Class of 2013
The confreres of St. Michael’s Abbey each day draw down from heaven countless graces as they unite their voices in song in the Divine Office with the voices of the heavenly host. And let me underscore here--men of the class of 2013--host means “army.”There's much more. This is a very substantial commencement address, far too substantial for any university -- especially a secular one. Only a solidly Catholic high school like St. Michael's Preparatory School could possibly have garnered such a meaty oration as this. Congratulations to all of them! Read more >>
It is the army before which your Archangel patron unsheathes his broadsword and leads these eager confreres into battle against the organized forces of evil. Now—men of the class of 2013—it is common in our age—to regard evil as some vaguely defined failure on the part of men to organize properly human society, but—once we apply the right social systems and the right technologies, we will at last eradicate all forms of human suffering. This fool’s errand in the perfectibility of human society often goes by the name of progress and its chief proponents throughout history include such figures as guillotine enthusiast Robespierre, communist Karl Marx, eugenicist Margaret Sanger, and mass murderers, Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse Tung.
And following in the footsteps of these monsters, knowingly or not, is virtually every commencement speaker at virtually every commencement exercise. I’ll give you their speeches in one sentence: This venerable institution has made you brilliant and wonderful, now go out beyond its walls and make the world a better place.
Very well. Here’s my question: How is it then that countless graduating classes have been sent forth by countless commencement speakers to go forth and make the world a better place, and yet it is patently obvious that we are well into what Christopher Dawson seventy years ago called the “disintegration of Western Civilization.”
... Gentlemen, there is only one meaningful way to change the world and that is to restore the binding force that Christianity once exercised on the world. You can be part of this effort only if you first transform your heart in Christ. You cannot help save the world if you do not see first every day to your own salvation. Our Lord is explicit on this point: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.”
You have had the best Catholic formation available in America. I don’t need to tell you about the Sacraments, personal devotions, and norms of piety. But let me underscore something you have heard about everyday here. The interior life. You must attend every day to your interior life: spiritual reading, the reading of Scripture, especially the life of Christ, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. It is impossible for you to do good work if you first do not put your own soul in order. Nemo dat quod no habet. You cannot share love of God if you do not have it, and it is in the interior life that you will cultivate love of God. The venerable French Abbot Dom Chautrard in the book that would become Pope Saint Pius X’s beside book, The Soul of the Apostolate, makes clear that unless apostolic work is suffused with Love of God it will bear no fruit....
[Hat tip to A. Sistrom]