Life on the Chrism Trail

Commencement Address to the Class of 2020 Nolan Catholic High School

Commencement Address
Nolan Catholic High School: Class of 2020

July 11, 2020
Globe Life Field
Arlington, Texas

The light of God’s providence has shone brightly in the darkness of the fear of the COVID-19 pandemic and of the scalding rage of recent civil unrest and rioting. The light of God’s providence has lovingly guided the class of 2020 of Nolan Catholic High School to Globe Life Field in Arlington, in the Diocese of Fort Worth for your graduation exercises. We are grateful that we are able to be assembled here tonight to demonstrate what Nolan Catholic High School has demonstrated most recently during these past several months: that physical distancing need not be social distancing and that common purpose can transcend common space.

With the eyes of providence, we can see that it is appropriate that your graduation exercises are being held in a stadium built for the playing of that most American of sports, our national past time: baseball — the best sport. Baseball has as its object to get home safely. Baseball is a sport in which the best offensive players fail at the plate twice as often as they succeed when they hit with a .300 average. It is especially gratifying that the graduates of this historic Class of 2020 — the class of perfect 2020 vision — received their diplomas safely crossing home plate.

Consider that for a moment. The best players in baseball fail two out of three times. With that in mind, your Nolan Catholic education should have prepared you to fail well even more than it has prepared you to succeed. To “fail well” is to recognize the inadequacies and limitations of your own abilities and not to give up, but also to recognize that you always need God. To “fail well” means to continue to show up, neither presuming that our efforts are always sufficient for a task nor despairing when we find that they are not. To “fail well” means not to deny your failures but rather to learn from them along the path of ongoing conversion, the only path that leads towards the fullness of life and returning safely to our eternal home.

The mission of your Catholic education at Nolan has been anchored by the transcendentals of the true, the good, and the beautiful, by which you have begun to know God. You may find in each other that same truth, goodness, and beauty which also directs you back to God. You will know if your Catholic education has succeeded if you can look at your neighbor and say the following: “Because of who God is and because of who you are to God, created in His image and likeness, I choose to love and to serve you.” Such a statement allows us clarity, it encourages charity, and it preserves us from the illusion that we must like our neighbor as well as love our neighbor. The realist knows that our neighbor is not always likeable; the Christian knows that our neighbor is always loveable. This truth places our commitment to serve our neighbor on the firm foundation of the love of God rather than upon the shifting sands of our emotions like fear and anger. It is this perspective firmly rooted in faith and right reason in which the Catholic Church “reproves as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men and women or harassment of them because of race, color, condition of life or religion,” as Pope Paul VI said in Nostra aetate.

The Greek word for truth is αληθεια or “aletheia” — this word is translated literally as “not forgetting.” If you forget your failures, you will also forget your need for God and become lost in the fog of denial of responsibility, as well as the false presumption of entitlement. If you forget the depths of your failures, you will not appreciate the heights of your achievements. The same holds true for the society that we are called to form and to which we are expected to contribute towards its construction. The recent trend towards violence and destruction illustrates this most clearly. When people tear down statues with unbridled enthusiasm, they declare not only their rage but also their lack of honesty and their lack of Christian perspective. On the contrary, people who know their own failures and faults, people who know the justice and mercy that only Christ can give — people like each of us — know that even flawed and imperfect people who have failed in many ways can do great things worth not forgetting. If you forget your education, the past you tear down will form a future more dehumanizing than the past you have repudiated. We recall the cries of the survivors of the Holocaust to “never forget”; likewise, we recall that George Santayana stated, “those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

You have been offered at Nolan High School a Catholic education worthy of a young and maturing person. The torches of faith and right reason have been entrusted to your care. Your charge now is to demonstrate to God and the world — and especially to yourself — that you have the character to be good stewards of what has been entrusted to you. Class of 2020, go forward, do not forget, get to work — for the greater glory of God, for the love of your neighbor, and for the salvation of souls.

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