Visiting the New England campus for this week’s Dedication of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel, alumnus priest Rev. Nicholas Callaghan (’96), JCD, is a judge on the Metropolitan Tribunal, the Ecclesiastical Court of the Archdiocese of New York. Ordained in 2004, he earned his doctorate in canon law in Rome after serving as a parochial vicar at two New York parishes. On Tuesday, he offered the midday Mass in Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel. Below is a transcript of his homily.
It is a great honor and privilege to be able to visit here for the first time and to appreciate the very familiar things and the modified things about this campus, and the work that you are about here, which is very much the work that the founders set out in the Blue Book — which is a wonderfully heartening thing to see.
I had an occasion after the lunch yesterday to talk to a few people familiar with the California campus who are over here now, and people who have lived the TAC life, and something of an observation we shared — certainly I shared with them, and they didn’t disagree — was the tremendous value of the experience of community. For myself, I would sum it up as Sunday morning on campus, a sense of community involving a shared purpose in study, but also involving all the different dimensions of the people of God, from the newborn to the old: clergy, laity, whoever has to actually mix up the powdered eggs, and whoever has to put the paper plates away in the trash.
It was of tremendous value to me, I know, as a student at Thomas Aquinas back in the twilight of the last millennium, but it has been, over the last 26 years, I would say also, a great value in later life. I think it has helped me in various dimensions and saved me from mistakes I might otherwise have made, both as a layman and then as a priest, to have experienced that community. And it is, I think, especially a precious thing to maintain.
The Bishop gave an excellent sermon yesterday, and this is not a sed contra. It might be a little bit of a respondeo. But he did at the end more or less charge you with the task of reviving the Church in the Northeast of the United States. I would encourage you not to think about that very much, in the sense that that is not the first goal that you need to keep in mind. The goal you need to keep mind, if you’re a student, is your studies, and through that your soul.
For that end, speaking from experience, I would say, firstly, please, go to Confession, even when it annoys and frustrates the priest who otherwise would be getting out to say Mass on time. Adore Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. I would not be here if I had not eventually been dragged into that habit as a student at Thomas Aquinas College.
And on the monitory side, be very prayerful and very careful before you begin or enter into any quarrel in the community. There are always those. There are some quarrels that are more or less institutions within the life of Thomas Aquinas College. They sort of have to exist. They’re there all the time. You kind of would feel uncomfortable if they weren’t going on. But what your role needs to be is not, first, in that. That is not to talk about the classroom. The classroom is a place that needs fools and villains and people saying outlandish things. The classroom is a place of play, the most important and most instructive play you may ever engage in, but there all sorts of fights are possible. But within the community outside, I would beg your great care about those fights.
Mother Teresa very famously said that we cannot do great things, but only small things with great love. Thomas Aquinas College is in the scale of the world not a great thing. It is a rather large and important small thing, and in that regard — and for the sake of what fruit it may bear; for the sake of what the Bishop sort of commissioned you all to do in the years to come — it demands great love.