The first and fundamental school for human life - St Mary’s College Graduation Mass

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > The first and fundamental school for human life - St Mary’s College Graduation Mass


My dear graduands, I wish to direct my words to you this evening taking my cue from the readings given in the Mass. The readings are those offered to the entire Catholic world. In hundreds of thousands of Masses across the world the readings we heard tonight are offered to the Catholic faithful.

The opening words of the section St Paul’s Letter to the Romans can resonate with you in a particular way at this Graduation Mass. He stated: “All of us, in union with Christ, form one body, and as parts of it we belong to one another”.

“All of us form one body”. Tonight, no doubt, you are aware of the bonds that have united you as a class group. Some of you have been together since infant school. You may have felt over the years as St Paul says, “we belong to one another”.

You know that these precious relationships will no longer be what they have been. Though you will keep some close friends right through life you also know that from now on your paths as a class group will inevitably separate.
However, there is another relationship that will endure. One that we can take for granted and perhaps significantly underestimate. That relationship is the family.

You may have been aware that the Church has just completed a Synod on the Family, held in Rome over three weeks. It invited the Catholic world to reflect on the state of the family in modern society. The Synod alerted us to the importance of the family for human life.

The circumstances around family life have changed significantly over time. In an earlier age the family was the site of economic production, of education, of care for the sick and aging, and the transmission of religious tradition. Kinship relationships were at the heart of life.

Indeed, family was an indispensable social institution.
With family went local community which provided systems of mutual aid, welfare, education, recreation, and economic production and distribution. Family life was the centre of human functioning. Modernity has promoted the idea of the individual and we are witnessing the fracturing of close kinship bonds. Increasingly the State is feeling obliged to step into areas related to care of vulnerable individuals.

Whatever the extensions of State power over families, it remains a foundational truth that family is the true source for the nurturing of human beings. Nothing will ever replace family. People instinctively know that there is nothing more precious for human life than healthy family relationships. Even when they are imperfect the family still provides for the human wellbeing of its members. We witness time and time again the triumph of family relationships over tragedy and dysfunction. Family is remarkably resilient.

In Catholic thought human beings are made in the image and likeness of God, what is referred to as the imago Dei. God as Trinity is a loving communion of persons. Thus if human beings are made in the image of God then human beings are made for communion with others. We are not just atomised individuals.

Human life is lived in communion both with the divine and in the human.

We are destined for eternal communion with God. Now on our pilgrimage through life we foster this communion with God by a life of faith – of prayer and sacramental life in and through the Church.

The human dimension of communion is reflected in a particular way in the sexual differentiation of male and female. Masculinity and femininity are complementary realities. Male and female are intended for each other; they are intended for the marriage union. In this man and woman image the relational God.

This communion of man and woman is completed when their union engenders new life. In other words, human life images the divine life. As God is trinity – Father, Son and Spirit – so family is a trinity – father, mother and child. Our human life is meant to be a reflection of the divine life.

Scriptures teach us that God is love. They teach us that God is creator – in other words God gives life. So too on the human level. A man and a woman are drawn into the covenant of marriage inspired by love. This relationship then produces new life. As in the Holy Trinity, love gives life.

Marriage and family are natural realities, designed by God for a sublime end: the full flourishing of every human being lived in a communion with the living God.
Family will always be the first and fundamental place for human life and indeed is the fundamental school for human life. It is in family above all else that we learn to be human.

As you go forth from St Mary’s College you will take with you not only an education but also a network of precious relationships. While attention is rightly given your peer relationships, tonight your parents and siblings are here with you to mark this occasion. It is an opportunity to recall how important family has been to you. It is also an opportunity to say thanks to family, in particular your parents.

My dear graduands, as you take your particular path after leaving school, carry with you an appreciation of family. In your own time become the nurturers of family life. Family will always be the first and fundamental school for human life.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Wednesday, October 28, 2015