Baccalaureate Mass Homily
Rev. Msgr. George J. Parnassus
From the Summer 2005 edition of the Thomas Aquinas College Newsletter: Longtime friend of the College Rev. Msgr. George J. Parnassus is the Pastor Emeritus of St. Victor’s Church in West Hollywood, California, where he served as pastor for nearly 25 years. He has participated in many of the College’s milestone events, such as the dedication of St. Therese residence hall for women and the College’s 30th Anniversary celebration. He has also served as chaplain at the Summer Seminar Weekends for benefactors of the College.
Msgr. Parnassus has given wise counsel during his five years of service on the planning committee for Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel. In addition, he has brought numerous friends to the campus to learn about the College’s unique program of Catholic liberal education. Above all, Msgr. Parnassus has supported the College with his prayers and good will. It was an honor to have him give the Baccalaureate Mass homily at this year’s Commencement.
Your Eminence, my brother priests, members of the faculty, and the friends of Thomas Aquinas College, students, and especially you graduates: I cannot tell you how delighted I am to be here.
I always come here and find a blessing for myself, and I can only imagine what it has been like for you to live here, to be here this long period of time in your life — a considerable period. It has been a blessing for you, I’m sure you realize, and you realize that it has been God’s work — that He is the One Who has brought you here, and He wants you to experience this.
To experience what exactly? In the context of this Eucharist, let us consider the education that you have had, the moving along that path which leads, let us hope, to eternal life for all of us. I would say to you how important it has been that you have acquired all this knowledge that has been part of the classroom activity, and your studies, your reflections. But there is something else that I think I see here, and it is my own insight about what is special in this college, on this campus.
Making Friends with God
You know, we have to ask ourselves what it is that God wants the human race to do here on earth. The Gospel is quite clear; and I would remind you also of some words that were spoken at a Commencement here two years ago, I think, by Cardinal Schönborn.
In a very, very endearing way he said to the graduates that the most important part of the writing of St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae was in the second part of the second part, where he takes up the virtue of charity. The Cardinal simply said that it was about making friends with God. And I thought, ‘what a beautiful, simple way to say it — making friends with God.’
In the friendship that we make with God, God lifts us up from our fallen nature, from our status as creatures, and makes us His children. And there are certain kinds of rules that He sets down in regard to love, in regard to friendship, that He will observe, of which we must be aware.
Friendship with Each Other
We have to then understand what it means to be God’s friend. If you are God’s friend, then what else? Then, certainly, He intends that you be friends with one another, that you build here a kind of anticipation of that wonderful community — communion — that we will have in the Kingdom of Christ when He comes again.
You know, it has happened in the world, in the past. I’ve seen it in a couple of places. I saw it a number of times in Lourdes. How beautiful the love for God and for neighbor that was expressed there. I saw it in Rome, too, not there present myself, but watching on television the scenes of the funeral of John Paul II. You know, there was a great expression — an outpouring -— of love. Love for him. And what else? Love for each other. Love for the Church. And I see it in young people.
This is the hope that old men who dream dreams hope — that young people have this vision, and that they will keep it. It is in you: the love for God, the friendship, the joy to be Catholic, to be part of this Church, and to belong to one another in the faith — yes, even to sacrifice. ‘Greater love than this no one has, to lay down one’s life.’
When I meet you, I have always (in a way that I hope has not been an intrusion) asked what you want to do with your life. And invariably, there is a sense of commitment in you. Will it stay? Will it develop? Will it be something that carries you through? Or is this just a period of time? Well, you know, this is what you must pray for.
The Feast of Pentecost
Tomorrow is the feast of Pentecost. If we have any kind of wisdom about us, about God, this relationship we have, we know that every day is the feast of Pentecost. Every day God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is with us, and we are as a temple.
We are to cultivate in love an awareness and a response to the promptings of the Spirit within us. That must be a task that is not just for the liturgical feast of Pentecost, but it is a task for a lifetime, and it is wonderful. It is what will keep you always with a happiness possessed for life. And I think that though the body may grow old, your spirits will remain always young because there will be the future, and the future is ours. The future is ours, with God and with each other.
The Holy Spirit, Guest and Host
In the great hymn that the Church sings to the Spirit on Pentecost there are these words: “O dulcis hospes animae.” O sweet Guest of the soul. I think that expression refers to the kind of rules that God places on Himself. He will not come into us unless we welcome Him and truly tell Him that we want Him there. Every day, I urge you, say that to God. Tell Him of your need for His presence in your life.
The word “hospes” is an interesting word in Latin. I did not know this until recently: “hospes” means guest. But also it has a second meaning. It means host, the one who welcomes, the one who serves the needs of the guest. Everything in the Gospel tells us that that is what God intends to do with us. His love for us is so great; there is nothing that He will not do for our good. But we must want it. We must ask it.
Rejoice now in what you have. This humility — a humility that I hope is a habit in you and a habit that will grow, with great reliance on the gifts of the Spirit because without that divine action in yourself, you cannot achieve any kind of good. Rely on the Spirit. Tell the Spirit of the poverty of your own self without Him, of your great need. Love Him, and you have everything you need.
Works in Progress
What will you achieve when you leave here? There is a phrase that people use about themselves, which I think is pretty good (current use is sometimes accurate) about a person being a “work in progress.” Well, that is what you are. You are works in progress. You are not finished, by any means. God is working on you, and you know what He is working to do in you. He is working to transform you into the likeness of His Son.
God help us all because we are all works in progress. He is not finished with me; I hope that still there is a measure of His holiness that I can achieve in this life. Yes, that is what we hope for ourselves and that is what we hope for each other, and in God’s great mercy, that is what we will have.
“At Thomas Aquinas College, I learned that the world makes sense. It was so wonderful to discover that there is a real order in things and that I could understand it.”
– Frater Simeon Goodwin, O. Praem. (’10)
St. Michael's Abbey, Orange County, Calif.
“Thomas Aquinas is already the preeminent Catholic college in the country.”
– John Cardinal O’Connor (†)
Archbishop of New York