Bishop McManus, President McLean, Deans Kaiser and Goyette, governors, faculty, family members, friends, and fellow classmates, it is my privilege to address you today. I thank my class for the honor of speaking on its behalf on this happy occasion as we complete our time at Thomas Aquinas College. With the Apostle Paul we say, “Thanks be to God, Who hath given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57) in gratitude celebrating the God-given triumph of our education.
It is noteworthy that today as well marks the triumph of this New England campus, as we become its first graduates, and it is fitting that we commemorate this along with our graduation, not because of the coincidence in time, but because each event enlightens the purpose and nature of the other. First, obviously, but by no means trivial, our graduation is the first fruits of many years of planning, anxiety, generous donations, sweat, hard work, and ceaseless prayers. All the physical, mental, and academic work has now been rewarded. We thank all who worked and are present here today as the success of your labor.
Secondly, however, and more importantly, the founding of a new campus informs what we have done in our education these past four years. I would like to leave an understanding of this as a parting reminder and encouragement to my classmates and, to others gathered, a look into what our life consists due to our time at the College. Our education here has mirrored the founding of this campus, in that as we have helped to found on this campus a community of study, prayer, and love.
So in our education we have created a community between each other of wisdom; in that as we have striven to make our campus rich in beauty and dignity, so have we filled our souls with the most beautiful and noble truths. And as we have set at the heart of our campus a chapel dedicated to Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help, so we have, through acquiring wisdom, dedicated our minds and souls to Mary, Seat of Wisdom.
When we first came to the College and later to this campus, we did not have a community within our class or with the tutors, much less with the staff and families: We had no common love and habits, no shared life. Over time, through “sharing the proverbial salt,” we have created a community: studying, learning, praying, eating, and working together have made us into one body with a shared love of our college and campus.
Similarly, but in a fuller and truer way, our class has made a single community through our shared love and pursuit of wisdom. We have made ourselves a true intellectual community, not in the sense that we have been dedicated to intellectual pursuits, but that we have made a community between our intellects through the study of wisdom. In class, in dinner table discussions, in personal musings intimately shared with one another, we have learned wisdom together, sharing the salt of knowledge with each other.
This has made us like each other in wisdom, made us into images of each other that are images of the truth! Indeed, if, as Aristotle says in the Ethics, friendship built on the good is the highest friendship, and contemplation of the truth is the highest good, then we have built between ourselves the greatest type of community: a union of our souls reflecting in each other the truth that we know.
It was not simply a community that was lacking here, however, when the College began to inhabit the Northfield campus. Though this campus came with many beautiful and valuable structures, lawns and trees, much was in disrepair. This opportunity was seized upon to make this campus a fitting and noble place for the study of wisdom. Beautiful new floors and roofs, doors and paths and gardens were all brought about to make a resplendent and ennobling setting for study.
Likewise, our education has done the same for our minds. The most beautiful things ever thought have been planted in our minds: Euclid’s Elements, the verses of Shakespeare and Milton, the inner workings of animals and plants, Aristotle’s proofs for the unmoved mover and the highest intelligible and good God, and Aquinas’ exposition of the nature of the Trinity have been given to us in our education to make our mind beautiful. More than any building or garden, our minds have become, through assimilating these wonders, places of true delight for us. After our education we have nowhere to delight in beauty better than the truth that we have learned.
I have left out our beloved chapel in this list of our beautiful things, because it deserves its own place as the heart of our campus and as the analogy for the heart of our education. Our Mother of Perpetual Help Chapel is our crown, our help, and our heart. It is our crown, the most beautiful possession we have on this campus; its gold and illumination are a joy to behold and a pride for us to show. It is our help, as we go there perpetually for any need and pray before Our Lady’s icon or Christ in the tabernacle, asking for clarity in our understanding, friendship and patience with our peers, good grades, and knowledge of our vocation. Lastly, it is our heart, because here we visit Our Lady and receive Our Lord from her bosom, the greatest of all good.
Likewise is Mary, herself, to our education. The crown, the help and the heart of our education, is Our Lady, seat of Wisdom, who carries, as in the icon in our chapel, Christ, Wisdom Incarnate. Our Lady is established in our hearts and minds because we have sought wisdom, and she is enthroned wherever wisdom is. For, Wisdom is not an abstract concept, nor is it a condition of the mind, but a person, Who is the child of Mary. Thus the Church uses the words of Wisdom itself on her feasts: “I was with Him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before Him at all times.”
It is in Mary that we find all our knowledge: The perfect solids of Euclid and the elegant forms of Ptolemy grew within her womb; all knowledge of philosophy, of the soul, the common good, and motion, suckled at her breast; the unmoved mover, she carried in her arms, and the highest intelligible good, she taught to speak; she played with the end of all knowledge at the home in Nazareth, and she was His delight. The wisdom that we have begun to form by this education can only be found within Mary; if we love wisdom, we must love Mary, for Wisdom loved her first. Thus, Mary is the crown of our education, our pride and beauty; she is the help of our education, giving all knowledge to us; and she is the heart of our education, the actual possession of what we are striving for.
I hope that this address has reminded you, my classmates, why you are here and what you have done; I hope it has encouraged parents, benefactors, and tutors to think on what they have accomplished in us; and I hope it has shown friends the riches that we celebrate today.
As the Class of 2022 goes out, we must remember what we have done at Northfield and continue the work we have begun. We must not abandon our community of wisdom, but always work to build up the common good of knowledge with whomever we encounter. We must continue the adornment of our minds with the beauty of truth, eschewing the ugly corruption of the culture around us for the nobility of the literature, mathematics, philosophy, and theology we have been trained to love. Most importantly we must continue to dedicate ourselves to the honor and love of Our Lady, Mother of Wisdom and Perpetual Help, praying to her, seeking her aid and honoring her in our pursuit of Wisdom, Who is her son.
We ask the aid, encouragement, and prayers of all the friends here present as our time comes to a close, and may Our Lady bless us all with her child as she continues to help us perpetually. Thank you.