Last Monday night (6/6/16), I preached the Baccalaureate Mass for St. Joseph Regional School's 8th grade graduation. I share with you a synopsis of my homily:
During your recent reception of the sacrament of confirmation by Bishop Sullivan, you were asked to choose a confirmation name--usually stemming from a saint who impressed you. When I was ordained, I too chose a patron saint, with whom I want you now to become more familiar. I was inspired by the life and example of a Franciscan Friar--a priest--who lived during World War II. Fr. Maximilian Kolbe gave me a vivid example of how to imitate Christ by his selfless love of others.
Towards the end of his life, Fr. Kolbe was imprisoned in a death camp in Poland--the infamous Auschwitz. Whenever a prisoner tried to escape from this prison, ten people were chosen to die as punishment and as a deterrent to others from trying to escape. When one of the ten chosen prisoners started to cry out that he had a wife and family, Fr. Kolbe stepped forward and offered his life in place of the married man. Fr. Kolbe was placed in a starvation cell and left to die. For weeks before his death he led the other prisoners in prayer and song until he was eventually injected with carbolic acid which killed him immediately. His act of selfless love was a motivation for me to be a priest dedicated to the service of and love for others.
As you leave this school and move on to various high schools, please remember to imitate the selfless love of Christ. Take the Catholic faith that you were given and nurtured with here at this school, and witness it to others. There will be many changes in your life--both good and bad. As your time here ends, your future begins somewhere else. Wherever you may go, remember that Jesus is always with you. Pray to Him. Be faithful to Him. Trust Him. Listen to Him.
You have reached a point of accomplishment in your lives. However, I hope that you all realize that the purpose of our lives is much more than obtaining a piece of paper that we call a diploma or a degree. Handing God a diploma or degree is not what is required for one of us to wind up in heaven--to have union with God--someday. Living a life of loving God and others, caring for the poor, sick and neglected, forgiving and showing others mercy is what God looks for in our lives. By carrying out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy--which I know you had to study in preparation for your Confirmation--is a good start.
Chances are you will probably forget most of what I say to you here tonight. However, I left you a little remembrance in your pews to remind you of my words. At each of your places I placed a holy card with the picture of St. Maximilian Kolbe on it as a reminder. Think of him and the example of his selfless love and let it be a continual reminder for you as it is for me.
May God bless you and all of your families and friends who join us here tonight--especially your parents who provided you with this opportunity to receive a Catholic education.
Always be grateful for what you have been given.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
St. Maximilian Kolbe