Editor’s Note: The following is adapted from Archbishop Gomez’ June 17 commencement address to the graduates of St. Monica Academy in Montrose, California.
I want to offer three reflections as you make this new beginning in your journey of life. I want to talk to you tonight about saints, prayer and love.
I want to begin with a quote from St. Ambrose. As you know, St. Ambrose was a close friend of your school’s patroness, St. Monica. He was a spiritual guide for her, and he also played a key role in the conversion of her son, St. Augustine.
St. Ambrose once said, “The Church is beautiful in her saints.”That’s my first point for you tonight. You have a mission, a vocation in life.
God made each one of you for a reason. God made you to be beautiful — to be saints! That means God has great expectations for each one of you. He has something that he wants each of you to do in this world — something that no one else can do for him.
Being a saint doesn’t mean separating ourselves from the world. It means just the opposite! It means loving God and serving our neighbors right here and right now —in the middle of the world.
God wants saints in every area of life. He needs mothers and fathers who are saints. He needs saints in our parishes and schools; saints in corporations, and in hospitals and in the media; saints in politics and saints on Wall Street.
One of my favorites saints — he’s not canonized yet — was an auto mechanic. Blessed Salvador Huerta Gutiérrez. The point is: God wants saints everywhere!
My young friends, the question for you is: — What does God want you to be doing? How does God want you to be a saint?
That’s why your parents gave you this precious gift of a Catholic education — to help you discover God’s purpose for your life.
My second point is this: Make time to pray every day.
In Catholic school you learn the most important lesson in life —that Jesus Christ loves us and gave his life to save us, and that he is walking by our side every day to enlighten us, strengthen us, and to give us true freedom.
So on your journey of life— you need to stay close to Jesus. You need to strive every day to be more like him. And the way you do that is through prayer.
Some people “overthink” prayer. I hope you never make that mistake. Prayer is just talking with Jesus, talking to God. You can talk to God straight from the heart — just like you talk to a good friend. And that’s the whole point. Prayer is about growing in your friendship with Jesus, with God.
You don’t need fancy language. Tell him what’s on your mind, what you’re worried about, what you need help with. Ask him to guide you when you need to make decisions.
And prayer goes both ways. We should talk to God. But we should also be listening to him. So we have to make sure we turn off our cell phones and try to spend time just being quiet with God, listening for his voice.
Also, if you can, try to get to Mass during the week, not only on Sundays. Daily Mass will really change your life. It’s true. It changed my life. Regular confession, too. It keeps us honest with God.
My brothers and sisters, our society is getting more secular and more hostile to religion. In fact, I think we are entering a period of history in which it’s going to be much more difficult to live our Catholic faith.
So it’s important for you to keep growing deeper in your knowledge of the faith. The Church needs Catholics who know their faith — who know what we believe and why we believe it. And we need to be able to explain our beliefs and share our faith with others.
But, in everything we do, we should really have a deep joy in our hearts. And deep peace. Because we know that God is with us and that God has a plan for his creation.
Everything you have been learning in school is meant to prepare you — so that you can go out and change the world. So you can make this a world of beauty and truth and holiness; a world of love and justice and compassion.
And that’s my last point. The world will be saved by the beauty of the saints. And the saints will save the world by love. And that means you and me.
Most of the “saints” in history are never officially canonized or recognized by the Church. They are hidden saints — “Saints of the every day.” Ordinary Christians living their ordinary lives.
Each one of us is called to be one of those “hidden,” “everyday” saints who change the world by our love.
We change the world person-to-person, one at a time. Beginning with those around us. In our homes, at school, at work.
We change people — by the way we live our lives. By being good friends. Not so much by our words, but by our example. By our kindness and thoughtfulness. By our mercy and forgiveness.
So, my young friends —I know God has beautiful things in store for you. Always trust God! He has a beautiful plan for your life!
Please pray for me — and know that I am praying for you. And may Our Blessed Mother Mary take you by the hand and always lead you to her Son.
St. Monica, pray for us!