TAC & Friendship
by Rev. Michael Hurley (’99)
Pastor, St. Dominic’s Church, San Francisco
Thomas Aquinas College
August 22, 2022
I am just delighted to be here and to give these remarks. I will just take a moment to reflect upon the great adventure that awaits you, particularly our freshmen.
If I had to encapsulate in one word what this time at Thomas Aquinas College, these four years, the gift it was to me, it would be simply this: friendship. If someone is asking me, “As you walk away, as you think about your time at the College, what did it instill in your heart?” That sense of friendship.
First of all, explicit friendship with classmates, folks with whom I actually made that four-year journey. I think there might be more faculty and staff now than graduates in my class, 40 some-odd. And yet even though we don’t necessarily all keep in contact, when we do, there is a real connection. It’s that kind of class, and I don’t think this is just particular to my class in ’99. There’s a way in which you share, not only formation, but you just share life together, everything, for those four years. There’s a connection that can’t be replicated in any other context. I suppose it’s maybe like the military, in that sense of connectivity and bond, such that I have no doubts, if I was in need and darkened the door of a classmate and said, “Hey, I need a room for tonight,” they’d say, “Come on in.”
There are explicit ways and particular people, but it goes beyond that. It’s not simply the explicit kind of friendship you have with those you journey with, but there is a structural, more implicit availability toward friendship. How do we get at that? Dr. O’Reilly began his remarks with asking, “What are we all about here at the College? What’s the goal?” We might take a step back and say, “What’s the goal of life in general? What are we doing here on this planet?” Last night we were talking about the Baltimore Catechism. Why did God make us? “To know, love, and serve God in this life and enjoy Him in the next.” How does St. Thomas define charity? Friendship. At the heart of that is friendship, which involves knowledge. Love itself is charity. It always seeks the good of the other. So that sense of friendship is structurally built into this place.
The greatest night in human history was Holy Thursday. It transformed the world. What does Jesus say to his disciples? He says, “I no longer call you servants or slaves. What do I call you? I call you friends.” God invites us to friendship. The whole goal of why we’re here is to cultivate a sense of friendship. First of all, friendship with our Lord Jesus, and then friendship with others who are on that way, who are on that journey. How difficult and how rare friendship can be! And yet the opportunity is laid out in front of you.
What would that look like? What is that going to look like for you? Let’s do a little imagination here. I think it’s junior year we read about friendship. So imagine yourself, first of all, you have two seminars —oh boy. Halfway through the year, it’s Wednesday night. You’ve got 150 pages of Hobbes to read; the text itself, like the philosopher, is nasty, short, and brutish. You’re reconsidering your life choices, and you say, “What am I doing in philosophy? Oh, the Nicomachean Ethics. Alright, that’s what we’re going to go with.” So, Aristotle, in the Ethics, talks about three kinds of friendship. Spoiler alert: I’m going to give you a little insight. It’s a free preview. Everyone likes a trailer to a good movie — this is a sizzle reel.
Aristotle, friendship: There’s friendships of utility, of use. We are friends, we are connected, to the extent that you offer some good to me and I can be of some use to you. I would say in my daily life, I think for most of us, 80 percent of our friendships are just on that kind of exchange. It’s not bad, but it is at a certain level. It’s one of use, of utility.
There’s the second kind of friendship, which is friendship of pleasure. I would say our culture absolutely thinks this is the highest form of friendship. We like to hang out together, we share certain pastimes, we enjoy each other’s company, we like to have good conversation and meals, and so forth. I perform hundreds of weddings a year, and I would say most couples, when they come to get married, have a friendship of pleasure at that point, and they haven’t gone deeper. It’s what our culture will say friendship is all about: Finding some kind of common interest, something that gives you delight or pleasure. Once again, it’s not bad.
These next four years are an opportunity for you not just to make friends, but to have the capacity to be a friend.
But Aristotle takes it to a next step, and it’s the step the Lord call us to, and that’s the friendship of virtue — that is, when two or more, when a community, seeks virtue together, seeks the good together. What brings them together, that third that ties them together, is nothing less than the good, and the true, and the beautiful, and our habit in seeking that real virtue. These next four years are an opportunity for you not just to make friends, but to have the capacity to be a friend. This college formed me so that I am, praised be God, able to be available to the friendship the Lord has called me to. I would say most of our culture is not even aware of what that friendship would look like.
Friendship with God: What does that look like at the College? It looks like robust sacramental life. The College was the first time that I began to go to Mass every day, with a chaplain who challenged me to pray the Rosary every day. I thought, “Oh my goodness, you’re killing me here.” Now I wear a Rosary, little did he know! He said, “Fifteen minutes to pray a decade of the Rosary, that’s of 1,440 minutes in a day; it’s 1 percent of your day. If you can’t give 1 percent of your day to the Lord in contemplation, what are you doing?”
So I say to you, I challenge you: Make daily Mass a priority, and praying your Rosary. Have those disciplines of morning prayer, evening prayer. You are not cultivating a friendship that is just of utility with God: “God, I’m in need.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but God is not the cosmic Amazon account. “I’ve got credit here, I’m just going to go ahead and buy that,” or, “I’m going to go ahead and pay for that.” No, that’s utility. Open your heart to the Lord to invite Him in, to walk with Him, each and every day, pursuing the goodness that is our Lord.
And then friendship with one another. You haven’t had the joy — and, perhaps, even the travails — of section life yet, but you will. The first time someone says something which is utter nonsense, or the first time you say something which is completely off-base, what do we have there? Growth in the virtue of patience, growth in the virtue of humility. Consider that we are just parts of a whole the Lord has called us to. You will come and have the opportunity to be close to the members of your section, your seminar, over these next four years; to be available for friendship; to pursue the good; to grow in virtue; to be changed forever. Together as a group, together pursuing that good.
I couldn’t be more excited for you — even a touch envious, because you’re right on the cusp! As you begin your journey, especially as we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, may your hearts be open to that friendship. May you truly cultivate and receive the invitation the Lord has, to share His life with you. And may you, with joy, share this precious time together, walking hand-in-hand, shoulder to shoulder, as friends toward our ultimate Friend.
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