Bishop Caggiano’s homily at Franciscan University’s 2024 Baccalaureate Mass

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Bishop Frank J. Caggiano delivers the homily at the 2024 Baccalaureate Mass at Franciscan University of Steubenville.

My brothers and sisters in the Lord,

One of the most vivid memories I have of my collegiate graduation, which occurred in prehistoric times, was what we are doing right now, in the celebration of the Baccalaureate Mass. I found myself doing something which I heartedly recommend that you do not do. And that is, daydream during the homily.

And I did it not because there was any purposeful act on my part, it’s just that I just found myself consumed with the flood of emotions and questions that overtook me. Certainly, that strange mixture that perhaps you are feeling at this moment, intense joy and enthusiasm, beginning to write a new chapter in the adventure of your life, but also some of that mixed feeling about leaving behind a university that is not a university, it’s a home. And friends that you have made for life. Strange place to be.

And of course, in my own case I had made the decision a few months prior that I was not going to become a priest. Shows you my judgement, right?

And so, I was wondering to myself as I graduated, took my first steps out into that world, what was awaiting me. Will those job interviews pan out? Would I be able to support myself? Questions swirling in my mind.

It has been 44 years since that graduation day. And when i look upon the journey of my own life, as I suspect the same will be true for you, there have been lots of twists and turns, curves, sometimes really sharp turns, when I was going at breakneck speed, not knowing what I was going to find at the other end. There were mountains to be climbed. There were valleys to endure.

And throughout all of it I’ve come to realize that the advice that the Lord gives you tonight was exactly the advice the Lord was trying to give me in my daydreaming. And it comes through the Apostle Paul.

The Lord says, “do not be afraid”.

You, my young friends, are graduating from a university that has given you graced confidence, and every tool you need to climb whatever mountain the Lord asks of you, to traverse any valley that may be in your future. To be able to go forward with confidence and joy. Because the Lord will always be at your side. The Lord you’ve come to know, you have come to love, and you know will never, ever abandon you.

The great remarkable miracle that is Franciscan University, is precisely that place that has helped to nurture the faith you brought here and allowed it to blossom so that you might go on to the journey of your life, wherever it takes you. And always know that the Lord’s love will never fail. That you will never face whatever challenge or joy in life without Him.

The fire that burns in your heart will continue to burn and it is destined to grow ever brighter because you have fallen in love with the Word of God. You have come to understand His presence in your neighbor, whoever that may be, that you have not been afraid to serve those around you, even the poorest of the poor. And in all of it have been reassured over and over and over again in the spirit of St. Francis that the Lord is alive, is He not? Always and everywhere, alive. Dwelling in His people, dwelling in you, dwelling in me.

You see, there is nothing to be afraid, because you know the end of the story. The victory is ours in Jesus Christ. And that is what the world does not know yet.

And that is why He gives you the rest of the advice that we hear from Paul. And what does he say? “Do not stop speaking”. But what proclaim in word, and more importantly in the spirit of St. Francis, the foundation of this place, in the powerful witness of your lives and mine. What it is we hold dear to our hearts.

For I don’t think it is too cynical for me to say we live in a world where words are cheap. But witness speaks.

And as I said before we began mass, every time I come here I have been profoundly touched by your witness. Even the way you greet one another and have greeted me, with sincerity, with joy, with an authentic Christian hospitality. How Franciscan can you be?

And so, I’m going to challenge you, your fellow graduate. When you leave here please do not stop speaking. Talk as loud as you can. Never be ashamed. You and I and all of us in this sacred space here tonight. All of us baptized into this mystical body. All of us, the ambassadors of hope and truth in a broken and confused world. All of us, to speak clearly, to speak authentically, and speak without words, the kinship of Jesus Christ. And how He is alive in this, His church. You and I, members of His mystical body.

And I do not know how many twists and turns you will have in your life. But wherever the Lord leads you remember this night. Because if you’re daydreaming and don’t remember my homily I won’t take offense. But please leave this place with the words of the Master inscribed in your heart and mine. My dear fellow graduates, let us never be afraid. Let us never stop speaking His love. For He will always be at our side.

Congratulations, and may God bless you as you continue to write the adventure of your Catholic life.