“Chosen for Greatness”

September 3, 2015 Homily on the occasion of the Mass of the Holy Spirit and the opening of the school year.

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“Chosen for Greatness”

Marian Central's chapel offers a serene setting to retreat, restore, and revive the spirit. Daily mass is offered at 2:45 pm.

Marian Central's chapel offers a serene setting to retreat, restore, and revive the spirit. Daily mass is offered at 2:45 pm.

Marian Central's chapel offers a serene setting to retreat, restore, and revive the spirit. Daily mass is offered at 2:45 pm.

Marian Central's chapel offers a serene setting to retreat, restore, and revive the spirit. Daily mass is offered at 2:45 pm.

Fr. T. Doyle, Assistant Principal & Spiritual Director

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First of all, welcome to everyone to the beginning of our school year here at Marian Central.  Welcome especially to our guests, our new freshmen, and our new faculty and staff.  Mass together is central to our identity here at Marian Central.  It is what makes us a family; it truly signifies us as a family: we gather as one around the altar and table to offer sacrifice to God and to share a meal—just as a family does.

Today, as is tradition in the Church, we celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit.  This Mass is celebrated every year to mark the beginning of the academic calendar.  It is an opportunity to ask the Holy Spirit for his gifts, like wisdom, understanding, and knowledge.  Today is also, by Divine Providence, a day when we celebrate two saintly men.  

The first man we reflect on today is Pope St. Gregory the First (if we weren’t celebrating the Mass of the Holy Spirit, we would be celebrating his feast day).  St. Gregory is one of the patron saints of musicians and singers; teachers; too.  He was born in 540 AD to a connected Roman family, a family who was also very faithful.  By the age of 30, he was already governor of Rome—and he was really good at it.  He was good at administration, the busyness of governing, and all of the responsibility that went along with it.  He was a man on the rise.

But then, he decided to leave it all behind.  He left behind his position and entered the monastic life.  The quiet of the monastery; the rhythms of the monastery; the time and space for prayer and reflection: he wrote that it was the happiest time of his life.

His skills, though, had made him too well-known for a long life in the monastery.  The pope at the time pulled him out of his solitude and sent him out to do diplomatic work, which he did faithfully for the next 20 years or so.  After that, the pope chose him as his personal secretary, a position that he also performed faithfully.  When the pope died due to a plague, Gregory was unanimously declared the new pope.

He tried to resist—again, all he wanted was a quiet life in the monastery.  There is a legendary story that he ran away from Rome and hid in the woods outside of the city for three days—that is, until a heavenly light revealed his position to those looking for him.  In any case, in the end, he yielded and accepted the position.

Despite his reluctance, once he accepted the position, he got to work and performed faithfully all of his duties.  He brought peace to Italy.  He became well-known for his missionary and evangelization efforts—in fact, he is the pope who sent some of the first official missionaries to England.  He was generous to the poor, calling himself the “servant of the servants of God.”  He was an amazing teacher and preacher.  And he did all of this in poor health and with a weak voice.

When Gregory died, he was recognized as a truly holy man whose actions had a profound impact the world over.  Think about that: the man who wanted nothing more than the silence of the monastery went on to be one of the greatest medieval personalities, and is now considered one of the four great Church doctors of the Western Church.  This is why, today, he is known as St. Gregory “the Great”—one of only two popes officially considered so.

Regardless of his reluctance, regardless of his hesitancy, Gregory was chosen for greatness by God.

St. Gregory, though, was only following in the footsteps of his predecessor—the first pope—and the second saintly man offered for our reflection today.  We hear about him in our gospelChapel: Simon Peter.

We heard the story: Jesus is teaching on the shore and is getting crushed by the crowds.  In order to teach, he calls a boat to him—Simon’s boat—and begins to teach from there.  When he is done, Jesus tells Simon and his companions to go fishing.  Despite his reluctance, Simon does so.  He lowers the nets and, as the Scripture says, “they caught a great number of fish.”  Simon, realizing what Jesus just did, falls at his feet and says, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  To which Jesus responds, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Notice what happens here, in this calling of Simon Peter.  Simon is going about his business, doing his “thing,” when Jesus bursts into his life.  Regardless of his sinfulness and his faults, Simon is called by Jesus and used by Jesus for an incredible miracle, a “great” catch.  Not only that, but Jesus also goes further and chooses him for even greater things: to follow him, to spread the gospel, and to lead his Church.

Regardless of his reluctance, regardless of his sinfulness—just like St. Gregory—Simon Peter was chosen for greatness by Jesus.

My dear family, I don’t believe that it’s a mistake or a coincidence that we hear about these two men today.  I don’t think it’s an accident that we are meant to reflect on them.  I believe that God presents us with these two men to give us our theme for the year, the theme that we will use to reflect on together at our Masses.

These two men—regardless of their reluctance; regardless of their pasts; regardless of their weaknesses and sins and mistakes—were chosen for greatness.  And that is the same for us—we, too, are chosen for greatness.  Each one of us—you, me, him, her, them—are chosen for greatness by God.  Our entire school—all of us together—are chosen for greatness by God.

He chooses us from wherever we are in our lives: with our strengths and weaknesses; with our talents and flaws.  We may think, “Please!  God wouldn’t choose me.  If only he knew what I’ve done in my life…if only he knew what I can’t do…He would and should choose the ‘holy kid’ instead.”  Well, guess what?  He does know what you’ve done…he does know what you can’t do…and he still chooses you for greatness (along with the holy kid)!

He’s choosing us to be great: great in our classrooms and academics; great on the fields and stages and other places in our extracurricular activities; great in life.  This is what we’re going to explore this year, to understand what this greatness means.

So, today, as we begin our year, we ask the prayers of St. Peter and St. Gregory the Great to help us understand this greatness; to open our minds and hearts to hear God’s call for us to be great.  We ask the Holy Spirit—who is almost always depicted right next to St. Gregory in every picture of the saint—to be right beside us this year and to give us what we need as we see how we are chosen—not for “just alright” or “good enough”—but chosen for greatness.

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