His Eminence Marc Cardinal Ouellet
Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada
Commencement Address to the Class of 2009
The Legacy of Thomas Dillon
You will not be surprised that I wish to begin this commencement address by giving thanks to God for the life and work of the late President Thomas Dillon, pioneer and builder of Thomas Aquinas College. The memory of this event will be sealed within our hearts because of his ultimate sacrifice.
While sharing deeply with you the grief and shock of his sudden and tragic death some weeks ago, I turn to God with you in prayer, recognizing that He saw that dear President Dillon's work was perfectly completed and that others must now take up his heritage.
Together, we thank God for His gift to the Church of this outstanding layman who dedicated himself totally, and with outstanding success, to the mission of Catholic education in the United States of America. May he now enjoy the reward of the good and faithful servant whose work and ideals remain a message and a heritage for us all. From the perspective of heaven, one might venture to say that after making such a gift as this to Catholic education, death seems something of an apotheosis. Thanks to your passion for the truth, dear Dr. Dillon, we will remember forever the Most Holy Trinity as the summit of all mysteries and Our Lady, handmaid of the Lord, as the primordial and ultimate form of the Church. May dear Dr. Dillon rest in peace!
To the Graduates
Dear students, at the end of your valuable learning experience in this college, you leave with every reason for gratitude and hope. You will have acquired and developed a strong sense of purpose, deep faith convictions, a passion for the truth, both rational and supernatural, from attending the School of Masters, dominated by the unsurpassable medieval master, St. Thomas Aquinas.
Furthermore, you will have acquired the strength to stand up for Catholic principles in family, education, and social life, ready and eager to manifest a great love for the Church. Your intimacy with Christ, developed through your years of study here, will give you a sense of community, a sense of readiness and mission. You are ready to engage yourselves further and passionately, in the service of your fellow men and women, many of whom are lost in the cultural and ideological confusion of our time.
Dear friends, you leave this great college with the treasure of many personal and communal experiences which have shaped your mind and heart, insights received from your teachers, examples of faith and devotion, deep friendships, some of which will last until the end of your life. All this constitutes, for you, fond memories of the alma mater, many joyful events, but also difficult moments of testing and growth, following in the footsteps of our Crucified but also Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel
Among those memories you take away from your college years, you will treasure in your heart the remembrance of this beautiful chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, an outstanding symbol of the spiritual and intellectual structure of Thomas Aquinas College. The Chapel is an outstanding achievement of President Dillon's commitment to this college and will remain for future generations a symbol of his legacy to us. Professor Denis McNamara wrote eloquently on the great significance of this new chapel as being part of the renewal of traditional Catholic architecture. I agree wholeheartedly and rejoice with you and him over the fact that it "displays its deep roots in tradition, making the great architectural and artistic deeds of the past knowable to us in the present."
Your patron, St. Thomas Aquinas, was a great master of sacred theology, and the title Doctor Communis is fully appropriate. The Doctor Communis knew the best way to acquire understanding and wisdom in sacred matters. He made a practice of meditation of Holy Scripture, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, total reverence for the truth, from whatever source it came, divine revelation or human reason. His greatest achievement was a complex harmony between theology and philosophy, tradition and creativity, depth and breadth, mystery and intellectus fidei.
This unique achievement of Aquinas' theological genius is expressed in architectural form in this chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. Qualities of his great intellect are magnificently transposed into this building — balance, proportion, clarity, grandeur, inspiration, tradition — in a word, wholeness and holiness of mind and heart.
The Role of Mary
Dear friends, since it was your chapel which inspired me to convey to the whole Church a Marian and dialogical message concerning the Word of God (at the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2008), I would like to highlight some basic characteristics of our relationship to the Word of God in the light of the Marian paradigm.
What does it mean for us Christians to pray? What does it mean for us to relate to the Word of God? In the light of Mary and the Word Made Flesh, it means listening, welcoming, responding personally, and submitting oneself to God's plan in total obedience.
That is what prayer actually is. Mary's fiat is the origin and permanent form of the Church. It is the way God's Word penetrates the world and makes of it a dwelling place, a temple, His kingdom. Mary is our model of faith and readiness in the service of God's coming into the world. But she is more than a model, she is mother — our mother in faith, a mother that gives life, nurtures and develops it, and brings it to maturity.
God has sent His divine Word to the world in order to become closer to us through the mystery of the Incarnation. The ultimate purpose of the Incarnation is to raise man up into the glory of God, which means introducing the whole of humanity, through Christ, within the eternal dialogue of the Triune life. Mary was predestined to be the precious vessel bringing about this event, paving the way for us by welcoming the Word in her heart and womb and by letting the Word take possession of her life and mission.
We can draw from her divine motherhood and her spiritual example a light for our lives, a fruitful way of understanding Holy Scripture in the heart and the spirit and not only from a rational and historical perspective.
The Word of God…
How do we in fact relate personally to the Word, from the womb of her faith in which we are introduced into the life of the Most Holy Trinity? This question leads me to put before you some principles, attitudes, and practices discussed and suggested at the Synod of Bishops, in order to help you to build up your own life on the rock of the Word of God and not on the sand of purely human resources.
Dear brothers and sisters, to be practical, let me insist on telling you to be personal with God's Word and not just knowledgeable. Certainly, read and study the Bible as the Word of God, but first of all, pray with Holy Scripture. Take it as it really is, a book of prayer, a liturgical book, a sacred book whose deepest meaning appears only in the light of the Risen Lord and of the Holy Eucharist. The setting for interpreting Holy Scripture is not the library or the schoolroom, it is the temple.
Over the last 50 years, many new methods have been developed in Catholic exegesis for understanding the Bible as human literature. This had a value and was useful but was nevertheless inadequate. Pope Benedict made it clear during the Synod that a deeper theological understanding of Scripture is necessary today, but it requires an approach that is much more faithful and prayerful. Let us recapture the Patristic understanding of Scripture, which is a fruit of lectio divina.
…and the Word Made Flesh
The Church as Bride of the Lord experiences deep joy in Eucharistic adoration. In the Eucharistic celebration itself, we adore — that is the summit of adoration. We rejoice deeply in this gift of God's love. Moreover, as Bride of the Lamb, aware of the nuptial mystery of the Church, we surrender to the prolonged embrace of the Divine Spouse in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. As adorers of Divine Love Incarnate, we learn true discipleship of Christ after the example of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.
I conclude by quoting from another great doctor of the Church of the present time, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. In his wonderful teachings on the early Fathers and monastic writers, he quotes from the writings of an 8th century monk, Ambrose Autpert: "With mere theological research, God cannot be known as He is. Love alone reaches Him."
Let us listen to this message and ask the Lord to help us live the mystery of the Church, to know Him in our whole life, as well as on this day of ending and of "commencement."
“The culture at the College, the community was very formative for me. I saw joyful people living their Catholic faith, doing it to the best of their ability, and not being ashamed of it.”
– Rev. John Marie Bingham, O.P. (’00)
Parochial Vicar, Saint Dominic’s Parish, Benicia, Calif