The Next Chapter
Delivered to the Class of 2014 at the Commencement Exercises held May 22 at the Pontchartrain Center.
I’m going to ask you to brace yourselves for an ambiguous sentence. “No class leaves Jesuit High School unchanged.”
This evening may well have been an occasion for each of you to reflect on how you have been changed over the last four or five years. However, you have also changed Jesuit. Had I several days to wax eloquent on this point, I could speak of the many ways in which Jesuit is now a better place than it was four or five years ago.
Lacking that luxury, I leave you with this image. Your senior gift has made possible the restoration of the station of the cross in the small chapel that depicts Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus to carry His cross.
You made this choice, thinking of Simon as a man for others, a quality that makes this a most fitting commemoration of your class.
Therefore, I wish to point out two features of Simon’s action that I offer as counsels for you as you move from Jesuit to a wider world.
When he helped a battered man carrying a heavy crossbeam, Simon did not know the full import of his act. Placed into a position of helping a person in need, he simply did so without the realization that he was in fact helping the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ.
Each of you has been and will be placed in positions of helping others. In giving that help, you — like Simon — encounter Jesus, Who has said that what we do for the least of His brethren, we do for Him.
When, as men for others, you aid your neighbors, may your formation as men of faith enable you to see Jesus in them and through them.
Moreover, Simon himself was not unchanged by his act. St. Mark’s Gospel speaks of him as the father of two disciples, suggesting that Simon did not walk away from this encounter with Jesus unaffected, but that he and his family joined the new community centered around this same Jesus.
Just so, my beloved brothers, my prayer for you — for each of you — is that every deed whereby you change others for the good likewise change you by bringing you closer to God.
You leave Jesuit to write new pages in the books of your lives. May these also be new pages of the epic of God’s sharing His love and life with you, a saga wherein, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “every chapter is better than the one before.”
Fr. Raymond Fitzgerald, Jr., S.J. ’76