Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Commencement Address Notes


I just got back from a lovely trip to Napa and the San Francisco Bay Area in order to speak at the homeschool conference sponsored by Kolbe Academy and Ignatius Press. During the trip, I also gave the commencement address for Kolbe Academy's homeschool graduation. I think it went quite well. Having a short-length talk with a subject of my choosing meant, among other things, that there was plenty of time to mouth my way through it (as well as tweaking it) on the morning of the talk. These are my slightly cryptic and incomplete notes from the talk, which I didn't follow exactly...


To be a homeschooler is to be a little different.

In fact, being a homeschooler is a little like being a San Francisco Giants fan in Milwaukee...

[Here I told the story of our family going to the Brewers-Giants game in Milwaukee - which was pretty much what I wrote about in my blog post here: Baseball! - with an emphasis on how conspicuous we felt wearing all of orange and carrying all of our signs through a sea of blue-clad Brewers' fans, the instant camaraderie with other Giants' fans (esp. in light of the exciting Grand Slam by Crawford) and the curiosity of those who politely asked why were Giants' fans.]

It's good to get used to being a little different. As Christians we are certainly called to be a little different from mainstream society.
We need to be capable of being different when we need to, but also friendly and polite to those who are curious to know more.

St. Peter ... be ready to give a "reason for the hope that is in us".

Those who ask questions, who are curious about us are probably searching too.
God puts them in front of us for a reason and we want to be prepared to plant seeds for him.
Expect very small seeds and not to know how it turns out...

Today... Three things that involve being different.
Commonly neglected or significantly misunderstood by many (including faithful Catholics)
I know because I have struggled myself with even understanding them. I hope what I have learned
will be helpful to you.

These three things are love, gratitude and humility


Greatest commandment according to Jesus (love God, love your neighbor)
Church teaching confirms this in every age:
"The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love." (CCC#25 - quoting Catechism of the Council of Trent)
It comes first both because of the nature of God (God is love) and the needs of mankind (everyone is ready to be treated with love, even if they're not ready for something deeper or more complex - like philosophical proofs for the existence of God)

How do we love? We do our best to manifest God's love others:

1. try to look at them as God looks at them - hate the sin, love the sinner!
2. make Christ present in the world through our words and actions - be witnesses to the love of God!

Love authenticates our beliefs in the eyes of others - which makes it a powerful weapon against relativism. Certainly more powerful than argument. (e.g. Mother Teresa)


Look for the good in people and in the world and thank God for it.

1. All good things come from God. We owe it to God to recognize His gifts and be thankful.

2. His plan includes us all working together for the good. We're not all starting from square one.

3. Good things we find are starting points for building bridges and relating to others.

4. We are happier and more content and more hopeful when we appreciate what is good.

Gratitude gives us perspective - we have to work at keeping our perspective!
Studying things like history helps a lot! Prayer & sacraments are a big piece too.

One story from my life that gave me a lot of perspective (man at church story)

It's easy to be a critic, especially in today's world. It's important to recognize evil, but if we're nothing but critics, if we lack appreciation for what is good, we have a grave danger of becoming Pharisees, the ones Jesus had the harshest words for.


We are the creature. God is the creator. We are not God!

This means two things especially:

It's not all up to us to change the world!

The gifts we have are gifts from God. We can't take credit for them nor deny that we have them. We have a responsibility to develop and share them. Nothing wrong with confidence. Beware of arrogance!
"I distribute the virtues quite diversely; I do not give all of them to each person, but some to one, some to others... I shall give principally charity to one; justice to another; humility to this one, a living faith to that one... And so I have given many gifts and graces, both spiritual and temporal, with such diversity that I have not given everything to one single person, so that you may be constrained to practice charity towards one another... I have willed that one should need another and that all should be my ministers in distributing the graces and gifts they have received from me." (CCC#1937 - Dialogue of Jesus to St. Catherine of Siena)
Acknowledge our weaknesses and limitations
Be open to learn and open to correction.

Evil is tricky - it knows how to get at ME in particular.

What are our danger areas? We tend to be most aware of the evils that really bother us.
Those usually not the ones that are most dangerous for us.

Humility leads to trust in God.

[eeek - I think I'm missing a line or two of notes here - can't remember what goes here!]

“To have Christian hope means to know about evil and yet to go to meet the future with confidence. The core of faith rests upon accepting being loved by God, and therefore to believe is to say Yes, not only to him, but to creation, to creatures, above all, to men, to try to see the image of God in each person and thereby to become a lover. That’s not easy, but the basic Yes, the conviction that God has created men, that he stands behind them, that they aren’t simply negative, gives love a reference point that enables it to ground hope on the basis of faith.” (Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth)

[I can't remember exactly how I concluded here either, except for a little about how Mary is the ultimate example of saying yes to God.]

UPDATE: I just remembered another piece. I think I might have skipped the above quote, but I know that I did wrap up with recommending a simple prayer one of the nuns taught me in grade school: "Lord, Tell Me What You Want Me to Do With My Life and I Will Do It."


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