After receiving an honorary Doctorate from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, Timothy Cardinal Dolan delivered a commencement address highlighting how “reason and faith…can stop barbarians [and] renew culture.”
His remarks came after His Excellency surprised everyone by walking through the gathered ranks of graduates and faculty before the ceremony, stopping to greet each person individually with his trademark mirth.
Indeed, Cardinal Dolan struck a personal tone from the beginning of his address. “What do you say, for about ten minutes or so, we engage in…talking about other people,” he said, which is, after all, “our national pastime.” He congratulated the graduates by telling them they had “called the bluff” of modern education by attending Benedictine College, which is ranked in the Top 20 in both the Newman Guide for Catholic Colleges and the U.S. News & World Report rankings for Midwest Regional Colleges.
“Faith and reason,” the Cardinal exhorted, are far from enemies; they “are hardly foes but allies.” Embracing “a dream, a dare,” the graduates have worked toward a noble goal: “to renew culture through Catholic education.”
His Eminence illustrated his point by mentioning two people he recently met who were working on the front lines of the refugee crisis in Iraq. One of them, Josh Radick, is a Benedictine College graduate teaching Social Studies to the local Christian community. In an area of the world “blotched by international bullies…there is Josh Radick, your fellow alumnus,” said Cardinal Dolan, “smack dab in the middle of all that,” giving them hope and encouragement.
The other, a woman named Michelle, is a volunteer with the Dominican sisters, and she is teaching the refugees how to pray. Many of the refugees are children who have lost parents and siblings; they come to the camps in despair. But thanks to people like Michelle, the Dominican sisters said, they learn about the God who loves them and dwells within them, and they begin to hope; they begin to smile again.
Josh and Michelle, the Cardinal emphasized, were embodying St. Benedict’s long-standing prescription for bringing consolation to the suffering: “Ora et labora,” prayer and work, faith and reason.
Cardinal Dolan’s message to the graduates couldn’t have been clearer: no matter what your chosen course of study, use reason and faith to bring healing to the world and to halt the progress of those who would attempt to dominate it.
His Eminence concluded his address by reminding the graduates to look to the Blessed Virgin. Even though she “never went to college,” she is called Sedes Sapientiae, the Seat of Wisdom, and we can learn much from “her virtues: listening, reflecting, pondering, wondering, serving, trusting, obeying God’s will—are all very Benedictine.”
Clearly pleased to be counted among the degree-holders, Cardinal Dolan finished with his distinctively radiant smile: “Congratulations, classmates!”