A Commencement Address: Who are We and What are We Doing? June 13, 2018
Here is my commencement address for Our Lady of Victory School, Post Falls, ID.
Feast of St. Anthony of Padua/June 13, 2018
Dear Reverend Father, dear Sisters, Mr. Scott Jones, dear family, friends, and dear graduates of Our Lady of Victory School.
“The world is changed not by what is said, or what is blamed or praised, but by what is done. The world never recovers from what is done.”
These words from G.K. Chesterton point to the fact that you graduates who are here before us are at an unrepeatable moment in your lives. A moment that will determine, because of your choices following this moment, the lives of countless other human beings and, ultimately, your own eternal destiny. It is from this moment that you will be translating ideas into action. Ideas into choices of the will. Woe to them who say that the profound ideas, true doctrine, grand and glorious images and stories that you have assimilated into your intellects and memories from the great literary, historical, and religious tradition of the Western World has been a waste of time. The studies which you have all passed through at Our Lady of Victory in history, geography, literature, the natural sciences, the study of our sacred religion, and yes, hard as it is for me to say, even math, situate your young minds in God’s Created and Uncreated Reality, allowing you to understand the context in which your lives will unfold. Without understanding who history has made us and into what situation it has put us in, we cannot truly be prudent when we attempt to order our lives and direct them towards worthy and wholesome goals. By the very fact that you have chosen homeschooling, I know that you have decided against going along with the dominant trends and errors of the times. You have rejected the distortion of history, the ignorance of God, the immorality, the violence, and the slack behavior that reigns in most schools in our land. What are we doing? Certainly not what THEY are doing. We know that such a life and such ideas that they advocate do not lead to true human happiness, either natural or supernatural.
But, What exactly are we doing and why are we doing it? Without understanding our own very particular circumstances we cannot really answer either question, never mind attempt to fight for the goal in a valiant way. Prudence requires a practical assessment of the situation in which men are called to act. Without prudence discovering the concrete moral good there is no justice. Without justice there is no courage. Says St. Augustine, “not the injury, but the cause makes martyrs.”
In this regard, if we spend a moment thinking about it, there is really no question about why we are here. There is nothing general or abstract about it. Many of us are here because of Archbishop Lefebvre and what he did in June 1988. We are all in some way children of that act, of which we are this year celebrating the 30th Anniversary. We are the children of “Operation Survival,” the Operation that was meant to preserve the heritage that is a Catholic’s Birthright. The Archbishop told us what this “Operation Survival” was when he said, in his 1988 Consecration Sermon, speaking in the voice of all the popes from Gregory XVI through St. Pius X to Pope Pius XII, “Please, we beseech you, what are you going to do with our teachings, with our preaching, with the Catholic Faith? Are you going to abandon it? Are you going to let it disappear from this earth? Please, please, continue to keep this treasure which we have given you….Do not abandon the Church! Continue the Church! Indeed, since the Council, what we condemned in the past the present Roman authorities have embraced and are professing. How is it possible?...All the errors which we have condemned are now professed, adopted and supported by the authorities of the Church. Is it possible? Unless you do something to continue this Tradition of the Church which we have given to you, all of it shall disappear.”
Well, the reason we stand here today, the reason these young sentinels keep watch in these last moments before their graduation, is because we will not, cooperating with the Grace of God, allow Catholic Tradition to disappear from the face of the world. The enemies’ designs shall be thwarted, and we shall do it, nor shall it be the case that the Humane Tradition of human education, from the loftiest conclusions of the Fathers, Doctors, and the Popes of the Catholic Church, to the human tragedies found in Shakespeare, to the proper endings of every Latin word, to the simplest thing as genuine handwriting --- that precious expression of individual human personality and the bond that has knitted together human hearts through the long millennia of our race, shall disappear. These things shall not disappear from the human mind and heart. Your parents and tutors did not allow this to happen. Here we must do on the level of human culture what Archbishop Lefebvre did on the level of faith and grace. You shall receive from us, what we have received. It is precious, it is threatened, but you will receive it. This is the reason we stand here, this is the reason you stand here.
If this is what prudence judges and this is what justice demands from us, what about fortitude or courage, what role does courage for you graduates? When I tell you graduates that you will need courage in the face of your life to come, you glance at me and nod your head in a mechanical kind of way. You have heard this before. That’s the Crusader bit. But, how can courage be really necessary when the virtue of fortitude has as its purpose the mastering of fear in order to overcome great obstacles in your path to the achievement of the good of human life. How can we even speak of such things as fear and great obstacles when you will not likely have to face hostile anti-Catholic armies --- as they did in the Vendee, you will not have to worry about the government closing down your churches ---- like the Cristeros did in Mexico, you certainly will not have fear in your heart when the Mormons cycle into your driveway in order to get you to apostatize. In fact I will go further, the obstacle you face is comparable to a pea under the mattress or a piece of dust floating in the air; it is so subtle that few can even see or feel it in the contemporary atmosphere. It is so small….you will hear it just when you are starting to have fun, you will hear it when you are being offered what you have wanted, you will hear it when appeals are being made to your maturity….just be like everybody else…be as other men are. These quiet and unobtrusive words, graduates, will be the serpent which will tempt your most happy and successful moments.
It is for these moments, the most seductive of our own time, that I charge you, RESIST …VALIENTLY! Resist with what? With what kind of courage? According to St. Thomas Aquinas, there are two acts manifesting the virtue of Fortitude: Attack and Endurance. Never allow our ages’ fear of offending, especially when the falsehoods spoken or affirmed demand an forthright response, keep you from exerting passion for the sake of the good and true. St. Thomas rejects the idea that wrath is something incongruous or repugnant to the good of your soul. He says, “The brave man uses wrath for his own act, above all in attack…for it is peculiar to wrath to pounce upon evil. Thus fortitude and wrath work directly upon each other.” In defense of wrath directed towards the defense of the good, the true, and the beautiful, we remember Psalm 68, ‘The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.”
But as any adult here, whether parent or teacher or priest will tell you, it is in the act of endurance, sealed with the serenity of patience, that courage reaches its perfection. How can enduring, putting up with an evil that I cannot now change be an act of courage, since it implies a weakness in the face of a superior force? To this pagan, all-too-human objection, St. Thomas states that, “Enduring comprises a strong activity of the soul, namely, a vigorous grasping of and clinging to the good.” It is this “clinging to the good,” especially the good of truth, which will constitute your lifelong task and very modern mission. It is in “patience that a man possesses his soul.” To be patient means to preserve cheerfulness and serenity of mind in spite of the wounds coming to us in our struggle with evil, indifference, and ignorance. According to St. Thomas, patience keeps man from the danger that his spirit may be broken by grief and lose its greatness.” So strive, friends, and strive valiantly.