Dear Father John, colleagues, politicians, social leaders, faculty, staff, parents, family, students, and much-loved graduates.
How are you doing today?
I am incredibly moved by your hospitality and your unique solidarity. I want to tell you that millions of Ukrainians will see you wave these flags today. They will be encouraged by your prayer, your love and your commitment to the truth. I take my hat off to you dear graduates.
As a child (and here I will date myself) watching Ara Parseghian's football championships and imitating Adrian Dantley's moves on the basketball court, I dreamed of appearing in a Notre Dame stadium. Many children dream of Notre Dame. Dear graduates, you have lived that dream.
My youthful ambition was actually pretty wild: to make it to the NBA.
These dreams were dashed early, when I was cut from the high school team. God had different plans, and I'm thankful. No NBA, no sports stardom at Notre Dame. However, childhood fantasies never really die. Today, I am here with you dear graduates. Thanks to you, I made it to the house that Rockne built and... with your permission... I'm not going to waste this opportunity to try and complete a pass... for you. I'm not kidding. (throws a soccer ball) I made it. We did it. Land Jesus!
My personal knowledge of Notre Dame was not just athletic. There have been many, many connections. I grew up as Father Hesburgh's countryman. His home parish was Most Holy Rosary on Bellevue Avenue, near my home in Syracuse. In my graduate days at Cambridge, Father Brian Daley, SJ of his Divinity School—one of the world's most respected theologians—was my teacher and confessor. A priest and writer who had a unique impact on my life and who began his teaching career here, Henri Nouwen, introduced me to life with people with cognitive and developmental challenges, something that came, as you have heard, to define the Ukrainian Catholic. . University.
On behalf of the UCU in this area, I express my deep gratitude for the warmth of your hospitality—Fr. John, graduates, parents, faculty, and staff of the University of Our Lady.
The vocation of a University —an institution invented by the Catholic Church— is to foster the flourishing of the integral person. It's not just a place to download information into a cyberbrain. Universities should strive to embrace and enlighten the whole person, mind and body, soul and spirit (as Devin has already emphasized). They are called to be not just institutions of learning but homes of wisdom, communities in which each one is helped to discern his own destiny, God's plan for us. Notre Dame's vocation is to be a home of holistic and holy wisdom. I hope that studying here under the golden statue of Our Lady you felt embraced and blessed by God in the depths of your hearts. Healed of your wounds and full of hope. It is an ongoing process, but I am confident that it is ongoing and will continue.
During his years of study, he was faced with basic questions of life in difficult circumstances. You faced adversity. You asked what should I do, how should I live, what should I cultivate in myself, and how should I form my character? You learned to recognize and affirm human dignity even in adverse circumstances. Hopefully, you also learned how to forgive and ask for forgiveness, how to give thanks.
Being an authentic person, living a good life is not a theoretical exercise. It's not just academic. It takes practice. It's not easy, it takes heart. It is from the heart that I would like to speak to you, from the heart to your heart.
By the grace of God at the center of our being, in what is often called our heart, we have been given the capacity to love, to make ourselves vulnerable to others, and to experience the mystery and gift of relationships. Everything important, true and eternal is in relation to the other and the Other (makes a small circle with one hand and a large circle with two). Christians confess God in three Persons in relationship. God is a communion of persons. We are people created in the image and likeness of God. We are personal. A person needs to relate. We thrive on relationships. Alone, we are alone, sad and ultimately powerless. Self-centered we become isolated and idiotic. That harsh word comes from the Greek ἴδιος (ídios, “own, private”) + -ώτης. Considering someone an idiot isn't really an intellectual assessment. An idiot is really someone who is self-absorbed, self-limited, confined to himself. Wilting. In what is the destiny of every human person.
In a mundane sense, the heart is nothing more than an organ, one anatomical feature among many. However, its pulse conveys a lot about our life, in fact, our life itself. It is symbolic, it is sacramental. We share it with God, God shares it with us. We use the word heart to speak of the place of our ecstasy and anguish, anxiety and harmony, sadness and consolation. It is there that we connect with each other. That communion becomes participation in the life of God. In the heart of God we find our true peace and our true joy. That is our destiny.
After all the social distancing, after those months and actually years where your studies were marked by all the protocols, let me ask you to touch each other right now. I want to ask you to pause and take your neighbor's pulse. That's how it is! Ask for a hand and feel the heartbeat of the person next to you. Do it! Even if you are not a pre-medical graduate, I trust that you can find the heartbeat, the rhythm, the pulse of the person that the Lord has placed in your life here and now, in this joyous celebration.
Stay still and listen. Touch, with permission, and feel. Yes, even those my age. The beat is still there.
Wow! the life of the other A life to respect and enhance, celebrate and protect. Imagine, friends: there are 8 billion hearts beating on this planet. Full of hope and promise, love and life.
It was the moments that flowed from the heart that touched the core of your being during your years at Notre Dame. These we celebrate: your hard work and heartfelt accomplishments, the selfless love of parents accompanying, and yes, they do pay, your education (parents, we salute you), heartbreakers and heartbreaks, heartfelt laughter, your generous volunteering, along with the seemingly ruthless demands from teachers. (But high expectations are really a sign of respect.) Your best moments in this university have been heart to heart. This is the call of Notre Dame. The human vocation and the capacity to share the heart of God by loving, giving and suffering with and for others... this is what the University of Our Lady has offered you, and now through you it is offering it to the world.
Let me take you to another place that represents Mary so vividly today: Mariupol or “the city of Mary”. For two months, in the headlines. Besieged by Russian invaders, destroyed and looted. Driven into the catacombs of a steel plant, their defenders are symbols of unyielding courage, steely will, and, yes, deep love. The members of the so-called Mariupol garrison stayed to protect the city of Maria, to protect the innocent, to fight for our—for humanity—dignity and freedom. Many are actually like you. Your age, with similar hopes and dreams. In these same hours, these heroes find themselves on a veritable death row. However, right there, the wedding vows are being pronounced, just like Valeria and Andriy Karpylenko, on May 5, ten days ago, and three days before Andriy was killed. You can imagine how their hearts raced. But they did not give up. They exchanged wedding bands made of aluminum foil. As a murderous army approaches, God helps the defenders to overcome fear. They speak clearly, with composure to the world. Their wives take their case to the world's powerful, to Pope Francis, as Kateryna Prokopenko and Yulya Fedosiuk did last Wednesday. Their hearts beat with passion for the virtues: justice, beauty and truth. They are paying for those virtues with the highest price. Since bravery is the beginning of eternity, this is its beginning. Think about it… Jesus said don't be afraid. I encourage you, graduates… that's your start.
Why are we so mesmerized by Kyiv and Chernihiv, Irpin and Kharkiv, Volnovaha and Kherson? Why have we learned difficult names of faraway places? Why did a brave and colorful rudeness make the tiny island of stone and grassy grass known to the whole world? Why have Americans and people of goodwill internationally contributed so generously to help? Why has your university made a special commitment to solidarity with the Catholic University of Ukraine at this time of war? Because I am here?
Because? Because you and I see the heart of a people and a country, the humanity and strength of its leaders who reflect the position and character of an entire nation. Zelensky has become a household word, an icon of a fearless nation, that nation that truly made him who he is. A nation of down-to-earth heroes, brave patriots, stalwart lovers. Those who look to eternity overcoming their fears. Countless Ukrainians show the greatest love for “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for his friends” (Jn, 15:13). Despite the devastation and war crimes, the marauding and torture, the mendacious lies and dastardly cruelty, we see his life. They have a heart and you are showing that you want to share your heart with them.
Ukrainians have made the Bible come alive for the world: David resists Goliath, the way of the cross has stations in Bucha and Borodianka, Mariupol and Sumy, Jesus suffers with his people. We had a Lent and Holy Week like no other. We pray that the Cross leads again to the Resurrection, to the victory of life over death.
From the guts and underworld of Azovstal, these warriors, including students, recent graduates, and university professors, teach us the most important lesson: how to live fully, remain human, children of God, even in impossible circumstances. How to give of ourselves, how to sacrifice. In an age of great relativism, they teach us an eternal lesson. Some things are just right and just, and some things are downright bad, downright bad. There are things worth living for, and there are things worth dying for.
Notre Dame has offered a unique response to the Russian invasion and devastation of the Ukraine. My presence reflects your heartfelt solidarity. It is a sign of your capacity to love generously, to embrace, to serve and to save those who suffer, to bless the cursed and to lift up the downtrodden and downtrodden. A friendship started by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and Jim McAdams 18 years ago continues with the current director of the Nanovic Institute, Clemens Sedmak, and his wonderful team. On Friday, Father Jenkins announced a comprehensive program that supports UCU students and scholars with study and research internship opportunities to help the university prepare for its postwar mission in Ukraine.
May the Lord repay you a hundredfold!
The vocation of the community of the University of Our Lady is certainly high. In fact, the founders understood it as divine. Upholding the duty and honor of a Notre Dame diploma means feeling the pulse of people on every continent, of immigrants on our southern border and refugees around the world, of those in our towns and cities who do not have equality. of opportunity, to feel the pulse of the unborn, the disabled, the sick and the elderly. To feel his pulse and follow his call.
You have felt the heartbeat of your neighbor. Now check yours. Do you know where it is. Let this be your daily practice. I have in mind the old γνῶθι σεαυτόν. Really know yourself for who you are and who you are meant to be. Because you have a destiny. it is eternal
You have been prepared for life by this university. To live it well; rejoice wholeheartedly; to give life's challenges your whole being; interact and talk heart to heart; live without fear with a vision of eternity.
Congratulations, Class of 2022! They are encouraged by their parents, grandparents, family and friends, their teachers and mentors at Notre Dame to become confident, mature and creative people who have the gifts to fight for good. They have loved you to be who you are. Now, be brave, go and love the world in return, person by person, heart to heart! and let's follow Devin's inspirational call: Go Irish. Make noise.