unique.

At our Mass of the Holy Spirit on Sept 15th, at the very start of our school year, I mentioned the J.K. Rowlings 2008 Harvard Commencement Speech. It remains one of my favorite pieces of advice for students.

In her speech, Rowlings suggested: “Raise your voice for those who have no voice.” Each of us can speak up for justice and peace in our world.

Mostly she spoke about her friends who helped her in hard times when she was a student at Edinburgh. Recall the many letters of rejection from publishers for her Harry Potter manuscript.

Over these years of success as a writer, she has valued her friends whose names are employed all across her Harry Potter books. In her speech, she joked that to date, none of her friends had sued her for any copyright violations.

To her, this collection of friends are as “precious are rubies.”

Your friendships made here at Santa Catalina will sustain you now and in your future. You will call on one another in times of great joy, as well as in those tricky spots in life.

Yours is a precious treasure of rubies and diamonds made in the bonds of friendship created for you in your classes with teachers, on the playing fields with competitors, and in the dance or recital halls.

In the Book of Wisdom, we read, “Blessed are those who are friends of God.” In this sense, when we have the comfort of good friends, we have blessings for a lifetime, and knowledge of God’s sincere friendship and love in our lives.

You are the salt and the light according to Saint Matthew, preserve all that is good from your years at Santa Catalina and be led by the light of Christ on your next, most promising journey.

An Afterward

On this graduation day and like all passing occasions in our lives, today is a bit sentimental with some tears, laughs, and farewells.

Leonard Bernstein — the composer, conductor, pianist and virtuoso whose 100th birthday is observed this year was the composer of the 1944 musical play “On the Town.”

Bernstein’s collaborators Betty Comden and Adolf Green, wrote the lyrics to the ballad “Some Other Time.” It closes the play, as it reminds us that our graduation ceremony this afternoon will close a chapter in your lives.

“Just when the fun is starting

Comes the time for parting,

But let’s be glad for what we’ve had —

And what’s to come.

There’s so much more embracing.

Still to be done, but time is racing.

Oh, well —

We’ll catch up some

other time.”


May 27: The Problem of the Poinsettia Plant (Trinity Sunday B)

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all the I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20.

Moses and Jesus, who we read about today, were observant Jews. They lived by the laws or commands found in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. It’s there we learn that God is one, and we are reminded not to place false gods before the one, true God.

On this Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the mystery of the Godhead in the name of persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Here’s a mystery for you. Several years ago, at a time just before Christmas, my office at Saint Mary’s College received a gift. As I recall it, we had done a special favor for a friend who rewarded us with the gift of a poinsettia plant. It was one of those leafy red plants that mark the holidays. So we placed it in a prominent place in our office.

As the week progressed from day by day, my administrative assistant and I would open our office in the early morning. That week, we witnessed an overly watered poinsettia, and the mystery of the overnight caregiving created a mess — from a very diligent member of our maintenance crew.

What this caregiver had failed to notice was that this lovely poinsettia plant, as authentic as it may have looked, was, in fact, a fake or artificial plant. It did not need caregiving, nor the watering that had caused the mess.

This story stuck in my mind for months, namely that we pay far too much attention and can be fooled by the artificial or the fake.

So today, we have fake news, weakened democracy, and far too many false prophets. And when at times we cannot tell the real from the fake, we keep watering those plastic plants instead of honoring the genuine article.

Today, we celebrate the mystery of God and the loving embrace of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Thomas Merton, the great American writer, and monk expressed it best when he stated: “Wisdom knows, God in ourselves and ourselves in God.”

At the close of World War II and the amid the Cold War, Merton expressed concerns about a nuclear age in which citizens worldwide could be destroyed, and not be faithful to the values of love and brotherhood seen in authentic religious faith.

So we need wisdom and discernment, especially about our deepest values and how we express them in private and in public. We cannot be deterred from this particular quest to love and to serve God.

Much like the problem of the poinsettia plant, at times, we need the wisdom to tell the real from the fake, especially in our own time when organized religion has been exploited for political advantage.

Let’s recall the practice of the observant Jews, like Moses and Jesus, who believed in and were bound by covenant to one God, and how we are not to place false gods before the one true God.

“Wisdom knows God in ourselves and ourselves in God.”

Today on the feast day of the Holy Trinity, let us embrace this mystery of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that force of love and creation that has called each of us into being.

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.







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