Due to some interest, I’m posting my Presidential Address for this year’s convocation. I can only assume the popularity is due to its uncharacteristic brevity. Enjoy!
Your grace Richard Smith, Your Grace Sylvain Lavoie, graduands, and honored guests all. It is a pleasure to welcome you to this year’s convocation. Today we celebrate the completion of your degrees. Throughout your studies at Newman you have become, in diverse ways theologians. This may have a grandiose ring to it; nevertheless it is true.
The contemplative life is not an oddity for some privileged few in monasteries. No! Rather, it is the summit of the ordinary path to holiness for the Christian. Theology, as you have found, requires rigorous study, painstaking attention to detail, but beyond this a deep love. For theology is not merely an intellectual pursuit that we undertake to satisfy our curiosity or to show how clever we are. To the contrary, theology is a discipline that manages to be speculative and practical and the same time.
As you know well by now, our approach to theology at Newman is integrative. Since all that we teach is rooted in Sacred Scripture and the tradition of the Church, how could it be otherwise? As you leave the classroom and enter, or return to your ministries, the constant criteria of your theology should be: first, is it true?; second, can it be lived?; third, does it deepen prayer? and fourth, does it lead us to love more profoundly? A theology that answers in the negative to these vital questions is not worthy of a Christian.
Accordingly, any attempt to place knowledge and love at odds with one another must be set aside in no uncertain terms. While we must proclaim the truth of Christ fearlessly, we know all too well that if we do so without love we are but a clanging cymbal. Yet, if we profess to love by neglecting what is true, by being afraid to speak the wisdom of Christ in our hearts, then we are bargaining with our own conscience. This is not loving, but sinning against charity. As the great Thomist of the 20th century, Jacques Maritain put it: “Love must proceed from Truth, and Knowledge must bear fruit in love.”
Striking this balance is the task for which your studies have prepared you. Whether you practice your theology in the Parish, in the classroom, in hospitals or prisons, you are being called to share the knowledge you have gained with love. For your acceptance of this task in the midst of no few challenges today, we thank you deeply, and we pray for your every success. May you live what you have received. Thank you very much.