Last night, I attended the baccalaureate service for the graduating seniors of Matanzas High School and Flagler Palm Coast High School, both in Flagler County. In a month chock full of graduations, award ceremonies, concerts and trips, it was just what I needed: another event to attend.
I arrived very early with my daughter Olivia who, as senior class president at Matanzas High School, was one of the speakers. As I sat and waited and listened speakers and musicians warm up, I wondered, “Who thought up this idea? Where does this tradition come from?” And I wondered, “How come I never wondered about this before?” I’ve attended some in the past. In fact, I vaguely remember attending one before my own high school graduation in 1975. Vaguely.
From Wikipedia I learned that “The baccalaureate service derives from the medieval European custom of presenting the candidates for the degree of Bachelor (bacca) with laurels (lauri) of sermonic oration. The Baccalaureate ceremony is a service of worship in celebration of and thanksgiving for lives dedicated to learning and wisdom. The baccalaureate service is believed to have originated at the University of Oxford in 1432 when each bachelor was required to deliver a sermon in Latin as part of his academic requirements.”
Last night’s service omitted the Latin sermonic oration. Hosted by one of the local Roman Catholic churches, it consisted of a few prayers, musical pieces, scripture readings and brief reflections on those readings. The service was fairly well attended, with I would guess about 25% of the graduating class from each high school.
After the service was over and we snacked on cookies outside, I realized why this event was important to the students who attended. Though the gathering was faith related, I think the students were most excited about wearing their graduation caps and gowns for the first time and feeling like seniors, celebrating with their friends and family the end of high school. The tests were taken the grades were in and now, finally, it was time for celebration to begin, with the actual graduation still a week away. There were lots of smiles and pictures and hugs for all, a very relaxed atmosphere compared to the big event of commencement.
As I struggled to remember going to my own baccalaureate, I do remember than some of my friends talked me into singing with the choir for that service. I’m pretty sure we sang the traditional Irish blessing, and I think that may have been the first time I ever actually sang in a choir. How about that?