St Patrick’s College
Conferral of Degrees
Saturday, 13 October 2007
Most Reverend Seán Brady
Archbishop of Armagh
Dear graduates of the class of 2007, it is good to be with you today as your Chancellor to share this proud moment for you and your families and friends. I congratulate all of you most heartily. I am delighted to know that there are over 160 of you at this graduation ceremony receiving 16 different degrees, diplomas and awards. This is surely a sign, if ever one were needed, of the health and vibrancy of the Pontifical University Maynooth. May this moment of graduation be a time of great joy, first of all, but also a time of commitment to truth and of compassionate service to those who are struggling and in need. May it be a time of gifted articulation of God’s plan and purposes and the human understanding which must underpin the daily lives of all who seek to live out our catholic faith.
Cardinal Newman once famously wrote:
“I want a laity … who know their religion and enter into it,
who know just where they stand,
who know what they hold and what they do not,
who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it,
who know so much of history that they can defend it.
I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity.
I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, and
to get an insight into the relation of truth,
to learn things as they are,
to understand how faith and reason stand to each other,
to understand what are the bases and principles of Catholic tradition.”
I believe this quotation is apposite not only for this graduation day but indeed for the studies which you, our graduates, have undertaken at Maynooth these past years. Newman’s word’s have also found a more recent echo in a powerful homily delivered by the Cardinal who has now gone on to become our Pope. The then Cardinal Ratzinger said, “An adult faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty. A mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false.”
Following the lead of Pope Benedict, Cardinal Newman and the II Vatican Council, you, as active and involved lay persons, have sought to open both heart and mind to the coherence, truth, beauty, and goodness of the faith as it comes to us through the Church. You have made your own the conviction that the living Tradition of the Church, summarised by the Creed, contains and transmits the truth. It is a truth defined not merely as correspondence between an idea and reality but indeed as the life-giving and life-changing assurance that “Jesus is Lord!” It is a truth embraced by faith but also by reason enlightened by faith. For you have accepted the conviction that in the power of the Holy Spirit, you are consecrated in the truth. Consequently the eyes of your mind are opened to the depth and beauty of the faith, and to
worlds seen and unseen. Proclaimed in season and out of season, the faith leads us to the truth that unlocks the meaning of human existence. It is vitally important in a world today where so many people fail to see any meaning or hope.
I know your MAYNOOTH courses challenged you in the way Newman envisioned. As you grappled with the richness of the Tradition you had to come to terms with a faith which seeks to understand at least something of the glory of God. For we believe that ‘God’s glory shining on the face of Christ’ tells us who we really are in God’s eyes. It tells us who we are, both as individuals and as a communion of faith. Further, you have been challenged to see how, even in the revelation of God’s love, human reason and human nature are not absorbed or wiped out. Rather they are freed for those new vistas, those infinite horizons for which we were all created. You have been given the chance to see the Plan of God who used human instruments to speak His Word to us. You have seem how his Word continues to shed its light on the possibilities, problems, and challenges of our contemporary scene. I hope you have come to see morality – not as a set of arbitrary rules nor as a mere calculated approach to obligation. I hope you see morality as a wholehearted but reasonable response to God’s infinite love, a way of life in which his agape takes root in our every-day lives and helps to shape a just and peaceful society.
Some of you have studied the worship of the Liturgy of the Church. Yes, you have seen it as a human ritual, to be sure. But you also saw it as a ritual taken up to become a work of the Trinity. There we are made one with God and one another in a communion of life and love. And all this you have seen
through the lens of history, a lens that does not hide the drama of a Church that travels through time filled with the holiness of Christ but weak in its members. It is a Church whose task is to make saints of sinners, surely a messy business but a vital business nevertheless. You will have seen, in a privileged way, how important worship is as part of that business and how much those miss who never worship.
Truly being a student in the Pontifical University is much more than abstract lessons in theology or philosophy. You have been on an adventure, a journey, spiritually and intellectually. Now it is time to go forth to share what you have been given, to share your informed and enriched faith with others and as you do so I hope you will remember the words of Christ, “This is eternal life – to know the One True God and to know Jesus Christ”.. St. Paul lays down this challenge in his letter to the Romans when he says: “Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” And so your voices are to join those deathless voices which have gone forth to the corners of the world proclaiming Christ and bearing witness to Christ. It is not enough to talk the talk, you must also walk the walk. And this all of you will do through the various forms of parish service and ministry which you will be undertaking or perhaps are already undertaking. You will do so in the schools in which you will teach, the places of employment where you will work, the further studies you will undertake, the new families which you will become.
Let me thank on your behalf the President, Registrar, Deans, your dedicated faculties, the staff of Theology Office; especially Margaret Tyrell, Colette Scully, Sandra Norgrove, and all who make possible Education for Parish
Service and I wish to extend our congratulations and very best wishes for the future to the new President, the new Vice-President and the new lecturers in Moral Theology. I know the Faculty of Theology is engaged in a major quality assurance of you and are working towards a strategic plan for the future and I wish this a very successful outcome. It would be very remiss were I not to place on record my, and your, profound appreciation of the outgoing president Monsignor Dermot Farrell. He was at the helm during your time and has left an extraordinary legacy of achievement to the College! Only last evening, the scaffolding was removed from the College Chapel, signalling the end of the major refurbishment of this beautiful Chapel and that has been carried out by Monsignor Farrell.
Finally let me say a word of thanks to the loved ones, especially your parents, spouses, and, yes, even the children of our graduates, for your support, and encouragement most of all. We quoted Cardinal Newman already – a man who was himself no stranger to University life or Academia.
Let us make his prayer our own:
A Prayer of Trust in God
“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me, which He has not committed to another. I have my mission – I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I hall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be a preacher of truth in y own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.
Therefore, my God, I will put myself without reserve into your hands. What have I in heaven, and apart from you what do I want upon earth? My flesh and my heart fail, but God is the God of my heart, and my portion for ever.