Sunday, May 24, 2009

Augustine Institute 2009 Valedictorian Address

Your Eminence, your Excellency, Dr. Gray and Augustine Institute faculty, and fellow graduates, I am humbled and honored to be in front of you today. It is with great joy that I address you on this momentous occasion.

George Weigel, in his book, Letters to a Young Catholic writes, “While Catholicism is a body of beliefs and a way of life, Catholicism is also an optic, a way of seeing things, a distinctive perception of reality.” This is what I believe the Augustine Institute has given us; a vision for life. We’ve written countless papers, sat through many lectures, stressed over memorizing more than what we would have thought possible for Dr. Sri’s exams, read an average of 1000 pages a week for Dr. Reyes’ class, and tried to decipher what Professor Innerst was really saying. And while education is a good in itself, all these things were merely means to an end. They served to give us an authentically Catholic worldview and shape us into leaders for the New Evangelization. We come to this day with a clearer understanding of what we must do to contribute to rebuilding a Christian culture.

The Servant of God, John Paul II, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Catehesi Tradendae, wrote, “The definitive aim of Catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ: only He can lead us to the love of the Father in the Spirit and make us share in the life of the Holy Trinity.” As we go out into this world we must first realize that we are not offering people merely a moral code or a competing set of ideas but a call to relationship. To be Catholic is to be in an intimate relationship with Christ. Our lives must first and foremost bear witness to this.

In today’s world people are lost. They are starving for authentic relationship. They are desperately looking for “meaning”. Instead we are building what, then, Cardinal Ratzinger called a, “dictatorship of relativism.” People have lost their moral compass accepting the most atrocious crimes against humanity as “personal choices.” Where is “meaning?” Is it in Going Green? Is it in being a Champion of Choice? Is it in the Constitution? Or is it, in these days, to be found in financial security (being “debt free”)? The answer of Christ and his Church is, of course, that man is invested with a great dignity and a higher calling. St. Augustine writes, “You have made us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Again, Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, “Human life cannot be realized by itself. Our life is an open question, an incomplete project, still to be brought to fruition and realized. Each man's fundamental question is: How will this be realized—becoming man? How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path toward happiness? To evangelize means: to show this path—to teach the art of living.” We have lost this art of living. It is unlikely that rational arguments are going to sway people from today’s relativistic thought. The only way we are going to make a difference is by living a life that is radically other and at the same time attractive because it witnesses to love.

Lastly we must be people of prayer. John 15:5 reads, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Without being rooted in Christ our efforts will be in vain. The only way to stay rooted in Christ is through prayer. The Augustine Institute has reawakened in me the realization of the desperate need I have for prayer. If we are to accomplish anything we must take time in this busy world to silence ourselves and allow God to speak to us and transform us.

Mary’s Fiat, St. Joseph humbly accepting the will of God to become the Foster Father of Jesus, St. Paul preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth despite persecution and suffering, St. Augustine leaving behind a life of pleasure for the sake of the Gospel, St. Therese doing small things with great love, St. Polycarp and many other martyrs like him in the history of the Church accepting death rather than denying Christ, St. Francis embracing a life of poverty, St. Benedict renewing the Church by becoming the founder of western monasticism, St. Maximillian Kolbe willingly laying down his life for the sake of another in a Nazi Concentration camp, Bl. Mother Theresa picking up the poor and diseased from the gutters of Calcutta; all of these things are examples of radical love. It is this radical love that allowed these Saints to transform the world around them. As we learned in Dr. Reyes’ class, “History is not made by large groups of people but by individuals.” With the formation we have received here we are to go forth and be those individuals committed to transforming the culture by radical love as these and so many other Saints have done.

In conclusion, I would like to thank my parents for all their sacrifices on my behalf, without them I would not be here today. I would also like to thank all the professors for not only their work in our intellectual formation but also for their witness of life in showing us the “art of living.” I would like to thank Archbishop Chaput for his support of the Augustine Institute, without it none of us would be here today. And of course thank you to Cardinal Arinze for taking the time to celebrate with us today. My fellow graduates, I leave you with these words of Christ to the Apostles, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Congratulations Class of 2009! Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever!

1 comment:

Debbie said...

Double congrats, Jose! I read in the DCR that you were valedictorian. Woo hoo! And thanks for posting this on your blog so those of us who weren't there can read it and pretend that we were there.